**Warning: spoilers ahead The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode four, “The Big Wave”**
At the end of its third episode, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduced us to Adara, a shadowy figure in the Southern Lands who seems to command the goblins in their pursuit of some hidden power. It’s pretty clear from this episode that Adar and the Orcs who serve him are essentially living out Mordor’s secret origins in the Southlands. But what’s less clear is who Adar actually is and his role in what’s to come this season and beyond.
The fourth episode Rings of Power, “The Big Wave”, kept quite a bit of that secret. We get a closer look at Adar and at least some idea of what he wants, but many more questions remain.
Following the trailer at the end of episode three, “The Big Wave” picks up Arondir’s (Ismael Cruz Córdova) story with the moment he finally meets Adar (the Elvish word for “father”), played by former Game of Thrones star Joseph Mawle. Although Arondir asks the scarred, elven-looking figure some fairly simple questions, Adar offers no easy answers. Instead, he teases that he’s been lying to Arondir all his life about how things are, offers vague clues as to his intentions by musing that he’s “not yet God,” and finally sends the elf away with a message for the people of the Southlands: surrender or die.
So, who is this guy, why do the Orcs call him father, and what is his role in the battles we know are yet to come as Sauron’s rise continues? We don’t know for sure, and the area of history the show explores is murky enough for us to guess. That said, we have some ideas. Here are four theories that could explain Adar’s presence in pre-Mordor Middle-earth.
Theory #1: He is Sauron
Let’s start with an Occam’s Razor (Morgoth’s Razor?) approach to this whole thing and go with the simplest and most straightforward explanation: Adar is Sauron, or at least some aspect of Sauron, before the creation of the Rings of Power that would give him such power and terror in Middle-earth later in the Second age. He talks like he’s been around a long time (Sauron was born as one of the Maiar and has existed as such since before time itself), has a cool Mordor gauntlet on his hand, and is clearly worshiped by the Orcs. Additionally, we know from episode three that the strange symbol Galadriel has been watching is actually a map to draw the Orcs to the Southlands, where Sauron will eventually settle. By the end of the Second Age, he had already made the One Ring in the fire of Mount Doom, so it’s easy to imagine that he’s a slightly less powerful version of Sauron, who soon begins his construction projects, specifically the digging of the relic. Morgoth who could help him rise again.
Of course, it’s very easy to dismiss this idea as too simple, especially when the aspiring smith Halbrand flaunts the beauty all over Númenor (where, according to Tolkien, Sauron will eventually appear in a very nice disguise to fool the Númenoreans). So maybe Sauron isn’t in the Southlands yet. Perhaps Adar is more his herald, or chief lieutenant, which brings us to…
Theory #2: He’s the Witch King
Traditionally, the Witch-king of Angmar is seen as a human leader who was corrupted by one of the Nine Rings and eventually transformed into the leader of the Ringwraiths, Sauron’s enforcers, and the fearsome hunters of the One Ring. But we know Rings of Power He takes some liberties with Tolkien lore, especially where things are unclear, and the good news for the show is that we really don’t know much about who the Witch King was before he became the Witch King. Perhaps in this version of the story he was the first elf. Maybe the way he looks now is part of his ongoing corruption, or there’s a bigger story at work that we don’t fully understand. When you think of Sauron’s greatest captains, his name almost always comes up, and it’s easy to imagine a world in which he’s set in the origins of Mordor. This means that the Rings of Power do not yet exist in the world of the show, and you could argue that the Sorcerer King is a non-entity until that point. Hopefully…
Theory #3: He is Maeglin
If you are not familiar with Tolkien’s works as The Silmarillion, you may not know the name Maeglin, but he’s a fascinating character in the world of Middle-earth, as he’s basically the only elf ever to be corrupted by darkness by Morgoth (that we know of, anyway). Maeglin, nephew of the Elven King (and somewhat distant cousin of Galadriel), was a respected warrior and highly skilled blacksmith, capable of crafting some of the most powerful weapons known to elven-kind during the First Age. Unfortunately, he was also in love with his first cousin, something his fellow elves would not allow him to do. Deeply angry at not being able to have what he truly wanted, Maeglin was eventually seduced by Morgoth (Sauron’s mentor and the original Dark Lord, remember) and agreed to betray the hidden elven city of Gondolin in exchange for leadership and a hand. the woman he loved. Gondolin fell, and according to Tolkien’s writings, Maeglin fell with him.
So the evil elf is dead, right? Well, according to The SilmarillionMaeglin fell flames (remember those burns on his face) during the Fall of Gondolin, suggesting death but not necessarily guaranteeing it, especially if you have the forces of darkness on your side. Additionally, Adar talks to Arondir about the lost region of Beleriand, where Maeglin was born. Possible Rings of Power has delved deep into Tolkien lore to pull an ace out of the hole here for Sauron, an evil-at-heart elf who also happens to be really good at making weapons. Throw in the idea that the Orcs could be former Elves corrupted by Morgoth himself, and it all seems to even out.
Of course, maybe we’re exaggerating. Maybe…
Theory #4: It’s someone else
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a show we’re excited to show us earlier versions of familiar places and people, from the dwarven mines of Moria to beloved characters like Elrond and Galadriel. But the show takes almost as much joy in giving us new faces to root for, from an Elf struggling to survive in the Southlands to the Harfoots dealing with new mysteries. It’s quite possible that Adar is a new player on the map of Middle-earth, a man created because Sauron needs some top henchmen and there aren’t that many to choose from. So we get a new villain, a mini-boss, before the Big Bad shows up, who also has some ties to the history of Morgoth and Sauron to smooth out some gaps in the lore. Guessing is fun, but sometimes the answer really is “Hey, we made him up.” Whoever Adar is, we have four more episodes Rings of Power the first season to unpack it.
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