Why didn’t the Eagles fly the Ring to Mount Doom (or the Lonely Mountain)?

UPDATE: See below for a discussion of the Eagles’ role in The Hobbit films.

One of the most commonly asked questions about The Lord of the Rings is why the Fellowship didn’t just fly into Mordor on the Eagles. It is frequently illustrated by the (in)famous How It Should Have Ended video:

The video is, of course, comedy, and not all Eagle scenarios are the same, yet it raises an interesting question. However, the reason the Ringbearer did not fly to Mordor by Eagle is fairly simple: the purpose of the Fellowship of the Ring and the linchpin of the entire strategy decided on in Rivendell was to destroy the Ring in a mission of secrecy.

Taking the Eagles might have worked, I will grant that. It may have been a successful mission and allowed the Ring to be destroyed earlier than it “actually” was. However, it would have sacrificed secrecy and drastically increased the changes of the Ring being captured. When you have the fate of the world hanging in the balance, you don’t want to take any unnecessary chances.

Eagles are, clearly, far more noticeable than Hobbits or other travelers on foot. We don’t know how exactly Gandalf planned to get into Mordor, but we can surmise that they would have gone through a mountain pass or valley some where. We know of only three (the Morannon, Cirith Ungol, and the Nameless Pass), but it stands to reason that there were more. Not ideal ones, perhaps (though Cirith Ungol itself was not ideal), but mountains are not impenetrable and continuous walls of rock.

An Eagle flying through the air would be easily noticed by Orcs or other watchers (remember the sinister and sorcerous ones at the Tower of Cirith Ungol – there might have been more). Travelers on foot could sneak around much more easily, scout ahead (especially with a ranger), and slip by unnoticed (remember how quiet hobbits are?). The Eagles might have been able to slip by unnoticed, but it would have become far more likely that they would have been caught. Once inside Mordor (if they even make it), there is still the chance that the Eagles could be caught. There are the threats of the Nazgul’s fell beasts, and archers (the Eagles in The Hobbit were afraid of shepherds with bows, so one can imagine how they might react to trained soldiers).

The “classic” Eagle plan, as outlined in the YouTube video, would not work for a couple of reasons. First, the Ring could not just be dropped into the caldera; it had to be taken into the Crack of Doom itself: the center of Sauron’s sorcererous powers. The Crack of Doom was at the end of a tunnel that bored into the mountainside, and an Eagle would likely not fit inside, so it would have to bring have a rider. This would limit the height to which it could fly (the rider would need to breathe) and its agility during a fight. Yet more possibilities for failure. Second, a giant Eagle landing on the slope of Mount Doom would be quickly evident to any troops stationed there. A small group of people on foot might be able to sneak up unnoticed. Again, the Eagle plan might work, but it increases the chances of being caught.

In conclusion, the Council of Elrond did not know exactly what to expect in Mordor, so they had to plan for the worst (i.e., assume the worst case scenario for each possible solution). The Fellowship plan was itself a very long shot and indeed, it failed in its original conception, though obviously a fragment of the Fellowship persisted. The Eagle plan raises such a host of potential issues and problems that I think it is quite understandable why the Council opted to send people on foot. As I mentioned at the beginning, their concern was stealth, not speed.

Update: A commenter has asked why the Eagles in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did not simply fly the Company of Dwarves all the way to the Lonely Mountain, particularly since the mountain was visible at the end of the film.  The situation in The Hobbit is complicated by certain fairly minor changes made by Peter Jackson to the story.  In the original novel, the Eagles agree to help Gandalf as a favor, in return for him having saved the life of their chief before the events of the story.  However, they were afraid of the men of the Vales of Anduin, who shot arrows at the Eagles (including the chief whom Gandalf saved) to keep them from stealing livestock.  Therefore, the Eagles took the Company only a short distance.

The situation is muddled in the film because the Eagles do not speak at all, which removes the explanation of their motives.  (It is possible this will change in the Extended Edition.)  The final shot of the Company looking towards the Lonely Mountain is also misleading in its depiction of the distance left before them.  The Eagles drop the Dwarves off on top of the Carrock, a large rock in the middle of the River Anduin.  The Anduin flowed through a broad valley to the east of the Misty Mountains, placing the Carrock nearly 200 miles away from the Lonely Mountain: a far longer distance than the Eagles were willing to fly simply to repay a favor.  The Lonely Mountain would not realistically have been visible from the Carrock, but Peter Jackson chose to show it for dramatic reasons.

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80 Responses to Why didn’t the Eagles fly the Ring to Mount Doom (or the Lonely Mountain)?

  1. fredo says:

    so why didnt the gandalf cut off fredo’s fingers

  2. Yongk says:

    In the fellowship, saruman conjured a powerful thuderstorm with lightning to strike the company. It is fair to assume that Sauron can do that even faster and better so the eagles woile have been toasted in seconds.

    • jimbillingsly says:

      read the book. in the books, it’s not saruman who does that. rather, it’s the god of Caradhras mountain who brings down the lightning.

      • rndmstuffguy says:

        In the movie the translation of his spell is essentially him trying to “wake up” the mountain

  3. Dallan says:

    Sure, you mean a six day journey by eagle, over the legions of watchful eyes commanded by Sauron and Saruman, who, by the way, can command the weather; carrying a ring which can change its weight at will; past how many archers and Nazgul? And if the ring doesn’t make them drop like a stone, then the storms sent by Sauron and Saruman will ground the eagle’s flight, where swarms of orcs, uruks, and wargs will finish the job.
    Pardon my skepticism, but I think they have a better chance of inventing a railgun powerful enough to launch the ring into the sun. Now bring on the video that shows that.

    • Alan Taylor says:

      Firstly, the Eagles could fly so high they would not be a threat from orc arrows. So they could fly high above any arrow or weather.

      Secondly, there’s no reason to believe Sauron would know they were coming until too late, he hasn’t been able to pinpoint the Ring any other time even right under his nose for weeks. Certainly not the quick trip the Eagles would make.

      Thirdly, while the ring can get heavier, it doesn’t get heavy enough to even drop a Hobbit like a stone let alone giant eagles.

      Finally, a bunch of Eagles were able to combat the Nazgul in the Battle Of Five Armies, so they are not their prey and are a match. There are only 9 winged Nazgul, and Gwahir can call upon loads of Eagles to protect then ringbearer from a Nazgul attack. That would be no problem. And again the fact is the Nazgul would not know the Eagles are flying to Mount Doom until too late. They didn’t know the Hobbits were at Mount Doom until Frodo put the Ring on, and they were in Mordor for weeks!

  4. Rachid says:

    Besides, who’s to stop the eagle from taking the ring for himself?

    • Breee says:

      Um….I don’t think an eagle would be able to bring it upon itself to possess a ring of such power. And really…..what would it do with the ring? Not a really thought out response if you ask me.

      • Rachid says:

        Please elaborate, why would an eagle not “be able to bring it upon itself to possess a ring of such power”?
        And what would it do with the ring you ask?!
        Wait; have you actually read the book?
        I have read it several times and to me it seems perfectly plausible for an eagle to take the ring for himself. Please quote me the passage that i have missed.

      • Walker says:

        Actually, the Eagles have kings, one being the King of all of the Eagle fiefdoms. See the Hobbit. They also desire power, the same way men do, and they receive crowns – marks of that power – in The Hobbit from the dwarves after the battle of five armies. This was one of Tolkien’s concerns.

      • Rebecca says:

        Actually, it’s a very logical response. The eagles were part of the Maiar and could have been as easily corrupted as Sauroman.

      • NinjaAssassin says:

        Read The Hobbit. They can talk, they can think.

        As far as I’m aware, that’s about the only qualifications you need for the ring to try and corrupt you

      • Dustin says:

        Eagles don’t even have fingers. Or pockets. Where would he keep the ring?

  5. Rebecca says:

    Also the eagle that saves Gandalf from the tower states that he can not travel very far with Gandalf on him as “he is a messenger and not meant to carry burdens.”

    Another thing, the Nazgul on the fell beasts could have easily destroyed them.

  6. Shunn says:

    Then why didn’t they fly at night? I don’t think they cuold have hit something and I guess orcs have not invented powerfull dazzle lamps that can spot them. And someone told something about weight of the ring… yeah a hobbit can carry a ring but an eagle with that same hobbit cant… yeah seems legit. I will be honest, maybe the eagle version has some problems in details but walking there has 1000x more…

    • fantasywind says:

      Because night is permanent in Mordor so to speak :) ,,there lay darkness under the sun”, the whole land is covered from sun to ease the orcs and other evil creatures lives, also the higher you fly through it the more toxic fumes and ash you’ll be breathing in, the clouds that shadow the land would be also difficult for a bird like the Eagles to navigate on bigger heights (flying creatures of Mordor are the other problem, besides beasts of Nazgul there are most likely swarms of huge, blood sucking bats like those who aided orcs in The Hobbit during Battle of Five Armies) besides orcs have good eyesight in darkness (and even better sense of smell by the way so could track on scent like dogs :) and Eagles have no means of concealing themselves like Fellowship (meaning these magnificent cloaks of Lorien that make you blend in environment even at few paces) also Mordor isn’t devoid of artificial light, Mount Doom makes red glow all over the place, the sorcery can create the pillars of light as signals so why not for scouring the landscape :) and not to mention eye of Sauron who can see everything in one place at a time (he can’t see everywhere at once yet, until he regains the Ring, hobbits never really were in line of sight of it and being small, stealthy, with said cloaks on, later even dressing up as orcs made great effort to be undetectable).

      The example of ,,powerful dazzle lamps” (also known as Great Signal :) haha:
      “But it was too late. At that moment the rock quivered and trembled beneath them. The great rumbling noise, louder than ever before, rolled in the ground and echoed in the mountains. Then with searing suddenness there came a great red flash. Far beyond the eastern mountains it leapt into the sky and splashed the lowering clouds with crimson. In that valley of shadow and cold deathly light it seemed unbearably violent and fierce. Peaks of stone and ridges like notched knives sprang out in staring black against the uprushing flame in Gorgoroth.
      Then came a great crack of thunder. And Minas Morgul answered. There was a flare of livid lightnings; forks of blue flame springing up from the tower and from the encircling hills into the sullen clouds. The earth groaned; and out of the city came a cry. Mingled with harsh high voices as birds of prey, and the shrill neighing of horses wild with rage and fear, there came a rending screech, shivering, rising swiftly to a pierce pitch beyond the range of hearing…And out of the gate an army came.”

      The point with silent Watchers (as they are called in book) is also very good. These magical statues can create invisible barrier and detect intruders, even sounding an alarm when barrier is breached are a great way of protection on borders of Mordor (Cirith Ungol is not the only place where they are located, it is clearly stated that others are in Minas Morgul and they in fact sensed the hobbits when they passed by).

  7. Ralekk says:

    So basic question why does the fellowship ignore the eagles and try to walk to mount doom. Short answer better story.

    Tolkien was a conservative catholic, so it’s safe to assume he was not a fan of logic. Not all books written are based on logic, this is one of them.

    The story is full of flaws and other illogical stuff, magic is kind of hard to explain with logic. But since it is a fantasy theme setting the book never claims to hold any logic. When you step away from basic logic, what do you have?

    (correct answer is probably a psychic disorder, or a crusade for insanity)

    It is a story with a made up world. with made up men that does made up actions, the world is also illogical. So it´s like participating in an dream/fantasy world of someone else that defies logic, and then trying to find logic in it.

    That is what millions of people all around the world is trying to do everyday… (but with various stories, some taken more serious then others)

    • Drogo says:

      I don’t see how being a conservative Catholic necessitates that one “not be a fan of logic”. Read Aquinas and then try making the same remark. If you yourself consider yourself so logical, why would you make use of such an ignorant non-sequitur?

      Aside from that, Tolkien was a master at linguistics. He not only learned numerous languages, but he also invented several languages. The grammatical structure of any language is essentially a logic problem. So I am pretty sure Tolkien was a logical guy.

      He may very well have made a mistake in not covering up the “eagle plot hole”, but given that he was creating a 1000+ page book, as well as an extensive mythology, what I find shocking is that there are so few plot holes to be found.

    • xcalibur says:

      Wrong. A fantasy world can have internal logic and consistency. Even something fantastic like magic can be logical if it can only be used in accordance with certain rules. Middle-earth of course involves suspension of disbelief, like most stories, but there is a high degree of internal consistency in the story, which can be attributed to Tolkien’s talent. The eagles plot hole is one of the few errors in the internal logic of the fantasy world.
      You, Ralekk, are flat out incompetent.

  8. bilbo says:

    Now “the hobbits” part I movie is published, then i have a same question, why didn’t they ride the eagles from the start? They don’t have enemies like mighty sauron’s armies and fearsome nazgul’s dragons in that time, lol, it’s truly illogical.

    • Eldorion says:

      Tolkien actually wrote an explanation for The Hobbit himself, unlike LOTR. The Eagles agree to help Gandalf because they owe him a favor, despite not being particularly interested in the dwarves’ quest. However, they were afraid of the men of the Vales of Anduin, who shot arrows at the Eagles to keep them from stealing livestock. Therefore the Eagles only took the Company a short distance.

      The situation is muddled in Peter Jackson’s film version because PJ removes all Eagle dialogue, though this may change in the Extended Edition. The final scene is also a bit misleading about how much distance is still to go before they reach the Lonely Mountain. At least half of the Company’s journey is still ahead of them, far longer than Gandalf could ask the Eagles to fly as a personal favor.

      I hope this explanation helps! :)

  9. William S says:

    Here we go, a fairly simple comedic summary of why the Eagles wouldn’t work.

  10. ZT says:

    Philippa Boyens also said in one of the LOTR commentary tracks that Tolkien had ‘explained’ the general eagle situation as one in which they didn’t generally care for the goings on of men and elves and dwarves and more or less lived in their own closed society, not wanting to become involved in the ‘political dramas’ of the day. Presumably they do individual favours for Gandalf, as a caretaker of Middle Earth at large.

    • mike says:

      I hate when writers use the excuse of ” these characters don’t want to get involved in the conflict, because it doesn’t concern them “, when the ” conflict” involves the entire world being taken over, destroyed, etc. If sauron ruled everything, do you really think he would let them and the ents just do whatever they want?

      • Ben says:

        There is some more to the back story. Elves, Dwarves, and other things like the Eagles are created by the songs of the Gods and sort of follow the song. So the Eagles follow their song of creation, which doesn’t dictate fighting Mordor.

      • Wolf says:

        No, its realistic. First of all you assume all know about how serious the situation is, and what are the key players, how it can be prevented, etc etc, and then assume they all know this information AND will go out of their personal way to do more than is required? Take global warming for example as a modern “apocalypse”: does every single person fully understand it and work towards the goal of preventing it from “taking over”…? Most act as if they can care less actually, wont even walk rather than drive or make simple choices to avert it, many don’t understand, some outright deny it…so we are supposed to all suddenly aid someone who claims they are on a quest to prevent it, and if not, its unbelievable…? Hmm. I think rather its more likely they’d be assumed nut jobs, and anyone who owed them would just fulfill any obligation they had and let you go on your way…kind of like the eagles did.

        And even if somehow they knew and understood exactly why they should help and how important the quest was, this idea is of course overlooking the obvious threats of the wizards being able to easily detect and turn the eagles into flying roast birds or controlling the weather to prevent ease of flight, the Nazgul’s beasts who could easily outmatch them, the orcish archers and ballistae which could bring them down, and the ease at which they could concentrate troops around the goal long before they made it to the target. They’d never be able to get through if they flew in. Flying in guarantees a loss and the ring in the wrong hands.

        In the Hobbit they certainly would not have the motivation and the human archers are a deterrent for them in any case.

      • Eldorion says:

        I have always been skeptical of this argument (and it’s not one that Tolkien himself used anyway; his defense of the Eagles basically began and ended with “it wouldn’t have been much of a story otherwise”). The thing about the Eagles that a lot of people ignore is that they totally DID help in the fight against Sauron. Radagast, at Gandalf’s urging, set up his animal reconaisance network and the Eagles were a willing part of that, which was why Gwaihir flew to Orthanc and was able to rescue Gandalf. Furthermore, when Gwaihir rescued Gandalf a second time (after his battle with the Balrog), he mentioned that he had been “sent” to get Gandalf by the “command” of Galadriel. And of course, the a number of Eagles participate in the Battle of the Black Gate, fighting directly against Sauron’s forces.

        There is very little if any evidence that the Eagles of the Third Age were prohibited from interfering in the affairs of Middle-earth. There is some evidence in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales that this might have been true of the Eagles of the First and Second Ages, but that didn’t stop the Eagles from basically becoming Turgon’s air force even though he was a Noldorin Exile. In any event, the Eagles of the Third Age, while descended from the earlier birds, were not the same group and were almost certainly not Maiar themselves, though they were likely descended at least partially from Maiar, same as the Half-elven or (in some conceptions) the Orcs.

        Wolf brings up a valid point regarding the Eagles in The Hobbit, but the Quest of Erebor was not (despite its presentation in the movie) an event of world-shaking importance so there was no reason for the Eagles to get involved beyond doing Gandalf a favor. Of course, the Battle of Five Armies WAS important throughout the North, and the Eagles saw an opportunity to strike a blow against the orcs of the Misty Mountains, though it’s worth noting that in the book these orcs were not servants of Sauron.

  11. lotrfan112 says:

    I think it’s simply for the purpose of the story. I mean, who would watch a movie/read a book about a bunch of eagles flying? This way there are more events and adventures.

    • Trike says:

      There would still be plenty of adventures if Tolkien had used the eagles. By answering the plot hole, it might have even have made Sauron even more formidable. The adventures would have been *different* from what currently exists, but that’s not the same thing as nonexistent.

  12. David says:

    I didn’t read many of the comments so I am sorry if this has already been said. One of the biggest misconceptions about the Eagles is that they are simply steeds whose only purpose is to ferry people about middle earth. This is not the case. The Great Eagles are a race of intelligent, wise creatures (or spirits) who have their own lives that they live. Asking them to fly you about would be like asking someone (or a stranger because you probably wouldn’t be friends with the Eagle you ask) to pull you around in a Rickshaw. It’s not something you would do lightly. As is pointed out in the article the reason the Eagles fly the Dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf around in the Hobbit is because they were returning a favor. A life for a life if you will. It’s not like the Eagles aren’t willing to help out in some situations (for instance, when Gandalf jumps off of Orthanc) but it’s not like you could just go up to one and be all like “Hey, um, yeah. We want you to fly us hundreds of miles into probably the most well fortified and armed area that we know of so that we can drop this ring into a pit of lava and save Middle Earth. Do you think you could help us out with that?” There are many other reasons as to why this would not have worked too. There are also many reasons why it could have worked. But, you know, even Tolkien is not without fault.

    • Trike says:

      Your last line is most important. Tolkien had so much going on that he probably just forgot about the eagles. It was simple oversight and nothing to get one’s panties in a bunch over, but Ringers seem to lose their minds when anyone points out it’s not perfect.

      • Yousuf Khan says:

        Read my other posts, the eagles wouldn’t fly to Mt Doom because they would be shot down and the ring would be found and they would have to deal with the Nazgul. Orcs, Trolls, Haradrim, Easterlings, Corshairs of Umbar, the eagles said in the Hobbit that they wouldn’t fly over the lands of men in fear they would be shot down, imagine what would happen if they flew hundreds of miles south to Mordor, the eagles only came to the battle of the Black Gate because the armies of the west needed help, and even the help of the eagles they were still outnumbered 100 to 1.

    • Kevin says:

      You say it’s impolite to ask the eagles to fly you across middle-earth, but in that case I would have made them do it by force. If the fate of the world is in danger, it’s completely appropriate to say “Do us this favor or we will kill you.”

      • Eldorion says:

        I’ve never been convinced that the Eagles would have refused to help. There’s little evidence that Manwe forbade them from intervening, and while their sense of self-preservation outweighed their desire to help Gandalf in The Hobbit, the opportunity to strike a lasting blow against Sauron and the orcs might have convinced them to help with the Ring quest if anyone had wanted to pursue a strategy of flight. However, I’m not sure that threatening the Eagles would have worked. They don’t seem to leave their eyries en masse very often, and most other armies in Middle-earth would have a very difficult time threatening mountaintops. Especially the free peoples, who lacked any other means of flight. Plus I’m not sure they would have been willing to, since it would sort of go against their self-image of being the good guys.

  13. you forgot the part about the giant eagles being the servants of manwe, god of the sky. after many bloody battles the gods vowed to not get involved in the wars of middle earth, and sent the istarii as their representatives before shutting themselves off from the world. using the eagles directly against sauron would be a gray area, it would almost be like manwe sending troops to the battle.

    • Eldorion says:

      I didn’t forget that part, but I deliberately didn’t include it here since I’ve found it’s very hard to convincingly describe the Valar and their role to people who haven’t read The Silmarillion. And it also invites criticism of the Valar’s decision and the question of how the Istari are SO different from the Eagles, why the Eagles were willing to help Radagast with surveillance, etc.

  14. […] of his notion of eucatastrophe, readers (and viewers) of the more cynical modern age ask instead why the eagles couldn’t just fly the Ring to Mordor. In terms of LOTR LCG, Eagles formed one of the early viable deck archetypes, being fleshed out […]

  15. T.Frings says:

    The whole idea of the journey was to take the ring to Mordor under Sauron’s nose. Hence, the point was to get to Mount Doom without Sauron noticing. An enormous eagle bearing the ring (which we don’t even know how tempted it would be if they were in possession of it, and you’d probably have to to tell them what exactly they’re carrying since Mount Doom’s no walk in the park) would probably get noticed by Sauron and his forces pretty quick.

    • Trike says:

      I rather doubt that. Early on Legolas mentions he can barely see an eagle flying overhead and Aragorn remarks that the eagle must be very high indeed since he can’t see it with his excellent eyesight.

      Also, the whole point of the armies making a feint in another part of the border is to distract Sauron from seeing the company sneaking in the backdoor. That distraction would work just as well with eagles flying overhead, since Tolkien specifically says Sauron can’t see everywhere at once. If Frodo can manage to keep the ring off his finger for 15 minutes, he won’t draw Sauron’s gaze.

      If Sauron takes over Middle Earth, he’ll eventually get to the eagles, so they should be just as invested in stopping him, so there’s motivation.

      It’s not like the eagles have to fly right up to the lip of the volcano: they just need to get Frodo into Mordor and he can hoof it from there. The story would be different from the one we’re familiar with, but it would still be pretty amazing because the core would still exist.

      • Eldorion says:

        I don’t think Sauron personally seeing the Eagles is the biggest concern. There are plenty of scouts and guards in Mordor, including the winged Nazgul. And while the Eagles could have flown far overhead for part of the trip, it would have been harder to do so and evade enemy eyes while crossing the mountains of Mordor and on descent to approach Mount Doom. (I’m not sure what the use of the Eagles would be if they only got Frodo into Mordor and then let him walk on his own, as that last part is the riskiest section of the journey.)

  16. dfgdfgfdg says:

    here’s a thought, why didnt the elves just put the ring on that ship they were sending the other elves to the undying lands with, sail it out to sea, and chuck the ring in the middle of the goddamn ocean?

    • Eldorion says:

      Those are both worthwhile suggestions, and ones that Tolkien thought were important enough to address in the book (something he did not do with the Eagle idea). The reasons the characters give for shooting down those ideas in the book are that the Valar would not allow the Ring into the Undying Lands, and that there was no guarantee that Sauron might not find a way to recover the Ring even from the bottom of the Ocean in the far future. It’s also worth noting that even without the Ring, Sauron was on the verge of conquering all of Middle-earth. He would have been even worse with the Ring, but the only way to stop him was to break his power by destroying the Ring, not just by continuing to hide it. The free peoples were no longer strong enough — and Sauron had spend too long preparing — for them to win a full war against him.

    • Yousuf Khan says:

      Gandalf said in the council of Elrond that the problem wouldn’t be solved, it was their problem to deal with and the lands change, the sea couldn’t hide the ring forever

  17. […] paleontology fans squeal (proudly, might I add).  Gandalf has giant freaking falcons which, no, he couldn’t have just ridden all the way to fuckin’ Mordor on. Various lions, tigers, and bears have been valiantly conquered all in the sake of evidently […]

  18. Although being a common question as to why this didn’t occur, if anybody had read The Hobbit they would know that the eagles specified to Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves that they would not fly too close to danger which is the precise reason why they didn’t just ride the eagles to the mountain. So to answer the question in simple terms, they didn’t just fly to Mordor on the eagles to destroy the ring because the Eagles wouldn’t have taken them there if they knew there was danger.

  19. greg says:

    Note the eagles didn’t show up in the movie at mount doom until after the tower and the eyebof sarun had been destroyed It points to reason that they could not get close to the mountain until the eye was gone

  20. Asddddd6 says:

    Why not just take all the eagles and a dwarf so not all the eagles get shot

  21. Asddddd6 says:

    And why is/are

    1.the eagles willing to fly to mordor to fight fell beasts at the black gate
    Plenty of Orc archers there

    2.the eagles willing to fly to erebor for the battle of the five armies

    The two places they refused to go when asked

    And why does gwahir randomly appear and is willing to take Gandalf anywhere he wishes from moria/isenguard

    And why do the eagles set them down on the carrock

    I personally think the eagles are stuffed up

    • Eldorion says:

      Thanks for commeting! To respond to your points sequentially:

      1. The Eagles made the decision to intervene in those two wars on their own, weighing the pros and cons before taking any action. In The Hobbit, they judged the risks of war to be worth the chance to destroy the goblins of the Misty Mountains and secure the Eagles’ dominance there (the two had a long rivalry). In LOTR, they decided to lend their strength to the war effort once it got underway, but previously they had been taking a more limited role. Note that no one asked them about flying people to Mordor, however, because that was contradictory to the strategy decided on at the Council of Elrond.

      2. Radagast asked some of the Eagles to assist him with his intelligence-gathering activities, and Gwaihir agreed to bring Radagast’s reports to Saruman. Once there, he happened to find Gandalf held prisoner and rescued him because it was the right thing to do. He specifically said that he wouldn’t carry Gandalf too far, though, because he had signed up to carry messages, not passengers.

      3. The Carrock is described in the book as “a great rock, almost a hill of stone” with a flat top. The idea of it as a giant, carved spire of rock stretching hundreds of feet into the air is a visual flourish created solely by PJ and his design team. The Eagles leaving the Company on top of the Carrock was no inconvenience in the book.

  22. Wingates says:

    All comments aside, I still think it’s more risky to send two hobbits on foot, into Mordor. The Eagles could have deployed any kind of strategy to distract Sauron. They also could fly low to avoid detection, and they could have sealed the ring inside som kind of vessel so that no-one would need to possess it.

    Lord of the Rings is very beautiful and imaginative, but this is a massive plothole.

    One wonders why elves with thousands of years of experience in military tactics would be unable to device a simple false flag operation.

    I mean come on. There must be a million ways to distract Sauron, while the eagles do their air-raid.

    • Eldorion says:

      The fact is, we don’t know what the initial plan for destroying the Ring was before Gandalf’s (temporary) death in Moria. However, it was almost certainly not to send two Hobbits alone into Mordor. That happened not only because of Gandalf’s unexpected separation from the Company, but also Boromir succumbing to temptation and Frodo making the decision to strike out on his own.

      It’s worth noting that Sauron still had massive forces in Mordor even after he had sent out two sizable hosts (one from the Black Gate and one from Minas Morgul) to crush Minas Tirith and proceed to overrun Gondor. He planned to win most of the war with this force, but he still kept the better part of his strength with him. It’s hard to imagine he’d even need as many troops to deflect an attack by the Eldar, who have been dwindling for thousands of years as more and more of their kind leave Middle-earth for the Undying Lands. Keep in mind that the risk is not so much Sauron personally spotting the intruders (he’s not a lighthouse in the book, remember), but some of his forces figuring out what’s going on and sounding the alarm.

      Also, the Ring was a massively powerful and malignant magical object, and even when you weren’t wearing it regularly it still exerted its influence on you, particularly in Mordor and *especially* at the Sammath Naur, where its power was all but irresistible. Sealing it in a jar or something wouldn’t negate that power.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  23. Zora says:

    I think that among some of the respondents to this thread the question of the eagles may be wrongly predicated. To describe it as a ‘plot hole’ suggests to me that Tolkien hadn’t thought of it and, had someone brought it to his attention at the time it would have been a forehead-slapping ‘D’oh!’ moment. Whether readers (or watchers of the new films) care for the plot direction or not, it was something about which the author was aware and made a conscious choice.

    Thematically the stories are about small people taking a series of small actions that have the compound effect of imbuing what good there is into this world. That is clearly the story the man wanted to write. Consider also the complementary theme of ‘power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely’, as it were. Comparative examples can be seen among the strong characters who also had wisdom. Gandalf, Galadriel, and (book version) Faramir—all powerful and/or politically well placed to use the ring—are each given an opportunity to take possession of the ring and all actively refuse it on the premise that the combination of their power and its corrupting influence would be devastating. The same can be projected onto the case of the eagles.

    Frodo, for example, makes it all the way to Mt. Doom with the intention of destroying the ring, then claims it for his own at the last minute; the fact that he was small made his corruption ‘overcomeable’. Imagine the same happening to the king of the eagles?

  24. Toby Gjertsen says:

    In my eyes the eagles have always represented God. In religion people see life to be a test, a test to get into heaven. Bilbo’s test was helping those understand that greed is wrong because you cant take wealth into the afterlife. As the Dwarves lived in solitude, hidden from God’s eyes consumed by gold and wealth. Frodo’s test was to show people that power and greed will lead to the downfall of all life. Both Bilbo and Frodo passed their tests so they were able to pass into heaven.
    The entrance to heaven would be the boat journey over the Horizon with the Elves, which are Angels amongst the earth, which would also explain why they could live forever in middle earth with the help of the everstars.
    So if the eagle were to simply fly the ring to mount doom, what would be the point in life?

    I am NOT religious though.

  25. […] to the logistical difficulties that an eagle flight to the Crack of Doom would actually have faced. Here you can find a cute video of what an eagle flight to Mordor might have looked like, and then a […]

  26. Yousuf Khan says:

    The Eagles would have been shot down by orc archers and Haradrim, and they would be too scared to go unless they were ordered. It would have failed because of being shot down, getting attacked by the Nazgul on fellbeasts, the eye of Sauron is every watchful. Also how would they keep the journey secret when Sauron and Saruman had so many spies.

  27. rasyidkrm says:

    I believe secrecy is not the right answer. The main reason why the eagles did not easily carry the fellowship of the ring to mount doom is because they are proud or arrogant to be bothered with anything happening on the middle earth. They are not some wild animals tamed by gandalf, they are actually a a godlike creature with a monarchy, hence there is a grand king eagle as well. The reason why Gandalf flew in with the bird twice is because the eagles owed a favour to Gandalf when he saved them as mithrandir.

    • Eldorion says:

      I know that this is a common argument in response to criticisms of the Eagles’ role in the story, but I do not personally find it to be the most convincing one, which is why I did not include in my post. While you are absolutely correct that the Eagles were not merely wild animals, it is not clear whether or not they would have refused to help in the Quest if they had been asked to, and there’s not really any reason not to ask if the Eagles could have assisted the Council’s aims. Certainly the Eagles and the Orcs had a long-standing feud and when so many races (including the Ents) got involved in the fight against Sauron, the idea that the Eagles would have refused point blank sort of makes them look like assholes (and they had already agreed to help Radagast keep an eye on the situation in Wilderland anyway, though surveillance and transportation are of course two different things). Some people have argued that the Eagles would have refused because they were servants of Manwe and the Valar wouldn’t take direct action against Sauron, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case since the Eagles chose to intervene against Sauron later in the War of the Ring anyway.

  28. benson says:

    The nazgul also have their fellbeasts (dragons) that can attack the eagles.

  29. Ah? says:

    The eagles are not fucking taxis.

  30. 42jumpstreet says:

    Actually, that was the plan. Remember when Gandalf took them over the mountain where saramon attacked? Well, that was far north, where the Eagles lived. Gandalf did not want anybody to learn about the plan, especially sauron, as it would have risked the plan. Remember when Gandalf fell, fighting balrog? He didn’t say anything like, “Run!”, or anything like that, he said, “Fly, you fools”, giving a subtle hint to go to the Eagles. When they found the new and improved Gandalf, they were too close to Mordor and too far to utilize the Eagles, so it was pointless. Question, resolved

    • Eldorion says:

      I’m aware of this theory, but it falls short on a couple of levels (assuming it’s intended to be taken seriously in the first place). First, the Fellowship attempted to cross the Misty Mountains through the Redhorn Pass (aka “the pass of Caradhras”, as seen in Fellowship), whereas the Eagles lived near the High Pass (the one seen in The Hobbit). The Fellowship had traveled a considerable distance south from Rivendell — away from the Eagles — before they attempted to cross the mountains. Second, Tolkien used the word “fly” in the sense of running multiple times in his writing, and it makes no sense that Gandalf would have been so vague if his plan for the quest was at stake.

  31. OK says:

    Thank you for trying, but there were so many other possible failures in LOTR going on foot that the eagle explanation still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Think about how many times Frodo almost died. Hell, the spider alone!

    But you did manage to convince me when it comes to the Hobbit. I really love ALL the movies but the eagles have always confused me. At least the Hobbit makes a little more sense now. I honestly don’t care if it’s different from the books. They are both enjoyable in their own right! :)

    • zollolord says:

      Using the Eagles was actually part of Gandolf’s plan, although we don’t know how much he intended to use them. Gandolf didn’t tell anyone about this plan which is why, in the movie, Gandolf says “fly you fools,” before falling into the depths fighting the balrog. He was trying to tell them to go to the eagles, but they did not get the message and so they went on foot for a much longer and harder, although better, story.

  32. ernesto says:

    i think that the will of the eagles as it is said is not bound to the purpose of any of those quests, simply because they come from the valar, so for that reason they would have not even done it even if they were asked, and one does not simply fly into mordor.

  33. Randy Jamison says:

    Boots on the ground.

  34. Hastings says:

    Thanks for this awesome thread! I never read JRR. Regardless of Tolkein’s reasons you fully explain above, eagles were a HUGE PLOT HOLE in all FILMS, as Peter Jackson never once bothered to explain any of Tolkein’s reasons: That the eagles were ambitious enough to steal the ring for their kingdom, that Mount Doom volcano lava was enclosed in a cavern where eagles could not dare to fly, that eagles were a sovereign nation like Switzerland that chose neutrality in the Middle Earth War, that eagles were frightened of archers and nazgul dragons and Sauron’s eye searchlight, so the only time eagles would risk a flight to Mordor would be after the Eye was destroyed, and then only because they owed Gandalf a huge lifesaving favor.

    All that makes sense, but too complex for a film audience to realize without explanation in any film script. When the audience sees our heroes battling cave demons and spiders and orcs to the death, it is natural to think it insane to put the fate of the world into the hands of one little barefoot hobbitt who has never before left the Shire. Then when we see eagles fly to Mount Doom to rescue Frodo and Sam, anyone in the audience with imagination would inevitably start thinking as I did, “hey wait a second, why didn’t eagles…?!?!”

    • Eldorion says:

      Thanks for your in-depth comment! I agree that there are many points where confusion arises from PJ’s changes and/or simplifications to the source material. However, I’m not sure that’s the case here, as Tolkien doesn’t address the Eagle issue one way or another and any explanation has to be pieced together from other information.* I think the films give us enough to see this; the significance of the Crack of Doom as opposed to the caldera might not be mentioned, but the need for secrecy and the danger of the winged Nazgul are both emphasized repeatedly. That said, the films definitely emphasize the action and war movie** aspects more than the books, particularly with the emphasis given to Aragorn, so you raise an interesting question regarding whether the thematic significance of Frodo being the one to carry the Ring came through. I tend to think it did (even if it was sometimes clumsy, eg “even the smallest person can change the course of the future”), but since I read the book it’s hard for me to totally separate that from my interpretation of the films.

      *It’s an open question whether the Eagles would have been tempted by the Ring (or even could have worn it). For what it’s worth, Tolkien made a comment in (IIRC) the Letters that no one could have destroyed the Ring while at the Crack of Doom. Also, I personally don’t think the book really provides evidence that the Eagles were neutral during LOTR, but I recognize that I’m in the minority here.

      **I deliberately say “war movie” rather than “military” since the military aspects of the story (along with history and geography) are handled much better in the book. My point is rather that the films give such elements a larger role in the story, regardless of quality or realism.

  35. Sebastian Black says:

    Lord of the rings do not work
    -Bilbo was the only child of Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins
    -Therefore Bilbo doesn’t have any siblings
    -This means that Bilbo can’t have any nephews and nieces
    -Frodo therefore cannot excised, as he is described as Bilbo’s nephew (Frodo Baggins)

    • Eldorion says:

      As you likely know already, Frodo and Bilbo were actually second cousins once removed on the Baggins side (like all upper class Hobbits, they were related in numerous different ways through different families). They called each other uncle and nephew for ease and because of the age difference between them. However, the very first page of LOTR refers to Frodo as one of Bilbo’s “younger cousins”.

  36. Miles Fish says:

    I can think of a rational reason that does not include narrative (it wouldn’t have made a good story) or speculation on Eagles functions (such as “they’re not at anyone’s beck and call”).

    Eagles aren’t like supersonic jets. They are faster than going on foot. But not that fast. They get exhasted like any other animal that has to carry a passenger. And that’s not really what birds were built for in the real world (birds have very light bones). Passengers would surely slow them down significantly. While they could do short term transport, such as rescues, having a passenger on your back while trying to fly for hundreds of miles would be a backbreaking job. That would not only slow them down, but it would also decrease their altitude, making them somewhat vulnerable to spies (if not arrow attacks).

    Unlike in the modern world, flying in Middle Earth, while very effective in getting to inaccessable places (such as mountaintops), doesn’t have all the advantages of modern day tactics: very high altitude (as in over 500 feet), stealth, and speed. Going past a certain speed would be very dangerous for the passengers. Also, for navigational purposes, flying at night is definitely out of the question.

  37. […] Given that this is arguably the second-longest running argument in geek culture (behind only “Why didn’t the Fellowship ride the Eagles to Mount Doom?”), this was a major […]

  38. Scott Jones says:

    First off, thanks for this write up. I enjoyed the read as well as the comments.

    But one thing had always bugged me about the “Anti-eagles” theories, and (big surprise) it has to do with the Silmarillion. More specifically the role of Thorondor, the Lord of the Eagles, whom did many great services to the eldar in the first age. He aided in the rescue of Maedhros from Thangorodrim, he saved Fingolfin’s body from being defiled by the Enemy (and in doing so left a scar on Morgoth’s face) in Angbond, and plays a great part in the tale of Beren and Luthien. He also, with a host of other Eagles, did battle with dragons along side Earendil in the War of Wrath. He may have even done battle with Ancalagon, the greatest of all dragons to exist.

    So, I kinda just don’t buy that idea that the Eagles were afraid of the Nazgul’s fell beasts (who weren’t quite even dragons). Now, of course Thorondor was said to have a wingspan of 30 fathoms, which definitely makes him the largest of all of the eagles, and yeah I doubt any eagles after him held such enormous stature, power, or wingspan, but what it does demonstrate is that the Eagles weren’t “too proud to meddle in middle-earth affairs.” That viewpoint, IMO, comes from the idea that the Eagles were inherently (at least at their creation) servants of Manwe, and as anyone who read the Silmarillion knows, Manwe was the one who didn’t like meddling in the affairs of middle-earth, even though Manwe had seen the Music of the Anuir, and knew the mind of Eru.

    Now, with all that being said, you can’t tell me that those Eagles in the third age didn’t know of their Ancestor’s might, and how at least historically the Eagles had helped the elves, and given how in-tuned with nature some of the elves were and also given Elrond would have been alive to have potentially met Thorondor himself, a simple question lingers in my mind: Why weren’t they invited to the council of rivendell?

    Treebeard and the Ents go to war, the Hobbits even have their small share of battle (and play into the demise of Grima Wormtongue), and even the elves honor the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. So why no eagles? You’d think they’d have already been forced to confront the enemy at some point, especially given that they were allegedly helping Radagast run errands or whatever.

    I’ve always thought there was a more specific reason why they didn’t use the Eagles, and honestly, the most logical point to draw would be: Manwe forbade it. Because by the time we get to the thick of the Quenta Silmarillion, Manwe seems pretty eager to not want to do battle with Morgoth directly. Its only after things escalate and Earendil plead with the Valar, did Manwe even allow the War of Wrath to take place.

    Tolkien was methodical, tedious, and deliberate. If the Eagles did not fly the Fellowship to Mount Doom, it was on purpose. There had to be a reason. I’m convinced its somewhere in the source material, but I have yet to see a very convincing argument, ya know?

    And yes, I did kinda just copypasta the Tolkien gateway page about Thorondor to post this, but I’m eager to hear the OP’s thoughts on this. (I do see that you frequently reply to comments). I’m honestly a bit surprised that more people haven’t mentioned the Silmarillion in the comments here.

    • Eldorion says:

      First of all, thanks for the thoughtful comment, Scott! There’s a lot to discuss here. As I’ve mentioned in previous comments on this page, I don’t subscribe to the theory that the Eagles were not permitted to assist in the fight against Mordor, mainly because they *do* assist in that fight in a number of ways. They fight directly against Sauron’s forces at the Battle of the Black Gate.

      My thoughts on why the Eagles didn’t fit into the Council’s plan are outlined in the main post and I still stand by that. I agree that the Eagles of the Third Age would not have been comparable in size or strength to Thorondor. However, whether they could have beaten the “fell beasts” in an aerial battle is somewhat beside the point. The idea of the Quest was to keep the Ringbearer away from battles as much as possible, by relying on stealth.

      All of Tolkien’s comments about the Eagle question that I am aware of address the issue from a story-external perspective. He discusses the role of the Eagles as a literary device and how their overuse would diminish the story’s quality, but he doesn’t give an explicit story-internal answer.

      You raise an interesting point regarding why the Eagles weren’t at the Council. It’s not one that I’ve heard raised before, which is a somewhat unusual thing for me, so I’m glad you mentioned it. :) Ultimately though I think it highlights a difference between the books and the films. In PJ’s version people from around Middle-earth were summoned to Rivendell for the purpose of attending the Council. In the book, it was more of an ad hoc affair. Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn arrived as part of the nascent Ring quest, but Gimli and Gloin were sent by Dain to inform Bilbo that the Enemy was aware of him, Boromir rode north because of his prophetic dream, and Legolas was carrying a message from his father about Gollum’s escape. None of them had received invitations. Most of the other attendees were residents of Rivendell, with the exception of Galdor of the Havens, who was stated to have just happened to be in Rivendell at the time because he was on a mission for Cirdan.

  39. I think using Eagles might have been Gandalf’s plan all along though once he got to the other side of the Misty Mountains. It seems very unlikely he intended for it to happen the way it did.

  40. kolimitra says:

    A lot of the answers seem valid to me. As someone pointed out already, the eagles are as susceptible to the corrupting power of the ring as anyone. I also agree that an eagle in flight would be too visible to Sauron. Also, if the ring slipped off it would fly hundreds of miles away and be impossible to find again. But most importantly, I think the question itself misses a key point. The eagles are not slaves to be commanded. They are a race unto themselves. They have a power structure and language and thoughts. They might come and help out friends once in a while (as they did, as a favor to Gandalf, to whom they were indebted) but you can’t just tell them to risk their lives to take the ring of power to Mordor. You might as well ask “why didn’t Elrond take it…” “why didn’t Arwen take it…” “why didn’t so and so take it….” It’s a burden you can’t just impose on someone. Frodo volunteered to take it. The fellowship volunteered to go with him. The Eagles didn’t volunteer to undertake this task.

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