Peter Jackson didn’t invent the eccentric woods-dwelling wizard Radagast the Brown and the cutsey and cuddly Disneyesque birds and animals that go with him for the The Hobbit movies. He just went to town with it. Radagast is a Tolkien creation. His original name, Aiwendil, means “Bird-friend” and Tolkien made him the wizard in charge of protecting Middle Earth’s flora and fauna. Terry Pratchett is obviously up on his Tolkien lore and makes use of it in his Discworld novels. So I got to think Sir Terry had Radagast in mind when he came up with Mustrum Ridcully, the Archchancellor of Unseen University:
Unseen University had had many different kinds of Archchancellor over the years. Big ones, small ones, cunning ones, slightly insane ones, extremely insane ones---they’d come, they’d served, in some cases not long enough for anyone to be able to complete the official painting to be hung in the Great Hall, and they’d died. The senior wizard in a world of magic has the same prospects of long-term employment as a pogo stick tester in a minefield.
However, from the Bursar’s point of view this didn’t really have to matter. The name might change occasionally, but what did matter was that there always was an Archchancellor and the Archchancellor’s most important job, as the Bursar saw it, was to sign things, preferably, from the Bursar’s point of view, without reading them first.
This one was different. For one thing, he was hardly ever in, except to change out of his muddy clothes. And he shouted at people. Usually at the Bursar.
And yet, at the time, it had seemed a really good idea to select an Archchancellor who hadn’t set foot in the University in forty years.
There had been so much in-fighting between the various orders of wizardry in recent years that, just for once, the senior wizards had agreed that what the University needed was a period of stability, so that they could get on with their intriguing and scheming in peace and quiet for a few months. A search of the records turned up Ridcully the Brown who, after becoming a Seventh Level Mage at the incredibly young age of twenty-seven, had quit the University in order to look after the family’s estates deep in the country.
He looked ideal.
“Just the chap,” they all said. “Clean sweep. New broom. A country wizard. Back to the thingumajigs, the roots of wizardry. Jolly old boy with a pipe and twinkly eyes. Sort of chap who can tell one herb from another, roams the high forest with every beast his brother kind of thing. Sleeps under the stars, like as not. Knows what the wind is saying, we shouldn’t wonder. Got a name for all the trees, you can bank on it. Speaks to the birds, too.”
A messenger had been sent. Ridcully the Brown had sighed, cursed a bit, found his staff in the kitchen garden where it had been supporting a scarecrow, and had set out.
“And if he’s any problem,” the wizards had added, in the privacy of their own heads, “anyone who talks to trees should be no trouble to get rid of.”
And then he’d arrived, and it turned out that Ridcully the Brown did speak to the birds. In fact, he shouted at birds, and what he normally shouted was, “Winged you, yer bastard!” ---from Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett.