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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
My good Cousin Radagast


Apr 26 2013, 10:26pm

Post #1 of 8 (420 views)
My good Cousin Radagast Can't Post

Hi everyone,

I am currently re-reading The Hobbit and I've noticed something which caught my attention this time. In the chapter 'Queer Lodgings' at some point Gandalf speaks to Beorn and said: ''perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood''. But what does he mean by my cousin? Is it that at that time Tolkien intended the Wizard to be a family of Middle-Earth ( And not yet the background Istari and Maiar as we know later on LOTR) or is there another meaning I don't get?

Thanks all.

(This post was edited by sam90 on Apr 26 2013, 10:28pm)


Apr 26 2013, 10:37pm

Post #2 of 8 (268 views)
I'm sure it's an old conception. [In reply to] Can't Post

But I think it still fits in nicely with the later conception of them as Maiar. They wouldn't be cousins in the strict sense of the word, but as fellow angelic spirits, I don't think it's impossible that they might think of each other in a familial sense.

"...not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive." -Arwen


Apr 27 2013, 1:15pm

Post #3 of 8 (251 views)
In the annotated Hobbit [In reply to] Can't Post

They say something along the lines of the fact that it's likely just a term meaning that they are of the same order , instead of there being any actual close kinship between them.

"True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one."


Apr 27 2013, 7:32pm

Post #4 of 8 (199 views)
It makes sense [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Radagast-Aiwendil, I've never read the Annoted Hobbit but I am sure it would interesting.

Of course, the terms My good Cousin doesn't create any inconsistencies of any sort, as we know later on with LOTR but I wondered if it was intended that way in 1939 with The Hobbit. It makes sense to think that Gandalf is refering to a good Cousins speaking of a fellow Wizard to Beorn, not to complicate anything and and in the same creating a sense of familiarity refering to Radagast. After all, folks in Middle-Earth doesn't really know what Wizards really are.


Apr 28 2013, 1:01am

Post #5 of 8 (202 views)
"Cousin" is a very general term. [In reply to] Can't Post

People commonly apply it to all their relations except immediate family, including distant inlaws, or even people in the same minority ethnicity. I think it's the last sense that was meant here. I can't imagine even in 1938 Tolkien thought of them as literally cousins.


Apr 28 2013, 1:33pm

Post #6 of 8 (174 views)
They're not related [In reply to] Can't Post

"Was there ever any one like him?' he said. 'Except Gandalf, of course.I think they must be related," Pippin says of Gandalf and Aragorn (Houses of Healing)

The quickest way for Gandalf to explain himself and Radagast being similar is them being related. In older days this is how people referred to their colleagues in third person.


Apr 28 2013, 10:08pm

Post #7 of 8 (158 views)
I wonder how devious the intent was [In reply to] Can't Post

I think of people who are trying to gain favor with someone, so they say, "You know Fred? Oh, Fred and I are friends. We're best friends, in fact. Almost family." They connect themselves to someone else in favor by playing up their degree of intimacy with them. Was Gandalf doing that here, figuring that Radagast was likely on good terms with another animal-lover like Beorn, and portraying themselves as cousins rather than mere co-wizards?

I'm not sure I take the cousin term literally, though Manwe and Melkor are described as brothers, so maybe Ainur can be cousins if they're not as close as brothers but think they came from the same brood.

The Shire

May 2 2013, 3:42pm

Post #8 of 8 (111 views)
Relations and relevance [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that all the Istari are in a way 'related' to each other in a way. They all pretty much equally divine beings. They have (nearly) equal powers, and they are all very, very, (very) old. The Istari are all one Order sent to Middle-earth from above, so this could be literal or metaphorical. Either way it fits quite nicely. The relevance of Radagast is questioned by the film vs book fanboys because Radagast never truly aids Mithrandir in discovering Dol Guldur, OR the destruction of it. (That's accomplished by the Wise and a host of Galadhrim. See the Appendices) However, he is an easily loved character, in both book and film, and I believe we all agree that his role, although minute, is special in its own way.


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