Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Old Toby

The Movie: Radagast, on his sled, bursts into the scene through the foliage. He is screaming about thieves and murder until he realizes where he is, and Gandalf introduces him to the Company. Radagast says was looking for Gandalf; he has something important to tell him, but when pressed, can't remember what he was going to say. He grows flustered that he'd lost his thought, then pulls a stick insect out of his mouth. Radagast and Gandalf walk away from the dwarves, and the brown wizard starts discussing the sickness that has befallen the Greenwood. Gandalf grows interested when Radagast mentions the spiders, which had come from Dol Guldur. Gandalf is surprised; the old fortress is supposed to be abandoned. Radagast tells of his investigation, and how he felt an evil presence. He was attacked by an uncloaked Nazgul, and saw the Necromancer, who whispered his name. Radagast grows distraught at the retelling, so Gandalf offers him his pipe and says "a little Old Toby will help settle the nerves." Radagast inhales deeply, and zones out with a goofy look on his face. Gandalf voices his doubts about the Necromancer, until Radagast shows him the sword of the creature that attacked him: "That is not from the world of the living," he says ominously. Thorin's Company hears a howling; Bilbo fears it may be wolves. Two wargs attack the Company, though they are quickly killed by Thorin, Kili, and Dwalin.

It was nice of this stone cold badass to let Kili fire off an arrow before fucking that warg's day up. It's important to let Little Beardless feel important every now and then.

Thorin realizes that an orc pack is nearby, and Gandalf declares that they are being hunted. Ori brings even worse news: the ponies have bolted. Radagast offers to draw them off, but Gandalf warns him that the Gundabad Wargs will outrun him. "These are Rhosgobel rabbits!" says Radagast. "I'd like to see them try."

The Book: No such scene occurs. There is no indication that Radagast was involved in the investigation at Dol Guldur. Thorin's Company is not attacked by wargs at this time, and they had their ponies until they were all captured by the Goblin King. This scene is entirely an invention of the movie.

What does it matter? I'd like to keep my discussion about the investigation of the Necromancer and Dol Guldur in another post, but one very important thing here is worth mentioning: Gandalf's insistence that Dol Guldur is abandoned. In the book, he knows it isn't - in fact, it's where he found Thorin's father, half dead, tortured by the forces of the Necromancer. The depth of this change is actually quite significant, but like I said, it's a topic for another post. I just wanted to draw attention to it here before discussing it again. Radagast plays a very large role in things, now - both by being the catalyst that draws Gandalf's attention to the Necromancer, and by saving the dwarves from the orc attack. His presence causes changes that further distances the plot of the movie from the plot of the book.

My Opinion: We know Gandalf's worth. And as shitty a character as Radagast is, we know he's a capable fighter. Many of the dwarves are warriors. Why, then, are they running from an orc pack, when they have two wizards with them? It's ridiculous. It's bad enough that the scene has nothing to do with the source material, but it's so incredibly contrived that it honestly drew me out of the story. Why retreat? Why not stay and fight?

Radagast, once again, proves to be a humiliating disappointment. His entrance into the scene is marked by shouting random bad things (thieves? fire? Are you warning people, or just screaming about shit you dislike?), then he just continues to act goofy and stupid. I don't know what was up with that bug in his mouth. A random, Family Guy-esque non-sequitur joke? Or is it supposed to be funny that he actually transports insects in his mouth? His battle with the Witch King was pretty cool, but any hopes I had for the character were dashed when I saw him take a hit of Gandalf's Old Toby.

Yeah, we get it, he just got high. Were the cartoon tweety bird sound effects really necessary?

As much as I hate Radagast, though, I really do like the decision to have him involved in the investigation of Dol Guldur. He does live closer to it than anyone else, and it absolutely makes sense to have him notice the darkness in Mirkwood (née Greenwood). This is an excellent decision on Peter Jackson's part, one that fits the role of the overarching storyline, as well as the purpose of the wizards. If only Radagast wasn't such a fucking joke, I'd give it my full support.


  1. Actually, in the books, Radagast, though rarely mentioned and only seen once, wasn't a joke. Only Saruman had contempt for him, because he was the lowest on the order. Since this was a kid's movie, they overdid him as comic relief, and turned him into a joke; which was a mistake in my opinion. The presented him as a burned-out hippie who did too many 'shrooms, which is not really suitable for kids. I also don't like how they made Gimli the comic relief in the Rings movies, when he was anything but in the books; a grim warrior trying to avenge the massacre of his people.
    But I also thought Radagast had great potential, which was never developed by Tolkein. Too bad...

    1. Gimli's portrayal in the movies is the one thing I truly hate about them!

    2. Speaking of which when will you make a blog for LOTR book-movie differences? Or finish The Hobbit book-movie differences?