The Question is… what does it mean?
You can clearly see in images below from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies teaser trailer, that Gandalf is holding the Staff of Radagast without it’s blue stone imbued with the power of the Istari
Warning possible movie spoilers discussed in this post…
There has been a lot of speculation and discussion online about whether or not Gandalf has been seen holding the staff of Radagast.
Furthermore, many are speculating that it’s the staff of Radagast, that Gandalf uses in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring during his duel with Saruman. Consequently, Gandalf’s staff is taken by Saruman and likely destroyed.
Well… there can no longer be any doubt about this, because in The Battle of the Five Armies teaser trailer, Gandalf is clearly holding the staff of Radagast, sans the blue stone as he turns to look into the camera. I placed a photo of Radagast’s staff, beside the one Gandalf is seen holding in the teaser trailer and there is no doubt that this is indeed the same staff! There are too many points of similarity between these two staffs. Click on the image to the right, to see a larger version and compare them for yourself.
The Lord of the Rings Wiki has this to say about the staffs used by Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth adaptations…
In Peter Jackson’s films, Gandalf has a variety of different staves. To date Gandalf is seen with four different variations of his staff, three of those as the Grey wizard. Gandalf’s staff in The Hobbit Films has been described by the Weta Production team as an “opening flower”; this staff is destroyed by the Necromancer in Dol Guldur.
The crown of Gandalf’s staff in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is very similar to the staff of Gandalf the White when one looks at the crown embedded in the staff. After his staff is destroyed by Sauron, he uses the stave of Radagast until Saruman confiscates it at Orthanc. He then acquires another staff from Elrond in Imladris which could hold an illuminating crystal, it was destroyed in Moria during his battle against the Balrog.
So… if the assertions above are correct, then what does this tell us about the fate of Radagast? If Gandalf carries the staff of Radagast in the first part of the Fellowship of the Ring, then where the hell is Radagast? Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the gentle woodland wizard!
All of this leads me to think about what the writers of The Hobbit screenplay (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro) must have had in mind about the character of Radagast from the very beginning. They must have decided the fate of Radagast right from the onset.
There is nothing in the Tolkien Canon that suggests Gandalf ever took possession of Radagast’s staff… so this is clearly an invention of the filmmakers. In addition, this could not have been a narrative added later, as the films progressed, since Radagast has carried this distinctive looking staff from the very beginning. It is therefore clear, that the filmmakers made a conscious decision before filming even began, that Radagast would carry the staff that Gandalf would eventually use in the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
This makes it evident, that the fate of Radagast was decided upon, in the very early stages of the trilogies development.
So what is the fate of Radagast the Brown?
Based upon the Tolkien Canon, we know for a fact that Radagast is alive and well during the time of the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf tells everyone during the Council of Elrond that Saruman sent Radagast to deliver a message to Gandalf that ‘The Nine are once more abroad’ and that Gandalf should come immediately to Orthanc. Radagast was sent unaware of Saruman’s treachery, and so it was that he also sent the eagle to Orthanc that would rescue Gandalf from the clutches of Saruman. As far as we know in Tolkien’s telling of events, Radagast probably lived happily ever after in the forest of Mirkwood after the fall of Sauron.
In Peter Jackson’s version of the story, Radagast plays no part in this sequence of events.
Gandalf escapes from the top of Orthanc by sending a moth to tell the eagles he is trapped there… a device Peter Jackson uses again in the Battle of the Pines at the conclusion of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
So… what does this tell us about the fate of Radagast in The Battle of the Five Armies? I would have to say the signs are not good!
A wizard’s staff is the primary weapon of the Istari and serves as a focus for much of their power and there are only a few known incidents where a wizard’s staff has been broken. The staff of an Istari might be destroyed or taken… but it’s highly unlikely that a wizard would willingly part with his staff, because a great part of his power it channeled through the staff.
This suggests to me that one of two things will happen in the next film. Radagast will either give his staff to willingly to Gandalf or Radagast will be killed and leave his staff to Gandalf. Unfortunately, I expect the latter is the most likely scenario.
If so… the ‘body count’ in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has risen significantly, because Radagast has become a much beloved character in The Hobbit film trilogy.