The Rings of Power Finally Addresses Those Gandalf and Sauron Theories
Exclusive: Daniel Weyman, who plays the Stranger on The Rings of Power, has a few thoughts about the many theories surrounding his mystery Lord of the Rings character.
This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
The Rings of Power has turned out to be a show full of mysteries to solve. Sure, we know where things are inevitably headed — Dark Lord Sauron will rise in the dark land of Mordor and the Elves and Men of Middle-earth must work together to defeat him — but how we get there is the real story of the Amazon series.
How did Sauron manipulate the other races of Middle-earth into forging the Rings of Power? What does the Dwarves discovering mithril have to do with the future of the Elves? Who are the people who lived in the Southlands before it became Mordor? What was the life of a Hobbit like before they settled in the Shire? These are the questions the first season of The Rings of Power is interested in answering, all while creating a cohesive throughline between the events of the Second Age and the Tolkien stories we know well from the pages of The Lord of the Rings.
At times, this has meant making additions or tweaks to the legendarium crafted by J.R.R. Tolkien, such as the aforementioned mithril storyline, which has proved to be a divisive creative choice by showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne. But we’ve also seen these mysteries unfold through the introduction of new characters created specifically for the show. There’s the Dweller (Bridie Sisson), a menacing magical being who roams the lands of Middle-earth searching for something and tormenting the Harfoots. There’s Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), the supposed King of the Southlands who Galadriel happened to conveniently run into early into the season and her search for Sauron. And then there’s the biggest enigma of all: the Stranger who literally fell from the sky in the first episode, played by Daniel Weyman.
What do all of these new creations have in common? Countless online fan theories trying to make the case that the Stranger, the Dweller, and Halbrand are all actually early versions of major Lord of the Rings characters. In the Dweller’s case, most people think this being is either Annatar, one of the Sauron’s many disguises Tolkien created for Sauron in his Second Age histories, or the show’s version of Saruman (although the White Wizard is supposed to be a good guy at the start of his life before being corrupted by the Dark Lord later in the Third Age). In fact, fans are seeing Sauron everywhere. Halbrand? He’s probably Sauron in disguise trying to corrupt Numenor and the world of Man — or maybe he’s the one who will eventually become the Witch-king of Angmar, a Man who was transformed into a Ringwraith after receiving one of the Rings of Power.
But what about the Stranger, another mysterious magical being with a fondness for Harfoots, tea, and nature? Well, some fans suspect he’s Sauron suffering from amnesia after crashing down on Middle-earth, which okay maybe, the character has revealed both light and dark sides throughout the season, although his first word to Nori was “friend.” The other possibility? We’re watching the origin story of Gandalf the Grey.
When we sit down with the cast of The Rings of Power at New York Comic Con, we have to ask Weyman what he thinks about all of these fan theories and how that has informed his experience working on the series.
“We had a really dark one today that was sort of ‘Wow, someone’s really gone there,'” says Weyman of the many fan theories he’s heard about the Stranger, including while talking to other outlets and fans at NYCC. “The ones I’ve heard about or read have been so well thought through. The people coming up with theories are really invested in the character and seeing resonances of beings that they either want the Stranger to become or that they think that he might.”
Even if he won’t say anything about the Stranger’s true identity ahead of the season finale this week, Weyman does want fans to know that he’s really enjoyed seeing how engaged viewers are with his character, including all the ways the myriad fan theories have continued to evolve over time as people learn more information.
“For me, it’s been really exciting and enjoyable to watch that progress from day one,” he says. “As soon as the first images were released, and then when we started to perform the episodes and they came out, I just love that every time an episode comes out, people add to their thesis. The documentation gets greater and that either helps or hinders their argument. It’s really quite inspirational to watch how people are responding to that character.”
You would think embodying one of the big secrets on the show would be a stressful experience for Weyman. It must be so exhausting trying to keep the truth hidden from anxious fans who are dying to know whether he’s one beloved character or the other. But Weyman tells us he’s really enjoying the ride and seeing how attached fans are to the Tolkien lore being explored on the show.
“There’s an equality, partly because it’s Tolkien, but also partly because the old source material has been around for a long time, there’s an ownership in the audience for all of these characters. [At] places like Comic Con, we get to experience how the audience interacts with their characters. It becomes much more than our show, but more like a meeting of minds, which is great.”
Weyman won’t say a word about whether he’s a certain wizard, but he does think fans are in for a treat when the season 1 finale drops on Friday.
“I think the showrunners have done a great job of pacing the series,” Weyman says. “There’s a lot of information that’s come, we’ve gotten to know characters over these early episodes, and then when episode 6 came out, I was blown away by the breathtaking and unbelievable intense atmosphere. I feel that they will just ramp that up. Whatever you saw in episode 6, it’s going to be spine-tingling and chilling all the way through to the end now.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
Rosie Knight contributed reporting.