[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 5, “Partings.”]
We’re more than halfway through The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and new characters are still being revealed. Episode 5 of the Prime Video series at last introduced the mysterious hooded people clad in white robes seen in the trailers. “Partings” does not reveal their identity just yet. Rather, they appear in one short scene inspecting a piece of land. But Tolkien fans have been speculating about their identity since the enigmatic group flashed across our screens this summer.
The predominant theory about The Rings of Powers‘ white-hooded figures is that they are part of the Cult of Melkor sent to the area by Sauron. Melkor is one of Morgoth’s monikers — the villain vanquished in the war in the First Age of Middle-earth and Sauron’s mentor. The Cult has a large presence in the Second Age.
Reddit users debated this theory following The Rings of Power trailer release this summer, citing their apparent use of dark magic as hints they aren’t the hero type. And for what it’s worth, they do look spooky as hell.
The Cult of Melkor is a Morgoth-worshipping group established by Sauron. When Sauron was in Númenor in the Second Age, he convinced Ar-Pharazôn and his people (yes, Pharazôn may eventually usurp Queen Regent Míriel) to worship darkness and Melkor, declaring himself the High Priest. He had a tower built where human sacrifice of the “Faithful” was made.
One of the cloaked figures in Episode 5 certainly has a religious, priestly look about them. They shroud their buzzed head in the white veil, wears a kind of metallic harness that looks ceremonial, and carries a staff. The head of the staff’s design resembles the Eye of Sauron at the top of the Barad-dur tower, at least in shape. As for the people standing behind them on the ledge, one seems to be a guard and the other seems to be carrying some kind of gilded disc, apparent followers of the two hooded beings.
In their brief scene in “Partings,” the figure with the staff looks down upon their companion, who’s inspecting the Stranger’s crash site. Could Waldreg have been right in Episode 4 when he said the falling of the meteor marked Sauron’s return to Middle-earth? Galadriel discovered in Episode 3 that Sauron’s mark was map leading his followers to the Southlands, which is close to Mordor.
Meteor Man crashed down into the North-East region of Rhovanion, where the harfoots were camped out. That region is also close to the Southlands, where the orcs have been hunting for Theo’s black sword hilt. Episode 5 saw the hobbit ancestors migrating to their next home, and this ominous group could be following close behind them. Whomever these cult-looking creatures are, they seem to be tracking Meteor Man.
If you believe the Stranger is Sauron, then the possible Cult of Melkor’s presence in Episode 5 could be another hint supporting that theory. Another moment in Episode 5 could further convince you.
The Stranger finally gets to speak in the Episode, albeit his words are few. Nori (Markella Kavenagh) has been teaching him her language as he helps her family in their migration (the migration montage, by the way, features Poppy singing a Tolkien song with the famous line “not all those who wander are lost”). But one moment near the end of the episode seems to change their dynamic.
The Stranger saves Nori, Poppy, and Malva from certain death when they are attacked by a wolf-like creature in a misty wood. He sustains an injury on his right forearm in the tussle, and Nori later sees him performing some kind of powerful magic in a small pool of water to heal himself.
Ice begins to form, and it starts to crawl up the Stranger’s arm. Nori tries to snap the hypnotized man out of it, grabbing his arm to do so, but her hand nearly breaks off when it too gets frozen onto his arm. The magic ends with a blast, sending Nori flying. Her arm is still in tact, but she’s now terrified of her friend.
Is it just me, or is there a parallel between the ice the Stranger forms and Sauron’s stronghold in Forodwaith? Galadriel made note of the icy kingdom’s evil essence in the premiere’s prologue, and with the sunny Shire to compare to, ice definitely seems to symbolize evil in this story’s world.
The Stranger also learns the meaning of words like “kill” and “bad” in his lessons with Nori, and he fears he is bad because he killed the fireflies. This kind nature is a stark contrast to his malevolent one when wielding magic. We’re still yet to learn if his kindness is a front (aka he’s Sauron), or if, for some reason, he can’t yet control his magic. Could he be a wizard after all?
Episodes 6 and 7 are said to be two of the season’s most important. The season will end with Episode 8.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Fridays, Prime Video