This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
The first two episodes of The Rings of Power packed in plenty of surprises for anxious Lord of the Rings fans. Not only did we learn what all of that meteor business was about but the show also set up the potential origin story of a particularly beloved Middle-earth character, all while introducing us to a whole new clan of sneaky Hobbits (or “Harfoots,” as the show calls them) and teasing the pivotal part they’ll play in the history of the Second Age.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how quickly the show brought the villainous Sauron into the fold. Teased in trailers but not referenced by name, Sauron is immediately front and center in The Rings of Power‘s opening prologue, which covers many of the events of the First Age and the War of Wrath with the evil Morgoth. We learn that, while Morgoth was eventually defeated after centuries of bloodshed, marking the dawn of the Second Age, his right-hand-man Sauron escaped with what Orcs remained, not to be seen again for generations. In fact, Sauron has been gone for so long, many believe the sorcerer has disappeared from Middle-earth for good, irrevocably weakened or dead somewhere beyond the lands of elves, dwarves, and men.
Elf warrior Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud) on the show, is not so convinced, and has spent the last few centuries searching every corner of Middle-earth for Sauron in order to vanquish him once and for all. Her life’s quest is anything but an easy one, especially after the scouts she commands turn on her after years of traveling perilous roads for leads as to the villain’s whereabouts. When their latest adventure turns up yet another clue Galadriel is convinced means Sauron is amassing his forces for an attack on Middle-earth, her troops refuse to follow her farther north. Instead, they lay down their swords and basically give her no other choice but to finally return home.
When Galadriel is “rewarded” for her many years of service fighting the forces of Morgoth and Sauron by being shipped back to Valinor (or the Undying Lands) with her men, essentially forced to go into elf retirement against her will, it seems that her quest to find the Dark Lord is all but over. Of course, because we’ve read J.R.R. Tolkien‘s many books and watched The Lord of the Rings movies, we know Galadriel is right about Sauron planning his revenge, and that she’s not just going to sit in paradise while Middle-earth is engulfed in darkness once again. So it’s inevitable she’s going to jump off that boat before it can pass into the Undying Lands.
Her plan to get back to Middle-earth is apparently to swim across the Sundering Seas until she hits land, which…maybe she didn’t think this through. Fortunately, she runs into a group of stranded men and women floating on what’s left of their ship after a massive sea monster attacks them at sea. It’s then that she meets a mysterious man named Halbrand, played by Charlie Vickers. When most of the survivors are eventually gobbled up by the monster, only Halbrand and Galadriel remain to face a fierce storm at sea, one which seems to strengthen their bond a tad, even though they distrust each other at first. A new friendship is undoubtedly in the making.
You can watch a little intro about him in the video below:
Halbrand is an original character created for the series, and doesn’t appear in the writings of Tolkien. While it seems on the surface that he’s meant to be the Aragorn-adjacent character of The Rings of Power, a shaggy warrior adrift, and perhaps with a budding romance in the making with an elf, some fans aren’t so convinced. In fact, theories that have popped up on Tik Tok and Twitter are suggesting that Halbrand is someone else entirely in disguise.
Yes, Galadriel’s chance run-in with Halbrand might not be by chance at all but Sauron himself playing game with the warrior who is hunting him. Fans are particularly pointing to one line from Halbrand to the other human survivors when they find Galadriel stranded at sea: “Looks can be deceiving,” he says when one of his soon-to-be-eaten shipmates suggests that the elf woman doesn’t look dangerous. To some, this line could actually be The Rings of Power foreshadowing a future twist where Galadriel learns she’s been adventuring with her enemy all along.
There’s plenty of precedent for Sauron taking on other forms in order to manipulate the good guys. For example, in The Hobbit, Sauron was “The Necromancer” lying in waiting deep in the dark forest of Mirkwood. And in The Silmarillion, Tolkien described the sorcerer as a shape-shifter who took on the forms of animals and other beings, including an elf-like identity known as “Annatar” in the Second Age. Known as the Lord of Gifts, it was as Annatar that Sauron fooled Celebrimbor and the other elves into forging the Rings of Power.
We also know from Tolkien’s extensive histories that it was Sauron who manipulated the events that led to the downfall of Numenor, which will be featured heavily on the show. It’s possible that The Rings of Power has created the character of Halbrand as yet another disguise for Sauron to go about his dark deeds in the kingdom of men.
For now, we have more questions than answers, as the fateful events of the Second Age continue to unfold on The Rings of Power, which streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video.