lethargicmass wrote:This debate has been raging for decades in the Tolkien community. My opinion is that you're right; Tolkien was writing a bloody book, and made choices based on maximizing the drama and interest of the plot. The eagles were clearly used as a handy plot device to get Frodo and Sam out of an otherwise completely hopeless situation. To play devil's advocate, however, here are what I see as the main points against having the eagles carry the ring to Mount Doom:
- In the two instances when the eagles rescued our heroes in The Hobbit -- first when when trapped by orcs and wargs, and later when they join the Battle of Five Armies -- Tolkien writes that they did so of their own volition because they hate orcs and wargs, and not because they were part of the team or anything. Note that they showed up fashionably late to the final Hobbit battle; they clearly weren't planning on helping out for the sake of helping out, or they'd have shown up on time.
- And when they do deign to rescue the hobbits from the orcs and wargs, they're huffy and stingy about it; claiming that they have their own business to attend to, and refusing to carry them very far. This further supports the eagles-as-aloof-and-uninterested argument.
- The eagles rescue Gandalf individually twice: Once from Orthanc, and once from the Black Tower in southern Mirkwood. Now, it is presented in the book that Gandalf's rescue from Orthanc was essentially by chance: His fellow wizard Radagast had a message for him, and Gandalf had had all his messages forwarded to Orthanc, as he knew he was going there to meet with Saruman, so Radagast used his special beast-talker powers to persuade an eagle to deliver the message, and the eagle found Gandalf imprisoned and carried him off. So this can be written off as chance and Radagast's special Istari power. But one can also recall that Gandalf is special: as one of the Maiar sent down, Jesus-like, to Middle Earth by the Valar (gods) to help guide the lesser races, he should be expected to have some value to the gods, and therefore that their explicit intervention -- in the form of sending eagles to rescue him -- would be perfectly reasonable. This does not mean that the eagles are anyone's bïtches; ready to drop everything on a moment's notice and come save your ass.
- Perhaps most crucially: When the eagles actually do fly into Mordor, it is only after the Ring has been destroyed and Sauron's power is gone with it. The fact that Gandalf waits pointedly for this to occur first implies almost undeniably that he did not believe they could have been able (or, perhaps, willing) to make the trip while Sauron and the Nazgul retained their powers.
- And finally, a bit of a cheat: Almost certainly due to Tolkien's Catholic upbringing, the gods of Middle earth are very much the set-it-up-as-a-challenge-now-you-figure-it-out-yourselves types. It would be exactly in their way to purposely withhold the help of the eagles from the Fellowship in order to require those were about to inherit the Fourth Age of Middle earth (as the elves all left, ending the Third Age) to learn and grow.
I have been making that third & fourth point for 9 years, in addition to a mention of the fact that birds of prey can only go limited distances while laden - they're just not strong enough. In order to fly, they have to be relatively dainty and light of bone.
Yet another point is that the Nazgul can FLY and an aerial battle would almost certainly result in dead hobbits and Men lying on the ground as the Eagles twist and vie for supremacy in the sky. Win or lose, the One is going back to freakin' Sauron in this scenario.
For those that suggest the Eagles should have simply been given the One and told to drop it in a volcano, please see the "Eagles Don't Care About Your Problems" portion of the program.
It's not just that "Oh, he wanted to write a quest, so the Eagles were conveniently left out." It's that he wrote a quest and created a problem that could only be solved by the means he put forth. Any other solution (and, very nearly, THE solution itself) would play to the Enemy's benefit.