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 Post subject: Radagast revisited
PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:55 pm 
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One of the most controversial aspects of the first part of the Hobbit adaptation by Jackson and friends is the depiction of Radagast the Brown, particularly the inclusion of gobs of bird poop lining his hair, and the bird nest under his hat. A poster at TORC coincidentally named "Jewelsong" (who'd a thunk it ;)) pointed out that there is an illustration of the wizard Merlin in an edition of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone showing Merlin with bird droppings on his shoulder and bird's nest in his hair, done by none of other than Alan Lee, who of course is one of the main conceptual artists for the films.

Can we doubt that this was the very inspiration for Radagast's look? Somehow, this makes me less resistant to the idea.

I still hate the stick insect, though.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:55 pm 
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:10 pm 
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What a coincidence that our Jewelsong would be the one to share the actual picture ;)

( :hug: )

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:04 am 
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Yes, the world is a small and amazing place! :D

And Lee's gorgeous illustration is straight from the text. I've mislaid my (unillustrated) copy of the book, but I'm sure I remember the owl droppings in Merlin's hair.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:47 am 
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Yeah, T.H. White's Merlin was who I thought of when I saw Radagast's poopy hair.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:26 am 
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I can't see the bird's nest in his hair...

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:26 am 
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And I didn't, which bugs me because I know I've read the whole thing four or five times.

But the book's been missing for a long time; I haven't read it in years.

ETA: Cross-posted with Inanna. Merlin didn't have a nest in his hair; the owl was a friend (he could talk) and habitually perched on Merlin's head or shoulder.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:28 am 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
And I didn't, which bugs me because I know I've read the whole thing four or five times.

But the book's been missing for a long time; I haven't read it in years.

ETA: Cross-posted with Inanna. Merlin didn't have a nest in his hair; the owl was a friend (he could talk) and habitually perched on Merlin's head or shoulder.


Merlin makes an appearance early in Tennyson's Idylls of the King (which I am re-reading presently). There is no description of him, but he's all riddle-y and stuff... as if he has one foot in the world and the other elsewhere.

ETA I posted a link to this thread at TORn... poop is under discussion there as well.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:51 am 
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I nearly posted on this last night, but thought it was just me who couldn't see any poop or bird's nest! I search for other pictures of Merlyn by Alan Lee and found this pair for sale on ebay - useful because you can zoom right in and see more detail. I think the white is just the sheen on the velvet of Merlyn's robe:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Alan-Lee-2-Signed-Matched-Numbered-Prints-and-2-Open-Edition-Prints-/221128345963

Alan also produced this sketch of a younger Merlyn:

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I think there is certainly some reason to believe Radagast was partly inspired by elements of the Merlin legend particularly the ability to change shape, the vagrant wildman of the woods look and affinity with wild animals - there are even elements in the descriptions below which could apply to Beorn!

Quote:
The Prose Merlin contains many instances of Merlin's shapeshifting. He appears as a woodcutter with an axe about his neck, big shoes, a torn coat, bristly hair, and a large beard. He is later found in the forest of Northumberland by a follower of Uther's disguised as an ugly man and tending a great herd of beasts. He then appears first as a handsome man and then as a beautiful boy. Years later, he approaches Arthur disguised as a peasant wearing leather boots, a wool coat, a hood, and a belt of knotted sheepskin. He is described as tall, black and bristly, and as seeming cruel and fierce. Finally, he appears as an old man with a long beard, short and hunchbacked, in an old torn woolen coat, who carries a club and drives a multitude of beasts before him (Loomis, 1927).

The Prose Merlin later came to serve as a sort of prequel to the vast Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Vulgate Cycle. The authors of that work expanded it with the Vulgate Suite du Merlin (Vulgate Merlin Continuation), which describes King Arthur's early adventures. The Prose Merlin was also used as a prequel to the later Post-Vulgate Cycle, the authors of which added their own continuation, the Huth Merlin or Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin.

In the Livre d'Artus, Merlin enters Rome in the form of a huge stag with a white fore-foot. He bursts into the presence of Julius Caesar and tells the emperor that only the wild man of the woods can interpret the dream that has been troubling him. Later, he returns in the form of a black, shaggy man, barefoot, with a torn coat. In another episode, he decides to do something that will be spoken of forever. Going into the forest of Brocéliande, he transforms himself into a herdsman carrying a club and wearing a wolf-skin and leggings. He is large, bent, black, lean, hairy and old, and his ears hang down to his waist. His head is as big as a buffalo's, his hair is down to his waist, he has a hump on his back, his feet and hands are backwards, he's hideous, and is over 18 feet tall. By his arts, he calls a herd of deer to come and graze around him (Loomis, 1927).


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:03 pm 
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I think I read in the big Hobbit production book (you know, the nice hardcover one that goes into all the designs in detail - I don't own a copy and don't remember the name) that PJ suggested adding bird poop. Of course, it is possible that he got that idea from Lee's painting.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:14 pm 
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kzer_za wrote:
I think I read in the big Hobbit production book (you know, the nice hardcover one that goes into all the designs in detail - I don't own a copy and don't remember the name) that PJ suggested adding bird poop. Of course, it is possible that he got that idea from Lee's painting.


you mean the Weta Chronicles book? Peter King (Make up and Hair Designer) is quoted thus:

Quote:
"Peter's [Jackson's] vision for Radagast was absolute genius. He was insistent that Radagast be asymmetrical so he'd literally have one eyebrow up and one down, half a moustache going out one way, the other half drooping down, and a bird's nest in his hair with the birds' business caked all down one side of his face. He's a total contrast to Saruman."

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:28 pm 
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Whoever Peter King is, he apparently defines "genius" quite differently than I do. :P

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:29 pm 
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Has Radagast's personality been really controversial? I don't really read other Tolkien forums anymore. Besides a couple of bad jokes, I thought he was basically a plausible portrait of an Istari who's kind of strange and eccentric but still has his dignity and a kind heart. I don't like the stick insect either and I tried to take my bathroom breaks around then on repeat viewings. ;) But for the most part, he was pretty close to how I hoped he would be handled.


Last edited by kzer_za on Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:24 pm 
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The reason I don't like the stick insect (either) is that it's a toss-off joke that doesn't add anything to the character. Even the eye-crossing at the first taste of pipeweed is in the "endearingly goofy" realm, as opposite to the "cheap gag" realm.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 8:59 am 
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Some really feel that Radagast has not been given any dignity and is simply portrayed as a buffoon, though I don't think it was that bad (apart from he bunny sled/warg chase!) I felt his character was handled pretty well: bumbling yet wise in his own way and strong enough when needed in his Istari powers against a dark threat.

My impression is that the bigger problem the inclusion of his character has caused is that it detracts from Gandlf's sterling efforts to monitor Sauron's activities...having Radagast investigate DG instead of Gandalf, along with the scriptwriters bizarre need to have everything happen in present time, and compress the timelines has seemingly caused no end of inconsistencies throughout the added material.

I also disagree with Jackson on the need to move the darkening of the Greenwood to the timeframe of the movie. Among other things, it muddies Gandalf's motives for aiding Thorin in the first place. Why is he worried about Smaug joining up with Sauron, if he doesn't yet know that Sauron is returned and building his strength once more?

We have Radagast telling an apparently surprised Gandalf that DG is not abandoned...so now for that to work it must mean that Gandalf got the map and key from Thrain somewhere else. Yet Boyens is quoted as saying the Gandalf/Thrain DG scene from the trailers was initially filmed to go in AUJ in the Bag End sequence...so at that point they must have planned that Gandalf got the key/map in DG.

I'm all for including Radagast in TH but he would perhaps have served the story better as part of the WC meeting - a brief cameo and a flashback to his experiences at Dol Guldur would have worked.

Alternatively, we could have seen his experiences in DG as we did in AUJ, then a mention during the WC of why he wasn't present, then we could meet him properly when Gandalf goes to see him in DoS, having left the Dwarves at the edge of Mirkwood. His news could prompt a second WC meeting, with him fully involved in helping Gandalf from that point onwards.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 11:47 pm 
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The portrayal of Radagast bothered me.

Bird poop on his clothing I could have accepted, even expected. Caked on bird poop on his hair and face was unacceptable.

Bunny sled. Really? Really? More CS Lewis than Tolkien.

Drug-addled, or seemingly drug-addled is a degradation; I expected mysterious, hermit-like and gone-native, but this was too much.

Jackson's Radagast was a disappointment.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:09 am 
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I too fail to see the Alan Lee Merlin poop and nest. And if it is there and we all are missing it is ten times as subtle as that in the film with Radagast. And there in lies the problem with the character design in the film.

I saw it again yesterday - #4 - and I now really ahve no problem with Radagast other than the character design with those previously discussed elements which were simply over the top.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:06 am 
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1. There isn't a nest, because there isn't supposed to be a nest, in the Merlin image (the owl is male and a confirmed bachelor), and

2. Whether or not some of the splotches on Merlin's cap and robe are intended to be owl poop, the owl poop is described in the text, by the author, and so Lee might well have put it into his illustration.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:25 am 
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The rabbit sled/warg chase is silly, but I don't think it makes Radagast look buffoonish. He does a good job diverting them, probably buys them enough time to get to Rivendell, and seems to know what he's doing.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:35 am 
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He diverts them, but he does a terrible job!

Instead of leading the wargs in the opposite direction, he keeps criss-crossing the dwarves' path so they scatter like skittles. It's more good luck than good management that they are not caught before the leap into the hidden passageway.

Prim, leaving aside Lee's illustration of another book, how do you feel about the on-screen manifestation of Radagast?

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