Amazon’s hit fantasy series, The Rings of Power, introduced a ton of new characters to the world of JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but one of the most mysterious additions to the TV series have been the three witches in white cloaks, who were vanquished by the Stranger in the season finale.
At the end of season 1, The Stranger, who was revealed to be an Istar (aka Wizard) confronts the three cultists with the Harfoots. The Stranger casts light which illuminates the servants of Sauron, showing their unseen forms that seem very familiar to any fantasy movie lovers. Many fans of Tolkien have been quick to point out how the witches’s ‘death scenes’ were similar to the ghost figures of the Ringwraiths in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies – who pursued Frodo and the One Ring endlessly.
But before conspiracies about Sauron’s servants can get out of hand, The Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have shared the witches’ inspiration, detailed why they resemble Ringwraiths, and how Shakespeare is also involved.
“You’re seeing what is underneath the form that they’ve been presenting. Were they defeated, or were they just temporarily vanquished?” Payne explained in an interview with Vanity Fair. “I think that’s a story point that people can be thinking about… That’s him seeing into the Unseen world. The ring takes you into that place where you can see the true form of things.”
McKay added: “We’re riffing on the visual language of that. But also, we like the idea that there are different forms of magic in Tolkien. 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. While the visual language is a little similar to the Nazgûl, we’re also 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,” McKay continued.
“We know they come from Rhûn, and we know there are magic cults in Rhûn, which is one of the things Tolkien writes about. So maybe there’s a slightly different kind of magic, and we can peel back the layers in future seasons.”
Not much is known about the trio or cultists yet. And Tolkien didn’t go into detail regarding Rhûn in his writing either. This means that the writers for Rings of Power season 2 have a ton of freedom, and we’ll be in the dark about how the witches’ identity and origin will play out in the future.