The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by malickfan on Fri Jun 12, 2015 5:20 pm

Congratulations Eldo Smile

though I always liked Tolkien's own explanation/admission that they were a 'dangerous machine' i.e its rather convinient and you should probably just ignore them Laughing

After all it wouldn't be much of a story otherwise.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:22 pm

halfwise wrote:I think the question of secrecy has never been broached by anyone else writing about the eagles; very good point.

Seeing Jackson's Eagle rescue scene reminds me just how unrealistic he made it appear.  Annoying.

Thanks Halfy. I feel like a lot of the defenses of the Eagles are pretty weak. I've had people criticize my post for not saying "b-b-buh the Eagles aren't a taxi service!" Like, everyone knows this already? You don't have to be a taxi service to be willing to play a part in a war against the evil conqueror dude nearby. I had a long debate with a couple people on here about whether the Eagles were prohibited by Manwe from getting involved. It ended somewhat inconclusively, but my feeling is that Tolkien never stated whether or not the Eagles of the Third Age had restrictions placed on them (they are presumably many generations removed from Thorondor by now) and their willingness to get involved on their own terms at the Battle of Five Armies and at the Morannon implies they are allowed to make their own decisions.

Some people argue against the secrecy idea too, and while I certainly welcome criticism, I haven't been convinced by any of it. The Eagles couldn't have flown at their maximum altitude because they'd have to be carrying people who could enter the Crack of Doom (just dropping the Ring in the caldera wouldn't cut it). One argument is that there weren't enough Nazgul to patrol the skies all over Mordor, and while there is a point here, it still seems to me that flying would stick out much more than trying to blend in with the tens (or hundreds) of thousands milling around on the ground in Mordor. That said, we don't know exactly what Gandalf's plan for getting into Mordor was (though it was definitely not taking the Eagles, despite the meme that "fly, you fools" meant "go fly on the Eagles").

Pettytyrant101 wrote:Been awhile since I checked your blog Edlo- you got a link to Forumshre on it? As it occurs that anyone responding on Tolkien matters on a blog might be just the sort to find somewhere like Forumshire worth a visit Nod

There are several links to here, yeah. The vast majority of people who view the Eagle page never click any further, though. Most of the visits are from search engines (some variant of "why didn't they take the Eagles?") or links on forums/blogs by people who presumably made similar searches.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:28 pm

Tinuviel wrote:Well congrats Eldo! That's cool that so many people have gone to you to have that infamous question answered Thumbs Up

Thanks Tin! Smile It was actually a post of yours back on the old forum that inspired me to go find the original TORn post and polish it up.  IIRC that same post included some speculation about how things might have gone down if the Eagle plan had succeeded, which inspired me to type up some notes for a fanfic of that situation, but the fic idea never amounted to anything. Razz

malickfan wrote:Congratulations Eldo Smile

though I always liked Tolkien's own explanation/admission that they were a 'dangerous machine' i.e its rather convinient and you should probably just ignore them Laughing

After all it wouldn't be much of a story otherwise.

Thanks. ^_^ Tolkien's explanation is certainly the most obvious reason why the Eagles weren't used, and is undoubtedly why he wrote their role the way he did.  But for those of us who like to engage with the setting on its own terms and explore it as a "real" Secondary World, the function of the Eagles as a plot element is irrelevant.  And frankly, it's not much of a rebuttal to the accusation of the Eagles being a plot hole either.  More like a concession.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Jun 12, 2015 7:55 pm

their willingness to get involved on their own terms at the Battle of Five Armies and at the Morannon implies they are allowed to make their own decisions.- Eldo

But was it? In both cases they were helping out Gandalf. In the first cases in TH directly- and we are told in return for a favour- so doesn't seem to me the eagles were making big decisions there, or saw it as one of global consequence they were aware of.
Their appearance at the battle is more decisive and politic changing, but again the common factor is Gandalf's presence.
In LotR's its the eagles bear Gandalf from atop Moria to Lothlorien, but notably they don't then ferry him to here he wants to be, he has to get a horse.

Gandalf seems to me to be the common factor however in when they choose to act, and Gandalf was chosen by Manwe, and the eagles are the heralds of Manwe.
So I'm not so sure its a non interference policy so much as a 'you can help out Gandalf if he needs it or asks, and if you want to' policy.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:06 pm

In the case of the Last Battle I'm not sure how they'd know Gandalf was there. They do seem to be attracted to battles for some reason.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:09 pm

Where else would he be?

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:22 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:But was it? In both cases they were helping out Gandalf. In the first cases in TH directly- and we are told in return for a favour- so doesn't seem to me the eagles were making big decisions there, or saw it as one of global consequence they were aware of.
Their appearance at the battle is more decisive and politic changing, but again the common factor is Gandalf's presence.

Yes, the Eagles saved Gandalf and co. from the goblins in return for a favor.  They got involved in the Battle of Five Armies more as a way of sticking it to the orcs with whom they had an ongoing struggle for control of the Misty Mountains.  In the chapter "The Return Journey" we are told that "[t]he Eagles had long had suspicions of the goblins' mustering; from their watchfulness the movements in the mountains could not be altogether hid. So they too had gathered in great numbers, under the great Eagle of the Misty Mountains; and at length smelling battle from afar they had come speeding down the gale in the nick of time."  I don't see anything in the text to imply that Gandalf was really a relevant factor to their decision to get involved there.

In LotR's its the eagles bear Gandalf from atop Moria to Lothlorien, but notably they don't then ferry him to here he wants to be, he has to get a horse.
Gandalf seems to me to be the common factor however in when they choose to act, and Gandalf was chosen by Manwe, and the eagles are the heralds of Manwe.
So I'm not so sure its a non interference policy so much as a 'you can help out Gandalf if he needs it or asks, and if you want to' policy.

I think it's important to note that both instances of Gandalf being rescued by Eagle early in LOTR were instigated by someone else.  An Eagle only comes to Isengard because they'd agreed to be part of Radagast's animal intelligence network.  They rescue Gandalf just cause it's the right thing to do, so clearly not a taxi service, but still taking initiative on their own.  But the important thing is that they'd already clearly picked sides by working with Radagast in the struggle against Sauron, even if it was in a minor, non-combatant role.  More significantly, when Gwaihir again rescues Gandalf from the peaks above Moria, he states that he was "sent" by Galadriel, who gave him a "command" (Gwaihir's words) to bring Gandalf back to Lorien.

There's no evidence in LOTR that the Eagles were required to be impartial or had restrictions placed on how they could throw in their lot.  You have to go to The Silmarillion or UT (set thousands of years earlier) to find evidence of that.  But there is a fair bit of evidence in LOTR that the Eagles, at least those around in the Third Age, are willing to ally with the Free Peoples and even place themselves in relatively subordinate positions in the overall "command structure" if they are asked to.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Fri Jun 12, 2015 8:56 pm

That Gwaihir would admit to accepting a command from Galadriel is telling. I can see her strongly suggesting that they should check out what was going on outside Mordor. Hell of a long distance, I can't imagine them making the trip without some outside persuasion.

Staying away from Minas Tirith makes sense: that was too damn big a fight.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:25 pm

I don't think the English word command really sums up what she did. Maybe there isn't a word to describe the type of influence she would have. Command implies something military, something between master and servant, officer and foot soldier. I think Tolkien used that word because there isn't an alternative one but I don't think she gave orders to a subservient creature. She was other to conventional power structures so I don't like that word really.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Sat Jun 13, 2015 12:48 pm

Maybe 'instruct' would be better?

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Mrs Figg on Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:07 pm

yep that's better. But that implies the Eagles were taught or told to do something. I really cant think of the exact word in the English language that could cover what I mean. and I cant really explain what I mean. scratch maybe she inspired them to do something for her. or persuaded.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Radaghast on Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:09 pm

Eldorion wrote:I hope you'll forgive the self-aggrandizement, but I just noticed (while working on an update to the "Where in the world is Forumshire?" map) that as of yesterday (June 11), my posts about the Eagles on my blog have been viewed more than 100,000 times.  Considering that it's just a polished version of a post I made on TORn five years ago and has never been officially promoted by myself or anyone else, I'm rather proud of its views and its prominent Google (and Bing) ranking for a myriad of Eagle related searches.

http://eldorion.com/lore/eagles/
http://eldorion.com/2013/06/24/why-didnt-the-eagles-fly-the-dwarves-to-the-lonely-mountain/

That said, it's really weird to think that that post is probably my single most enduring contribution to the world of Tolkien fandom, especially since I originally made that site as a home for my essays on purism, which have languished in (probably deserved) obscurity.  Of course, Foumshire as a whole utterly dwarfs my blog in terms of traffic, which is only proper since I never update that thing. Razz
Bravo!

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Radaghast on Sat Jun 13, 2015 3:50 pm

Eldorion wrote:One argument is that there weren't enough Nazgul to patrol the skies all over Mordor, and while there is a point here, it still seems to me that flying would stick out much more than trying to blend in with the tens (or hundreds) of thousands milling around on the ground in Mordor.
Also, lots of crows and things that could fly back and report the sight of a giant eagle carrying passengers on the way to Mordor.
That said, we don't know exactly what Gandalf's plan for getting into Mordor was (though it was definitely not taking the Eagles, despite the meme that "fly, you fools" meant "go fly on the Eagles").
He was winging it (no pun intended) the whole way, expecting that a way would be found through divine providence.[/quote]

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:03 am

Mrs Figg wrote:I don't think the English word command really sums up what she did. Maybe there isn't a word to describe the type of influence she would have. Command implies something military, something between master and servant, officer and foot soldier. I  think Tolkien used that word because there isn't an alternative one but I don't think she gave orders to a subservient creature. She was other to conventional power structures so I don't like that word really.

I dunno that we can really draw any conclusions from the text about exactly what went down between Galadriel and Gwaihir. I get what you say about her being outside of conventional power structures, and it certainly feels strange to imagine her as a field general, but she presumably has to make exceptions to get involved in stuff like the campaign against Dol Guldur (which involved more than three individuals). And while the Eagles aren't Galadriel's servants or subjects, I don't think that's incompatible with the notion that those who volunteered for the anti-Sauron effort would be willing to take orders from (or "listen to" if you prefer) the most senior figures in said movement.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:06 am

Thanks Raddy! Smile

Radaghast wrote:Also, lots of crows and things that could fly back and report the sight of a giant eagle carrying passengers on the way to Mordor.

Very good point.

He was winging it (no pun intended) the whole way, expecting that a way would be found through divine providence.

Well when you put it like that... Laughing That does seem like the most likely explanation. Perhaps it could be more charitably framed as Gandalf was waiting to see what the exact situation on the ground was (as well as listening for any potential Valarian or Eruvian help) and thus didn't want to lock himself or the Fellowship in to any specific path before it was necessary. That's sorta what they did when trying to figure out to cross the Misty Mountains in FOTR.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:00 am

The correct replacement word for Galadriel's 'command' to the eagles is 'request'. Or perhaps 'bidding'.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:32 am

Is this an instance of some old, now obscure alternate meaning of the word?  'Cause I'm skeptical of reading too much into the text just because it doesn't agree with common assumptions.  Here's the "command" line in context in case you guys see something there that I'm missing:

The Two Towers, III, The White Rider wrote:'"Ever am I fated to be your burden, friend at need," I said.

'"A burden you have been," he answered, "but not so now. Light as a swan's feather in my claw you are. The Sun shines through you. Indeed I do not think you need me any more: were I to let you fall you would float upon the wind."

'"Do not let me fall!" I gasped, for I felt life in me again. "Bear me to Lothlorien!"

'"That indeed is the command of the Lady Galadriel who sent me to look for you," he answered.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:40 am

The question was whether the eagles, especially Gwaihir the windlord, would really accept a command, which indicates subservience. I think 'bidding' would fit.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by David H on Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:54 am

Eldorion wrote:

The Two Towers, III, The White Rider wrote:
"Bear me to Lothlorien!"

'"That indeed is the command of the Lady Galadriel who sent me to look for you," he answered.

In that context, it seems to me that the word "sent" is almost as power-laden as the word "command". For that matter, "Bear me to Lothlorien!" could be considered a command, couldn't it? Perhaps the eagle is just getting a bit crabbit at everybody ordering him about.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:52 pm

I think I agree Dave; reading that passage it seems full of evidence that people give orders to the Eagles.  And I've noted before that I really don't think there's anything in the text of LOTR to contradict this and suggest that the Eagles of the Third Age would refuse to take orders. Some can be found in The Silmarillion and UT, but those passages are about much earlier time periods.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by halfwise on Thu Sep 24, 2015 3:56 pm

I'd take orders from Galadriel too. cyclops

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Sep 24, 2015 4:51 pm

If it was a command as in a Command would Tolkien not have capitalised it? I see the use of command to be very much a lower case use of the word, and old fashioned way of saying I bid, which is stronger than I ask. Or more correctly people with power bid, commoners ask. And Gwahir doesn't want to be rude about her.
So in that sense I see the use of the word more tied to a reflection of Galadriels status, as recognised by the eagles, Gwahir would not say she had asked him because she is of higher status than that, people who never have to ask, because their position means everyone treats it as a command anyway. So rightly, from his one perspective, he calls it a command.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 24, 2015 5:04 pm

Does Tolkien ever really capitalize the word "command" outside of Gandalf's magic ability "word of Command"?  I'm drawing a blank right now but I could be forgetting something.  Just using the find tool in TTT right now, other than the Gwaihir/Galadriel line, there are references to Ugluk, Aragorn, and Theoden commanding people (all lower-case "c"), mostly from positions of military authority.

The common fan conception of the Eagles as aloof demigods or whatever who are above interfering in the affairs of Middle-earth is not really compatible with the idea of them being commanded by someone.  On the contrary, the Eagles as a race of Middle-earth (though possibly descended from Maiar) who are able to enter alliances and operate in the loose hierarchy of the free peoples led by the White Council (same as humans, elves, and Ents), there is no contradiction. This doesn't mean the Eagles are anyone's pets or slaves, but it also means there's no reason to assume they would have refused to help destroy the Ring out of hand.
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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Sep 24, 2015 5:09 pm

mostly from positions of military authority.- Eldo

Thats more or less what I mean- the use of language is all that counts it being Tolkien, and command is a person in authorities ask.
I dont see Galadriel commanding Gwaihir in that he has to do it or else, he has been Commanded. I see Tolkien's use of the word and by those who do use it to be reflective of status of the people either using the word, or the person being talked about who used the word- as in the eagle case.

In the case of rescuing Gandalf I am sure all Galadriel would have in reality had to do was ask and Gwaihir would have chosen to help Gandalf anyway, they seem to get on like two crabbit old men, but she is high born so she commands instead, or at least it is taken as such anyway because of her position, but its different from Commanding- which tends to infer some unpleasantness will ensure if you don't.
And I don't think Galadriel made that sort of Commandment.

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Re: The Eagles (And Why They Didn't Fly the Ring All the Way to Mordor)

Post by Eldorion on Thu Sep 24, 2015 5:11 pm

I'm still unclear as to the distinction you're drawing between Command and command.

And regardless of said meaning, the boilerplate argument is that the Eagles can't be commanded/would refuse to help period, which is what I've been arguing against.
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