Sauron’s secret identity takes another step

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has kept one thing secret and safe for the entirety of its production: Who in the show is playing the role of chief antagonist, the infamous Dark Lord Sauron? In the show’s third episode, we got another character to toss into the pile of Sauron Potentials. And then, in the fifth episode, that theory was uttered out loud.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for episodes 3 and 5 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.]

Photo: Matt Grace/Prime Video

From the very first moments of the third episode, the name Adar is on characters’ lips. Arondir and a slew of humans and several elves have been captured and press-ganged into digging orc tunnels, and the orcs seem to report to someone called “Adar.” Arondir’s elf buddies even speculate out loud that Adar is another name for Sauron.

In the episode’s final scene, Arondir is dragged before a figure who seems to be Adar, but is shot in a heavy blur that obscures his features. In the fourth episode, the two have a conversation that only makes Adar’s origins more mysterious.

Who is Adar?

A close-up of Adar, an elf with a burnt face, in The Rings of Power. Image: Prime Video

We don’t know. It’s just as likely he’s an original character created for Rings of Power as he is Sauron — although that particular theory took a hit in the fifth episode (more on that in a sec). In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron had intermediaries between himself and orcs on the front lines — generals, captains, Nazgûl, heralds like the Mouth of Sauron — and allies who worked for his aims, like Saruman. Adar could be something similar, a corrupted man of the Southlands.

Episode 5 made the possibility of him being Sauron a lot murkier. When a group of men travel to Adar and his band of orcs to pledge fealty and beg for mercy, one of them assumes Adar is Sauron, and even asks, “You are Sauron, are you not?” This angers Adar greatly, who doesn’t directly respond but grabs the man by the throat and demands a sacrifice.

Even with that angry non-answer, it’s technically possible that he’s Sauron, although we can safely file it under “unlikely.” At this era in the Second Age, Sauron was building up his first foothold in Mordor, neighbor to the show’s Southlands. He could still take physical form at the time, and used his ability to shapeshift to appear in a fair and friendly manner. Under the name Annatar, he claimed to be an emissary of the gods and convinced Celebrimbor to teach him ringcraft, eventually putting his secret little enchantments on the lesser rings.

Arondir’s companions note that Sauron went by many names, and it could be that in Rings of Power, Adar is one of them. Arondir notes that Adar is an elvish word — it probably means “father” in one of the two elven dialects that Tolkien created, which we know from Tom Bombadil’s elven name, Iarwain Ben-adar, which means “Oldest and Fatherless.”

Could Adar be Sauron under a new name? Probably not. Halbrand still seems like the most likely Sauron candidate of the characters we’ve met. And probably the biggest tell Adar won’t be revealed as the Dark Lord himself is that Arondir’s elf buds already suggested that part out loud. Hell, maybe he’s Tom Bombadil.