The Rings of Power‘s seventh episode, “The Eye,” marked the return of the show’s mysterious mystics. The three white-cloaked figures are seeking the Stranger. But who exactly are those evil figures, and what do the three witches in their white cloaks want with the meteorite man on The Rings of Power? The answer to those questions should tell us if Nori’s big friend is truly good or about to put all of Middle-earth in peril.
Who Are The Rings of Power‘s White Cloak Characters?
The three figures who first appeared at the site of the Stranger’s meteorite crash are known as The Ascetic (Kali Kopae), The Nomad (Edith Poor), and The Dweller (Bridie Sisson), the group’s apparent leader. Prime Video refers to them as “mystics,” and their attire certainly contributes to a religious ethos. The figures also seem like they could easily be seen as witches on The Rings of Power. In fact, in an interview, Patrick McKay, one of the showrunners on The Rings of Power, likens the White Cloaks to MacBeth’s trio of witches. He notes, “We’re…thinking about Macbeth, and we’re thinking about the old crones and the three witches and just trying to come up with something strange and weird.”
Thanks to one of the show’s executive producers, we also know where they hail from. Lindsey Weber told Time that The Dweller comes “from far to the east,” specifically the lands of Rhûn, a place seeped in J.R.R. Tolkien’s darkest lore.
What Do We Know About The Rings of Power‘s Three White-Cloaked Witches?
The White Cloaks—silent, ethereal figures—only appeared after the Stranger arrived. Some, like Waldreg, took the meteorite as a sign Sauron himself has returned. The mystics’ items connect them to both figures. They carry a shield bearing the exact same constellation the Stranger is seeking. (In Middle-earth constellations can serve as omens of coming evil.) They also possess a staff that looks remarkably like the Eye of Sauron from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
The Rings of Power‘s three white-cloaked witches also managed to track the Stranger’s movements across Middle-earth. After they found his crash site, the Dweller touched the dirt where the Stranger had been. Ultimately that brought them to the tree the Stranger healed at the Harfoots new home. Once the Dweller touched it, the cult knew exactly which direction the bearded man had headed, and Nori’s attempts to lead them astray proved disastrous.
It also seems clear very early into their appearances that the cult of white cloaks is evil. The Stranger used magic to heal the Harfoots’ new land. The Dweller used dark magic to burn the Harfoots carts, leaving the group with little food or refuge.
Are the Cult Members Human Skin-Changers?
Large wolves have been stalking the Harfoots since The Rings of Power‘s first episode. And in episode seven Poppy saw another giant wolf paw print in the mud, not far from where the White Cloaks stood. Then, when Nori confronted the group in a later episode of The Rings of Power, the witches vanished into thin air only to suddenly appear behind her. All of which raises the possibility they are skin-changers, like Beorn from The Hobbit.
Considering Sauron himself is a shape-shifter, it’s possible his most zealous followers would also possess a similar type of ability. Especially ones that are also sorcerers like the White Cloaks seem to be. Not only was The Dweller immune to fire, she blew on the embers in her hand, causing the Harfoots carriages to go up in flames. She is a dangerous fire of immense power. In the finale of The Rings of Power, the white-cloaked cult of Sauron was also able to change their shapes into those of Nori and the Stranger, further highlighting their immense and evil powers.
Sauron also has deep and lasting connections with wolves. The first werewolf was bred from a wolf Morgoth filled it with an evil spirit. Sauron was then the beast’s master, as he was for all other werewolves who followed. One of his werewolves killed Galadriel’s brother Finrod. And, on at least one occasion, Sauron himself transformed into a werewolf. And they will still serve him into the Third Age, long after The Rings of Power.
But while the race of men can be both skin-changers and sorcerers of dark magic, it is possible the White Cloaks are also members of the Maiar like Sauron and Middle-earth’s wizards. Those spirit servants of the Valar are incredibly powerful, and one was Sauron’s loyal vampire servant during the First Age. And The Dweller’s ability to control fire is similar to the Stranger’s own ability.
Are The Rings of Power‘s White Cloaks Priests?
The Rings of Power is an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Second Age. The show is condensing the timeline by thousands of years and adding its own lore to Middle-earth, so we don’t know what future changes the series will make. But we know in Tolkien’s official history Sauron helps bring about the demise of Númenor by convincing many on the island to worship Morgoth rather than the Valar. And Sauron himself served as the head priest of the cult of Morgoth.
The author also had plans for a story set during Middle-earth’s Fourth Age that would have included The New Shadow Cult, a group of men who worshipped the first Dark Lord.
It’s possible The Rings of Power is pulling from both of these groups to introduce a religious sect that faithfully awaited the return of Sauron, successor to Morgoth.
But whether human or Maiar, priest or soldier, where the White Cloaks come from tells us what role they will play going forward.
Rhûn and the Easterling Men Loyal to Morgoth and Sauron
The Southlands were not the only place where men swore fealty to Morgoth. The Dark Lord’s most loyal men, the Easterlings, came from Rhûn in the east. The Easterlings will still serve Sauron during the Third Age. They will stand against Aragorn when he comes to the Gates of Mordor.
The white-cloaked witches also come from Rhûn, which they seemed to leave only after seeing the Stranger’s meteor crash on Middle-earth. All of which raises the most important question of all: is the white-cloaked cult looking for the Stranger because he is Sauron or because the Stranger is a threat to their master?
Why Are the White Cloaks Looking for the Stranger?
Sauron is coming. He will soon forge all the rings of power and unleash war during Middle-earth’s Second Age. But who is Sauron, and where is he now? It’s maybe the single biggest question on The Rings of Power. In its finals, The Rings of Power revealed to us that Sauron is, in fact, Halbrand. But he wasn’t the only candidate throughout the show. Not when a powerful man arrived in a meteor. And it seemed the cult of witches believed the Stranger to be Sauron, revealing why the White Cloaks searched for him for so long.
But the Stranger—who Nori believes is “good”—proves to be something else, the hooded, white coat cult calls him an Istar or wizard in The Rings of Power‘s finale. And whether he is the Maia Gandalf himself or a different wizard, he’s the single biggest threat to Sauron in all of Middle-earth. The mystics refer to him as “the other,” tying him to Sauron. The Stranger, after all, sought the same constellation as the mystics held. And he had many of the same powers they expected to find, had he been Sauron. In Tolkien’s lore, of course, the Istari come to Middle-earth to aid in the fight against Sauron. But it’s possible the two may yet have a deeper connection.
Is The White-Cloaked Cult of Witches Dead on The Rings of Power?
Once the cult of witches recognizes The Stranger on The Rings of Power, they seem to confirm that the arrival of the Istar is tied to the coming of their own master. Their miscalculation costs them, however. As the Stranger remembers himself and his powers, he annihilates them. But not before they confirm that the true meaning of the Stranger’s constellation. The arrangement of stars, known as the Hermit’s Hat, can only be seen from Rhûn, where the stars are strange. For now, the white-cloaked cult appears to be dead on The Rings of Power.
However, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay hint in an interview that there is more to the story. When asked about the fate of The Rings of Power‘s witches, Payne offers:
There are glimpses into the unseen world where the true form of something is revealed. You’re seeing what is underneath the form that they’ve been presenting. Were they defeated, or were they just temporarily vanquished? I think that’s a story point that people can be thinking about.
Meanwhile, McKay says:
The visual storytelling hopefully suggests that these witches are lesser conjurers than one of the wizards would be, and are bested here, but they escape in another form. Their true appearance in the world of the unseen is hideous and horrible and some kind of magic is making them beautiful… Maybe there’s a slightly different kind of magic and we can peel back the layers in future seasons.
The Impact of the White Cloak Witches
Sauron’s White Cloaks set the Stranger and Nori off on a new path, though. The pair make for Rhûn as they seek to understand his wizard powers and origins. And now the wizard even has a staff. Ultimately, The Rings of Power doesn’t offer too many specific answers about the cult of Sauron. But though they are gone for now, it seems very possible we haven’t seen the last of these mystics, their hoods, and their witchy white cloaks. After all, where magic and evil is concerned, anything is possible.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.