The Character of Radagast

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Nav 26/Dec/2006 at 09:00 PM
Weathered Ent of Fangorn Points: 5671 Posts: 6218 Joined: 10/Dec/2005
And by character, I do not mean his belief patterns or actions, I mean the actual entity named Radagast.
A thread in another forum (I think it was People and Races) got me thinking. Radagast was put down by all, especially Saruman. It would have seemed particularly appropriate for Radagast to help bring down Saruman, bringing his story arc to a resolution. As it stands, Radagast is left unresolved. He is brought in as a device to bring Gandalf to Orthanc, and then he disappears. Why didn’t Tolkien develop the character of Radagast?
Maiarian Man 26/Dec/2006 at 09:49 PM
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Perhaps he thought it more intriguing to have one of the wizards just disappear. They were supposed to be beings who could help save Middle-earth, and Radagast just vanishes from the story, thus highlighting the importance of Gandalf. Gandalf alone is able to fulfill his potential and achieve the task, while Radagast is nowhere to be found and Saruman has turned to evil. LotR is largely a story about who is willing to fight against Sauron and who is not. The Elves feel it is no longer their fight. The Hobbits are oblivious, but the few who just learnt about the danger are willing to take up the task, etc. The Wizards (who are meant to drive the fight from behind) are mixed.
Nav 26/Dec/2006 at 10:03 PM
Weathered Ent of Fangorn Points: 5671 Posts: 6218 Joined: 10/Dec/2005

MM: It is certainly intriguing, but I find it odd that he simply disappears. As far as I know, his fate is not mentioned in any background material like HoME or UT (except that he doesn’t return across the sea) or Letters. Tolkien seems too caught up with details just to let a character drop off the face of Arda. I do like your comment about how it emphasizes the importance of Gandalf. I just still simply find it odd that the Master would let a character with so much potential disappear. At least the Blue Wizards are theorized about: Radagast just disappears.

I suppose it’s similar to Shakespeare. In King Lear, once Lear recognizes that he’s been an idiot, the Fool says a line and goes off for the rest of the play. The Fool played a key role in making Lear realize that his daughters were bad folks. Maybe Tolkien saw a similarity to King Lear. Radagast (called Radagast the Simple by Saruman) played a key role in making Gandalf realize that Saruman was bad. Once Radagast’s part is done, he disappears, like the Fool that he is. The obvious difference is that Radagast played his part unwittingly, whereas the Fool in Lear played his part very wittingly.

That makes the next question: Would Tolkien draw on Shakespeare in his plot design, or did I just read way too much into that? And any thoughts on the original question are still very welcome.

Brandywine74 26/Dec/2006 at 10:14 PM
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I suppose it was a convenient way of getting Gandlaf to go to Orthanc unawares, and of course geting Gwahir to come and be there to rescue him. There are many areas that Tolkien could have developed more in LOTR. The book could have been twice the length if he had (which would have been a treat for us) but not everything could be included.

I do agree that it would have been good to have his story resolved. I imagine him fighting it out in Mirkwood since he was close to the birds etc.

Alcarináro 26/Dec/2006 at 10:20 PM
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But he doesn’t ’simply disappear’. We know where he goes, we know why he goes there, we know what he does when he gets there, and we know how all of this is perfectly in line with the development he, as a character, has been given by Tolkien. Just because he doesn’t enter the narrative again does not mean that he is under-developed or unresolved. He disappears because of the quality of his character, not vice-versa.
halfir 27/Dec/2006 at 12:28 AM
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The Nav: Maybe Tolkien saw a similarity to King Lear. Radagast (called Radagast the Simple by Saruman) played a key role in making Gandalf realize that Saruman was bad.

I am bemused as to how you make such a comment. He delivers a message to Gandalf from Saruman- that is all. I fail to see how this can be argued to have played a key role in making Gandalf realize that Saruman was bad. Perhaps you would care to elucidate?

As to Shakespearean resonances the two most obvious ones- which Tolkien saw as improvement on the Bard’s similar treatment in his works- are The Ents - an ’improved ’ version of Birnam Wood ’marching’ to Dunsinane, and the Eowyn/Dernhelm sequence- ’enhancing’ the Macduff’ not of woman born’  sequence in Macbeth.

Shippey  {Author of the Century) argues for other resonances- the Shire poem in ’The Ring Goes South’ he sees as ’a clear rewrite of Shakespeare’s stanzas at the end  of Loves Labour’s Lost - a certitude I personally do not endorse, and with Macbeth - again - in the use of magic to foretell the future- again a view I think he overstates.

You may also find some of the posts in this thread useful in approaching your overall question:

What happened to Radagast the Brown?

 

http://www.lotrplaza.com/forum/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=22&TopicID=211790&PagePosition=1&PagePostPosition=1X(

And we should not overlook Tolkien’s comment in Letter # 144:

’As a story, I think it is good that there should be a lot of things unexplained (especially if an explanation actually exists).

Nav 27/Dec/2006 at 06:03 AM
Weathered Ent of Fangorn Points: 5671 Posts: 6218 Joined: 10/Dec/2005
Halfir: Because of Radagast’s message, Gandalf went to see Saruman. That’s pretty key to me. Of course, I could be mistaken as to the facts surrounding Gandalf’s trip to Orthanc.
halfir 27/Dec/2006 at 06:18 AM
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The Nav: But any number of people could have acted as Saruman’s messenger. All Radagast did was to relay a message. He in no way played a key role in making Gandalf realize that Saruman was bad in the sense that he actively pointed out flaws in Saruman’s character to Gandalf, for the simple reason that he didn’t realize Saruman was evil. So I fail to see how delivery of a mesage- a fairly passive activity  -allows you to claim that Radagast was instrumental in making Gandalf realize  the evil nature of Saruman.

And as to the comparison with the Fool in Lear, I fail to see that at all.

Wilibald Bumble 27/Dec/2006 at 08:45 AM
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It is written in the Istari Chapter in the Unfinished Tales that these were emasarries of the Valar helping to defeat Sauron in the Third Age. They were Maiar. Olorin who is called Gandalf, Mithrandir, Tharkun, etc etc in Middle Earth was the only one who was truly good. There were five Wizards who journeyed to Middle Earth and came to the Havens. There, Cirdan the Shipwright truly saw that Gandalf was Good so that is why he entrusted him with the Third Elven ring. Saruman the White was the greatest and in compition with him was Gandalf the Grey. Radagast the Brown was pupil of Yavanna and she sent him there to protect Trees. That is why Radagast soon became too engrossed in his own forest and woods and heeded not his true mission. Tolkien did not mean him to be an interesting character but just to show that Radagast had strayed from his mission and just that that passage hinted more on the Istari in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Blue Wizards journeyed to the East and it is not known more of them. They were pupils of Oromë and therefore they might have NOT strayed to evil purposes but were sent there simply to maybe gather support in Rhun. Maybe they were sent there because Oromë taught them and he knew Middle Earth the greatest as he journeyed there often.

Saruman as we know proved to be a traitor and therefore we can see he is the one who strayed most from his mission. He came to his end in the Scouring of the Shire in the book Return of the King and it is written that when he died a wisp rose up in the air and looked longingly in the West but nothing happened and it dissappeared. This proves to be most intriguing as Saruman was banished from Aman and he was not welcome there even in his Death.

Gandalf meanwhile was given life by Eru when he fell in Moria as Eru knew he had not strayed from his mission.

No other fate of the Blue Wizards is known but Radagast, I expect, simply stayed in his woods and lived there ignoring the call back to Aman.

Boromir88 27/Dec/2006 at 10:20 AM
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I see what halfir is saying.  It was Radagast that told Gandalf Saruman was looking for him; which did in turn lead Gandalf to find out that Saruman had ’turned from the path of wisdom.’  However, it wasn’t anything Radagast said that alerted Gandalf, and Gandalf makes that clear:
’At first I feared, as Saruman no doubt intended, that Radagast had also fallen.  Yet I had caught no hint of anything wrong in his voice or in his eye at our meeting.  If I had, I should never have gone to Isengard, or I should have gone more warily.  So Saruman guessed, and he had concealed his mind and deceived his messenger.  It would have been useless in any case to try and win over the honest Radagast to treachery.  He sought me in good faith and so persuaded me.’~The Council of Elrond
Saruman had completely duped Radagast.  Gandalf only finds out Saruman had turned down the wrong path until after he meets with him in Isengard.  It was nothing Radagast said.  Saruman concealed his mind and tricked Radagast into thinking that he wanted to help Gandalf; so as Gandalf says Radagast had sought him out in ’good faith.’  Had Gandalf caught something strange/awkward about Radagast, he may not even have gone to Isengard.
Nav 29/Dec/2006 at 02:05 PM
Weathered Ent of Fangorn Points: 5671 Posts: 6218 Joined: 10/Dec/2005
Halfir: Any number of people could have served as a messenger, but Radagast did, thus making him key. Ah, don’t mind me, I’m crazy. I’ll simply take Tolkien’s words from Letter 144. Anyway, thanks for pointing out the similarities with Macbeth.
halfir 29/Dec/2006 at 02:11 PM
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As Radagast isn’t specifically mentioned in Letter # 144, other than implicitly under the generic heading of wizards I fail to see how that adds to your argument. And Boromir 88 sets out exactly my approach in his post.
Togo Baggins 30/Dec/2006 at 11:10 AM
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Radagast the Brown is certainly an interesting character... The Eagles "belong" to him, right? Or am I wrong on that? Radagast was shortly mentioned, but i rightly don’t see why his character wasn’t developed.

Uzakul 30/Dec/2006 at 11:32 AM
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I think that radagast was left "undeveloped" as for tolkien to try and write in another wizard character would slow down the pace of the story, it is known that radagast had little time for the affairs of men and elves. He does not fulfill the task that he has been sent to do, he becomes more interested in nature (like tolkien himself). And i think it is good that the development of such a character could possibly left to others to develop, and add to the myth of middle earth.
Vugar 30/Dec/2006 at 01:07 PM
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Togo Baggins, Radagast certainly seemed to be on friendly terms with the Eagles, but I would not go so far as to suggest that they "belonged" to him by any means. I doubt that could be said of any of the animals he knew. The Eagles were a race apart with lords of their own kind. Given Radagast’s reclusiveness, it’s not likely that many would know much of him.
Telmar 30/Dec/2006 at 01:39 PM
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I’m thinking mainly along the same lines as Uzakul, slowing of the pace etc. But though it would have been nice to see his character "developed"  maybe "Radagast the Bird-tamer" played exactly the part Tolkien had in mind for him - who else fits the bill as somebody (known and probably trusted) for Saruman to dupe into passing the message to Gandalf?
Togo Baggins 30/Dec/2006 at 02:26 PM
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Quote: Originally posted by Achaius on Saturday, December 30, 2006
Togo Baggins, Radagast certainly seemed to be on friendly terms with the Eagles, but I would not go so far as to suggest that they "belonged" to him by any means. I doubt that could be said of any of the animals he knew. The Eagles were a race apart with lords of their own kind. Given Radagast’s reclusiveness, it’s not likely that many would know much of him.

well that was really a bad choice of words...

i remember in The Hobbit when the Eagles came in the story, I remember Radagast being mentioned...

 

... i’m reading The Hobbit again... i don’t know, i’ll just look in the book.

WyteWolf 01/Jan/2007 at 05:31 PM
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Looking at all of the posts I see several similarities...first I believe that since Radaghast was one of the five He would have been trusted by Gandalf and since Radagast trusted Saruman still at the point He would have seen no reason to look deeper into Sarumans motives other then to take Him at his word He wished to help Gandalf.second We get just enough of a picture of Radagast to do exactly what we are doing...speculating on His nature and role in the war...I think Tolkien Might have had plans to expand on His character at a later time alas we shall never know for sure. and finally Radagast was not just interested in trees but all of nature,flora and fauna alike which is on reason why Gwahir was willing to speak with Radagast.plus there is the added bonus of one of Tolkiens enigmatic characters again.