Way back in 2007 How It Should Have Ended put out a little animation about the Lord of the Rings saying that Fellowship should have just flown an eagle into Mordor and dropped the ring into Mt. Doom with little to no fuss. This video is really funny (I’ve linked it below) especially when you get to the punch line, “Imagine what it would have been like if we walked!” It still makes my chuckle.
But of course if you’re read the books you know that this scenario would not have worked for many, many reasons outlined in the text in great detail. If you have just seen the movies and have not read the books then I can see how it may seem a bit unclear. Still, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that if the eagles had simply flown the ring to Mt. Doom there wouldn’t really be much of a story would there?
But this has become a meme.
You’ll constantly see this pop up in articles and videos with titles like ‘Biggest Plot-holes in History” or “Tolkien’s Biggest Mistake” or some such. Usually when I see this sort of thing I just roll my eyes and chalk it up to Internet people not doing research or not, you know, reading. Until recently that is. While watching the movies again with my family someone asked (I won’t say who, but you know who you are), Why didn’t they just fly the Eagles to destroy the ring? I was forced to acknowledge that even in my own household this misconception persists. And a stop must be put to it.
Let me just state for the record that I am not a Tolkien expert, I have simply read the books multiple times and paid attention to detail. I just want to attempt to clear up some misconceptions because, well, I’m a nerd with a blog. It’s what we do.
Reason #1: Stealth & Pointy Things
Gandalf states at the outset that the biggest advantage they have is the fact that Sauron cannot even conceive of anyone wanting to destroy the ring. So the idea of anyone marching into Mordor up to the Cracks of Doom to unmake the Ring was just not even on his radar. That is why a small, unassuming little band sneaking in and being stealthy was the plan.
Giant flying eagles are not stealthy.
Mordor is a big place, huge in fact. And the Eagles are impressive but they get tired like any other animal and so couldn’t fly to Mt. Doom in one day; they would have to rest. This would allow plenty of time for the armies of Mordor to notice them. Keep in mind that these are armies of tens of thousands of Men, Orcs, Trolls and other sundry creatures. All of which had bows and arrows and catapults and various other pointy things that could be thrown, flung or otherwise heaved in their direction. Pointy projectiles can seriously damage feathered wings.
But if that didn’t stop them there’s always the semi-ghost-like wraiths who ride dragons. Although the movies did not portray them in as such, the Nazgûl are pretty bad-ass. Even if there were a whole slew of eagles the Nazgûl could do some damage. But even if the Eagles managed to defeat dragon ghost riders their presence would still be known.
And that would bring them to the attention of the spirit of evil taking the form of a giant disembodied eye. Sauron’s powers are I admit vaguely defined; but suffice to say he’s probably got some tricks up his sleeve. And if he knew that giant flying eagles had the One Ring in a talon you can rest assured that whatever magic/force/voodoo he’s got would be focused on those birds and game over man, game over.
Reason #2: Watch Your Language
One of the more persistent Internet theories is that Gandalf always intended for everyone to grab a ride with the Eagles. That’s why he said, “Fly, you fools!” just before being killed by the Balrog so that the rest of the party would understand what to do.
That’s cute and kinda funny like the video below but does not take into account that that is not what is meant in context. Tolkien was a linguist. He studied language, specifically medieval languages. And that is not what fly means.
The verb “fly” originally meant “to flee” and is used that way multiple times in the books. For instance: