What differentiates righteousness from sinfulness? How do you decide if a person is good or bad? Well, I believe that there is no clear line that differentiates the two facets of life. In my opinion, good and evil coexist almost inside everything that lives and breathes. In the end, morality becomes a matter of choice. As a matter of fact, nobody is oblivious to the notion of evil, but you make a conscious effort to choose a different path. It’s the will to hold onto certain ethics and values that make all the difference. But sometimes, things are not so simple. What if you don’t have any recollection of your past and you are still searching for your own identity? What if your own sensibilities haven’t been formed yet? Then you become a blank canvas, something similar to a newborn baby. It is difficult to oppose what others are telling you to do when you are still in the process of identifying yourself.
In “The Rings of Power,” Season 1, when The Stranger fell on Middle Earth, he didn’t know anything about himself. He had no clue about his past, and he didn’t know how he had fallen near the Harfoot settlement. Nori Brandyfoot spotted the Stranger before anybody else. Harfoots always stayed away from the path of Bigfoots, but Nori’s curiosity made her go and check up on the giant. Nori was ready to risk her life if she could save the giant man. The giant man held her hand, and she felt something very strange on her insides. She didn’t understand what it was exactly, but she knew that this giant was not a commoner. She was scared, but still, her conscience wouldn’t allow her to leave the Stranger there, as she knew that the wolves would eat him. The Stranger spoke in a tongue that Nori and Poppy couldn’t understand. He tried to communicate from his end and once said the phrase “Ure Mana,” as he wanted to tell Nori about something, but she couldn’t decipher what he meant.
Nori had figured out that constellations had some significant meaning and relation to his past and also to his purpose on Middle Earth. Nori knew that Sadoc Burrows was probably the only person who could help them figure out what the constellations meant. But obviously, she couldn’t tell him or her clan about the giant. She knew that they would be petrified by his presence. But the inevitable happened. A Warg attacked them one day, and the Stranger came out of hiding and saved them. The Harfoots came to know about him. They saw that he was not really a menace but still scolded Nori for not obeying orders and always doing what she was told to not do. Nori’s father, Largo Brandyfoot, had broken his ankle. So, Nori asked him to let the Stranger stay with them so that he could help them stay on track. Largo agreed to it, and The Stranger became a part of their family.
Was The Stranger Gandalf Or Radagast?
When the Brandyfoot family reached the grove, they realized that everything had been destroyed due to the eruption of Mount Doom. For the very first time since his arrival, we get a hint that maybe The Stranger was not really an evil spirit. He tried to heal the place with his powers. But the problem was that his powers were not completely under his control. He had forgotten how to use it. He couldn’t help the situation. But as soon as The Stranger left for the Greenwoods, something magical happened in the grove. The grove was healed. Moreover, it was thriving. It felt like nothing had ever happened there. There were ripe fruits hanging from every branch, and there was plenty to eat for the Harfoots. If the Stranger had been a dark spirit or had a purpose that was evil, then nature probably wouldn’t have healed in such a miraculous manner in his presence. Maybe the eyes of man can be deceived, but nature has the power to recognize each and everything in its truest form.
We know that Gandalf was sent to Middle Earth with the purpose of defeating evil. We know that he was an Istari, i.e., a wizard and the wisest among all the Maia. In the accounts of J.R.R. Tolkien, it was mentioned that Gandalf had a very strong association with Light and Fire. Moreover, he was also given the title of “the servant of secret fire.” The stars, on the other hand, could be said to be a personification of light itself. Varda, a Valar whose beauty was considered to be unparalleled, was the Queen of Stars and ruled over light. She was responsible for the creation of stars, and she had filled the lamps of the Valar with light. Gandalf used to serve her when he was young, and that is why the young Maia had also developed a sort of relationship with light. In “The Rings of Power,” we see how the presence of The Stranger changed the very nature of fire. He didn’t get burned by it. He also knew that the constellation called “The Hermit’s Hat” had something to do with his past. These similarities couldn’t have been a mere coincidence.
At the end of the 8th episode of “The Rings of Power,” the three sorceresses came and found The Stranger. They told him that he was Sauron, the dark lord who had come to rule Middle Earth. They were going to hurt the Harfoots when the Stranger rose and snarled like a dragon who was about to spit fire. He told them that he was good, as if he was reassuring himself. The Sorceresses also realized that he was not Sauron but the “other Isatari.” There were speculations that the Stranger could be “Radagast the Brown” or one of the two Blue Wizards, who were sent to Middle Earth to fight Sauron.
Morinehtar (Darkness slayer) and Romestamo (East helper) were the names of the two blue wizards, though in some texts they are also referred to as Alatar and Pallando respectively. Their time of arrival on Middle earth is uncertain, but it is believed that they might have arrived sometime during the second age itself. We saw towards the end of “The Rings of Power” that The Stranger was going to The Lands of Rhun, which lay in the eastern part of Middle Earth. Maybe he was Romestamo, who was also called the east helper, but then again, there are various hints and other details that contradict this narrative. So little information is available about the Blue Wizards in the accounts of J.R.R Tolkien that nothing could be ascertained for sure, and this theory remains just a far-fetched speculation.
Radagast, a.k.a. Aiwendil, was also an Istari who was sent to Middle Earth to keep an eye on Sauron. Radagast served the Queen of Earth, named Yavanna. The Queen had convinced Saruman to take Radagast with him to Middle Earth, though Saruman, for some reason, didn’t want to take him. Radagast arrived around the same time as Gandalf did in Middle Earth. The similarity in timelines coerces us to entertain the possibility that the Stranger could have been either of the two Istari. But as far as speculation goes, we are more inclined towards believing that The Stranger was Gandalf. Radagast never had any association with fire or light, though he was considered to be a lover of beasts and birds. Radagast served the Queen of the Earth, and maybe that is why his interest lay in plants and herbs and other things that were nurtured by the soil and were a part of the earth. Radagast had nothing to do with the stars or the light. He had a child-like innocence and was oblivious to the evil intentions of the people around him. It could be said that he often lacked judgment.
Apart from these behavioral dissimilarities, there was one more thing that corroborates our hypothesis that the Stranger is indeed Gandalf. The Stranger spoke the same words that Gandalf had spoken to Meriadoc in “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.” He told Nori that whenever she was not sure about which way to turn, she should always follow her nose. Now, it could be possible that it was a staple rule for every wizard, and it was not something that only Gandalf believed in specifically. But then again, the demeanor, the wisdom, the will to be good, and the affection for the Harfoots make us speculate that The Stranger was none other than Olorin, a.k.a. Gandalf the Gray.