The Rings Of Power Strengthens The History Between Gandalf And Halflings

Gandalf the Grey has been around for a long time. Long before he met Frodo Baggins, or even Bilbo, J.R.R. Tolkien's works say he was created as a Maiar, a celestial-like being that forged the earth before the First Age. Yet the author's texts only give us the specifics of Gandalf's history during the Third Age. So what was he doing before that? Why, hanging out with more hobbits and halflings, of course.

The reveal that The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) who crashed into the countryside on a star is an Istar, or wizard, came partway through the finale this week, when he rejected the title of Sauron that the three hooded figures tracking him tried to thrust upon him. In a moment that solidified this version of Middle-earth as a place of choices over fate, his new friend Nori (Markella Kavenagh) coaxed him into standing firm in his instinct to be good, saying, "Only you can show what you are. You choose by what you do. You're here to help, I know it."

These guys go way back

I'll admit: I don't care much in particular that The Stranger is probably Gandalf, but I do care that he's a good guy. The moment in which we finally know for sure that he's not Sauron had me breathing a sigh of relief, and every scene that featured him afterwards felt like a warm hug. So of course he's Gandalf, because who else has a presence that feels that benevolent? The season ends with the formerly disoriented gentle giant gaining enough clarity to know that he needs to go to Rhûn. It also ends with him speaking some familiar lines that make it clear that his fondness for hobbits goes way further back than we realized.

"Alone it's just a journey," The Stranger tells Nori when he invites her to come with him. "Adventures, they must be shared." Folks who have read "The Hobbit" will recognize the sentiment there, as that book begins with an auspicious invitation: ""I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone," Gandalf tells Bilbo, but by this point, the hobbits have evolved from wandering harfoots to creatures of habit. The man in question takes some convincing to leave his tobacco pipe behind and go adventuring.

An odd couple friendship that spans centuries

This isn't the only line from "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" that has shown up in some form before. When Nori confesses she's nervous about their journey and unsure which way to go, The Stranger delivers a comforting and quaint bit of wisdom: "When in doubt, Elanor Brandyfoot, always follow your nose." Not only is this adorable, but it's also the best evidence viewers have that The Stranger is, in fact, Gandalf, rather than one of the other Istars. "If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose," Gandalf (Ian McKellan) tells Merry (Dominic Monaghan) in "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

Tolkien's works contain multitudes: they're full of sweeping stories about good and evil, complex mythologies and fully realized histories, and characters who make strong impressions. But for all the great moments he's created, few are as endearing and iconic as the interactions between Gandalf and the hobbits. There's something special about a nearly all-powerful being, imposing in stature, choosing to break bread with a humble and small group of people. The relationship between the wizard and the halflings was already delightful before, but the story of Nori and The Stranger supplements it even more. The result is the exact opposite of our worst fears about The Stranger — a sweet and pure cross-generational friendship that turns out to be thousands of years in the making.