Challenge theme: Two Sides to Everything
Element: "Did Radagast actually fail in his mission?"
Having poured tea for Sam and himself, Olórin sat down carefully on the low bench in the hobbit’s small garden. He had not taken form as Gandalf for some years, and he had forgotten about bad knees and creaky joints.
“But Radagast,” Sam said unexpectedly. “What about him? Why isn’t he here?”
“How do you mean, what about Radagast?” Olórin asked in return, surprised by the question. Perhaps he should not have been, but he had grown disused to such surprises.
“Well, at the Council of Elrond you said that he is a worthy Wizard, and a master of... of shapes and changes of hue; but when you went to Isengard, you noticed that Saruman’s robes were changing colour, and that it wasn’t a good thing to break light to see what it is. Did he turn bad like Saruman?”
It was good to see how Sam had rallied after arriving in Aman; he was quite elderly, and it had been a shock for him to find that Frodo had not been able to wait for him, but he had recovered well, only saying that they would meet again soon enough anyway, and Rosie was waiting for him also, and his Gaffer, and...
Olórin was dragged from his contemplations by an impatient cough, and he could not help but laugh to himself. Sam might have become a very important hobbit, Mayor of the Shire and friend of the King, but he was still as quietly persistent as the young gardener’s apprentice had been, though he was perhaps even more pointedly polite about it now.
“Bad? No, Radagast did not turn bad,” Olórin said at last. “And if you recall my words at the Council of Elrond, you will perhaps also remember that I said then that Radagast sought me in good faith, or I would not have been convinced by his words.” He fell silent with a sigh. No, Radagast had not, as Sam put it, turned bad; and yet...
“But...” Sam went on hesitantly.
“I would say ‘spare me your buts, Samwise Gamgee’, except that I doubt it would do much good.” the Maia interrupted him in a tone that was supposed to be stern. It was too welcome to be talking to a hobbit again to mind being so questioned.
“But,” Sam repeated, now with an expression that somehow reminded Olórin of Tooks rather than Gamgees, “Why didn’t he come with you?”
“He has chosen not to. So far, at least...” Sam’s confused look was almost comical, and Olórin continued. “Radagast may not have followed the Enemy, but he did fail.”
“Why? Because he didn’t defeat Sauron?” Sam looked indignant.
“That was not our task, and had it been, we would all have failed. No, we were sent to strengthen those who stood against Sauron, not to face him directly.”
“But if you hadn’t been sent back after the Balrog killed you, you couldn’t have finished your work either!”
Olórin blinked at the outburst. “You have come a long way since I caught you spying that day at Bag End,” he said at last, causing Sam to blush furiously. “Yes, I failed as well, at least then,” the Maia went on, “But I was offered a another chance to fulfil my task, though with no guarantee of success or survival. And Radagast may not have turned bad, but his tending solely to bird and beast was an abandonment of his original task. Also, his years of aid to Saruman, though given in good faith, would have led to disaster had Saruman found the One Ring as a result.” Olórin glanced at Sam, whose expression was half-stubborn, half-confused, and he sighed. “I should perhaps go back further: five Wizards were sent to Middle-earth. Two of my brethren, the Blue Wizards, travelled far to the East and South. I have heard little news of their journeys. Then there was Curunír, Saruman, and we know his fate.”
“And you and Radagast,” Sam interrupted.
“Yes. Now, if you will let me finish... The Valar determined who would be sent: the Blue Wizards were chosen by Oromë, Curunír was chosen by Aulë, and Radagast, Aiwendil, by Yavanna.”
“Manwë and Varda spoke in my favour,” said Olórin, recalling how even then Curunír and he had ended up in opposition to each other, though it was only apparent in hindsight.
“Oh.” Sam fell silent, then went on again. “But if... if Radagast was sent by Lady Yavanna, why do you say he failed because he looked after animals? Did they not suffer as well because of Sauron? What if she asked him to do that?”
Olórin shook his head. “Samwise, your heart is as kind as ever, but I doubt Radagast was given special instructions that none other knew of, nor was it Yavanna who set us our task.” No, not Yavanna. And perhaps, ultimately not Manwë either...
After a while, Sam asked, “But didn’t Radagast do a lot of good as well? And where were you when you were dead? The same place we go, Mortals I mean, or somewhere else?”
“That, I may not tell you. As for the former, yes, he did do some good in the Ring War, for without him I would not have escaped from Orthanc, and who knows what might have happened then.”
Sam nodded, letting the subject go, though it was clear that he was far from satisfied as yet. No doubt he would let it sit quietly for some days, then return to it again.
That evening, enjoying a pipe for the first time in decades, Olórin found he could not let go of Sam’s question; could he truly say that Radagast had failed in his task? Had not, considered by the same harsh measure he had applied to Radagast, Frodo also failed? For it had not been Frodo’s own will that had led to the Ring’s destruction, but unintended intervention from Gollum. Should he not show Radagast some of the same consideration, the same mercy, as Frodo?
It truly was a pity that Radagast was not in Valinor; he and Sam would have gotten on well. At least until Radagast’s birds ate all the seeds from Sam’s garden, Olórin added in thought, chuckling softly to himself at the image of an irate hobbit chasing after his fellow Maia.