The Wizards in the Second Age
First, I open with a necessary introduction. I am not a native English speaker, and the text may be, for many of you, not entirely correct. For this reason i apologize in advance and hope, with your help, to improve my use of the language. Thank you and enjoy your reading.
The latest scoops regarding the second season of The Rings of Power involved one of the show’s most talked-about and fascinating characters: The Stranger. His nature as Maia was already obvious from the show’s first trailers, and as the episodes went on it became even clearer. What still causes discussion, however, lies in the identity of this character, who, from some references and quotes, gives the impression of being Mithrandir, or, if you prefer, Gandalf. The criticism many fans have directed at the production for this character stems from the fact that Gandalf, in theory, is not supposed to appear in Middle-earth before the Third Age, when he was sent by the Valar along with Curumo (Saruman) and Aiwendil (Radagast) to curb Sauron’s fierce conquest. In this article we will explore the story of Gandalf and the other wizards, trying to analyze the production’s potential choices regarding these important characters as best we can.
Olorin in Middle Earth
Firstly, it is wrong to assert that Gandalf never appeared in Middle-earth before the Third Age. The Grey Pilgrim was in fact sent by the Valar to watch over the elves during their awakening on the banks of Cuivienen, to defend them from Melkor’s forces. He walked among the Eldar without being seen or recognized and sent visions into their minds to make them wiser and ready for the world that awaited them. His next appearance in Middle Earth, formally, comes in the Third Age, when the Valar sent him to counter the threat of Sauron together with Saruman and Radagast, but some texts suggest that the wizard may also have appeared in the Second Age too.
“That Olorin, as was possible for one of the Maiar, had already visited Middle-earth and had become acquainted not only with the Sindarin Elves and others deeper in Middle-earth, but also with Men, is likely, but nothing is [> has yet been] said of this” – Peoples of Middle-earth
“…Olórin (who was known in Middle-earth as Mithrandir) brought it with him out of the West. And on a time Olórin came to Galadriel, who dwelt now under the trees of Greenwood the Great….. And when Olórin had told her many tidings she sighed, and said: ‘I grieve in Middle-earth, for leaves fall and flowers fade; and my heart yearns, remembering trees and grass that do not die. I would have these in my home.’ Then Olórin said: ‘Would you then have the Elessar?’ ….And he held before her the Elessar, and she looked on it and wondered. And Olórin said: ‘This I bring to you from Yavanna. Use it as you may, and for a while you shall make the land of your dwelling the fairest place in Middle-earth….“ – Unfinished Tales
In the books there are no direct references to the presence of Gandalf during the Second Age, but these two examples help us understand that perhaps, for Tolkien, this character could have traveled to Middle-earth in that period too, or at least that it was a concrete possibility. Especially in the second case we are talking about a dialogue that took place before Galadriel’s reception of Nenya, and which therefore must be placed in the Second Age. The most finicky people will obviously continue to rely on dates and direct statements from the author, but many of his books leave great room for interpretation and alternative solutions, and much more of his material is still unexplored by the public. For these reasons, in my opinion, it is legitimate to question several elements regarding Arda, including Olorin’s story.
the Wondering Wizard smoking a pipe
— ArtOfMiddleEarth (@BeautyOfArda) August 6, 2023
And What about the other Wizards?
Saruman, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando, as well as Gandalf, were chosen as Guardians to protect the elves in their awakening during the First Age, led by Lady Melian, future wife of King Thingol and mother of Luthien. Later the Blue Wizards were sent to Middle-earth during the Second Age as emissaries to the territories ruled by Sauron, with the aim of internally curbing his maneuvers. In letter 211 Tolkien describes the purpose and fate of Alatar and Pallando, expressly declaring their failure and adding a very interesting detail.
“I really do not know anything clearly about the other two [wizards] – since they do not concern the history of the N[orth].W[est]. I think they went as emissaries to distant regions, East and South, far out of Númenórean range: missionaries to ‘enemy-occupied’ lands, as it were. What success they had I do not know; but I fear that they failed, as Saruman did, though doubtless in different ways; and I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron.” – Tolkien, letter 211
In their journey to the south and east of Middle-earth, therefore, it is very likely that Morinehtar and Rómestámo created magical cults which then survived the dominion of the Dark Lord. The Stranger could then come into contact with Alatar and Pallando (or just one of them) in Rhun, and learn more about his nature and powers through them. In “The Peoples of Middle-Earth” Tolkien reveals further details about these two characters, praising their importance and decisiveness in the fall of Sauron.
“Their task was to circumvent Sauron: to bring help to the few tribes of Men that had rebelled from Melkor-worship, to stir up rebellion … and after his first fall to search out his hiding (in which they failed) and to cause [?dissension and disarray] among the dark East … They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East … who would both in the Second Age and Third Age otherwise have … outnumbered the West” – “Last Writings”, The Peoples of Middle-earth