In The Hobbit, Gandalf introduces himself to Beorn by mentioning Beorn might know of Gandalf's cousin Radagast. Did Gandalf mean Radagast was his actual cousin, or did he mean Radagast was just a fellow wizard?

The following is the passage that mentions Radagast.

“perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?”

The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien, chapter seven

  • 2
    Gandalf is probably using "cousin" as he and Radagast are both of a small group of God-like Maiar (the Istari) living on Middle Earth -- rather than any sort of biological connection.
    – TZHX
    Dec 31, 2015 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


No, "cousin" is used to mean "colleague".

Douglas A. Anderson says in The Annotated Hobbit (page 167, note 6):

In referring to Radagast as "my good cousin," Gandalf is probably not suggesting actual close kinship. The Oxford English Dictionary supports three variant meanings of cousin that could apply here. First, as a term "applied to people of kindred races or nations (e.g. British and Americans)"; second, as "a person or thing having affinity of nature to another"; and, last, as "a term of intimacy, friendship or familiarity." Since Radagast and Gandalf are both wizards, the first meaning is probably intended.

  • 7
    This is one of Tolkien's many uses of the English language beyond some of the common word usage. Jan 1, 2016 at 3:49
  • 6
    I think that Anderson is misunderstanding the definition that he selects as "probably intended"; that definition is for phrases like "our American cousins" (= "Americans"), and makes no sense here. The second sense that he mentions is probably the relevant one.
    – ruakh
    Jan 1, 2016 at 8:57

Depends on your perspective.

Gandalf and Radagast (and all of the Wizards) are in origin Maiar, a subcategory of the Ainur, who were created by Eru Ilúvatar (God) in the Timeless Halls before the world began. From a certain point of view, they're actually brothers; they have the same Father.

However, some of the Valar (another class of the Ainur) were considered to be related in the mind of Ilúvatar; Manwë and Melkor, for example, were considered brothers1. Since the Valar and Maiar or both the same type of creature, it's likely that some of the Maiar are also considered related. Whether Gandalf and Radagast are, or what relation may exist between them, is unknown. We just don't have enough information.

In-context, it's vastly more likely that Gandalf is simply indicating that he and Radagast are both wizards of the same order, since none of his audience know anything about his true origins.


Note than Tolkien didn't consider Gandalf to be angelic during the initial writing of The Hobbit; in 1936, Gandalf was actually a fairly bog-standard wizard. With that in mind, it's entirely possible that Tolkien actually did intend for the two to be related, but I'm unaware of any textual evidence to support the theory and, considering that "cousin" also indicates close affinity, I find it unlikely.

1 Narratively speaking, Manwë and Melkor are similar to the Christian angels Michael and Lucifer. Manwë is sort of the day-to-day manager of the affairs of the World (Eru/God having taken a hands-off approach), while Melkor (more commonly Morgoth) is the Nemesis

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