Tolkien fact 28 – (Do Not) Mount Up on Wings Like Eagles

[Originally posted on March 30th, 2015]

Anyone who is familiar with LotR has probably heard of the infamous Eagle “plot hole:” the one that says “So, like, why didn’t they just put Frodo on an Eagle and drop the ring in the volcano thing in like 5 minutes?”
There are many aspects to consider in this topic and once these are all taken into account I feel like only the misinformed could be duped by this supposed discrepancy. Pages could be (and have been) written about these different counter points, but I’ll be brief here:

  • The Eagles were free and noble and not under any obligation to help the peoples of Middle-earth. Any interference during the War of the Ring or prior events was either the result of their own hatred of orcs or conspiring with Radagast over small matters.
  • The Eagles were the servants of Manwë, Lord of the Valar and thus were not supposed to directly intervene in the opposition of Sauron.
  • Even one Eagle flying into Mordor would be very obvious and they would not have contested the Nazgul while the Witch-king was still in power.

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider is the one Tolkien addressed himself. He saw it as strictly a story-telling concern and said this about it:

“The Eagles are a dangerous ‘machine’. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness.”

While Tolkien wasn’t a perfect man and there are doubtlessly errors in his work, one of this caliber is not something he would just overlook easily. He was aware of his story-telling devices and the limits of their usefulness.


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