One of the biggest debates that comes up (usually in the context of trying to call out a plot hole) is about the Great Eagles of Middle-earth and why they don’t just pick up Frodo and his friends in Rivendell and take them on a nice, relaxing journey to Mt. Doom. There are, in fact, several very logical reasons and I will explain here seven of them.
It might be helpful first to give a very, VERY elementary background of Middle-earth. Arda (the greater world which includes Middle-earth) was created by Eru Iluvatar (God), and he brought in two groups of super-beings to help him color in the details: The Valar (think: Gods of Olympus) and the Maiar (Gandalf, Saruman, and many others).
Side note: Sauron started his existence as a Maiar but was corrupted by Melkor/Morgoth (Who was the O.G. of bad guys in Arda, and originally one of the Valar). *~*~The More You Know.*~*~
In terms of hierarchy of awesomeness: Eru > Valar > Maiar > Eldar (elves)
Much like Zeus and family, the Valar were there to oversee and keep a general sense of order from afar, but anytime they attempted direct help or intervention, all hell broke loose, and shit did not turn out well. So mostly they left everyone in Middle-earth to their own devices.
The Great Eagles were a creation of Manwe (who was basically the Zeus of the Valar) as a manifestation of his love for the winds, air, and clouds. Contrary to what some fans seem to think, they were a beautiful and magnificent race of beings, not the pets of Gandalf.
So, on to the reasons:
- The Great Eagles Are Not Gandalf’s Pets– Although it might seem like it, the world does not revolve around Gandalf and the struggles of his tiny little friends. In the grand scheme of things, in fact, it was pretty small potatoes (“boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew”), and even the Valar had kinda shrugged their shoulders for a while and said “meh.” Most of the elves didn’t even give a crap. Gwaihir, and the other eagles, have their own stuff to do. Eagle stuff. Granted, they have an affinity for the Maiar, but they don’t answer to them. Gandalf’s agenda is not theirs, and if Middle-earth falls to Sauron, then they’ll probably just fly to Aman (aka The Undying Lands) and chill there. If they answer to anyone, it is probably Manwe, but he doesn’t command them either. You might say that Gwaihir is “not here for this shit.” In other words…
- The Eagles are Not Middle-earth Taxi Service– When you think about it, it’s actually pretty insulting to insinuate that these extremely ancient, respected, free creatures are basically sitting around waiting for someone to call them for a pick-up. They’re also a very proud race. In fact, if you did have the audacity to call them for a pick-up, they’d probably leave you sitting there waiting, just to show you that they are not your bitch.
- Arrows Hurt, Okay– As creations of Manwe, they are certainly gifted with longer life and greater resilience, but they are not impervious to harm. They are also flipping huge. Giant-ass birds flying over hundreds of thousands of well-armed orcs sounds like the best way to say “look at me and my pretty, shiny precious!” that I can think of. It also equals a bunch of dead eagles who had better things to do than die in the bowels of Mordor for a bunch of whiny people who couldn’t help themselves. It also sounds like the best way to get the ring back into Sauron’s hands.
- Fatass Dwarves Also Hurt, Okay– In The Hobbit, the eagles actually explain that they grow tired easily, and I am sure it doesn’t help that they are toting around fat dwarves.
- Orcs and Eagles Are Not Part of the Same Sewing Circle– I know I’ve said that in general the eagles don’t give a shit about anything on Middle-earth, but that is not entirely true. They have a bit of a nasty history with the orcs, who destroyed some of their Eyries, and in turn, the eagles messed some of their stuff up, too. There is no love lost between the races, and flying over orc territory is, in general, not a good idea. Most of Rohan and Gondor (which was a majority of the Fellowship’s journey) was pretty heavy with orcs. They only come into Mordor to help Frodo and Sam after Sauron is vanquished and there is no more danger. On the other hand, the Eagles do love to mess with the orcs if there is very little risk to them, and that seems to be their main motivation for intervening in the crazy tree escape in The Hobbit.
- Get Your Shit Together, Ladies– Another misconception here is that Gandalf was there to save the day and fix everything. The truth is that several of the Maiar (Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and the two Blue Wizards) were sent to Middle-earth to help guide the race of Men through the treachery of Sauron, but were given explicit instructions not to do the work for them. A Middle-earth example of The Prime Directive, so to speak. Extremely prevalent through all of Tolkien’s work is the importance of Free Will. If the Valar (or the Maiar for that matter) are always coming in and saving the day, what lessons do Men learn, and how can they ever expect to even wipe their own asses, let alone govern themselves? The Elves had taken care of shit for three ages, but their time was coming to an end; the Age of Men was coming… and so far, things were not looking good for that change of hands. Gandalf was said to be there to “kindle hearts,” and inspire greatness and courage in others so that they could find their own way. This is why he left Bilbo halfway through The Hobbit, and why he didn’t just go and take down Sauron himself. For the same reasons, the Eagles (who, as I said before, really have very little vested interest in this) aren’t just going to swoop in whenever someone doesn’t feel like walking anymore (I’m looking at you, Legolas).
- Deus Ex What?– If none of those reasons strike you, then think of the simplest explanation: what kind of boring-ass story would it be if they just toted them all the way to Mordor, dropped the ring into Mt. Doom in the most boring drive-by ever, and then took them home?
Each of these reasons can be explored in far more depth, but in general the idea of the Eagles ushering Frodo and his friends to Mordor makes about as much sense as them stepping through a magical portal in The Prancing Pony in Bree, and coming out in Istanbul. And with that last sentence, your mind is probably blown. You’re welcome.