The season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power finally revealed that the Stranger is one of the Istar and is actually a Wizard. There were also hints that point to the possibility that he could be none other than our favorite Grey Wizard Gandalf, who became the most important Istar in the events of Middle-Earth. But the problem is that JRR Tolkien’s writings suggest that he was sent to Middle-Earth during the Third Age. So, how is Gandalf in Middle-Earth in the Second Age during the time of The Rings of Power?
It is possible that the writers of The Rings of Power actually retconned Gandalf’s storyline and made him go to Middle-Earth during the Second Age. But Olórin, who Gandalf was when he was a Maia, was known to go to Middle-Earth occasionally. But it is also possible that the Stranger is not Gandalf.
While it might be true that the clues now point to the possibility that the Stranger is Gandalf, it was never mentioned that he is, indeed, the Grey Wizard. But, of course, even if he is actually Gandalf, the entire lore now changes as the Grey Wizard never had a hand in the fight against Sauron in the Second Age. This changes everything. Still, let’s talk more about why Gandalf is in the Second Age.
When Did Gandalf Come To Middle-Earth?
The season finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power allowed us to see that the Stranger was not Sauron but is actually an Istar, which is one of the Maiar that the Valar sent to Middle-Earth to help the people fight against darkness in the world. This was revealed in the very same episode when the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic believed that the Stranger was always their master, Sauron. They wanted to bring him to their lands of Rhûn so that he could take his place there. However, instead, they discovered that the Stranger was good and wasn’t their master, as they were all sent back to the shadows where they belonged.
Of course, the clues point to the possibility that the Stranger is Gandalf, even though his exact name and identity are yet to be revealed by the series. But if that’s the case, this changes everything because how Gandalf’s arrival to Middle-Earth was actually well-documented by JRR Tolkien. So, when did Gandalf come to Middle-Earth?
It was during the early portion of the Third Age when Manwë, the king of the Valar, commissioned the Maiar to go to Middle-Earth so that they could guide the people in their battle against Sauron’s looming darkness. That was when Manwë asked the Maia named Olórin, who didn’t want to come because he was afraid of Sauron, to go to Middle-Earth. The fact that Manwë wanted Olórin to confront his fear of Sauron was what made him think that the Maia should go to Middle-Earth.
One thousand years into the Third Age, Olórin finally arrived in Middle-Earth and assumed the form of an old man. He eventually became known as Gandalf the Grey because of his clothes and his great grey beard. Gandalf began wandering the northwest portion of Middle-Earth and made a lot of friends among lords and simple folk alike. That was why he became the most popular Wizard out of all of the Istari that were sent to Middle-Earth.
Why Is Gandalf In The Second Age In The Rings Of Power??
Now that you know that Gandalf was sent to Middle-Earth during the Third Age and was never in the Second Age when the Elves and the Men of Númenor fought Sauron, you might be wondering why he is in the Second Age in The Rings of Power. Well, we have a few theories.
The most logical guess is that the writers of The Rings of Power totally retconned the entire storyline to fit Gandalf into it. After all, this is not a 1:1 adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s works but is merely a reimagining of his writings. On top of that, the main goal of the writers of The Rings of Power was to harmonize the events of the series with the canon that was already introduced in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
It was never mentioned in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films that Gandalf arrived in the Third Age. As such, changing the storyline of Tolkien’s writings to introduce Gandalf in the Second Age seems to be a move that the writers were willing to take. But that leaves the question of why Gandalf wasn’t in the Last Alliance open.
At the end of season 1 of The Rings of Power, the Stranger said that he needed to go to Rhûn so that he could learn more about his identity and his mission on Middle-Earth, as his memories were still hazy. The fact that he probably spent the entire Second Age in Rhûn, which is the eastern lands of Middle-Earth, could explain why he wasn’t there to aid the Elves and the Men in their efforts against Sauron. He must’ve only returned to the northwest portion of Middle-Earth during the Third Age.
There is also the possibility that this is only one of the few times that Olórin visited Middle-Earth. Tolkien’s writings suggest that Olórin used to walk among the Children of Ilúvatar when he was still a Maia, as he loved the different people of Middle-Earth and often listened to their sorrows. It is possible the Stranger is one of the forms that Olórin took when he went to Middle-Earth before the time when he was sent there as Gandalf.
But there is also a chance that he isn’t actually Gandalf at all but is one of the Blue Wizards. After all, the series never actually confirmed his identity as Gandalf, as the Stranger’s name is still up in the air.
The reason why he could be one of the Blue Wizards is that Tolkien’s writings conflict with the matter pertaining to them. In one of his writings, Tolkien said that all of the Istari came to Middle-Earth at the exact same time. However, there were also writings that suggest that the Blue Wizards arrived much earlier, during the middle of the Second Age. And that could mean that the Stranger isn’t Gandalf but was one of the Blue Wizard
Back in the scene when the white-robed characters from Rhûn learned that the Stranger wasn’t Sauron, one of them said, “He is not Sauron. He is the other. The Istar.” Let’s take a look at what those bolded words could mean.
Of course, the white-robed characters know what an Istar is, as they must have met someone in Rhûn before they went to the northwest to search for the entity they thought was Sauron. That means that there is a chance that a Blue Wizards was already in Rhûn at that time.
So, when the Nomad said that “he is the other,” that could mean that she was referring to the OTHER Istar or Blue Wizard that was supposed to accompany the one that was already in Rhûn. This could explain why the Stranger needs to go to Rhûn so that he would be able to meet the other Istar that was already there.
As such, the Stranger might not be Gandalf all along, as he could still be a Blue Wizard. It is even possible that Gandalf merely learned the trick of trusting his nose from this Blue Wizard during their time together. Then again, everything is up in the air right now unless The Rings of Power finally confirms the Stranger’s identity in season 2, which probably won’t happen until 2024.