|Hold it right there, outlaw!|
This article is littered with spoilers, so I reckon you might ought'a mosey on down the road if you don't want to read any plot details.
|This is speculation. This article, or parts of it, may not be correct.|
More proof and/or clarification is needed.
This subpage covers speculation about the Strange Man.
A mysterious and metaphysical character, there are several interpretations of the character's strange behavior and apparent supernatural abilities. None have been confirmed, although much of the evidence points to him being a Saint Peter figure, shown by his description of himself as 'an accountant... in a way', which could refer to the common Christian belief that Saint Peter waits at the gates of Heaven to welcome the deceased and makes record of them. He later reminds John that he will be responsible for his actions, referring to Divine Judgement. Moreover, he tells Marston that he has forgotten 'far more important people' than himself, likely referring Marston's agnosticism. During his appearance in Mexico, the fact that his mode of transport is a mule rather than a horse suggests humility and possibly intentional poverty/selflessness, hinting further at a Saintly figure. Also, the last encounter with him takes place at the site of Marston's grave, which the Strange Man notes is 'a fine spot'. Despite this, there are many interpretations of the true nature of the Strange Man.
It is possible that the developers did not base the Strange Man on any religious figure, whether it be Saint Peter, (a) God or Death. This is supported by the fact that no matter if the player chooses the honorable or dishonorable way of completing the task, he will always say "I hope my boy turns out to be just like you."
It is also possible that he is a manifestation of John Marston's sense of right and wrong, testing his morals and forcing John to make decisions on matters he may have seen or heard about previously. The Strange Man reveals a detailed knowledge of John Marston's history. He is impeccably dressed in a three piece suit with a large top hat. The man appears to be calm and collected, even in the arid wilderness. He is also able to identify John Marston whenever Marston approaches him, without actually looking at him. When questioned, he claims to be "an accountant... in a way" (which may hint at him being Death) but also claims he cannot remember his own name.
No formal explanation is given for the strange man, leaving players to form their own conclusions about his nature. The Strange Man's apparent invulnerability to bullets, his bizarre calm in the wilderness, and his unusual knowledge of both Marston's own criminal past and the nature of Marston's victims seem out of place. Additionally, the Strange Man seems to foreshadow the location of their final encounter (the place where John is yet to be buried) as a "fine spot."
- Much evidence points to him being a Saint Peter figure (See Biography for further description)
- When the Strange Man responds to John's curse of "Damn you!" with "Yes, many have", this could allude to a number of colloquial blasphemous profanities involving the damnation of deities throughout numerous religions.
- It has also been suggested that the Strange Man is a personification of Death; as only John interacts with him during the crucial events leading up to his death, and is neutral in his requests as opposed to a good or evil deity. Also, the final location where you meet the Strange Man, who remarks "This is a fine spot", is the same spot John is buried in the final cutscene. Other evidence that he's a personification of Death is that John says that he'll not be responsible for his actions and the man says "oh, but you will", which shows that he already knew that John would let himself be shot as a final proof of love to the family, that wouldn't be chased anymore. The aforementioned accountant comment also hints at him being Death.
- In the final encounter with the Strange Man, Marston attempts to shoot him as he walks away. However, the bullets do not harm him, and Marston looks at his gun as if something was wrong. This suggests that the bullets went right through him. Despite this, it is possible to kill the Strange Man before this final encounter. He is rather resistant to bullets, however, taking several shots to the head to finally bring him down, also knocking him of the cliff where John first encounters him can kill him and fail the mission. Even if the player kills him, however, they are still able to complete the series of quests as he comes back to life for the next meeting.
- Marston fires three shots at the Strange Man, and the fourth bullet jams in the chamber, causing it not to fire. This could be interpreted as the demise of the Marston family, a bullet for Uncle, Abigail, and finally, John, but Jack is spared.
- The number and locations of the meetings with the Strange Man draws parallels to the Temptations of Christ in the Bible:
- The first temptation of Christ by the Devil happens in a rocky desert setting.
The first meeting with the Strange Man takes place looking out over a rocky desert area.
- The second temptation of Christ by the Devil happens in a place referred to as the "The Holy City" (Jerusalem.)
The second meeting with the Strange Man takes place in Nuevo Paraiso, which translates to "New Paradise."
Also, the Strange Man is accompanied by a donkey. The donkey is symbolic of Jesus because Scripture tells that Jesus rode into The Holy City on a donkey.
- The third temptation of Christ by the Devil happens in a "high place", where "all the kingdoms of the world can be seen."
The third meeting with the Strange Man takes place atop a hill in Beecher's Hope, overlooking all of John's "kingdom."
- The first temptation of Christ by the Devil happens in a rocky desert setting.
- This lends credence to the theory that the Strange Man is in fact some form of deity akin to the devil, or a similar being from another mythology (Loki, Hades, etc). Since John is being tempted to do evil, but the Strange Man himself does not appear evil, it could be an allusion to the version of the devil acting as a tempter, as in, tempting people into evil, without being necessarily evil. The invincibility probably comes with the job, and this would explain his description of himself as an 'accountant', as well as the fact that he knows a lot about John. Also, his appearance is not only similar to many contemporary depictions of the devil, but also to many silent film villains. This juxtaposition with his kindly manner would suggest a more refined evil (a man of wealth and taste, perhaps?).
- Another theory is that the Strange Man is the ghost of a previous victim of John Marston's past. This would be supported by the fact that there is a man in Blackwater that claims he knows John and that John shot him, and that the Strange Man says "You have forgotten far more important people than me." This hints that he is just another victim that John killed with no second thought. Further evidence is that he gives John a few quests to complete with conscience involved. This could be the Ghost's final test to John to see if he has truly changed.
- He could be a reference to the Men in Black legends, according to which strange men in black suits would appear to random people when something paranormal occurs, and these men would know everything about the people they encounter.
- He could be a also be a reference to the Man in Black from Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger with John Marston playing the role of the title character, the gunslinger Roland Deschain. Roland's relationship with the Man in Black mirrors John's relationship with the Strange Man. Roland hunts down the Man in Black looking for answers, just as John does to the Strange Man, and both Men give their respective gunslingers tasks to do. Even the final encounters between both--both Roland and John meet their opposites for the last time in a graveyard--are very similar.
- In the late 19th century, it was rumored that Satan roamed the earth in the form of a human wearing a black suit, black top hat and had a black moustache.
- It is possible the Strange Man is simply another Aztec deity. In Undead Nightmare, John meets an Aztec goddess. This strange man could embody any of the over 100 deities the Aztecs worshiped, making it very hard to determine which one it is. The Strange Man references his son, so it is a deity with a son. He is also a man so the deity is a god. While this makes it easier to determine who the Strange Man is, it is still nearly impossible to separate him from all the gods that have a son. So most likely, the Strange Man is just another bizarre encounter by Marston.
- There is another theory supporting that he is John's Guardian Angel as bullets do not harm him, his tasks for John are basic morality tests, and he seems to know everything about John, stating "this is a fine spot" while standing on what will be the exact location of John's grave. He probably chose the best location for John's body after his inevitable death.
- Another theory suggest the man could be John Marston's father, or a close relative. If the player goes to Beecher's Hope and look at the pictures on the wall in the house, s/he will see a picture of a man in a black suit. This is not actually the strange man, due to different facial features, however it could be a picture of the strange man in the past.
- This might be totally random, but if you draw lines between the three spots where the Strange Man was met on the map, it will create an equilateral triangle, or in this case, the Holy Trinity; the symbol of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, or the all seeing eye referring to the Illuminati. Yet another evidence suggesting the Strange Man is God. This is also a very weak clue, but when adding together the Strange Man saying he is a sort of accountant and other mysterious quotes (God), he speaks about his son and there is a donkey at the second encounter (Jesus) and the fact that he is invincible during the last encounter (Spirit).
- The Man states "I hope my son turns out like you". In the sense the man is God, then this would refer to Jesus - who also sacrificed himself for mankind, like John let himself be gunned down in order to save Abigail and Jack.
- Another reason that the strange man may be God is that John Marston at the very beginning says "Do I know you?" and the strange man responds: "I hope so".
- The man states "I'm an accountant...of sorts", which could mean that he is the Grim Reaper. Also, bullets don't affect him, as Death cannot die.
- Another reason the strange man could be God is that if you chose to donate money to the nun, when John is talking to her, he says "Ain't it the Lord's responsibility to look over His flock, not mine?" and the nun replies, "Yes, but the Lord has brought you to me so you could help me."
- Interestingly if the player donates the money and gets visited by a nun, one of the gifts will be a blessed rosary called Obscuridad del Santo Andres that prevents John from being easily shot, protecting him somehow. This could mean that the man is actually God.
- The Strange Man could be a repressed memory from Marston's past that allows him to "soul search", as all of the tasks are related to a question of morality, or Marston's redemption from his previous life.
- After the Strange man angers John by refusing to reveal his identity, John says he would "not be responsible for his actions" if the Strange man did not tell him who he was. Directly after, the Strange man tells John, "Oh, but you will. You will." This could be interpreted as an allusion to the belief that after one's death, a person is "held responsible" for his actions in the form of judgement, and another reason to believe that the man is God, Death, or some supernatural figure.
- The Strange Man may just be a "Spirit" of a lost one (ex: Father/Mother) that crossed over to try to help John with his moral problems. For example, the first task he gives him is to talk a man out of cheating on his wife, maintaining the other man's morals of marriage and sacred bondage (which may also be a reason for being God). The second task of either helping or robbing the nun is also on moral grounds (If the Strange Man was to be God, then this would give the second task more sense because he is trying to see if John will help him and support his followers or not). The last task/meeting is a big reason that the Strange Man is a spirit of a lost loved one or God. The quote "This is a fine spot" may either refer to John's ranch where he looks to build a new life with his family or John's future grave spot (reason for Strange Man being Death/Grim Reaper or another entity for knowing the spot where John dies in advance).
- Most of the clues seem to indicate that the Strange Man is the Grim Reaper; dressed in black, accountant of souls, intimate knowledge of John's life, waiting for John to show his true colors after facing a few moral dilemmas. However, several intriguing clues point toward the Strange Man as being John's lost father whom he never met. The redemption theme could be behind the tasks set forth for his son John, to help redeem his father's lost soul; leaving/cheating on John's mother and living a life of sin. If John's father died several years prior, this could also explain the apparent similarity in age between the two men. However, John's father is mentioned as being Scottish several times during the game, so the Strange Man being his father would appear very unlikely.
- The Strange Man could possibly be neither Satan or God, but rather the Angel Of Death, as everywhere John goes, death follows him. And no matter where John goes, he can't get away from the Strange Man.
- Supporting this speculation, there are pictures of the Strange Man oddly placed all around the Marston's house, perhaps because everywhere John looks there is death.
- The Strange Man gives John opportunities to make moral choices, which are clearly defined as good and bad, remaining neutral and never tempting John to go either way, when Satan would try to persuade John to make evil choices, and God would command him to do good.
- Above all, the Strange Man seems to be fascinated at how easily John kills people, and ensures that John will be judged in the end.
- It is also possible that The Strange Man is at least based on Number 44 or Satan, from Mark Twain's last unfinished work, The Mysterious Stranger.
He may be from the future, given that he knows a lot of detail about John, his life, and the fact that you can become A Legend Of The West. All of this is inconclusive though, as the man states, "I hope so" when John asks him who he is, along with all the strange knowledge of worldly happenings.
- Another explanation puts The Strange Man as a manifestation of John's own conscience, as though Marston is hallucinating. This is somewhat supported by the fact that when John questions him for his name for a first time, he brings up the tragic story of a girl killed by Dutch during a robbery in John's former life. This explanation seems to conflict with the fact that when the Strange Man issues John a task, he has intimate knowledge of this situation; knowledge that Marston alone could not possess. This, however, is potentially explained by saying that John had already observed the people involved in the tasks while passing through, since the Strange Man does not appear until after John has taken several missions, which could place him near those people. A fact that may back this theory up is that when played as Jack this stranger mission is unplayable, as though the man doesn't exist in Jack's mind but he does in John's. Also, when he mentions that he wants his son to "be just like you". This could be Marston wanting Jack to be like his father, expressed through his conscience. However, this is unlikely, seeing that none of the missions needed to meet the Strange Man happen in Thieves Landing which is where the first mission takes place. John considers himself a damned man, and a few people damn him at that point in the game, which matches up with the stranger saying many have.
- It is also possible that the same person involved in the Thieves' Landing mission could have traveled there from a location that Marston had visited in one of the story missions. Considering how the man is choosing to cheat on his wife, it would make sense for that same man to have come from out of town.
- As for John not knowing the people involved in the missions, those missions were not rare instances. For example, the first is a drunk man about to hire a prostitute and cheat on his wife, quite a common occurrence one would think, especially for Thieves' Landing. The second is a nun asking for donations, something else that probably happens everyday. There was nothing out of the ordinary at all for either of these people.
- His encounters, however very specific to their locations and it seems highly unlikely John would know a nun was collecting donations, or a man was being unfaithful, at those exact moments. Undoubtedly not every carouser in Thieves' Landing is a married man, and there aren't nuns desperately seeking donations at all hours outside of churches. They may be common occurrences, but these people are very specific. As the Strange Man says "I hear that an old nun is traveling from the monastery and taking the money she raised to the bank." Among many other things, John was just as likely to find a young priest collecting donations. So the likelihood of coincidence is up for debate.