Who Is Adar In The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power? (He's Probably Not Sauron)

Warning: Massive spoilers ahead for episode 3 of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."

Dark tidings are afoot in Middle-earth, and episode 3 of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" raises the stakes by introducing a potentially brand new villain. The name "Adar" is dropped repeatedly within the first few minutes of the episodes when orcs drag Silvan elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) through the tunnels that are being dug in the Southlands.

As the events of "The Rings of Power" take place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's exhaustive notes, appendices, and manuscripts assumed that Sauron himself would emerge as the major villain of the Prime Video series. While Adar could very well be Sauron assuming another form, this theory would lead to too obvious of a reveal, which may or may not be what the show is aiming for.

First off, it is important to note that Adar does not appear anywhere in Tolkien's extensive saga, and he is a new character created solely for the show. At this point, it is too early to deduce whether Adar is a mere red herring or a character that explicitly breaks Tolkien canon, as we were allowed an extremely blurry glimpse of the leader of the orcs. There have been rumors surrounding the mysterious character, apart from speculations about who Sauron might appear as, based on the promotional material for the series. Although the series itself can provide the best answers as the events unravel, let's travel to speculation land and attempt to understand who this new (?) villain might be.

What the Rings of Power tells us about Adar so far

A closer look at the map of the Southlands will reveal that the region is what will later be known as Mordor, Sauron's chosen realm and natural fortress. The orcs are hard at work, making sure they avoid sunburn and kidnapping entire villagers to extend the tunnels across the Southlands and beyond. There seems to be some sort of hierarchy among the orcs, but all of them seem to hold veneration for someone named Adar, who serves as their leader. Arondir's peers discuss that it is odd that the orcs readily bow to Adar, and that he could potentially be Sauron, as he was immensely powerful and went by many names.

Arondir and his fellow elves are not completely wrong to speculate this, as the term "Adar" is most probably an Elvish word for "Father." This can be deduced from one of the dialects Tolkien used for Tom Bombadil's Elven name, Iarwain Ben-adar, which translates to "Oldest and Fatherless." Although the term "father" could very well be used as a title of veneration, it could also mean that Adar was somehow responsible for the literal creation of orcs. This could be an act of loyalty to Morgoth, the primordial evil that terrorized Middle-earth throughout the First Age and its succeeding eras.

By the end of the episode, Arondir is taken directly to Adar (played by Joseph Mawle, according to the show's IMDb page), to whom the orcs are seen bowing to reverently. Although the final shot of Adar is blurry as hell, he appears as a tall humanoid figure with dark hair, who could be either human or elf. Given how Adar is an Elvish name, all signs point towards Adar being a fallen or corrupted elf, although he could potentially be Sauron in another form.

Could Adar be a corrupted elf, a mere servant of Morgoth?

Per Tolkien's "Silmarillion," all evil forces that took hold of the living in Middle-earth found hosts in everyone except the elves. Here's a part of the passage: "All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only." However, this is in direct contradiction to Saruman's statement about the origin of orcs in "The Fellowship of the Ring," in which he says that the orcs "were elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated." These canonical discrepancies are common in Tolkien's fantasy, as the author revised the origins of several concepts, and accounts in the appendices often contradict the core source material.

As "The Rings of Power" does not have rights to "The Silmarillion" or "The History of Middle-earth," it would make sense for the show to prop Adar as a fallen/corrupted elf. In the final trailer for the show, there's a clear shot of a dark-haired elf overseeing orcs, and there's reason to believe that it is Adar. There are instances of fallen elves in Tolkien's lore, such as Fëanor, who brought unimaginable turmoil to his people, but it is a rare occurrence for an elf to be devoted to pure evil. So, who could Adar be?

One possible theory is that Adar was an elf who survived the corruption process that mutated elves into orcs. Morgoth could have capitalized on this by turning the elf's mind towards evil, thus setting him up as an antihero with shades of grey. Adar must have accomplished something worthy of inspiring the worship of the orcs in the process and is leading them to expand upon Morgoth's evil contingencies. 

Could Adar indeed be Sauron himself?

Although I'm not completely sold on the "Sauron is Adar" theory, let's look at the possibilities. As Sauron was the most subversive of the Maia and is known to have shapeshifted into friendlier forms to beguile Middle-earth, it is possible that he is Adar, a form he takes before appearing as Annatar before the elves. Let's look closely at the comment that Sauron took many names — this is true, as "Sauron" was the name assumed post-corruption, as gleaned from Tolkien's notes in "Morgoth's Ring." In #17 of "Parma Eldalamberon," it is claimed that Sauron went by "Mairon the Admirable" until after the fall of Númenor. "Mairon" roughly translates to "splendid/sublime," an indication of Sauron's limitless ambition and hubris, if you will.

Linguistic etymology aside, Adar being Sauron would not serve as a compelling twist for the series, as it is a bit too on the nose. Also, what would Sauron gain from assuming elf form in front of the orcs? My theory at the moment is, apart from the ones speculated above, is that Adar is one of Sauron's middlemen, who is set to play a seminal role in the darkness that engulfs the Second Age. Connected to the corrupted elf theory, it is possible that Adar is an elf presumed dead after the War of Wrath, who was later captured and tortured by Sauron himself. Although some speculate that Adar may be one of Galadriel's (Morfydd Clark) fallen brothers, this does appear to be a tad farfetched at the moment.

Galadriel's brother or not, Adar could be leading the orcs to find remnants of Morgoth's magic, which explains why they are "searching for something." As for the rest, only time will tell. 

"The Rings of Power" is currently streaming on Prime Video.