The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has added a major new question to its litany of mysteries. Along with “Who is The Stranger?” we can now wonder: “Who is the burned elf leading the orcs?”
Now that the sinister new character (played by Joseph Malwe) has been revealed in episode four, “The Great Wave,” the big surprise is that he’s not an orc, or a manifestation of Sauron (as some of Arondir’s companions theorized.) Instead, he is a living elf—and we don’t see many elves in J.R.R. Tolkien’s lore who side with evil. So who is Adar, and why is he helping the Dark Lord?
Tolkien’s appendices to The Lord of the Rings novels, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales edited by his son Christopher provide some clues. We can also explore a few other burning questions from this episode: What is mithril? What’s the Mirrormere and where have we seen it before? And what are the Palantiri orbs that reveal the doomsday prophecy that gives this episode its name?
As explained in the previous episode’s recap, “Adar” is Tolkien’s elvish word for “father,” and it’s the name the orcs overtaking the Southland use for their mysterious leader. Now we’ve seen who they’re talking about, and he turns out to be an elf himself. He’s familiar with Arondir’s home region of Beleriand, which was largely destroyed in the War of Wrath that first defeated Morgoth and his apprentice Sauron. He even knows the river that ran north to south in the area.
Now, the mysterious Adar is making preparations for Sauron’s return. He tells Arondir that he has been taught many lies, but doesn’t specify what those are. Instead, he releases Arondir to carry a message to the Southland humans who have fled the village and taken shelter in the abandoned elven watchtower. If they surrender and serve him, they live. If not …
But who is Adar? What’s his true identity? Arondir doesn’t recognize him, but should viewers? The highminded and ethereal elves very seldom gave in to dark impulses, but Tolkien does include a few in his legendarium. Two, in particular, stand out as likely suspects for the mystery being generated here by showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay:
This elf from the First Age hailed from Beleriand, the same place Adar referenced to Arondir, and was a blacksmith who developed new methods of metalworking. He devised a unique black alloy called galvorn, that could be forged into weapons or armor. When Adar euthanizes a wounded orc in The Rings of Power, note the obsidian-like black blade. No matter who the so-called Adar ends up being, that’s almost certainly a galvorn Easter egg.
Eöl was a cruel figure, who was horrible to his wife Aredhel and their son Maeglin. While he was away visiting some dwarf allies, she fled to her original home in the elven realm of Gondolin. An enraged Eöl hunted down his own wife and child, killing her with a poisoned spear. He was sentenced to death for the crime. When he was hurled from the Caragdûr, a steep cliff, he called down an everlasting curse on his son before he died.
Sadly, the curse seems to have stuck. That’s why Eöl’s son Maeglin is outsecond, and perhaps most likely, guess at Adar’s true identity. The black dagger he uses to end the orc’s life in this episode could still be galvorn, a relic of his hated father.
Also, Adar tells Arondir he went down the river in Bereland “once,” and Eöl would have traversed it many times. Plus, there’s one other major clue in The Rings of Power about Adar—the burn scars on his face.