Theory about Paloma’s Prophecy
“In your hour of greatest need, you will find the power that you seek from the man wreathed in flames.“ - Paloma to Taako, Ep. 49
I believe when Paloma says “wreathed in flames”, she’s not talking about someone wearing a red robe, but rather covered in literal fire. Here’s why.
Many people have theorized that Barry is the “man wreathed in flames”. Cloaked in red, he led the boys out of Wonderland and exposed the truth about the BoB. However, I have a couple issues with this theory:
1. Although Barry offers knowledge and guidance, he hasn’t provided a “power” the boys seek.
2. While the boys were at a pretty low point back in the Wonderland arc, their current situation of the Hunger attacking the BoB is not great, and is probably more likely to be their “hour of greatest need”.
Unless Barry suddenly whips out a super-weapon from the pockets of those bluejeans, it’s doubtful he’s the one from Paloma’s prophecy. But if not Barry, who’s the “man wreathed in flames”?
I believe it’s Gundren Rockseeker.
Now, I know this theory has already been tossed around a bit. After all, Gundren might immediately come to mind at Paloma’s words, since Griffin described him as both “engulfed in flame” and a “dwarven fireball” after putting on the Phoenix Fire Gauntlet.
But there’s one problem. Gundren’s dead. Super dead. After emerging from the well, the boys find the gauntlet on the arm of “a burned out, blackened dwarven figure” that can only be Gundren.
However, Paloma never said the man had to be alive.
Don’t worry: I’m not about to theorize that Gundren turned into a lich or has powerful undead abilities. I’m pretty sure we’re not hearing any more from Gundren in TAZ (but honestly who knows with everything Griffin throws at us). So what “power” could a dead-as-a-door-nail dwarf possibly offer? The BoB has already confiscated the Gauntlet, after all.
I don’t believe the “power” is strength, but rather a certain ability. An ability to travel to the Hunger.
This builds upon the theory that the black glass of Phandalin’s remains is actually a portal to the Hunger. If you haven’t heard this theory before, here’s some background:
Back in Lucas’s lab, the boys see circular crystals that allow them to peer into different planes. According to Lucas, crystals that are “grown in a perfect circle” allow you to “see into” the plane it resonates with; however, it’s difficult to make these looking-glasses because “you can’t cut these gemstones to create these mirrors”. They must be natural, perfect.
What else has been described as both a mirror and a perfect circle? Phandalin. As the boys are sailing away from the remains of the frontier town, Griffin says Phandalin “almost serves as a giant, black mirror for the night sky above”. More importantly, when the boys are shown Phandalin by the Chalice during The Eleventh Hour, Griffin says the Gauntlet “reduces this city into a perfect circle of black glass”.
Further evidence can be found back in the lab. When the red robe appears to the boys during The Crystal Kingdom, he knocks over a can containing Lucas’s scrapped crystals. He then shows the boys a vision using one of the black crystals from the can: a black cloud with streaks of color (the Hunger) emerges from this crystal and begins consuming the other crystals. After the vision ends and the red robe disappears, Magnus takes a look at this black crystal and Griffin says the following:
“Standing over it you can actually see what look like white eyes looking back at you through this black mirror. And as they sort of make eye contact with you, these eyes quickly shut, and disappear.“
We all know by now that these white eyes belong to the Hunger. However, when asked about the black crystal, Lucas says, “That’s one made of black opal. Which is, I mean it’s inert, it doesn’t resonate with any planes.” Perhaps it doesn’t resonate with a plane, but rather with the Hunger.
This brings us back to Phandalin. As a “perfect circle of black glass”, it seems to be the right shape and color to serve as a “mirror” to the Hunger, just like the crystal in Lucas’s lab.
But what does this have to do with Gundren?
There was something else in The Eleventh Hour that caught my attention. When the boys are shown the destruction of Phandalin by the Chalice, Griffin says the following:
“And then you’re standing at the epicenter. Right in front of Gundren’s blackened bones. His arm - with the gauntlet on it - held up to the sky in the center of this roaring, expanding pillar of fire.”
This is the second time Griffin has specifically mentioned Gundren’s bones at the center of Phandalin. We have no reason to believe these bones aren’t still there, sitting in the middle of the circle of glass. His remains are the “X marking the spot” of the mirror.
I believe the “power” in Paloma’s prophecy is the power to travel through the perfect, black circle of Phandalin into the Hunger, a power created by none other than Gundren Rockseeker. In our boys’ hour of greatest need, they’ll return to the man who was wreathed in flames, who’s bones sit at the center of the portal they seek.