Indeed, while there are many secrets in Myst, one of the greatest and most well guarded is that of The Stranger. While having no official name, The Stranger is, in fact, you, over and above being the character that you are controlling in the Myst franchise.
Known Information Edit
The identity of the Stranger is one of the best hidden mysteries in the Myst universe since it seems from the narrative that Cyan did not intend to develop the character; next to nothing is known about this person. As the Myst games have no dialogue --- only monologues from non-player characters --- we do not know whether the Stranger was asked about their origin or what reply they might have made.
We don't know even the Stranger's gender; references to the Stranger as a male are probably a result of English language custom rather than of actual information. In one losing ending of Myst, Atrus sounds as though he mutters to himself, "He didn't bring the page!" referring to the player. If so, this is probably a slip-of-the-tongue by Rand Miller rather than a deliberately placed piece of information.
In the Myst hint guide there is a small paragraph about the game's backstory, with highly dubious and contradictory details about the Myst book's discovery. This description is considered non-canonical.
The game Uru: Ages Beyond Myst revealed that the Star Fissure's destination -- and thus the location where the Myst Linking Book fell -- is in Eddy County, New Mexico. As it has also been revealed that the Myst games take place in the early 1800s, many fans speculate that the Stranger was either a Spanish Mexican or an Amerindian native of the 19th century. However, the Myst Book might well have changed hands after its original discovery before its first use.
Richard A. Watson has stated that Atrus spoke English with his grandmother before his descent into D'ni with Gehn and his journals were also written in English as a result of Anna's family having come originally from Europe, as mentioned in Myst: The Book of Atrus. Since the Stranger is able to read Atrus's journals on Myst Island, possibly the sole other datum we have about him is that he is able to speak and read English with some fluency.
According to Rick Barba, author of the Prima Strategy Guide versions of the Myst franchise, The Stranger is a young adult photographer from the present day. He walks one day to the San Francisco public library, and looks for books on photography. He finds an old book (The Myst Book), reads the pages, puts his hand on the window, and goes through the fissure into Myst. He then progresses through the Ages of the Myst series, updating important notes in his journal, taking photos of important information for back home, and solving all of Myst's puzzles to save the day.
The resurrection of Myst Online: Uru Live is the most likely outlet for further information on the Stranger.
Other things that we can infer are:
- He is good at mathematics, as he estimated how many possible combinations there are for the Color Marble Puzzle.
- The Stranger does not know Atrus before Myst, or if he does, Atrus does not recognize him
- The Stranger is human, as the Riven star fissure leads to earth and therefore earth is where the Myst book eventually ends up. The Stranger could be Rivenese, as he could have been thrown into the Fissure by Gehn or simply fell in during the opening. However, the Rivenese NPCs speak a language unfamiliar to the player, though it is possible that the Stranger may understand it, as comprehension of the language is not necessary to complete the game.
- The Stranger is fairly smart, since he has solved all the puzzles that Atrus puts out to guard the books.
- The Stranger apparently is an exceptional photographer, as indicated in the strategy guides. He always brings plenty of film with him, and takes significant photos for the "public back home". According to the Stranger, he admits that "if I couldn't document this place, nobody would believe it."
The Stranger's origin has long been assumed to be Earth, since even before there was any indication of such from the games. Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, however, strongly implies that the assumption was correct, and that the Stranger is therefore a human.
Somehow the Stranger discovered Atrus's Myst Linking Book, which had fallen into the Star Fissure (as depicted in Myst's opening cinematic). He touched its Linking panel and Linked to Myst. His explorations led him to Atrus, who was trapped in K'veer by his sons Sirrus and Achenar, on 12 December 1806 (according to official D'ni timelines). A month after freeing him, the Stranger Linked to Riven and freed Atrus's wife Catherine from Gehn. Atrus then let the Stranger fall into the Star Fissure, on faith that it would return him home to Earth.
About ten years later (1816) the Stranger met the couple again in Tomahna, a place on Earth close to the Cleft, in what is now Eddy County, New Mexico. There he became involved in a grievance of a man named Saavedro. Saavedro, wronged by Atrus's sons, exacts revenge by stealing a precious linking book; the Releeshahn Age. The Stranger helped Atrus recover the Releeshahn book from Saavedro.
Another ten years later (1826), the Stranger returned to Tomahna and saved Atrus' daughter Yeesha from her brother Sirrus, who kidnapped her in order to pursue his plan for revenge. It is implied in Myst IV: Revelation that the Stranger visited Atrus and his family several times in between 1816 and 1826.
The player character of Myst V: End of Ages is almost certainly not The Stranger. Uru: Ages Beyond Myst takes place in 2003, and Myst V takes place after Uru. If the Stranger is indeed a typical human, he or she would have been dead long before either game took place. In Myst V, Atrus refers to the player character as "my old friend," but the Myst V strategy guide explains this as being a result of Atrus's age and senility. However, if Atrus is indeed still alive after having lived for so long, then it is not unreasonable to assume that the Stranger could be too. One needs to take into account that Atrus is part D'ni and even if the Stranger was Rivenese, he/she would still have died long before the events of End of Ages. There is some speculation that the player character of Myst V may be none other than Dr. Richard Watson, a leading member of the defunct D'ni Restoration Council
When they created Myst and Riven, Cyan's intent was for players to feel as though they were themselves there, exploring strange worlds and gleaning information about them. Keeping the game first-person rather than third-person was the essence of this immersion. Thus, the games' protagonist is an anonymous, gender-neutral entity with no given history, and players are free to imagine themselves as the protagonist. This is somewhat supported in the games, and most notably the title of Uru, which can be translated as "You are you."
However, as the Myst story evolved, fans became curious about the anonymous player character. Atrus's interactions with this figure were vital to the story, which itself was becoming more tightly interwoven with our world. D'ni was depicted as being under our Earth, and being accessible from real locations on Earth's surface. The events from the games were determined to be at specific points (the 18th and 19th centuries) in Earth history.
However, the strategy guides have printed mistaken information before. Atrus calling the Myst V character 'old friend' may hint that he is a relative of the original Stranger (possibly with a family resemblance), and Atrus kept contact with his friend's subsequent lineage.