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The Fate of Radagast the Brown:

Here at the Volokh Conspiracy, we make a point of informing our readers about all the really important issues of our time. Thus, I was distressed to learn from the comments about my post criticizing the analogy between John McCain and Gandalf that many of our learned readers don't know what happened to Radagast the Brown, the third wizard mentioned by name in The Lord of The Rings. As LOTR fans know, Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast were three of the five Wizards (known as the Istari) sent by the Valar to help the Elves and Men of Middle Earth battle Sauron. Unlike that of Gandalf and Saruman, Radagast's ultimate fate is not discussed in LOTR.

Fortunately, J.R.R. Tolkien informed us of what happened to him in his later essay, "The Istari,"(excerpted here):

Indeed, of all the Istari, one only remained faithful, and he was the last-comer. For Radagast, the fourth, became enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures.

It's not entirely clear whether Radagast stayed among the "beasts and birds" of Middle Earth forever, or whether the Valar eventually forgave him for his (partial) failure and allowed him to return home to Valinor.

Commenters on the previous post proposed various modern politicians as analogues to Radagast. One possible one is Fred Thompson, the preferred presidential candidate of many of my fellow Conspirators. Thompson's heart, like Radagast's, may have been in the right place; but he too had no real enthusiasm for his mission, and soon dropped out of the race without ever having made much of an effort. Whether Thompson deserves the abuse hurled at Radagast by Saruman ("Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him..."), is left as an exercise for the reader.

As for the other two Istari, Alatar and Pallando, Tolkien gave contradictory indications as to their ultimate fate, but probably they failed even more completely than Radagast.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Fate of Radagast the Brown:
  2. John McCain as Gandalf?
Paul Milligan (mail):
In keeping with the tone of the campaign, I'd just like to point out that any mention of Radagast the Brown is probably a codeword for racism.

Thank you.
10.14.2008 1:47am
Cold Warrior:
And meanwhile, somewhere in Upper Earth, Young Ilya was obviously busy maintaining his virginity well into his law school years ...
10.14.2008 2:12am
Speedy (mail):
The analogy I've been using for McCain is from a different epic fantasy:

The McCain of 2000, the man I often disagreed with and yet respected as a man of principle, was Anakin McCain.

The angry, confused Republican nominee, who has embraced the Dark Side of Republicans, is Darth John.

Speedy
10.14.2008 2:23am
Ilya Somin:
And meanwhile, somewhere in Upper Earth, Young Ilya was obviously busy maintaining his virginity well into his law school years ...


Chicks dig Radagast the Brown:). To say nothing of Aragorn and Legolas.
10.14.2008 2:26am
Bill O'Hara (mail) (www):

You have no idea how much the chicks dig Radagast the Brown:). To say nothing of Aragorn and Legolas.


Snap.
10.14.2008 2:28am
Jay Myers:

Fortunately, J.R.R. Tolkien informed us of what happened to him in his later essay, "The Istari,"(excerpted here):

Actually that quote is concerned solely with describing Radagast's abandonment of his mandate and says nothing about his fate. Presumably he remained in Middle Earth like Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, and the other minor Maiar who became excessively enamored with aspects of Arda associated with their part of the Ainulindale.
10.14.2008 3:06am
Rod Blaine (mail):
> "Darth John"

Now there's one US candidate who might have found useful the ability to levitate a crashed fighter back into the air...

Back to Tolkien: Some claim that McCain is the true heior of Bilbo, but others dispute this.
10.14.2008 3:40am
Matej:


Fortunately, J.R.R. Tolkien informed us of what happened to him in his later essay, "The Istari,"(excerpted here):

Actually that quote is concerned solely with describing Radagast's abandonment of his mandate and says nothing about his fate.

If one were to go only upon the quoted passage from The Istari, I guess one could take the term "spend" to mean some mixture of "squander" and "exhaust". As in, Radagast (a) squandered and (b) exhausted his days among the wild creatures, reflecting both (a) that he failed in his mission and (b) that he had stayed there until the end of his days, however many that may be.
10.14.2008 3:58am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
Radagast the Brown was given a Middle Earth Enema®, renamed Radagast the Pale, and shortly thereafter buried in a shoebox.
10.14.2008 4:10am
Cornellian (mail):
I liked the link to what Tolkien wrote about the two blue wizards. Very informative. Always wondered about those guys.
10.14.2008 4:22am
Jay Myers:

As for the other two Istari, Alatar and Pallando, Tolkien gave contradictory indications as to their ultimate fate, but probably they failed even more completely than Radagast.

I think the blue wizards got distracted fighting for the right to marry in Massachusetts. Now they live in Cambridge with their four cats and operate a very popular catering business.
10.14.2008 4:39am
PersonFromPorlock:
Glenn W. Bowen:

Radagast the Brown was given a Middle Earth Enema®, renamed Radagast the Pale, and shortly thereafter buried in a shoebox.

Ah. He was a Texan, then?
10.14.2008 6:28am
C.M.O.T. Dibbler:
Chicks dig Radagast the Brown:

Well, yes. He had a gifted tongue
10.14.2008 8:30am
Zubon (www):
In The Lord of the Rings Online™, Radagast has an interestingly useless post. He is an early ally against the corrupting forces of evil who, during major battles, wanders off to make sure that rabbits and squirrels are getting safely away.
10.14.2008 8:56am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Ah. He was a Texan, then?


AKA Radagast the Brownsville...
10.14.2008 9:46am
Tracy Johnson (www):
Tim Benzedrine and Hashberry from Bored of the Rings!
10.14.2008 10:22am
Archon (mail):
Radagast is generally regarded as a fool, whose only role in the war of the rings is to trick Gandalf into seeking out Sarumon.

Tolkien writes later that all the Istari failed their mission except Gandalf, largely because he roamed middle earth making sure to linger no longer than necessary in any one place. This stopped him from becoming corrupt by the forces of the world avoiding the fate of Sarumon and Radagast.

The blue wizards departed into the East with possibly the aid of Sarumon. Aragorn hints that once he travelled into the South toward Harah (possibly with Gandlaf) in search of something - perhaps the blue wizards.

Some suggest that the blue wizards did not fail their mission, but ultimately were partially successful in limiting the number of barbarians from the East and South that joined Sauron, thus allowing the forces of free men to win at Minas Tirith and in Rohan. Tolkien hints that Sauron was expecting reinforcements from the East that never seem to arrive.
10.14.2008 10:38am
Felix Sulla:
I heard the Blues have been seen in the Chicago area more recently, claiming to be on a mission from God.
10.14.2008 10:56am
Some Random Bonehead (mail):
To say nothing of Aragorn and Legolas.

Naw. Just good friends.
10.14.2008 11:11am
David Warner:
Jay,

"Presumably he remained in Middle Earth like Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, and the other minor Maiar who became excessively enamored with aspects of Arda associated with their part of the Ainulindale."

I don't get the sense Tolkien considered Bombadil so minor, or even a mere Maia. His publishers had other ideas, and so Tom as seen in LotR.

Thx, Ilya for the update from 1968(!) on Alatar and Pallando. Although I can't top Felix Sulla, I'd suggest that given the Old Tolk's latest thoughts and Hanson's scenario, Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping would fit. Tolkien's supposed hatred of such games is likely at least partially tongue-in-cheek (a dig at Lewis' transparent allegory).

I'm too attached to Hobbits as Jews to give it up.
10.14.2008 11:14am
krs:
Ugh... someone get Ilya a t-shirt that says "I'm not an anarchist. I'm chaotic neutral."
10.14.2008 11:41am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Tolkien hints that Sauron was expecting reinforcements from the East that never seem to arrive.


Oh, he was probably just making that up.
10.14.2008 12:48pm
Hoosier:
(Man. None of this is making feel cooler for being a regular at this blog.)



Tolkien hints that Sauron was expecting reinforcements from the East that never seem to arrive.



Oh, he was probably just making that up.


Tolkien Lied! Orcs Died!
10.14.2008 12:56pm
Felix Sulla:

Tolkien hints that Sauron was expecting reinforcements from the East that never seem to arrive.
Hmmm, so perhaps the surge would have worked in Middle Earth as well...
10.14.2008 1:26pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

Presumably he remained in Middle Earth like Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, and the other minor Maiar


Bombadil wasn't tempted by the Ring like Gandalf and Saruman, therefore he can't be a Maiar. The most likely explanation is that he's the spirit of the forest and Goldberry of the river, related to the giants Bilbo saw in the Misty Mountains.
10.14.2008 1:53pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Umm... In the context of Middle Earth what does it mean precisely to say that Tolkien was "probably just making it up."
10.14.2008 2:32pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmmm.

Sooooooo.

How about the Ents? Did they ever find the Entwives? Perhaps in the Shire?

Just in case someone's read a book I haven't and knows the answer.
10.14.2008 3:12pm
David Warner:
ed,

Here you go.

As far as I know, Tolkien never said whether they were found, but I'm guessing not, as the passing of the Ents was emblematic of the passing of a simpler world Tolkien saw happening before his eyes.
10.14.2008 4:06pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Happening before his eyes? By all accounts, Tolkien was having a hard time getting over the Norman conquest.
10.14.2008 4:18pm
Felix Sulla:
On a related note though, I still mourn the passing of Entwhistle in 2002.
10.14.2008 4:33pm
David Warner:
Duffy,

"Happening before his eyes? By all accounts, Tolkien was having a hard time getting over the Norman conquest."

My point entirely. Hence Ents.
10.14.2008 4:45pm
David Warner:
The long then, if you will.
10.14.2008 4:46pm
Jay Myers:

Bombadil wasn't tempted by the Ring like Gandalf and Saruman, therefore he can't be a Maiar. The most likely explanation is that he's the spirit of the forest and Goldberry of the river, related to the giants Bilbo saw in the Misty Mountains.

But Maiar is exactly what nature spirits are. They are Ainu who, compared to the Valar and more significant Maia like Melian, represent extremely tiny portions of Eru's mind and are fixated on their portion of creation pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. That narrowness of focus is why Tom has no interest in the ring and no desire for its power.

As to why the ring didn't "affect" him, the invisibility is caused by the partial displacement of the wearer into the spiritual realm. That is why Frodo can see the true forms of the Nazgul when he is wearing the ring. Tom already exists fully in both the physical and spiritual realms. So do elves who have dwelt in Valinor and seen the light of the two trees, which explains Glorfindal's appearance to Frodo at the ford of Bruinen. Frodo gets a glimpse of how the elf lord looks in the non-material world.

The giants are just a form of sentient life whose creation, like that of the Hobbits and great eagles, is not mentioned in the myths available to us.

I knew all that time spent in damp basements would pay off someday!
10.14.2008 6:21pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I heard he was last seen firebombing a Hummer Dealership.
10.14.2008 7:50pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

"On a related note though, I still mourn the passing of Entwhistle in 2002."

Well at least we can be assure -he- had plenty of "Entwives" eh?

:)
10.14.2008 7:56pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

"Here you go.

As far as I know, Tolkien never said whether they were found, but I'm guessing not, as the passing of the Ents was emblematic of the passing of a simpler world Tolkien saw happening before his eyes."

Dude. That is soooooo wrong.

Now I've got to make my saving throw ...
10.14.2008 7:58pm
Pat C (mail):
Thanks, I asked that question on the other post. I was just wondering how long "the end of days" was for Radagast. There was fighting all around the lands closer to Mordor - in Dale, and wasn't Lorien besieged? So I wonder if Radagast was killed in the war. I guess we'll never know.

My other Tolkien question, who was on Middle Earth earlier - Tom Bombadil or Fangorn?
10.14.2008 8:11pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

My other Tolkien question, who was on Middle Earth earlier - Tom Bombadil or Fangorn?



They were in the outfield.
10.14.2008 10:25pm
David Warner:
ed,

"Dude. That is soooooo wrong."

I guess that settles it then. So was it emblematic of his enthusiasm for hard sci-fi or the burgeoning MMORPG industry he foresaw his work giving birth to? Or perhaps his lust for Liv Tyler?
10.14.2008 10:58pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmm.

Frankly I think JRRT would be horrified by what the MMO industry has done with his ideas.

Let's face it. Having characters running around called "Too Hard For You" and "Bubbas Axle Grease" are somehow not quite in ... genre.

And there are a lot worse name, and much worse people, in many MMO games.

"gold plz" or "gimme stuff"

Oh yeah. Horrified.
10.14.2008 11:05pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

I think the blue wizards got distracted fighting for the right to marry in Massachusetts. Now they live in Cambridge with their four cats and operate a very popular catering business.


Yasssssss PRESH-shassssssss... but didn't you actually mean to say, "I think the two lizards got dessicated fighting for the left to marry in Sashaychusetts. Now they live in Cambridge with their fur coats and operate a very pecular altering business named "Last One Out of His Caftan Is a Republican!"?
10.14.2008 11:25pm
David Warner:
ed,

"Oh yeah. Horrified."

OK, that eliminates one of the possible ways in which I was so wrong. Perhaps you'd like to suggest a plausible one? Been wrong before. Curious.
10.14.2008 11:31pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Chicks do not dig Aragorn and Legolas. Chicks dig Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom . . . and the longball.

Nick
10.15.2008 12:24am
Felix Sulla:

Well at least we can be assure -he- had plenty of "Entwives" eh?
I imagine he knew Entwives in every great nation of the West. And probably the East as well. And only the sinking of Numenor stopped him from consummating there. ;-)

By the way, to the extent anyone is interested in MMORPGs, I cannot recommend EVE Online highly enough. Though there is no fantasy element as such there: it's entirely space based. But, everyone is on the same server, and it is the only MMORPG of which I am aware that actually hires economists to advise on the in game economy, which is almost obsessively market based.
10.15.2008 12:00pm