Even though The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power makes reference to Gandalf, that doesn’t confirm the Stranger’s identity. With the show wrapped up for its first season, there is still a lot of speculation surrounding the identity of the cloaked and bearded character, played by Daniel Weyman. After the false identification of the Stranger as Sauron in the season finale, audiences instead picked up on a few similarities that the amnesic wanderer shares with Gandalf, including his love for traveling with Hobbits (or in this case their ancestors Harfoots), as well as a famous saying that the wise wizard shares with Merry in The Fellowship of the Ring, “always follow your nose.”
Upon hearing the Stranger divulging this same advice to Elanor (Nori) Brandyfoot, played by Markella Kavenagh, the connection was instantly made that this tall traveler could be Gandalf, who is played by Sir Ian McKellen in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy. With the Stranger now heading to Rhûn for the beginning of The Rings of Power season 2 with Nori in tow, this could be the beginning of Gandalf’s habits of going on adventures with Hobbit folk. From the source material, created by J.R.R. Tolkien, little seems to be known about the land of Rhûn, leaving it open to interpretation by the writers of the TV show, but there is potential for this to be the place where Gandalf and Sauron finally meet.
In an interview with Inverse, The Rings of Power writer Gennifer Hutchison addressed these theories of the Stranger potentially being Gandalf as well as other characters. The writer will neither confirm nor deny that this character is Gandalf, or a Blue Wizard, characters who are only mentioned in passing in the existing films but have further details revealed in Tolkien’s literary work. About the travelers’ “nose” line, she commented that making references to the tales of the later age is a solid way of implying that these phrases may have been passed down in generations:
“So much of what we like to do is make references to the stories and books in the later age as things that are said early. The idea of these things coming back in the Third Age and the story we know. So whoever the Stranger is, that saying is either one he says again, or it’s one he passes on. It just really anchors it in that world in a way that was appealing to us.”
If the Stranger were to be confirmed as Gandalf, the history of Middle-earth may have to be changed. Gandalf the Grey is not supposed to arrive in Middle-earth until the Third Age (Rings of Power is set in the Second Age, otherwise known as the Age of Númenor), accompanied by Radgast the Brown. It would make far more logical sense for the historical canon if the Stranger was one of the Blue Wizards, who were sent to Middle-earth to assist the Valar and prevent Sauron’s victory, according to Tolkien’s work. There is also the reasoning that Gandalf was not known for his journeys in the east (the Elven name for the Eastlands is Rhûn), this is where the Blue Wizards were said to journey to, which is part of the reason they have not featured in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit tales, apart from in passing.
Since the history of Middle-earth has already been altered by The Rings of Power series, as the Elven rings have now been crafted first rather than last, there’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again concerning Gandalf arriving in the Second Age and ending up as the Stranger. As much as the grey wizard is well-loved by fans, it may be a cheap shot to make him the Stranger with the opportunity to write about the Blue Wizards presenting itself so easily in this storyline. With so many clues scattered across the canon, the truth is that audiences won’t know who the Stranger is until Hutchison decides the time is right to reveal it.