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Jef Murray - Radagast.jpg
Biographical Information
Other namesAiwendil[1]
Radagast the Brown[2]
Radagast the Bird-tamer[note 1][2]
Radagast the Simple[note 1][2]
Radagast the Fool[note 1][2]
Physical Description
GalleryImages of Radagast
"Radagast the Brown! [...] Radagast the Bird-tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part that I set him."

Radagast the Brown, also known as Aiwendil, was one of the wizards sent to Middle-earth to contest the will of Sauron. Originally a maia of Yavanna, he had a strong affinity for animals. He dwelt, for a time, at Rhosgobel on the western eaves of Mirkwood, near the Gladden Fields on the Great River.[1][2]



Mage of Rhosgobel by Jef Murray

Still concerned for the fate of Middle-earth, Manwë summoned a council of the Valar. Here it was decided that they would send emissaries to Middle-earth. Aulë chose Curumo, Oromë chose Alatar, and Manwë chose Olórin. Yavanna subsequently begged Curumo to take Aiwendil with him. In c. T.A. 1000, the wizards arrived upon the shores of Middle-earth. However, it is said that Saruman arrived first and alone, and that Radagast arrived at the same time as Gandalf.[1]

According to Gandalf, Radagast was never much of a traveller.[2] It is known that he eventually settled down and dwelt, for a time at least, at Rhosgobel. This meant that he lived on the western borders of Mirkwood, somewhere between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road.[1] It is likely that he became acquainted with the inhabitants of that region. It is clear that he was friends with the great eagles.[2] He also knew and was thought highly of by (the unsociable) Beorn:[3]

Yes; not a bad fellow as Wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again

Following the T.A. 2851 meeting of the White Council, Saruman began to search the Gladden Fields for the One Ring.[4] Knowing nothing of Saruman's treachery, Radagast aided him with birds and beasts who acted as spies. Radagast did this in good faith for he believed this would help watch and hinder the Enemy.[5]

Radagast by Angelo Montanini
Radagast's part in the War of the Ring was small, albeit important. In summer T.A. 3018 he saw Saruman who told Radagast that he was willing to help Gandalf but that he had to seek him out at once. On Midsummer, and as Radagast was sitting on the side of the Greenway, Gandalf found him on his way to Bree. He warned Gandalf that the Nazgûl were abroad, disguised as riders in black, and that they were seeking news of the Shire. He also told Gandalf Saruman's message and agreed to help Gandalf by getting beasts and birds to send news to Orthanc. With that he rode away back towards Mirkwood.[2]

Whilst Gandalf was imprisoned by Saruman, he did not believe that Radagast too had fallen. Indeed, it was thanks to Radagast that Gandalf was able to escape from the pinnacle of Orthanc upon the wings of Gwaihir.[2]

Following the conclusion of the Council of Elrond, many scouts were sent out from Rivendell to many different locations. Some passed over the Misty Mountains and eventually came to Rhosgobel, but they found that Radagast was not there.[6]

Did Radagast fail?

Tolkien's feelings on whether or not Radagast, and indeed the two "Blue Wizards", failed changed over time. The wizards that were sent to Middle-earth were tasked by the Valar to help the Free Peoples defeat Sauron. There is no question that, through his treachery and fall into evil, Saruman failed. There is also no question that Gandalf succeeded. But it was in emphasising this latter point that Tolkien denigrated the role of Radagast and the Blue Wizards.

In his efforts to produce an Index for The Return of the King in 1954, Tolkien wrote an essay on the Istari. Therein he explicitly stated that Radagast had failed:

Indeed, of all the Istari, one only remained faithful [Gandalf], 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 wild creatures.
J.R.R. Tolkien[1]

He even went as far as suggesting that only Gandalf returned to the Uttermost West:

Wilt thou learn the lore || that was long secret
of the Five that came || from a far country?
One only returned. || Others never again

J.R.R. Tolkien[1]

Under these terms, then, Radagast failed. However, not only does Tolkien's criticism of Radagast seem harsh in light of what is revealed in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's attitude towards Radagast and the Blue Wizards seems to have changed following the publication of The Return of the King. In the Istari essay and in Letter 211 Tolkien wrote that he was unsure what happened to the Blue Wizards and speculated that they possibly failed. In a later writing he turned this upside down and noted that they 'must have had very great influence on the history of the Second Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East ... who would ... otherwise have ... outnumbered the West.'[7]

According to John D. Rateliff, Tolkien's feeling on Radagast's success or failure must have changed too. He speculates that Radagast had taken the area of and around Mirkwood under his protection (like the Blue Wizards had taken the east under their protection). He provides more solid evidence when he argues that Radagast and Gandalf were much alike:

  • Radagast and Gandalf arrived at the same time in Middle-earth;
  • both were friends with the eagles (beings of Manwë and who would associate with few but the very important);
  • both were considered closely linked from the outset - they were 'cousins' in The Hobbit.

Indeed both were quite different creatures from Saruman:

His [Sauron's] cynicism ... seemed fully justified in Saruman. Gandalf he did not understand. But certainly he [Sauron] had already become evil, and therefore stupid, enough to imagine that his [Gandalf's] different behaviour [from Saruman's] was due simply to weaker intelligence and lack of firm masterful purpose. He [Gandalf] was only [in Sauron's view] a rather cleverer Radagast - cleverer, because it is more profitable (more productive of power) to become absorbed in the study of people than of animals.
J.R.R. Tolkien[note 2][8]

Rateliff thus concludes that Radagast was much like Gandalf; both were good wizards. But Radagast was weaker and his role overshadowed by Gandalf's achievements.[9]

Therefore it is difficult to conclude whether or not Radagast failed. But it is clear that Tolkien had doubts following his criticism of him in the Istari essay and Radagast certainly did not fall into evil. Indeed Radagast is such an elusive character that it is difficult to make any bold conclusions, such as whether or not he returned to Valinor.

Tolkien gave a brief account of a council of the Valar where they decided to send emissaries to Middle-earth to contest the will of Sauron. Therein it is told 'that each Istar were chosen by each Valar for his innate characteristics'.[1] This is significant because it suggests Yavanna chose Aiwendil (Radagast) for his love of wild creatures, and that perhaps he was sent to Middle-earth by Yavanna to serve this purpose.[1] If this was Radagast's appointed mission then it would be inappropriate to claim that he failed. However, it is difficult to gauge how far the fulfilment of this task facilitated the downfall of Sauron.

Perhaps the most explicit snapshot of Tolkien's feelings about Radagast can be be found in this quotation:

He [Gandalf] differed from Radagast and Saruman in that he never turned aside from his appointed mission ('I was the Enemy of Sauron') and was unsparing of himself. Radagast was fond of beasts and birds, and found them easier to deal with; he did not become proud and domineering, but neglectful and easygoing, and he had very little to do with Elves or Men although obviously resistance to Sauron had to be sought chiefly in their cooperation.
J.R.R. Tolkien[10]

Here it is stated that both Saruman and Radagast turned away from the ultimate task of defeating Sauron. But where Saruman was proud and power-hungry (characteristics which brought about his own ruin), Radagast was neglectful and sought companionship with birds and beasts over co-operation with the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. Thus Radagast's innate characteristics meant that he could play no more than a small part in the downfall of the Lord of the Rings.


Radagast is, of course, a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends.

Little is known about Radagast apart from certain defining characteristics. Saruman was the chief of the Order of Wizards and Gandalf came next in the order; Radagast meanwhile held much less power and wisdom.[1]

As one of the maiar of Yavanna, Radagast had a great interest in the kelvar and olvar of Middle-earth and was a friend to beasts and birds.[1][2] Gandalf, however, held greater respect from, and knowledge about, birds than Radagast.[10]



In a manuscript written by Tolkien in 1954, the name Radagast is said to mean "tender of beasts" in Adûnaic, the language of Númenor.[1] However, in a later note Tolkien said that the name is in the language of the Men of the Vales of Anduin, and that its meaning is not interpretable.[11]

As stated by Hammond and Scull, several theories have appeared concerning the inspiration of the name Radagast.[12] One such theory has been proposed by Douglas A. Anderson, who notes the name Redigast in Slavic mythology.[13]


The name Aiwendil (pron. [aɪˈwendil]) is Quenya for "lover of birds".[14] It is perhaps derived from aiwe ("(small) bird") and ndil ("devoted to").[12][15]


It appears that in Valinor Radagast was known as "Aiwendil".[1]

As one of the wizards sent to Middle-earth, he was known as "Radagast the Brown". Saruman, when talking to Gandalf, mocked Radagast by calling him "Radagast the Bird-tamer", "Radagast the Simple", and "Radagast the Fool".[2]

Other versions of the Legendarium

From the first drafts of The Hobbit, Bladorthin identifies Radagast as a fellow wizard and as his 'cousin'. John D. Rateliff notes that, at this stage in the development of Tolkien's legendarium there was no reason why a wizard could not have a cousin. Rateliff also suggests that it is likely that Tolkien considered explaining Gandalf's absence (following the departure of Thorin and Company from Beorn's house) by saying that he went to visit Radagast (who lived close by) to plan the attack on the Necromancer.[9]

Early in the process of writing The Lord of the Rings, it is clear that Tolkien envisaged some role for Radagast in the tale.[16] He eventually decided that he would use Radagast as the means of getting Gandalf to Isengard.[17]

Initially Gandalf describes Radagast as his 'cousin',[18] as he did in The Hobbit,[3] but in a subsequent draft he becomes his 'kinsman'.[19] In the final version Gandalf merely says that Radagast is 'one of my order'.[2]

Tolkien initially called him "Radagast the Grey", but in pencil he changed this to "Brown" and subsequently Saruman refers to him as "Radagast the Brown".[17]

When Tolkien finished writing the story up till Moria, he made notes on the future story development; therein he considered handing over Isengard to Radagast.[20]

Portrayal in adaptations

Radagast in adaptations
Radagast as a Mithril Miniature  
"Radagast the Brown with Sebastian" in The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game  


2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

Radagast was entirely omitted. Without Radagast's involvement, Gandalf goes to Isengard of his own accord (because he wanted council form Saruman) and is able to escape from the pinnacle of Orthanc by speaking to a moth who sends for the help of the eagles.

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

Although Radagast is only briefly mentioned in The Hobbit, Radagast will feature in The Hobbit films and will be played by Sylvester McCoy.[21]

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

After discovering that a shadow has fallen on Greenwood the Great, Radagast enters Dol Guldur and is attacked by the Witch-king. He finds that the fortress is occupied by a Necromancer and travels to inform Gandalf. He finds Thorin and Company just west of Rivendell and hands Gandalf a morgul blade. He draws a pack of wargs and their riders away so that Thorin and Company can flee in safety.

Radio series

1981: BBC Radio's The Lord of the Ring:

Donald Gee provided the voice of Radagast. He is, however, not the person who sends the eagle to save Gandalf from Orthanc.


1987-: Mithril Miniatures:

Radagast has been issued in a couple of different versions: figure LR3 "Radagast the Brown" is seen with a cat and an owl;[22] an older version of the figure portrays Radagast without beard and with a different bird.[23] There is also a "Radagast Mounted" (MS539), where Radagast (again without beard) is portrayed mounted on a horse.[24]

1988: J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth:

Radagast is a non-playable character in this game.

2001-: The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game:

The hero figure Radagast the Brown, is a user of subtle magics,in contrast to the more overt kinds used by Gandalf and Saruman. However, he has some unique powers nonetheless.[25]

2011-2010: The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game:

A Decipher card was made by Weta, with Weta's John Harding posing as Radagast.[26]

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Radagast can be found encamped in the Lone-lands, north along the Great Road. He is friendly to the local people, the Eglain, and helps the to combat the rise of evil in the swamps of Agamaur.[27]

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

The characters Eradan, Farin and Andriel travel to Mirkwood in search of Radagast and arrive just in time to rescue him from a giant spider. He thanks them for the rescue and provides them with information about the Dragon Urgost.[28]

2012-: The Hobbit Strategy Battle Game:

Radagast, based on Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, is a hero figurine in two different versions: the standard model "Radagast the Brown with Sebastian",[29] and a limited model sold with the box The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town.[30]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Saruman gave him this name to mock him.
  2. The pronouns in square brackets are as interpreted by John D. Rateliff in J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Medwed", "(vi) Radagast"


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari"
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Last Writings", p. 385
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Five. Myths Transformed", p. 397
  9. 9.0 9.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The Second Phase, "Medwed", "(vi) Radagast"
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 245
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", note 4
  12. 12.0 12.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pp. 240-1
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien; Douglas A. Anderson, (ed.), (2002) The Annotated Hobbit: Revised and Expanded Edition, p. 167
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Index
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies", pp. 348, 378 (entries AIWĒ- and NIL-, NDIL-)
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Third Phase: New Uncertainties and New Projections", p. 379; J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXIII. In the House of Elrond", p. 397
  17. 17.0 17.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "The Council of Elrond (1)", pp. 130-140
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "The Council of Elrond (1)", p. 131
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "The Council of Elrond (2)", p. 149
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "The Story Foreseen from Moria", p. 212
  21. Ian McKellen, "2 Elves and another wizard" dated 10 May 2011, Ian McKellen's website (accessed 23 December 2011)
  22. Mithril wizards Miniatures at (accessed 8 October 2011)
  23. Lord of the Rings (Mithril) at (accessed 8 October 2011; cf. Radgast (image))
  24. 32mm Fellowship Figures - MS539 Radagast Mounted at (accessed 8 October 2011)
  25. Radagast the Brown at Games-Workshop-com (accessed 8 October 2011)
  26. Kathy McCracken, "The Making of the Weta "Book Cards": Casting and Costuming" dated 22 July 2004, Internet Archive: Wayback Machine (accessed 30 June 2012)
  27. NPC: Radagast the Brown at (accessed 8 October 2011)
  28. Allies at (accessed 8 October 2011)
  29. "Radagast the Brown with Sebastian", (accessed 30 January 2013)
  30. "The Hobbit: Escape from Goblin Town - Limited Edition", (accessed 30 January 2013)