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The Wizard

Author's Notes:
This chapter features almost exclusively another much-neglected character, Radagast the Brown, one of the five Istari (wizards) sent to Middle-earth to help in the struggle against Sauron.

At this point I have bent canon a little. The “Unfinished Tales” states that the wizards began to meddle with the affairs of other people around the year 1000 of the Third Age, “but for long they went about in simple guise, as it were of Men already old in years but hale in body, travelers and wanderers, gaining knowledge of Middle-earth and all that dwelt therein, but revealing to none their powers and purposes.”(1)

With other words, we know not when exactly they arrived. I simply assumed that some of them came in the early years of the Third Age, for my own purposes, concerning my – as it seems – endless tale, “Innocence.” The “Unfinished Tales” says that Radagast was the second to arrive, together with Saruman, and Gandalf came last. ’Tis unknown how many time went in-between, but I needed Radagast in Middle-earth very early, so I decided that he must have arrived somewhen during the first or second century. But that is only my theory.

My sincerest thanks to Isabeau and Dagmar who helped me with the horse questions and Ithilwen who counseled me in the lore of poisons.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“For Radagast […] 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. Thus he got his name (which is in the tongue of Númenor of old, and signifies, it is said, ’tamer of beasts’.” The Unfinished Tales – The Istari

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


[Rhosgobel, somewhere in the forest borders between the Carrock and the Old Forest Road](2)

Anor was setting upon one of the rich grassy glades of Greenwood the Great once again, deepening the darkness under the broad-headed, wide-branched ancient oaks, remnants of the once mighty forests most of which had been burnt to the ground during the War of the Elves and Sauron in the Second Age. The old trees flung their gnarled arms over a thick carpet of beautifully green sward – a rare sight here, where the grass usually did not get enough sunshine, which was the very reason why the Woodmen called this place Brownhay.(3)

In some places they were intermingled with beeches, hollies and copsewood of various sorts, so closely that they completely intercepted the level beams of the sinking sun. In other places they receded from each other, forming long, sweeping vistas that led to yet wilder scenes of silvan solitude.

In the middle of this wilderness, beyond the belt of tall and even more ancient oaks, was a high torn-hedge, and behind that a long, low wooden house. A few other, smaller buildings, made of wood, too, stood farther beyond (mostly stables and barns and sheds), and various kinds of animals were walking freely among the gardens.

A wide track led from the high and broad wooden gate of the great hedge to a courtyard, three walls of which were formed by the main house and its two long wings. A low wooden bench run along the walls, and next to the door of the house an old man sat, clad in a heavy robe of rough, earth-brown wool. He had no covering upon his head, which was only defended by his long, thick hair, matted and twisted together, and scorched by the influence of the sun into a rusty dark-red colour, interwoven, just like his long beard, with silver strains. His deep-set eyes were dark and wise under his bushy brows.

Another man, this one huge and much younger, with a thick black beard and hair and great bare arms was sitting on his side, with a tankard of fresh mead in his hands, clad in a knee-long tunic of the same brown wool. Still, despite the similarities, an attentive beholder could see at once that they were not related – mayhap not even of the same folk.

“You spend too much time alone, old friend,” the younger man said, continuing a conversation that had begun at his arrival, somewhen during mid-afternoon. “You even begin to look like a Wild Man from the East. My grandfather told me once that you used to have a comb… hundreds of years ago, when that little Elf dwelt under this very roof with you.(4)”

“Many hundreds of years ago,” the old man replied, full of sorrow. “Those were days filled with sunshine for me, when my little Elf dwelt under my roof. But he has a better fate now, among his own people. I just wish I could see him more often. It has been nearly ten years since we visited the Wood-Elves together.”

“My grandfather used to tell us tales about old times when you dwelt among our people,” the younger Man remarked. “He said you were the one who taught us how to change our skins and how to treat the birds and the beasts and how to live in peace with the trees of the forest.”

The old Man shook his head with a smile. “You have always been skin-changers, my friend. This had been your nature from the very beginning. I only taught you the means with which to do it.”

“Still,” the younger one replied, “without your teaching we might not have learnt to use it, ever. We are and shall always remain in your debt for what you have done for us. And yet, when my father became the chieftain of our people, you withdrew from us and have not come to our homes any more.”

“I am your friend still, as I always have been,” said the old man. “But my work among you is done. I have other labours now.”

“What other labours?” the younger Man asked. “Who is the Lord you serve, Master Radagast? The one who gives your orders? No-one has ever heard of an other one of your kind, in all those long years you have spent among us.”

“The one whom I serve and the one who gives me orders are not the same,” the old Man answered. “For though all of us wizards belong to the one and the same Order, we serve not all the same Lord. Indeed, the one whom I serve is not a Lord at all but a Lady.”

The younger Man raised an inquisitive eyebrow – a gesture that seemed strange upon his rough face. The wizard smiled.

“I doubt not that in your early years your mother or grandmother told you about the Lady Palúrien(5), the Giver of Fruits. All things that grow in the Earth are under her protection, and all their countless forms she holds in her mind, from the trees like towers in the forests long ago to the moss upon stones and secret things in the mould.”

The younger Man shook his head in astonishment.

“But I thought the tales about the gods were just that: tales,” he said. The wizard laughed quietly.

“All ancient tales do have a hidden truth beneath the many layers of songs and poetry that had covered it during the Ages, young Bôr(6),” he said gently. “Nor are the Lords and Queens of the Undying Lands true gods, even though they might seem like ones to the lesser eye. For the Lady Palúrien, whom I have served from the beginning, is one of the High Ones of her exalted kind. And she holds the fates of all that live on Earth in her heart, as I have already told you. Not even in the Dark Years before the making of the Sun and the Moon was she willing to forsake Middle-earth; and I was sent here to watch over the fruits of her labours.”

“You are speaking in riddles again,” Bôr complained. “Why do you not open your mind for me a little more? Have you not been a friend and confidant of our people for longer than even our Elders can remember?”

“I have,” the wizard nodded, “and I still am. Yet ’tis not easy to speak of councils partly hidden even from my own eyes. Know this: Palúrien called forth the kelvar (the birds and beasts and all creatures that move above, upon or beneath the Earth) and the olvar (all plants that are rooted deep in the soil and grow) from the wet and dark depths of the Earth. All these have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others. But the kelvar can flee or defend themselves in peril, whereas the olvar that grow cannot. And among them my Lady holds trees dear, more so than any others. For long in the growing, swift can they be in the felling; and unless they pay toll with fruit upon bough little mourned in their parting. Thus when our Order was sent to these lands, my Lady insisted that I, too, come and teach the sons of Men how to respect the trees.(7)”

“Why just the Men?” Bôr asked. “Are the Wood-Elves not felling trees as well?”

“They do,” the wizard agreed, “yet they had been taught by Palúrien herself in the Starlit Days, before the coming of the Sun and the Moon, and thus they know which tree they can fell and which they cannot. They recognize a sick tree or those of rotten hearts at once, and by felling those, they keep the woods healthy – at least as healthy as they can be, after all the long years of darkness. For you must know it, young Bôr, that there still are deep places in all forests where the shadow never lists and where the hearts of the trees are black. And I was sent out to find these places and heal them – if I can.”

“If you can?” Bôr repeated in utter astonishment. “Are you not a wizard of strange powers? Why should you be unable to heal mere trees?”

“Watch your over-eager tongue, my young friend,” Radagast warned him. “Trees are beings with their own wisdom and feelings, and though their wrath is slow, once it is awakened, would be hard to stop, even for me. Try to learn their ways, as your father did, and your grandfather, and his forefathers of old. Thusly…”

Bôr never learnt what other warnings the old Man was about to speak, for they were interrupted by a flock of birds – black thrushes of a surprisingly large size – that came flying low and turned sharply in order to descend upon the high thorn-hedge, sitting down on it in a long row and chatting in excitement.

Radagast listened to them with his head tilted to one side.

“We shall have visitors, and soon, it seems,” he said after a while. “A small party of Wood-Elves is heading hither in a great hurry, the birds say.”

“I shall leave then,” Bôr rose from the bench. “I doubt that ’tis me they want to talk to… and mayhap they would like to speak you in private.”

“Nay, go not,” the wizard grabbed his arm, and once again Bôr was astonished by the iron strength of those gnarled old hands. “They might be carrying ill tidings that you need to hear. If not, you still can leave later.”

Bôr gave in, and not unwillingly. Rarely had he the chance to see one of the Tree Children, as the fair and mysterious Elves of the Wood called themselves, and he was eager to satisfy his curiosity. Many a strange tale was told in Dale or Laketown about their proud, golden-haired King and their archers that could hit the eyes of a bird in the dark with their arrows from a hundred feet or so. Yet no one knew how much of these rumours were true and how much just, well, rumours. For though the Elves did come to those towns time and again, ferrying wares between them and the palace of their King, no Man had ever set a foot into the hidden city of the Fair Folk, therefore all the tales about it were questionable at the best.

It took less time than one would need to cook a freshly-caught fish(8) ’til a lithe figure came rushing in through the open gate, riding the most wondrous horse Bôr had seen in his entire life – and he had seen his fair share of great horses. It had a pale-red coat with darker red spots all over its body and a dark red dorsal stripe – clearly visible, for the rider on its bare back used no saddle. Mane and tail of the horse were an even darker red, interwoven with golden strings – and despite the obvious fact that it had been nearly ridden to death, it still looked proud and eager to continue its murderous run, should its beloved rider demand so.

The rider matched the horse in all things. A tall and slender young male he was, with auburn hair that had partly come lose from the single tight braid he wore, clad in the simple green and brown garb of the woodland folk: in soft leathers and rough linens. A great bow and a quiver full of green-feathered arrows upon his back he wore, and his delicately pointed ears gave him away as an Elf at once. He jumped from his horse in a great hurry and ran to the wizard, but not ere he had patted the neck of his faithful beast and murmured his thanks into one nervously twitching ear.

“Master Aiwendil,” he said in a soft, musical voice and bowed towards the wizard deeply, “my heart is relieved to find you. We are in dire need, and you might be the only one who still could help.”

Radagast gave him a worried look.

“Prince Legolas,” he answered with a slight bow of his own. “Dire your need has to be, indeed, if the King of the Woodland Folk sends his only son to an old wizard to ask for his help. Without a proper escort, if I may add…”

Prince Legolas? Bôr thought, taking in the sight of the fair Elf: the smooth, pale face with the delicately-sculpted, high cheekbones, the slightly slanted, deep emerald eyes, the bow-shaped, dark eyebrows and long, dark lashes. Indeed, the son of the Elvenking was fair beyond measure to the mortal eye. And yet, he looked not the least like a maiden, despite the rude jokes of some Woodmen considering the Elves. There was strength in those slender hands, calloused from hundreds of years spent with archery practice, and steel’s glint in those bright eyes and predatory smoothness in the easy movements of the Elf. Nay, this most certainly was a dangerous creature that one should not make angry – and someone used to give orders and be obeyed.

The Elven Prince dismissed the wizard’s teasings with an impatient gesture of a strong, pale hand.

“My escort shall arrive any time now. I left them somewhat behind, for their horses could not catch up with my Firemane. We have but little time left; every moment might count. So let us not tarry, I beg of you.”

Radagast saw that the Elf was, indeed, in great worry, and nodded his understanding. “Tell me then; what need can you have for me?”

“We are in need of your healing powers,” Legolas answered. “Less than two days ago, my little sister has been bitten by one of the Great Spiders that had recently infested our forest. Thank the Valar the beast was killed by old Galion ere it could have released all its venom into Aiwë’s body, but she is in great peril, nevertheless. Our mother and her fellow healers were able to purge the poison from her, but she is so small and so weak,” Legolas’ voice broke slightly, “we fear she will not survive. Can you come with me at once? You are our only hope left.”

For a short moment Radagast was stunned. He liked Thranduil, despite the King’s sometimes volatile temper, and admired his long and valiant struggle against all sorts of evil creatures that had infested the woods during the last Age. He knew, the Elvenking had already lost several of his children, and feared what the loss of his beloved and cherished little bird might cause to him. Mayhap Thranduil would finally snap and give in to his grief, doing something desperate that cannot be re-made afterwards.

Radagast was not ready to let that happen. Not if there still was any hope left that he might help. He remembered all too well how painful it had been to lose young Lindir, even though the elfling was not his own flesh and blood and only had been given into foster care somewhere better than Brownhay. Still, he loved the young minstrel as a son of his own, and he could imagine all too vividly what it would mean to lose a child (not to say several children) to cruel weapons or murderous creatures.

“Of course I shall come with you at once,” he said to Legolas, whom he had known ever since he had come over the Sea and settled in the Greenwood. “Two days ago she has been bitten, you say?”

“Less than two days,” Legolas answered. “I was out along the Enchanted River, patrolling with my escort when the tidings reached me through some friendly birds. That way I was able to reach your home in a day and a half.”

“Then we should leave at once, indeed,” Radagast said in worry. “For even though your healers have purged the poison itself, it might have already caused grave damage to the body of such a little elfling. I shall ask young Bôr and his people to take care of my house and my beasts – and of your escort when they arrive. But your horse would not be able to make another hard run back to your father’s palace, I fear. You shall have to take one of my horses.”

“Would they be ready to bear me?” Legolas asked doubtfully, knowing that Radagast’s horses had a will of their own. The wizard smiled, even though it was a sad smile.

“They would – if I ask them. Come with me now.”

He led his guest to the stable, behind which several dappled grey horses (9) were grazing peacefully. The wizard gave a sharp whistle (it made the Elf jump slightly), and one of the horses – an older mare – trotted to him, nuzzling his neck with her soft nose. Radagast spoke to her in a low voice that not even Legolas understood, and the horse called another of her kind with a soft neigh.

Legolas, who had grown up among the strong and sensitive horses his people bred (and indeed, he loved horses, just like all young Elves of the Wood did), stroked the face of the good beast in a friendly manner and murmured soft words of encouragement in its ear in his own tongue. The horse neighed, showing its willingness to bear him, and the Elf jumped lightly upon its bare back.

Bôr brought the bridles and a saddle for Radagast from one of the barns where they were kept, and the wizard mounted his mare with practiced ease.

“I shall be back in about ten days,” he told the younger Man. “By then, it would show if I can be of any help for the little Elf-child or not. Can you have someone to look after my house in the meantime?”

“Certainly. One of my sisters would be willing to come over; they always were eager to visit your house and spoil your beasts,” said Bôr. “All shall be taken care of. That is,” he looked at Legolas questioningly. “if Elves eat the same food as Men.”

Legolas gave him a mirthless laugh. “We do. You shall not have much trouble with my people, though. All they need is some rest and some food for their horses. Then they will turn and ride back to our city, as soon as they can. For they are sorely needed at home.”

“So are we,” the wizard added solemnly. “Let us leave without further delay.”

With that the Elf whole-heartedly agreed, and the two of them rode from the courtyard swiftly. Bôr looked after them for a moment, then he turned his attention to Legolas’ exhausted horse, giving it some food and lots of water and every treatment such an over-driven beast could need. After having reassured himself that Firemane would recover properly, given a few days of rest, he sent messages to his family with the thrushes that spoke the tongue of his people to some extent and sat down with another tankard of mead and waited.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Shortly before sunset four other Elves arrived on their almost staggering steeds – unlike Legolas’ horse, these were reddish brown with blonde manes and tails, and Bôr could see how well they would blend into the forest, more so in the days of autumn they were having than in other seasons. Of course, the young Man knew not that the horses of the woodland folk changed the colour of their coats with the changing of seasons, just like the Wood-Elves themselves changed the colour of their hair, save the Elvenking himself who had the blood of other Elven folk in his veins, too(10).

After the trembling horses had been properly taken care of, Bôr and the four Elves sat on the benches in the courtyard, drank some mead that Radagast mostly got from Bôr’s people (the Elves, though they usually preferred wine, seemed rather fond of the good brew) and exchanged tidings from the different parts of the forest. Alas, many of those were less than pleasant, and slowly the Man got a feeling that dark days were about to come.


End notes:
(1) Unfinished Tales, p. 406.
(2) Unfinished Tales, p. 418.
(3) The meaning of the name Rhosgobel, according to “The Treason of Isengard” (HoME 7).
(4) I postulated the theory that the Beornings (or their forefathers, to be correct) had a lot longer life span than other Men – just like Dwarves, or even longer. So it would be possible that Lindir living under Radagast’s roof became the stuff for old tales. Also, the idea of Radagast teaching the Beornings how to change their skins is exclusively mine.
(5) Earlier surname of Yavanna. The descriptions concerning her are taken from the Silmarillion.
(6) A name I have chosen for its sound only. Not authentic, though Tolkien had an Easterling called Bór the Faithful. My Bôr is one of Beorn’s forefathers.
(7) And he obviously succeeded. Beorn mentions many hundred years later that Radagast is “not a bad fellow as wizards go.” See: The Hobbit – Queer Lodgings, p. 120. Actually, Radagast is the only wizard aside of Gandalf who is already present in The Hobbit.
(8) Sorry, I could not resist. This is said to have been one of the primitive time measurements the nomadic Hungarians would use, and since the early Beornings must have been a fairly rustic people, I doubt that they would have measured time in hours.
(9) In “The Treason of Isengard” is stated that Radagast’s horse was dappled grey (when he met Gandalf on the road). I assumed that he kept his own bred during his stay in Middle-earth.
(10) The changing hair colour of Wood-Elves is my idea, not a canon fact. I developed it for “Innocence,” because I thought it would be neat for them to be in sync with the changing of leaves. Feel free to ignore it if it disturbs you.


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