While The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 finale may have had some viewers fooled when the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic believed that the Stranger was Sauron, that was quickly debunked when it was revealed that the Stranger was actually an Istar. As such, he was one of the good guys that had a mission to fulfill in Middle-Earth. But who are the Istari, and are they Wizards? And is Gandalf one of the Istari?
The Istari are the Wise Ones or the Wizards that are Maiar that were sent to Middle-Earth in the form of old men. As such, Gandalf is one of the Istari, as he was one of the original five Maiar that were sent to Middle-Earth by the Valar to help the people in their fight against Sauron.
Even though the Istari are said to have been sent to Middle-Earth in the Third Age, the fact that there is one Istar in The Rings of Power is somewhat odd yet still so satisfying to fans of the JRR Tolkien legendarium. However, it is yet to be known whether or not the Stranger is the only Istar in Middle-Earth right now, as it is still quite possible that the other four are already there as well.
Who Are The Istari?
The season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was quite interesting as far as the scenes involving the Stranger were concerned. That’s because we saw a case of mistaken identity when the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic believed that the one they had been searching for the entire time was their long-lost master, Sauron. As such, the episode began with the white-robed figures and the audience members thinking that this bearded Stranger was indeed the dark lord.
But as the storyline progressed and the scenes involving Halbrand developed, it became clear that the Stranger was not Sauron. And this was proven when Nori and her Harfoot friends rescued the Stranger from the white-robed characters.
The Stranger used his divine powers to cast the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic back into the shadows, as their true forms as wraiths were revealed. But before their defeat, one of them realized that the Stranger was not Sauron but was an Istar instead. So, what is an Istari?
In JRR Tolkien’s legendarium, the Vala Manwë realized that Sauron was becoming a growing threat to Middle-Earth. As such, he asked for volunteers among the Maiar so that he could send them to Middle-Earth to aid the people in their fight against another Maia in the form of Sauron. Curumo, Olórin, Aiwendil, Alatar, and Pallando all agreed to go to Middle-Earth. However, Olórin, often said to be the wisest among the Maiar, was hesitant to go because he feared Sauron’s powers. But that was the reason why Manwë actually wanted him to go.
When they arrived in Middle-Earth, they became known as the Istari. In The Rings of Power, the Stranger explained to Nori that the word “Istar” means Wise One. That’s because they are known to be wise people that share their wisdom with the different races in Middle-Earth. However, in the common tongue, Istar could also be translated to Wizards.
As such, in Tolkien’s writings, the Istari came to be the Five Wizards, as five of them were sent to Middle-Earth and became known as wise old men that were known for their magical capabilities and wisdom. That is why, during the time of The Lord of the Rings, the Istari were commonly known as Wizards, as they have adapted that term already and have come to also adapt nicknames that referred to the color of their clothes.
Is Gandalf One Of The Istari?
As previously mentioned, there were five Maiar that were sent to Middle-Earth to become the Istari or the Wizards. One of them was Olórin, who was the wisest of the Maia and was said to be afraid of Sauron’s powers. Olórin, upon arriving in Middle-Earth, soon became the Istari called Gandalf the Grey Wizard because he wore grey clothes and had a grey beard.
In that regard, Gandalf is one of the Istari and is actually one of the most well-known of the five of them. Gandalf may have been the most well-traveled among the Istari, as he spent his days wandering the western portions of Middle-Earth. Because of his travels, he was able to make many friends among the different people of Middle-Earth and was particularly fond of spending his days with the Hobbits of the Shire.
As mighty and as wise as Gandalf may have been, he was often seen as the least among the Istari. The greatest of them all was Saruman the Wise, who became the leader of the Order of Wizards. However, when Saruman fell from grace after he was corrupted by Sauron and when Gandalf was killed by Durin’s Bane, Olórin was called back to Middle-Earth to become Gandalf the White, as he was basically given the task of replacing Sauron as the greatest among the Istari.
Gandalf was able to fulfill his mission on Middle-Earth when he contributed to the defeat of Sauron. After that, he had to return to Valinor because he was no longer needed by the people of Middle-Earth.
Why Do The White-Robed Figures Know What An Istar Is?
At this point, the only Istari that we know that exists on Middle-Earth is the Stranger, who could be Gandalf the Grey when he first arrived on Middle-Earth. So, if that’s the case, why do the white-robed figures know what an Istar is?
There is a good possibility that the reason why the Stranger needs to go to Rhûn is due to the fact that he may have to meet up or rendezvous with the other Istari that arrived on Middle-Earth earlier than he did. While Tolkien’s writings indicate that the Istari arrived at the same time, that might not exactly be the case, as there are some accounts that would suggest that the two Blue Wizards may have arrived earlier.
The Blue Wizards were almost never mentioned by Tolkien in his writings, but it is possible that The Rings of Power will try to fill that gap in history by including them in the storyline. As such, because the Blue Wizards were said to have traveled east the moment they got to Middle-Earth, it is possible that they are already in the lands of Rhûn, which is the eastern portion of Middle-Earth, during the time of The Rings of Power. This probably explains why the Stranger has to go to Rhûn, as he might need to meet with the other members of the Order of Wizards there.