I feel that I write about some serious and important topics on this blog. I must admit that some of the issues that I talk about are tough to tackle.
But I’ve been avoiding one particularly important topic. I just haven’t been able to work up the courage to write about it yet, even though it’s something that is absolutely necessary for us to talk about.
But now is the time.
I can’t put it off any longer.
This needs to be addressed.
Could the eagles really have flown Frodo and the ring to Mordor in the Lord of the Rings series?
I know, I know. So much controversy. I’m sorry, but it just needs to be discussed.
There’s an ever-growing movement out there claiming that the Lord of the Rings series could have ended more quickly had the fellowship just sent Frodo and the ring to Mordor on the back of one of the great eagles. They saved Gandalf from Isengard, right? And they showed up at the end to rescue Frodo and Sam from an impending lava-induced doom. So, some people have come to the conclusion that the great eagles could have been employed to help destroy the ring of power, as seen in this video:
There are both literary and practical reasons why this would not have worked. Let’s start with the literary reasons.
First of all, had Tolkien employed such a simplified plot-line, the world would have been robbed of one of its greatest fantasy epics. No exciting, gory fight scenes, no inspiring themes of the overcoming of adversity, no tear-jerking motivational speeches. Just…eagles. Flying. That’s it. Now, that doesn’t make for very good literature does it?
Additionally, such a plot-line would have robbed the eagles of their intended literary purpose. You see, Tolkien took his writing very, very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he invented a literary tool so that he could add depth and thematic value to his writing. He called this tool a eucatastrophe, which, according to Wikipedia, is “the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which result in the protagonist’s well-being.”
A eucatastrophe differs from a deus ex machina in that it “fits into the established framework of the story.” However, the idea is similar. The protagonist has been overwhelmed by chaos. Things seem hopeless. And then, seemingly impossibly, a force sweeps in at the last minute and saves the day.
The eagles are a eucatastrophe. The eagles serve Tolkien’s thematic intentions and to usurp them of that position would destroy their entire reason for existence.
But I understand that whether or not such a plot would make for good literature is not the question. But there are also practical reasons why the eagles could not have been Frodo’s primary means of transportation.
First of all, you have to understand the nature of the great eagles. Tolkien describes them in The Hobbit as ” the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted.” They were not horses that Gandalf could round-up and stick saddles on. The eagles did their own thing. They didn’t meddle in the affairs of men and hobbits unless they damn well felt like it. For the fellowship to have attempted to force the eagles into helping the fellowship’s cause would likely have resulted in disaster.
Tolkien realized this and, according to The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, has stated, “The Eagles are a dangerous ‘machine’. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness. The alighting of a Great Eagle of the Misty Mountains in the Shire is absurd.”
Which brings me to my next point. We learned throughout the series that the more powerful a being is, the more susceptible it is to the corruption of the ring of power. This is why Galadriel and Gandalf refused to take it. It had to be carried by a simple, humble hobbit. In the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo was forced to leave the company of the rest of the fellowship, fearing that the others would be corrupted like Boromir was.
Now imagine if one of the eagles got ahold of that thing. In place of a dark lord, you would have a giant, evil, kick-ass eagle? I don’t think so.
But say the eagles did agree to help the fellowship out. Say that they were noble enough to ignore the ring’s corruption. One does not simply walk into Mordor, but can one fly?
It certainly would not be as easy as people have suggested. Frodo had an advantage. He was small. He was weak. And Sauron, like many other dark lords, underestimated the power of the “little guy.” While Sauron’s eye was busy scanning Middle Earth for attacks from great armies, little Frodo was able to sneak in and let the ring of power take a little dip in Mt. Doom’s lava pool.
But Sauron would have noticed a giant flying eagle. How could he not? It’s not like the Misty Mountains were just up the road from Mordor. Even by bird, it would have taken awhile to get there. Plenty of time for Sauron’s eye to scan the open air for any giant eagles carrying ring-bearing hobbits, don’t you think?
So, all that’s left for Sauron to do is send out a few thousand orcs to shoot arrows at the eagles. Or, how about those winged Nazgûl? Yeah, the eagles could have put up a pretty good fight…if they weren’t weighed down by the chubby hobbits that had just finished eating second breakfast.
Plus, this scenario is pretty risky. You send nine people out on foot. Say the one carrying the ring gets killed. Another fellowship member can pick the ring up an continue the journey. Sam did this when he thought Frodo had been killed by Shelob.
But say you send one hobbit out riding on an eagle and the eagle gets killed. Frodo falls to his death, and the ring falls to the orcs below like manna from heaven.
The eagles couldn’t have flown Frodo and the ring to Mordor. It’s not literarily sound and it’s not realistically practical. It’s just not. Sorry, folks.
Plus, the eagles were too busy taking it easy at the Hotel California to live life in the fast lane. They might have given everyone a peaceful, easy feeling, but, let’s face it, they couldn’t have taken it to the limit. They were already gone. Gandalf probably saw right through their lyin’ eyes.
I felt like I needed to write something silly after spilling my soul out onto the keyboard yesterday! What do you guys think about the whole “eagles taking Frodo to Mordor” debate? Who’s your favorite character from the movie or what’s your favorite quote? And if you were from Middle Earth, which race would you best fit into?