What The Heck Is On Radagast’s Face?

The company jumped to attention at Gandalf’s warning that something was coming. Tense and on edge, Thorin cast his wary eyes to and fro, peering through the woods while Dwalin braced himself and hoisted his ax. Fili drew his swords, and Kili notched his arrow while the rest gripped their weapons of choice. Bilbo swallowed the large lump in his throat and hoped for the best.

A piercing cry reached them as a sled pulled into view carrying the most unlikely creature since their hobbit, who in comparison looked rather respectable—a fact that Thorin noted sourly. Just when he thought there wasn’t anything lower than a burglar who wasn’t a burglar, this excuse for a wizard showed up.

“Why it’s Radagast, Radagast the Brown,” Gandalf said as the funny little man rode up shouting on a rickety sleigh pulled by rabbits. From Gandalf’s warning and the commotion Radagast made, the dwarves had prepared for battle, which made them feel slightly ridiculous when the little wizard came screaming into their midst like a woman who had seen a mouse.

“That’s a wizard?” Fili whispered with a doubting frown on his face. Kili nodded. They scrutinized Gandalf for a long moment and then turned to inspect Radagast.

“For such great wizards, you’d think they’d dress better,” Fili said. “Couldn’t they use some of their powers to change their clothes?”

“And he’s wearing a version of Bofur’s hat,” Nori whispered, butting in.

“That’s not an encouraging thought,” Dori retorted. “We always thought he wasn’t the sharpest ax in the rack.”

Not listening, Bofur grinned and pushed his floppy hat down on his head with pride.

“Aye, I have something in common with a great wizard, I see,” he said with a jaunty air. “Fancy that.”

“I’d rather not,” Bombur replied flatly.

Fili peered at Radagast again with distrustful eyes. Gandalf had pulled Radagast off to one side, and the dwarves could not hear their conversation. Thorin also stood some distance away on higher ground to keep watch over the area.

“So he’s a guardian of Middle-earth is he?” Fili muttered with distaste. “What part does this old fool look after? The swamps?”

Kili shrugged.

“I suppose all parts need watching.”

“Keeps the frogs in line, does he?” Fili whispered back.

“Hush!” Bilbo said with a sharp elbow in Fili’s side. “At least he’s not here to hurt us. That’s something.”

“But not much,” Nori countered. “No wonder he lives out of sight.”

As Radagast talked, they stood aside and stared at the strange little wizard who clearly looked like he dined regularly on a particular variety of mushroom. His nervous, brown eyes darted back and forth like a small bird, and he chirped likewise. His robes were so dirty that seeds would have sprouted from them, and he emitted an aroma of aged peat and compost. He shuffled as though he might fall over at any moment. His lack of cleanliness alone did not bother the dwarves who were not too concerned with hygiene themselves. That is, until they got a good look at his face, which had a thick smear of blue-green crust running from forehead to chin. Bilbo held his hand over his mouth.

“What is that on his face?” Dori whispered loud enough for everyone to hear.

“And in his mouth,” Dwalin countered after the wizard paused to remember what he had on the tip of his tongue.

The second question was answered first, and the company stepped back in unison. Fili nudged Kili to take a gander at Thorin, who looked positively disgusted. The brothers sniggered together and then eyed Radagast holding the stick insect. It waved its arms and legs frantically. Whether it was trying to speak to the wizards or get away, no one knew.

“Is that his way of saving a snack for later?” Bombur asked, and he swallowed noisily.

“Well, looks like uncle won’t be eating anytime soon,” Kili muttered to his brother with a grin. He got no answer, and one glance at Fili’s face told him that both their evening rations would be his for the taking.

“Or maybe it, perhaps, lives in his mouth?” Ori asked curiously. He pulled out his journal book. “This is interesting.”

Dori winced and leaned over to his younger brother. “No drawings please,” he said as he gagged slightly. “I don’t want to remember.”

“So, so what’s that green stuff on his face then?” Kili asked. Gloin and Oin stepped into the discussion and peered closely.

“Fungal infection, I’ll be bound,” Oin replied. “Comes from sleeping in the damp for too long.”

“He has mushrooms on his face?” Ori asked incredulously.

Bombur smacked his lips, thinking that it might be a good way to always have a snack handy.

“Can he eat them, do you think, or do they need cooking first?”


“Keeper of the swamps, all right,” Kili whispered. “I can smell him from here.”

They perked up. Radagast’s first words were mumbled, but they caught—”is sick,” and “foul decay.”

“See, a fungal infection, I’m sure of it,” Oin said nodding his head. “Poor fellow. It must itch something fierce.”

The Durin brothers wrinkled their noses.

“No,” Dori said squinting, “it looks like tree sap. Maybe he sleeps on tree branches or logs. Bet it still itches though.”

Nori scoffed.

“He’d had to sleep for years to get that much on his face.”

Ori looked confused.

“Why doesn’t he wash it off then?”

“Mebbe it’s ear wax,” Bofur offered. The dwarves looked skeptical, and he shrugged.

“It can be a real problem, and once it gets in there, you hardly know what’s going on.”

“Personal experience, Bofur?” Nori asked sarcastically.

Radagast whispered something else, and the company strained to listen.

“Sounds like necro, necro-something,” Dori said. All but Oin looked stumped.

“Necrotic fungus. I’m telling ya, lads, fungal infection,” Oin said forcefully, “and by the size of it, it looks pretty serious.”

The word “spirits” wafted by.

“Do ya think he drinks to get rid of the itch then?” Bofur asked. “I’ll bet he makes his own ale.”

Bombur scratched his head. “It’s possible. He looks fermented enough as it is.”

Then Gandalf took the pipe out of his mouth and gave it to Radagast.

“Now what’s that supposed to do?” Kili asked. “Smoke it off?”

They all watched as he inhaled slowly. He looked calmer but more loopy than before.

“Mebbe it eases the itching,” Bofur volunteered helpfully.

Nori smirked and shook his head.

“Just how many dragons has he killed?” he asked with his arms folded across his chest. From his position, Thorin shook his head and wondered the same.

Grumbling under his breath about wizards who knew less than they claimed, Oin rummaged around in his pack for the appropriate tincture.

“Well, I hope Oin’s got something in his bag,” Fili said, “because that old poop needs help.”

Then Radagast lifted his hat, and a bird flew under it. The company drew a horrified breath in unison, and Oin dropped the bottle of lotion back in his pouch with a clink.

“That’s, that’s old….” Kili stuttered.

“Poop,” Dwalin answered.

“That’s just, just….” Dori began.

“Disgusting,” Bilbo finished.

They all fell silent for a moment.

“Reminds me of the time that mice made a nest in Gloin’s beard,” Bofur offered.

“I didn’t invite them in, if you recall,” Gloin replied hotly, his face as red as his beard. “I was sleeping!”

“Aye, and they skedaddled fast enough in the morning,” Nori said snickering, “but they left little somethings behind.”

Just then wargs leapt into view, and members of the company were too busy running for their lives to give another thought to Radagast until Lord Elrond bid them sit down for dinner.

“I don’t like green food,” Ori said innocently.

All at once, the dwarves eyed each other from around the table and dropped their hands into their laps.

“Not hungry?” Lord Elrond asked.

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