Monday, April 15, 2013

Radagast The Brown

The Movie: Radagast is shown in several scenes. He is a wizard, like Gandalf or Saruman, but wears brown robes instead of gray or white. In addition, he wears a distinctive hat, much like Gandalf the Gray. Radagast is portrayed as absent-minded, manic, and a friend to all animals. He is shown growing incredibly upset at the death of a hedgehog, mice live in his house, and he even houses a small nest for birds to roost in under his hat. He is intelligent, with knowledge of herb lore, medicine, and alchemy. His mannerisms are eccentric. Radagast has an... unusual reaction to smoking from Gandalf's pipe, and Saruman reports that his excessive use of mushrooms has addled his brain. Radagat's magic is powerful; capable of repelling the spiders of Mirkwood, and bringing Sebastian the hedgehog back to life. He is formidable in combat, as well, capable of holding his own against an uncloaked Nazgul who very well may have been the Witch King of Angmar. He does not ride a horse, but instead conveys himself on a sled pulled by rabbits.

Fucking... god damnit.


The Book: Radagast the Brown is not mentioned in The Hobbit outside of a few passing statements. Gandalf, speaking to Beorn, mentions that his "good cousin Radagast" lives in the southern parts of Mirkwood. Beorn remembers Radagast and refers to him as a good fellow; high praise for a misanthropic isolationist. Radagast is mentioned again in the Fellowship of the Ring at the Council of Elrond; he was the one who sent Gandalf to meet with Saruman, and who sent the eagles to rescue Gandalf from his subsequent confinement at Isengard. He is characterized as a "master of shapes and changes of hue," a man who speaks the tongue of birds and prefers the company of animals. The character is otherwise not described, and is never seen.

What does it matter? The mere inclusion of Radagast is an enormous difference, and easily one of the biggest and most controversial changes Peter Jackson has made. Radagast's involvement is important to the plot, and to the safety of the dwarves. This means, of course, that there are issues caused (or solved) by his presence that weren't in the novel at all. I will discuss each scene with Radagast in its own post, but the character himself has a very large impact on the plot of The Hobbit.

Regarding the character himself, Radagast isn't actually that different from how he's described in the books - but that's only because no more than a few lines are ever dedicated to him. Peter Jackson added many qualities and attributes to Radagast, but that's only because there was so much room there in which to add these qualities.

My Opinion: This requires some exposition: the five wizards are more than mere humans. They are Istari, a special kind of Maiar, which in Middle Earth are pretty much angels. Literally, they are spirit agents of the gods. Sauron, for example, is a fallen Maiar. They are incredibly powerful, intelligent, noble creatures. And Radagast has bird shit in his hair.

He always looks like he just sharted. Given the rest of Peter Jackson's portrayal of the character, this may actually be canon now.


I had very, very high hopes for Radagast the Brown. A wise, stoic wizard who disdains the politics of men, and who periodically gets involved only out of loyalty to Gandalf. What he lacks in Gandalf's charisma or Saruman's efficient logic, he makes up for in shamanism and animalism. A druid. That is not the case with the movie version. Peter Jackson has taken "eccentric" and "absent-minded" and turned it into full-fledged comic relief. He's goofy, in a Saturday morning cartoon way. He's more suited to be the mascot of some kind of sugary cereal than he is to be a wizard. I don't want to say Peter Jackson ruined the character (because, honestly, there wasn't much there to ruin anyway), but he certainly ruined a wonderful opportunity.




8 comments:

  1. thank you! I agree completely. He made him appear to be so foolish.

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    1. NEEDLESSLY foolish, too. I can't take him seriously, and he makes it hard to take the movie seriously

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  2. Would add that in the books (LoTR I think) Saruman does show his contempt for Radagast; calling him, "Radagast the bird-tamer" or some such. Not quite the same as saying he's off his head on mushrooms but a similarity between books and movie.

    Agree that Radagast was the worst part of the movie and a wasted opportunity.

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  3. He went from being St Francis of Middle-earth to a weirdo homeless man.

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  4. Not to pick on Peter Jackson, to whom I am eternally grateful, but making both Radagast and Gimli into buffoons for comic relief was a, well, uh, an error IMHO.
    And what of Bombadil?

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    1. Bakshi left out Bombadil too. I believe I remember a comment from Tolkien that he expected that might happen were a film to be made. He had seen screenplay proposals, and he anticipated that some things would have to be cut to avoid a week-long movie. (my words, as I don't have the quote.) He knew that Bombadil was a likely candidate, because he did not advance the plot

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  6. Maybe, taking into consideration the birdshit down the right side of his head he shoulda been called "Radagast the Shithead"?

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