I`m Gwaihir: fly me

Riddle me this, Tolkienisti. After the Council of Elrond, when it had been decided that Frodo would take the Ring to Mt Doom and throw it in, why did Gandalf not just summon an Eagle to fly him there - bada bing, bada boom. Surely this would have meant a lot less aggravation for all concerned, if a considerably shorter book. Or did the Eagles only have non-smoking flights?

This is a frequently discussed question. The obvious answer, that it wouldn’t be much of a story then, doesn’t serve here. Otherwise, there are several possible responses.

  1. The eagles were not under Gandalf’s control. In the Hobbit, they were attracted to the fir wood by the fire and commotion, and the Battle of Five Armies by the din and hue of war. Gandalf is rescued from Orthanc by an eagle who journeyed there at Radagast’s request and later from the top of Zirak-zigil perhaps at Manwe’s request.

  2. Assuming that Gandalf did not know of the airborne Nazgul, Sauron did nonetheless have spies in the air in the form of crows, etc. The Ringwraiths were abroad and were capable of sensing the Ring. A flight of eagles bearing Frodo and the Ring would eventually be detected before reaching Mordor. The eagles could not fly the whole way at once so there was danger of assault during a rest stop and again when the eagles reached Mordor.

  3. Gandalf knew of the Nazgul, or suspected that Mordor was otherwise protected from intrusion via the air. A flight of eagles would have been very open and obvious as it approached Mordor.

  4. The eagles could not carry such a burden over such a distance or they would not do so. Also, the eagles were only nominal allies; the Hobbit notes that some are not trustworthy.

  5. Even if the Eagles could have flown Frodo to the entryway of Orodruin, the quest still would have failed. Frodo, unprepared and untempered by his journey, would certainly have claimed the Ring rather than casting it into the fire, and without Gollum along, there is no doubt as to the eventual outcome of that scenario. JRRT hints in Letters that if Gollum had not caused the Ring’s destruction in the way that he did, Frodo might have had a moment of clarity after claiming the Ring where he could have thrown himself (and it) into fire for a suicidal victory, but I’d venture to say that an untested Frodo would not have been able to accomplish that. The journey was necessary, and Gandalf’s foresight that Gollum would play a pivotal role at the end turned out to be true.
    So now you know. :wink:

Still, though, provided the Elves could find some Eagles that were “on call”, as it were (willing to help), the Eagles could at least have carried people over the Misty Mountains, without having to trouble in Moria. Of course, then Gollum would never have picked up the trail and the quest would still have failed, but how were the people at the Council to know that?

That’s the problem with deus ex machina literary devices: they always create more plot problems than they fix.

The Elves don’t control the Eagles either. The Eagles are not “on call” to serve people. They are not “Middle-Earth Taxis”. Eagles have carried people on their backs in only a very few special circumstances, and over very short distances. Flying from Rivendell to Mount Doom is not in the cards.

Sorry no Deus Ex Machina here my friend. For that you’ll have to pick up a Star Wars book. :wink:

Ummmm…actually, if you recall, in LotR the eagles were a Deus Ex Machina.

Keep in mind also that Sauron knows there are giant eagles in the world, and he knows they are sometimes allied with his enemies. With this in mind, he almost certainly has some sort of aerial defence to shoot down in-coming fliers. Giant ballistas, powerful spells, his own species of flying monsters, or whatever.

One of the themes of the choice of the hobbits to be the Ringbearers is that they were unknown to Sauron, small and easily passed over. The Council knew that Sauron had all sorts of nasty things at his command, and was a evilly smart being. Sauron would have anticipated the obvious challenges - so the Council went with the stealthy, unexpected approach. It’s the stealth and the unknown that does the trick:

Um, yes, I’m kind of a Tolkien geek, but…

is it just me, or does this thread title seem sort of, well, um, erotic or something?

I mean, if I had a girlfriend who said that, in the right circumstances, that’d be quite a turn on…

then again, maybe this is why I don’t have a girlfriend.

Then again, maybe by posting this I’m preventing myself from ever being a candidate for president.