|Radagast the Brown|
|First appearance||Unfinished Tales 1980|
|Created by||J. R. R. Tolkien|
|Portrayed by||Sylvester McCoy|
|Book(s)||The Hobbit 1937 |
The Fellowship of the Ring 1954
The Silmarillion 1977
Unfinished Tales 1980
Radagast the Brown is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is one of the Istari, also known as "Wizards", who were sent by the angelic Valar to aid the Elves and Men of Middle-earth in their struggle against the Dark Lord Sauron. Radagast appears in Unfinished Tales, and is mentioned in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
Unfinished Tales explains that Radagast, like the other Wizards, came from Valinor around the year 1000 of the Third Age of Middle-earth and was one of the Maiar. His original name was Aiwendil, meaning bird-friend in Tolkien's invented language of Quenya. The Vala Yavanna forced the wizard Saruman to accept Radagast as a companion, which, Tolkien says, may have been one of the reasons Saruman was contemptuous of him, to the point of scornfully calling him "simple" and "a fool". However, he was an ally and confidant of Gandalf, who describes him in The Hobbit as his "cousin". He was also friends with the skin-changer Beorn, who deemed him to be "not a bad fellow as wizards go" and also said to Gandalf that he "used to see him [Radagast] now and again".
Radagast lived for much of his time in Middle-earth at Rhosgobel in the Vales of Anduin, on the western eaves of Mirkwood, between Carrock and the Old Forest Road, near the Gladden Fields, its name deriving from Sindarin rhosc gobel meaning "brown village". Radagast had a strong affinity for—and relationship with—wild animals, and it seemed his greatest concern was with the olvar and kelvar (flora and fauna) of Middle-earth. He was wiser than any Man in all things concerning herbs and beasts. It is said he spoke the many tongues of birds, and was a "master of shapes and changes of hue". Radagast is also described by Gandalf as "never a traveller, unless driven by great need", "a worthy Wizard", and "honest".
In The Fellowship of the Ring, during the Council of Elrond, Gandalf tells of a previous encounter with Radagast. Radagast was unwittingly used by Saruman to lure Gandalf to his tower of Orthanc, where Gandalf was captured. Fortuitously, Radagast also helped rescue him by sending Gwaihir the Eagle to Orthanc with news of the movements of Sauron's forces. When Gwaihir saw that Gandalf was imprisoned on the top of the tower he carried him off to safety before Saruman realized he was gone.
The only other reference to Radagast in The Lord of the Rings is after the Council of Elrond when it is decided to summon all the allies against Sauron together. Scouts are sent to look for help, and it is reported that Radagast is not at his home at Rhosgobel and cannot be found. Tolkien makes no mention of what has happened to Radagast, and he plays no further role in events.
Tolkien wrote that Radagast gave up his mission as one of the Wizards by becoming too obsessed with animals and plants. He also wrote that he did not believe that Radagast's failure was as great as Saruman's. However, Christopher Tolkien notes in Unfinished Tales that the assumption Radagast failed in his task may not be entirely accurate considering that he was specifically chosen by Yavanna, and he may have been assigned to protect the flora and fauna of Middle-earth, a task that would not end with the defeat of Sauron and the end of the War of the Ring.
Names and titles
According to the essay The Istari from the Unfinished Tales, the name Radagast means "tender of beasts" in Adûnaic, another of Tolkien's fictional languages. However, Christopher Tolkien indicates that his father intended to change this derivation and bring Radagast in line with the other wizard-names, Gandalf and Saruman, by associating it with the old language of the Men of the Vales of Anduin. No alternative meaning is provided with this new association; indeed, Tolkien stated that the name was "not now clearly interpretable". His title The Brown is simply a reference to his earth-brown robes; each of the wizards had a cloak of a different colour.
In the real world, Radagast or Rodogast is extant as a variant of Radagaisus, the name of a Gothic warlord who led an invasion of Italy in 405. Radegast is also the name of a deity in Slavic mythology.
Radagast is not included in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Gandalf's escape from Orthanc is instead instigated by a moth that Gandalf uses to convey a message to the Eagles.
In Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the character (played by Sylvester McCoy) is greatly fleshed out, compared to the original book in which he is mentioned only once. He is portrayed as an eccentric who prefers the company of animals to people, at one point using his powers to heal a dying hedgehog. Radagast is shown to be able to communicate with birds, some of which nest in his hair. In the film, Radagast is the first wizard to visit Dol Guldur after he realizes that an evil power has infected the wood in which he lives. He discovers that a Necromancer (Sauron) has taken residence in the ruined fortress. In Dol Guldur he encounters the spirit of the Witch-king of Angmar, as well as the shadow of the Necromancer himself, and escapes with the Morgul blade taken from the Witch-king.
Radagast's means of transportation is a sled pulled by enormous rabbits (called "Rhosgobel rabbits"), a concept entirely original to the movie. Radagast meets Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves en route to Erebor (but in Rhudaur), tells them of his discovery in Dol Guldur, and gives Gandalf the dagger to present before the White Council. When Thorin's Company are attacked by Orcs riding Wargs, Radagast mounts his sled and provides a distraction, leading the enemy on a chase while Gandalf and the others escape.
Later, Saruman makes contemptuous remarks about Radagast during a meeting with Gandalf, Elrond, and Galadriel. He accuses the Brown Wizard of indulging in mushrooms, and dismisses Radagast's claim about the Necromancer being a true threat.
In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Radagast appears with Gandalf in a few scenes. The two wizards investigate an empty tomb, determining that the Nazgûl are once again awake and have been summoned. Gandalf bids Radagast to go and tell Galadriel of all they find, and that the White Council must make a pre-emptive move on Dol Guldur. A worried Radagast watches as Gandalf enters Dol Guldur. Inside the ruins, Gandalf confronts the Necromancer and finds that he is indeed Sauron, just as Radagast had thought.
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Radagast arrives in Dol Guldur as the White Council battle Sauron and the Nazgûl, and takes the wounded Gandalf to his house. Gandalf decides to go to Erebor and tells Radagast to gather the birds and beasts; in recompense Radagast gives Gandalf his staff as Sauron shattered his prior one. Later when the eagles arrive to help defeat the Orcs at the Battle of the Five Armies, Radagast is riding one of the eagles.