When Peter Jackson decided to expand his adaption of the Hobbit to three movies (after expanding one movie to two movies) people were either cynical or interested in why exactly the longer running time was necessary. The seeds of those expansions were planet in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and judging from the current trailers and characters from pictures we have seen The Desolation of Smaug might feel the full impact of Jackson’s additions.
The following article will speculate about the storyline revolving around Radagst the Brown and Gandalf the Grey. Beware there is a heavy bit on speculation which might turn out to be a spoiler if they are true.
Ragadast the Brown
If you are aware of the Necromancer subplot you can safely skip this point
Over the course of the book The Hobbit Gandalf has to leave the dwarves because he has other things to look after. While the book never shows us what Gandalf did Tolkien later explained that Gandalf was dealing with a Necromancer who turned out to be Sauron. This information can be found in the Appendices for Lord of the Rings as well as in the story The Quest to Erebor (full version published in The Annotated Hobbit). For the movie adaption Peter Jackson has decided to give us the very Necromancer subplot onscreen while Bilbo is wrestling with spiders.
But while this is still adhering to Tolkien’s story the next addition is not: Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) is popping up thourough the Hobbit-adpation and is investigating the Necromancer mystery alongside Gandalf. Radagast’s role in Lord of the Rings was a very minor one. He is used as a pawn of Saruman to lure Gandalf to Isengard and it is his friendship to the animals that helps Gandalf escape from Saruman using the eagles. Also Saruman’s bird swarms who scout for the Fellowship are because Radagst got manipulated by Saruman. Radagst never appears in person in Tolkien’s The Hobbit – he is only mentioned by Gandalf. But as seen in a clip shown during a BluRay event Radagst and Gandalf investigate the fortress of Dol Guldur in the second part of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit-trilogy.
So the big question that arises for moviefans is how Radagast will be dealt with. Seeing as he is not in The Fellowship of the Ring I see it highly unlikely that Radagast is going to survive the trilogy. Yes, this is breaking with the canon of Tolkien but for the movie narrative to work you can’t just introduce a wizard on the same level as Gandalf – a wizard who keeps helping Gandalf and therefore proves to be a competent albeit crazy ally – and not call him to arms when Sauron starts to build up his army. And since Saruman’s bird scouts haven’t been tied to Radagst the movie logic has no need for Radagast’s presence.
So unless Radagast vows to never interfere with the fate of Middle Earth after the Hobbit trilogy the most logical explanation would be his death. And here comes an interesting tidbit a colleague of mine spotted:
Some people might have noticed that Gandalf’s staff is much more elegant in An Unexpected Journey compared to the one he uses in The Fellowship of the Ring. While I personally noted it I attributed it to the fact that many prequels have new designs for the sake of having new designs/toys.
Yet my colleague pointed out a very interesting thing. Namely the fact that Gandalf’s staff from Fellowship bears a striking resemblance to Radagst’s staff – which is much more “natural” for the lack of a better word. And if you look at the staffs in comparison the similarity it seems as if Gandalf inherited Radagst’s staff:
Heavy speculation here:
One theory I had after my attention was drawn to this was that Gandalf might inherit the staff of Radagst after the wizard’s demise. But for that to work Gandalf needs to lose his wand in return. Then again Gandalf is no stranger to having his staff smashed if one remembers the scene from The Return of the King.
So my speculation is this: to establish the Necromancer as a really big threat he kills Radagast, smashes Gandalf’s staff and therefore Gandalf needs Radagast’s staff to defend himself…
We will find out December 11th – or the year after that in The Hobbit: There and Back Again.