Sneakily taking the hinges off the doors of perception

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Christine Kelley

Christine Kelley writes about speculative fiction and radical politics from a queer revolutionary perspective. Currently her main project is Nowhere and Back Again, a psychogeography of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Her first project was the now semi-retired blog Dreams of Orgonon, a song-by-song study of Kate Bush. Support Christine on Patreon.


  1. liminal fruitbat
    June 17, 2022 @ 1:42 pm

    Tolkien unfairly says that Radagast “did not remain faithful to his mission.”[7] Radagast fulfills his responsibilities to the Valar and Maiar while using them as stepping stones to his real project of belonging to nature. Like a hobbit, he sets out to defend the lands where he lives — but unlike them, he wholly submits to his environment. He fights Sauron, but has simpler, nobler priorities, like chilling the fuck out at Rhosgobel and talking to birds.

    Tolkien’s usually good at stacking the deck so that his tendencies towards divine command authoritarianism line up with “actually doing good things”, but this is definitely one of the thornier aspects of that. Could Radagast have raised an army of bears and harassed the garrison of Dol Guldur? Yes. Could he have run his own avian spy network straight from the beginning? Also yes (and actually that might be somewhere he failed; talking to and learning from animals is entirely within his wheelhouse). But there are other concerns, other actions to take, no less necessary, and Radagast rejects anthropocentrism (Eruhinicentrism?) because someone has to learn and understand (as much as one person can understand all the numberless perspectives we collapse into simple Nature).

    Incidentally, I think you’re missing something from this sentence: In The Lord of the Rings, Radagast is charmingly ambivalent, a classic villainous wizard like Saruman or a Merlin-cum-Odin such as Gandalf, who simply refuses to be a major character in this literary epic. It looks like there should be something like “neither” before “a classic villainous wizard…”?


  2. Brown
    May 25, 2023 @ 9:38 pm

    “did not remain faithful to his mission” = J.R.R.Tolkien does not say that. Those are Christopher Tolkien’s words, in his notes.


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