Radagast’s house by Angus McBride, card art for Middle-earth Collectible Card Game

Rhosgobel. The very word conjures images of poorly named bovines or countrified female pups. We’re told it means “russet village”, “walled house” or “brown town”, which is fitting since it was the last known dwelling of the mysteriously ineffective Radagast the Brown.

The fourth of the Istari to be sent by the Valar to aid Middle-earth in the fight against Sauron, Radagast essentially became a hippie, eschewing contact with Elves and Men and preferring the company of the birds and the beasts for whom he was named. (‘…which is in the tongue of Númenor of old, and signifies, it is said, “tender of beasts”.’) No word on whether he was as avid a fan of Longbottom Leaf as at least one of his fellow Wizards, but I’m guessing so.

Where he lived, exactly, has oft been debated – albeit not very hotly.

Consensus seems to be that his dwelling, the previously mentioned Rhosgobel, was situated somewhere near the southwestern edge of Mirkwood, roughly 100 miles north of Dol Guldur and in reasonably close proximity to Lorien, which could account for the similarities to the flets of Lothlorien seen in the very few existing drawings of the place.

From the little we know about the Brown one, this design fits with his unintrusive, Nature-first lifestyle. Friend of Beorn the shapeshifter, and according to Gandalf a “master of shapes and changes of hue” himself, his house echoes the Beornish sensibility and isolation that clearly says, “I prefer the company of green, furry or feathered things to that of the two-legged variety.”

There is even a diagram of how the inside of the house may have been constructed:

Thanks to blogger Dan (no last name) for this design and explanation: “… a plan of Rhosgobel, the enchanted home and refuge of Radagast the Brown.  It is located on the western edge of the narrows of Mirkwood and is a celebration of the abundant forms of . . . life.”

Said to “surround a large, furry oak”, (depicted centrally in Dan’s layout at left) other descriptions claim that Radagast’s lodgings were “a u-shaped wooden house nestled in the woods surrounding a small blue pool of water or pond.” (2011: Lord of the Rings Living Card Game)

There is little mention of Radagast in Tolkien’s main works, scant few comments in the History of Middle-earth, and only a handful in Unfinished Tales. In the Fellowship, for example, he’s the one who warns Gandalf that the Nine are abroad. He is perhaps best remembered as the one who sends Gwaihir the Wind Lord to rescue Gandalf from the clutches of Saruman. (It’s interesting to note that in the books this is done “unwittingly”, as is his helping to entrap Gandalf in the first place. For so few mentions, nearly all of them paint a picture of a sort of benign ineptitude, an accidental existence that has both positive and negative repercussions. Too much leaf?)

It is later told at the Council of Elrond that when scouts were sent to round up all the enemies of Sauron for help in the coming fight, the delegation sent to Rhosgobel found no trace of him. This has led most online pundits to surmise that after forsaking the company of Man and Elf Radagast abandoned his home and went totally native, retreating deep into Mirkwood and not involving himself further in the many trials the rest of Middle-earth was suffering. In all the arguments for and against this tactic, including whether or not he failed in his mission and was therefore denied re-entry into Valinor, nothing is said of the possibility that he simply didn’t want to be seen or found. Isn’t it possible that this “master of shapes and hues”, presumably as powerful as Gandalf, Saruman, even Alatar and Pallando (the mysterious and elusive Blue Wizards of the East, about whom there is woefully less information), could have simply vanished or otherwise disguised himself when the Elven emissaries came calling at Rhosgobel? I think it likely.

Tolkien makes no mention anywhere that I could find to the house itself. All we have to go on are the extrapolations of those who, like so many of us, use the known as a springboard to imagine the ultimately unknowable. And who then (thankfully!) share those possibilities with the rest of us.

There are other places I’d put on my Middle-earth bucket list ahead of Rhosgobel, without doubt. Rivendell and Lothlorien, to start with. Mithlond, Minas Tirith, Buckland, Edoras and Helm’s Deep just to name a few more.

But a layover at the magic treehouse of Radagast would not be out of the question, either.

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Alatar is the latest writer to join TheOneRing.net staff. A Tolkienite from way back, Alatar first read the Trilogy when he was 15, and has done so about once a year since – it’s now over 25 times, and each pass brings some new insight and even greater appreciation. All things Tolkien continue to fascinate him, from The Silmarillion to the Children of Hurin to all 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth to Tolkien’s letters. He’s very careful to keep his footing when stepping out his front door, but that doesn’t always guarantee that adventures won’t ensue. The views of our writers are not necessarily those of TheOneRing.net. 

Comments

  1. Colin

    Brilliant hypothesis!  Enjoyable to read and distinctly possible!

  2. Radbug

    Get a grip, guys! JRR himself said the Necromancer was just an artifice, so is Radagast. So you can do whatever you like with him. I say he rode to Rivendell with Boromir, who did NOT lose his horse at Tharbad, given that the Gwathlo was barely a trickle, given that it was midsummer. He learned later, from Gwaihir, that he been tricked and humiliated by Saruman. Frankly, guys, I wouldn’t slink off to Mirkwood with my tail between my legs. I’d want revenge! And there were a lot of theatres of war to choose from!

    • S

      I prefer to think that there are some in Middle Earth who do not fight via violence, swords, and bloodshed, but rather through friendship, stealth, and indirect influence.  It’s not necessary to knock heads to win a victory, after all.  

  3. Well, nice and all, but it should be pointed out that “blogger Dan” didn’t design the interior in the above article. It was originally published in a MERP supplement (Mirkwood, 2nd edition, if I remember correctly).

    • Alatar

      Great- thanks for the correction. I didn’t see any of that attribution when I came across the design – just the “Dan” reference.

  4. S

    Did it never occur to those who searched for him that a shape-shifter can essentially be invisible in any setting?  He could easily have been right next to them, and they’d never know!  My theory is that Radagast was already fighting, but in his own unobtrusive, untraceable way.  It’s all in that ability to change shape.  Who knows what he was accomplishing, and how?  Perhaps he was winning victories that would never be noticed, simply because instead of making things happen, he was preventing things from happening.  How would we ever know what would have happened without him?  Those are the warriors who are never recorded, never known, yet affect everything, who never receive what everyone but them would think is their due, and vanish from history, leaving behind a world healed of wounds it never suffered, because those wounds happened in a time that never came – through their efforts.

  5. Brian Boru

     Radagast the Brown of course didn’t make into The Lord of the Rings movies but he is going to make into The Hobbit movies. That is not surprising given that he is mentioned in the book by Gandalf to Beorn and that the movies are including the White Council driving Sauron from Dol Guldur, which probably would need to include another wizard besides Gandalf and Saruman as well as at least Elrond and …Galadriel from the Elves. Radagast was, of course, a friend of birds and beasts and I think that the only way to enlarge on this and thus increase the stature of the character is to highlight in the movies how his friendship with them was able to enable Gandalf’s relationship with them, which, in turn, enables the eagles rescue of Gandalf and the Dwarves and Bilbo from the Orcs and the wargs of the Misty Mountains and to come to the aid of the Elves, Dwarves and Men against the Orcs and the wargs in the Battle of the Five Armies. This would, of course, highlight the importance of Radagast’s relationship with them to the part that the eagles play in The Lord of the Rings in Gwaihir’s rescue of Gandalf from the top of Orthanc after Saruman imprisons the latter there, in Gwaihir’s rescue of Gandalf from the mountain peak in the Misty Mountains after the latter defeats the Balrog and in Gwaihir and his vassals rescue of Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom after the destruction of the Ring when the eagles come to aid of the people of the West in the battle outside the Black Gate of Mordor fought by the people of the West to keep Sauron’s attention of Frodo and Sam as they embark on the final stage of their quest.

    • S

      Wonderful points.  I always wondered how Gandalf got to be such good buds with Gwaihir, and I think you’ve got the answer: Radagast introduced them!  

    • Friend_21230

       I believe the White Council also included elf-lords.  I’d personally like to see Cirdan, and maybe he can decide to give his elven ring (of the Three) to Gandalf.

  6. SonofLiberty7

    If Radagast is best described by “benign ineptitude,” perhaps they should have offered the part to Rowan Atkinson.   He looks half-wizardish even without beard and costume, and no one can act accidental or incidental half as well as “Mr. Bean.”    Be that as it may, I find I shall withhold judgement on how “incidental” Radagasts efforts were. Only appearing the fool has the advantage of escaping the enemy’s attention.  Remember Claudius, the “fool” who became Caesar?

    • Alatar

      Excellent points, and Atkinson would seem to be perfect casting if that description holds. My guess is, tho, that since Radagast is apparently appearing in a more-than-minor role in the coming movies, he’ll probably not be portrayed that way. Just a guess!

  7. LabrynianRebel

    The Blue Wizards are too mysterious, but the Brown Wizard is just the right amount of mysterious (we don’t know a lot about him, but at least we have something to build speculation on)

  8. Welcome to TheOneRing.net — awesome article and your ideas regarding Radagast’s post-Council whereabouts are more than plausible! Keep up the great writing.

    • Alatar

      Thanks so much! Great to be a part of such a fantastic team!

  9. Friend_21230

    At the end of the War of the Ring, I believe it’s mentioned that other people are fighting in their own ways in their own lands, while only the battles with Rohan and Gondor are highlighted. For example, the dwarves of Erebor and men of Dale/Esgaroth were fighting other emissaries of Sauron, and there was an assault on Lothlorien as well. Also, the way that the fight was taken to Hobbiton was highlighted in “The Scouring of the Shire”. The animals in “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” are more sentient than animals here: the crebain crows of Dunland, the fox that passes Frodo, Sam, and Pippin on the way to Crickhollow, the thrushes who can communicate with the line of kings in Dale, the crows who talk with Thorin . . . I believe that Radagast was fighting in his own way.  After all, it is said that even some beasts and birds are on Sauron’s side.  Don’t forget that during the (real) Last Alliance of Elves and Men at the end of the Second Age, it is said that every race has members on each side, including beasts and birds, except that all of the Elves opposed Sauron.

  10. Lord Whiteman

     Sauron’s war was on all life, not just on men, dwarfs and elves.  
    Radagast  likely had his hands full helping the plants and animals resist Sauron,s evil.

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