Episode 24
March 15, 2021

Radagast is Scrappy-Doo!

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Jared’s choice of topic: the Istari. Also known as the Five Wizards, the cohort of Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and the two mysterious Blue Wizards, these beings are superficially some of the most easily understandable characters in Tolkien’s mythology: old men who know magic and can cast spells, very much in a long standing mythological and folktale tradition. But while Gandalf may have made his debut in The Hobbit as just such a character, over time, as with so many other elements in his work, Tolkien deepened his background and that of his wizardly brethren in ways that still weren’t fully developed by his passing, ultimately leaving as many questions as answers. What’s suggestive about the two alternate possibilities of the fates of the Istari in Middle-earth—that they mostly failed, or that they mostly succeeded? What elements of Catholic theology are touched on in the conception of the Istari as incarnated spirits from Valinor in Middle-earth? How did Tolkien address what this was meant to represent in terms of what the Valar and Maiar had learned over time? Is it possible that Tolkien contrasted the methods of lore and knowledge Gandalf and Saruman favored in a way that had a personal relevance to his own work and life experience? And just how wonderfully human—if that’s the best comparison—is Gandalf in particular in his deeply down-to-earth ways throughout the major works?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Who knows what, in the end, the Blue Wizards were up to elsewhere in Middle-earth?

Yup, it’s been a year. Stay well everyone.

No Amazon series news but you can read Oriana’s argument about what it should include.

Tolkien Gateway’s summary entry on the wizards of Middle-earth.

Our earlier episode on magic.

There’s plenty of discussion of how the Istari are essentially angels on Middle-earth - this article addresses it from a specifically Catholic perspective, and that’s just one of many.

Letter 156 from The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien features a discussion in more detail on what Gandalf was, specifically.

Of Aulë and Yavanna” is a whole chapter of The Silmarillion for a reason.

To say there’s a lot of writing on ‘classic’ wizards in world literature and mythology is an understatement. Here’s one example.

And indeed, modern wizards in other media: Harry Potter! The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! The Sword in the Stone! Star Wars! Dragonslayer! (That does count.)

Gandalf’s letter to Frodo is such a fun-yet-important element.

Linked it before but Lindsay Ellis really did call it.

The figure on the edge of Fangorn remains a subject of debate…

Have a laugh with our Silver Call Duology episode!

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