Why didn't Gandalf or Frodo Fly to Mount Doom?

  • Why didn't Gandalf use his eagles to fly over Mount Doom and drop the ring? I know he feared what he would do if the ring overpowered him, so why not just give Frodo an eagle? And, if there would be too much risk in flying the ring to Mordor, couldn't the eagles fly them part of the way? Why risk it with such a long walk; far less risky to fly over most of the journey.

    So wait a minute, you mean to tell me that's not how it ended?

    Maybe he didn't have a frequent flyer discount with Eagle Airlines

    It's also possible that the trip was required to give Frodo the best chance to be able to give it up. (See http://www.angryflower.com/lordot.gif)

    One does not simply *fly* into Mordor.

    The Eagles are not servants of Gandalf nor at his beck and call. They help when they choose to. They are a sovereign, noble race.

    @TZHX: Really? Because I'd say that refusing to help against a foe that threatens to destroy civilizations, knowing it would require an alternate plan that essentially throws the game-breaking artifact directly into the faces of the enemy army, is a pretty stupid thing to do. Sounds like a sovereign, jerkish race to me.

    @Jeff A jerkish race indeed! And Tom Bombadil also suffers from this flaw. How can someone not care about the whole of Middle Earth enslaved to a powerful evil spirit? (Before everyone jumps at my throat: I love the books. It's just that some characters are annoying).

    I'm pretty sure that Tolkien answered this in his lifetime, and I'm surprised nobody has linked to his explanation. I seem to recall it being about the Eagles not really caring about the matters of other races, or something along those lines.

    Ah, found it! Here's what Empire magazine recently wrote about the issue: *The reason the eagles don't just fly everyone to Mount Doom because "the eagles are their own race and do things for their own reasons". Also, Tolkien didn't like them to be seen as "Middle-Earth taxis"...*

    Brandon Sanderson actually discusses this specific question in his explanation of Sanderson's First Law, regarding how to effectively handle magic in fantasy literature. Effectively, the way Tolkien's magic works, it can't be used to resolve serious problems without leaving the readers feeling unsatisfied and cheated.

    Casey and Andy comics has a take on this at http://www.galactanet.com/comic/view.php?strip=363 . Andy, playing Gandalf in a DnD game, simply Greater Teleports to Mount Doom and throws the ring in.

    My guess is that Eagles were an instrument of *Deus ex machina* for Tolkien; and he probably might have rewritten those 'easy' parts where Eagles 'simply saved the day' if he got a chance.

    Can't make it too easy. The whole book puts the kabosh on anybody or anything using the entire extent of their power. Witch King does nothing, Bombadil is too much of a scatterbrain to care, Gandalf has a magic phobia, Elron sits on his ass the whole time, and the sum of Galadriel's contributions are a rope for Sam and a flashlight for Frodo. It only makes sense that Eagles would be stingy in their contributions too.

    The real answer is simple: they could have flown the Ring into Mordor, but the story would have been terrible if they did, and there would be no reason to read it. "Once upon a time, there was a very bad Ring that could only be destroyed in a specific volcano. So giant Eagles took it, flew to the volcano, and dropped the Ring in. Everyone was so happy that the Ring was gone that they had a big party and sang and danced all night long, and the Eagles were the guests of honor. They all lived happily ever after. The End"

    Recall also - Nazgul have flying mounts.

    For an alternative explanation: http://www.gocomics.com/imogen-quest?ct=v&;cti=1906973

    @zzzzBov - Unfortunately, your (direct) link appears to have died, here it is on YouTube: How Lord of The Rings Should Have Ended

  • Correct answer

    9 years ago

    In short, the eagles would also be tempted to take the ring. At least, I've always assumed they'd rule Middle-earth with an iron talon.

    Here's an excellent rundown of in-universe explanations, and a few real-world ones. It summarizes frequent Usenet discussions in rec.arts.books.tolkien of the so-called "Eagle plan" whereby the Eagles are used to fly the ring to Mount Doom. It's definitely a popular plot hole to discuss, with many pros and cons outlined there.

    I think it would undermine the theme of the story, that it's about normal people taking responsibility for the world, and throwing off the dependence on ancient powers (Gandalf and Sauron included).

    Also, it'd be a 10 page story.

    +1 for the last paragraph. Just because it's a popular story doesn't mean it can't have plot holes.

    "In short, the eagles would also be tempted to take the ring" is **false** according to your linked article. The fact is: "I think there are two possible explanations: 1) the possibility never occurred to Tolkien, or 2) Tolkien realized he had a problem and opted not to draw attention to it. In either case, the matter should be counted as a hole in the plot." *From your linked article*

    @KronoS, the article says 'maybe, we don't know the eagles too well', not 'no they'd never take the ring.' It was also added after my initial answer was posted.

    @BillyONeal it says the last update was 30 may 2010 but that could be wrong. The main thing is, I believe Tolkein didn't think of it.

    It would be nice if the rundown had a small summary in your answer :-)

    @Ivo good call, I did some editing. Better?

    Err ... the simple reason why this didn't happen is because the eagles would've been spotted from far, and intercepted + the ring recovered by Sauron. The thing about sending two fat hobbits there is that it has no chance of success at all, so there's no way Sauron could plan for it, and that's why Gandalf knows it's the best solution (imo he sees a bit further in the future, knows a lot about Sauron and has a general belief that it will succeed).

    @Morg. No they wouldn't have been. Optimal plan: Almost the same as it was written, large group/army marches to the gates of Mordor. While attention is drawn, Frodo flies in with the eagles, drops the ring in Mount Doom, and flies out.

    I think the answer to this is actually pretty clear if you take into account the full extent of Middle Earth mythology. The Eagles couldn't just fly them in for the same reason Gandalf couldn't just fight all their battles. They were servants of the Valar and the valar only wanted to interfere in Middle Earth in a limited way. See my answer.

    That link is actually pretty unhelpful as it's written by a guy who is deliberately trying to prove it's a plot hole, rather than offer a fair and balanced point of view. He says at the beginning of the article that, "My contention is that ... it is simply a hole in the plot of an otherwise excellent book that the issue is never brought up." The whole article is written deliberately to try and prove his point.

    @DjangoReinhardt That in and of itself is not enough to disqualify the results.

    @TylerH In this instance it most definitely is. The author ignores many of the better counterpoints.

    @KronoS Well, the reason the writer on that link thinks the eagles wouldn't be tempted by the ring is mainly because "There is no instance in the text where the Ring takes control of anyone's will this quickly." However, that isn't exactly true: Smeagol fell to the ring pretty much instantly, and I'm pretty sure Isildur didn't spend months with it either. As for Gandalf, he refused to even touch the ring, clearly implying the corruption's potential to kick in quickly, even with someone like him. Luckily, for whatever reason, Frodo and Sam seemed all right at the time. Eagles - who knows.

    @Keen - the article you linked is actually an argument in favor of the idea that the Eagles could probably have flown the Ring - or Frodo and the Ring- to Mordor.

    I for one welcome our new oversized ornithological overlords.

    Eagles have talons, not claws.

    I would upvote it if the last sentence "Also, it'd be a 10 page story" were the first :)

    "Bad Bird is a legend, he rules Middle-Earth with an iron talon!"

    @Johan Pretorius They already existed at the point Lord of the Rings was written (they were in the Hobbit, early drafts of what would become the Silmarillion). And Gandalf's 'suicide and return' required a direct act of God/Eru. One that almost certainly would not have happened if Gandalf did it intentionally with that purpose.

  • Giant Eagles with Wizards on their back would have been seen for miles. Even a normal Elf like Legolas could spot small flying birds at some distance, the Eye of Sauron would be looking to keep his borders safe, from above and below. Sauron also had the Nazgul air force after all, and maybe others too :)

    Not to mention the fact that they would have been extremely vulnerable in such a position, and likely to be brought down, and if that happened over Mordor, it would have guaranteed that Sauron got his ring back.

    In terms of military strategy, it would be more of a "Hail Mary" than a solid plan, with a high risk of catastrophic failure.

    With Sauron's combined forces being so strong by the time the Ring was discovered, it meant a full-on attack would be highly unlikely to succeed, and so only a covert mission would do. The point of sending Hobbits on foot was that they had showed resilience to the Ring's corrupting influence, but also that they would be unsuspected, as Hobbits were considered rather unimportant folk.

    It's also worth noting that the Giant Eagles, much like the Wizards of Middle Earth, were forbidden in directly helping mortals overcoming problems they could solve themselves. They could only advise or otherwise get tangentially involved.

    To sum up: The ring had to stay hidden at all times from Sauron's eye, and on top of an eagle on board up in the air would ruin the cover and could endure death.

    It's definitely not about the temptation, but as StasM explains. The whole battle that takes place while Frodo sneaks into Mordor is simply to draw Sauron's attention away.

    Yes, there were two different situations, pre and post ring being destroyed

    I had thought about some kind of "air defense", but other than the dragons, it didn't seem too bad.

    The Nazgul were bound to the ground when Gandalf revealed to Frodo that he was the Ring Bearer (of the One Ring). They should have left right then, gone on eagles, then used the Ring-Taker-Offer machine I describe below. Unless, of course, Sauron had some kind of alternate "air defense". :)

    Sauron had a powerful air defence - he could control weather. A storm could immobilise an eagle and force him to land. Then the orcs Nazgûl can finish.

    This is my favorite answer, since the WHOLE POINT of sending a hobbit on this mission was to not draw attention.

    @muntoo they had trolls. and orcs. give an orc a spear, and a helmet (more aerodynamic that way) and let them fly! (think goblin siege commander from magic the gathering)

    "...were forbidden in directly helping mortals..." hey I never knew this... quote or something please? That would explain many things...

    This answer should be the correct answer. Not the accepted one currently. Both points are key, Nazgul's and the eagles aren't allowed to help.

    This answer is by far the best one here. During the Council at Rivendell regarding what to do with the Ring, the eagles are never specifically discussed but the point is made repeatedly that (A) someone lacking power must take the Ring, thus Frodo, and (B) the Fellowship has to travel completely unseen.

    This is by far the best of the answers. The Eagles are servants of Manw\:e. They won't solve the problem for the same reason that Elrond rejects sailing the ring to Valinor and having Aul\:e destroy it.

    I wonder how a giant eagle would impart advice to the races of middle earth? "O, mightiest of the Eaglest, our crops have withered, what shall we do?" "Caw, caw caw caw, caw caw." "A fish? That's your answer to everything!"

    "It's also worth noting that the Giant Eagles, much like the Wizards of Middle Earth, were forbidden in directly helping mortals overcoming problems they could solve themselves. They could only advise or otherwise get tangentially involved." - What about all the times when they totally did help mortals directly?

    Also, Sauron's ability to see them is not necessarily limited by the normal limits of sight. And his ability to stop them is not limited to his military units like archers and flying Nazgul. See my answer.

    @JamieHutber I don't know if the Nazgûl are actually forbidden from helping destroy the Ring (there's probably something along those lines in their contract somewhere, though), but I can't imagine they'd **want** to. ;-)

  • This is not a plot hole. The Eagles are the representatives of Manwë in Middle-earth. As mentioned in the link in the accepted answer.

    I am surprised that this argument comes up as often as it does, because I am aware of no textual support for this idea. The eagles quite frequently involve themselves in the fight against Sauron (or against evil in general):

    They rescue Bilbo, Thorin, & Co. from the orcs and wolves. They participate in the Battle of Five Armies. They rescue Gandalf from Orthanc. They rescue Gandalf again from Zirak-Zigil. They directly attack the flying Nazgûl during the last battle. They fly into Mordor to rescue Frodo and Sam. Given all this heavy involvement, it would be extremely surprising if the Valar specifically prohibited the eagles from flying the Ringbearer into Mordor. Tolkien nowhere mentions such a prohibition.

    The only support I can see for this argument is very indirect: namely, that the eagles are said to be the representatives of Manwë, and in the Third Age, Manwë is maintaining a policy of the Valar not intervening directly in the affairs of Middle-Earth. But the eagles do often intervene in the struggles of Middle-Earth, and there's no indication that they were under some restriction in this case. If the eagles were prohibited from being involved directly in the struggle against Sauron, we might expect that they would have withdrawn to Valinor long ago rather than remain in Middle-Earth.

    If you look at the involvement of the Eagles it is very similar to the involvement of the Istari. The Istari are Maia sent to Middle-earth as guides and to provide some help in countering the great powers of those who had fallen. They are not allowed to solve the problems of Middle-earth, only to guide and aid those who are solving those problems. The Eagles play a similar role. Both are forces of the Valar -- who, after the first age that destroyed vast swaths of Middle-earth, vowed never again to interfere directly in the affairs of the mortals of Middle-earth -- and both aid those fighting Sauron. But only where the mortals of Middle-earth could not over come the foe on their own.

    The ring is a foe that the mortals of Middle-earth could overcome. And in a way, it is the one foe they must overcome on their own. Gandalf guides them to this realization and helps them figure out the "how". But he will not defeat the foe itself.

    Gandalf aids them by defeating a peer who had fallen, against which none of them could stand (the Balrog) and by helping to counter the movements of one of the Istari who had fallen. The Eagles aid them by providing some mobility and countering forces of the enemy when they take to the air, the realm of Manwë, which mortals are not truly supposed to enter.

    All of these actions are consistent with the way the Valar are willing to aid those of Middle-earth. However, flying the ring bearer to Mordor is not consistent with them. That would be direct involvement and solving the one problem that those of Middle-earth need to solve themselves -- their lust for power at the expense of Middle-earth itself.

    I like this explanation. Manwe didn't come down from Taniquetil to defeat Sauron, but he does lend aid in other ways

    Another excellent answer.

    This to me is the right answer: the Eagles are under the command of Manwe, and the Valar take a non-interventionist role (recognising their earlier mistakes).

  • You want an "In Universe" explanation?

    Because it couldn't have worked any other way.

    The powers knew no one could willingly destroy the ring, therefore they needed the tussle between Frodo and Gollum, and for Gollum to fall for the ring to be destroyed.

    If they'd flown on Eagles then Gollum wouldn't have been there, Frodo would have failed to destroy the ring, Sauron would have won and the fourth age would have been one of darkness across the face of Middle-earth.

    Gandalf could have pushed Frodo in, or he could have been carried in the eagle's claws and been dropped if he refused to let go.

    @Jeff: Damn! I though I had all the bases covered. I don't seem to remember Gandalf being so dispassionate, must have missed that :)

    @Binary Worrier: True, he's a generally caring person...but Frodo grates on me sooooo much. Most likely Gandalf would reason "He'll drop it. If not, he's obviously succumbed to the ring's influence and is lost to us." I think, caring or not, Gandalf would sacrifice one midget for all of Middle Earth.

    I think a universe in which Gandalf was willing to sacrifice Frodo would have resulted in Gandalf becoming sure of his power to influence the events of the next age, and he would have become the next Sauron

    Gandalf has a sharp sword...he could have just cut the hand off :P

    Why didn't they invent a ring-taking-off old-fashioned crank machine? Or use a "magic robot"? Gandalf forces Frodo to the ring-taker-offer, and the ring-taker-offer spits it into the fires of Orodruin!

    Now that would have made a **GREAT** movie! :)

    I think this could have worked, because the ring wouldn't have had so much time to gain hold, so...

    @Pearsonartphoto: Isildur wouldn't have had the ring for hours before he was urged to destroy it by the elves, and he couldn't do it. I think it's safe to assume the ring would bring out the big guns when it came to being immolated in lava.

    @Binary: Good point.

    Would _Accio Ring_ have worked?

    @Jeff If Gandalf had pushed Frodo into the fires he would essentially willingly destroy the ring. And it is established that no-one can do that. It does not matter that there is a hobbit holding the ring: If you through the ring into the fires you destroy it - with or without hobbit-attachment on it. Gandalf would probably have failed that test and even if not: It's not a safe plan.

    @PearsonArtPhoto Isildur was a man standing among Elves, with the reason of their alliance, as far as he knew, dead. Oh, and he's holding a magic ring. They want him to destroy it. This is a decision a good king does not make quickly. They have an army in the field. The relationship between Men and Elves is ambivalent. Isildur did the right thing.

  • There are several explanations, both in and out of universe:

    • The Nazgul (more specifically their fell beasts) would have been able to take them out.
    • Anything flying into Mordor, especially a rarely-seen Giant Eagle, would be quickly spotted by Sauron, who would immediately muster every force he had around and in Mount Doom. Frodo and Sam were specifically trying to avoid the Eye's gaze.
    • If the Eagle (or whomever was riding it) missed dropping/throwing the Ring directly into the fires of Mount Doom, they'd be handing the Ring directly to Sauron's forces.
    • Tolkien mentioned in notes and conversations that he did not want the eagles to be seen as "Middle-earth taxis". They thus intervene directly only in times of great need, as the last option.

    This seems like the best, and most logical, answer to me. As Sauron was actively searching for the ring, and as giant eagles with wizards on their back were a relatively rare sight, it's highly likely Sauron would have sent the Nazghul after them. In short, they wouldn't have stood a chance. It would have been far too risky: One mistake and the ring would definitely be in Sauron's hands.

    I like this answer as well, except for the last point. 1) They're worse than "taxi's", they're deus ex machina "a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object." As @DanielBingham's quote lists, they're involved in rescuing six (!!) other seemingly impossible situations. 2) If destroying the One Ring and Sauron with it doesn't strike you as a time of great need, then you haven't been paying attention.

    You also say, "as the last option." This reinforces the characterization of the eagles as deus ex machina, in my opinion. The fact that the eagles weren't involved in, considered or even mentioned in the formation of the Fellowship at the Council of Elrond shows that Tolkein treats them not as characters, but just as a plot device.

  • All that plus the Eagles weren't available at the time the Ring set out on its journey from Rivendell, a journey meant to be made in secret so as to not reveal to Sauron that the Ring was on the move and to what end (to the very end Sauron was under the impression that the Ring, after having been found, would appear on the hand of one of his enemies to be wielded as a weapon of war, rather than being sent to its doom in the forges where it was created).

    Sending in an Eagle bearing a Hobbit on its back, the Hobbit bearing the ring (the presence of which Sauron could detect at some distance) would have attracted too much attention, revealed to Sauron that things are not as they seem (most likely he assumed either Gandalf or the lords of Minas Tirith would unveil the Ring in the battle at the gates of Mordor).

  • Personally, I think something is only a plot-hole if there aren't plausible in-universe explanations, regardless of whether the author actually enumerates those explanations.

    In this case, I always assumed that while there were just nine Nazgûl, there were a lot more than nine of the "fell beasts" that they flew around on--there's no indication that these creatures were made especially for the Nazgûl, or that there's some kind of limited supply of them.

    Sauron raising a bunch of flying creatures in Mordor makes it a lot more risky for the Eagles to fly there, let alone to fly there with the one ring. After the ring is destroyed, though, it makes sense that the beasts' handlers have scattered and that it's safer to mount an airborne rescue mission than it was before Sauron's defeat.

    That's my "extrapolated from the given information" reasoning, at least.

    Good point about something's being a plot hole only if no plausible in-universe explanations can be found (unless the book totally skips on explaining the reason in a passage where one would certainly expect it to do so).

  • There's a new theory as to why the eagles weren't used here, which seems plausible.

    Briefly:

    Gandalf did intend to take the ring to the Eagles, but kept the plan to himself so that word couldn't get to Sauron. He tried to tell the Fellowship about the plan when he fell to the Balrog -- that's what he meant by "Fly, you fools".

    It seems pretty clear that "Fly" in this context is merely a synonym for "flee". Especially since there are no eagles present and this scene is usually depicted as being underground without access to open air. Though I guess this theory could totally be in jest, which kind of invalidates it as an actual answer.

    Though I guess after rereading some details on the bridge of Khazad-dûm, it's not necessarily underground. Though it still seems pretty clear that Gandalf was telling his companions to run for their lives as he knew he was about to be taken out of the conflict.

    Actually nevermind, according to Glyphweb's article on the Second Hall, the bridge is located underground in the hall itself, so there would be no access to open air.

    That answer sounds like these conspiracy theories :D

    @MadTux: the part with "fly, you fools" is actually the weakest link in the hypothesis. It does sound plausible: "When [Gandalf] thinks to get the eagles to help him escape [from Isengard] it sparks the ideas that he could also have them help get the ring to Mordor [...] he doesn't go directly to Rivendell, he first goes to meet the eagles [...] the eagles agree [for reasons enumerated in the OP's question here on SE], [and also] that the plan should be kept very secret. [...] Nobody can know the plan until they reach the eagles and are flying on their way. [Then comes Moria.]"

    And *who* would've told the Eagles after Gandalf was removed from the picture? Hm? Did Gimli pick up a little bit of "Bird" when he was a lad?

    @Zibbobz: Of course he did. The dwarves used ravens as messengers.

    @Joshua Huh. Learn something new every day about Tolkien's works.

  • My understanding was the Eagles have a will of their own. After all, Gandalf asked for permission to ride on their backs. Given this assumption, trusting them as companions to the Ring Bearer would not have been a good idea since they would be vulnerable to the ring's power of corruption. Also, it would be unlikely they would agree to a suicide run into Mordor.

  • I'm answering because I think there is an aspect of the use of magic in the LoTR that I commonly see ignored and is ignored in many of the answers.

    tldr;

    One does not simply fly directly into the gaze of the Lidless Eye.

    Long Version

    Enchantment vs. Magic

    I am not a Tolkien expert, but my understanding of Tolkien's use of magic, I believe described in his "On Fairy Stories", distinguishes between a more mechanical kind of magic and a more spiritual "enchantment". Forgive/Correct me if I'm misusing his use of the words. It's been a long while since I've read it. There are many many examples of this enchantment, but some that spring to my mind are Faramir's description of the character of staves that he gives to Frodo and Sam, and of their experiences with the elven cloaks, roap, boats, etc. No concrete rules of physics are established. Instead, objects seem to vaguely bend the rules of physics in accordance with the atmosphere/nature of the object or their creator. And it's often not completely explained or even explicitly claimed. It is noteworthy that we're never conclusively told whether Sam's rope untied itself at his call or whether his knot was bad when they climb down the cliff at night. When the party is climbing Caradhras, they discuss whether the "fell voices" they hear are the wind or some creature. Tolkien likes to maintain uncertainty, and it's more about the mood & (spiritual?) atmosphere than the physics of what is occurring. Another example is the way the book describes the wills of Gandalf and the Balrog when they first confront one another on each side of a door, although that is a little more explicit. Also, when the 3 travelers Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas are chasing the orcs who have captured Merry and Pippin, they talk of a hostile will that is set against them as they journey that is making their trek more wearying. Tolkien doesn't usually enumerate the way the different people and objects can manipulate the laws of physics like some other fantasy works of literature (in contrast to the use of the One Power in the Wheel of Time, for example). Instead, Tolkien creates "atmospheres" and "auras", for lack of a better word, around people and objects to give them a sort of personality, a nature, a character. It's part of what makes the conflict between good and evil so epic in the story, I think. Tolkien's use of wizardry and sorcery in LoTR is, in my opinion, more along the lines of "enchantment" (as referenced in "On Fairy Stories"), but I consistently see people treating it as a mechanical manipulation of physics. Gandalf is an interesting example, as we can name some specific mechanical feats he can accomplish with fire. But other things he does are more vague and more about who he is than any ability we could name. His power as compared in the story in the eyes of Pippin with Denethor, for example. (This is also why doing things like pitting Gandalf against Darth Vader in a fight don't work well, in my opinion. You have to decide which kind of magic/powers the fight will be composed of, and in my opinion, that determines who will win.) Aragorn is the same way, as is Faramir, Galadriel, and most of the characters in the book.

    Sauron's Power is Firstly Enchantment, not Magic

    One of the objections I saw raised to the eagle plan was that Sauron could conceivably throw fireballs at Frodo on an eagle, but I think this misses the point of Sauron's power. There is one part of the story where Gandalf says somewhat ominously that he has not yet been tested against Sauron. And Aragorn when he confronts Sauron with the Palantir barely has the strength to overcome him and wrest the stone away. It is mentioned that if the hobbits were captured, there is no doubt that in the end they would tell everything. And I don't think it would be in line with Tolkien to attribute this to merely physical torture. See Pippin's encounter with Sauron through the stone. I think you could attribute parts of this to some mechanical ability, but not all of it.

    This is one of the beautiful things about Tolkien's writing that the movies could not or did not fully convey, I don't think.

    The Eagle Plan Doesn't Solve the Real Problem of Sauron's Strength

    I think the main reason why the eagle plan would not work is that few if any on Middle Earth have any hope of winning the contest of will that would occur in a direct flight straight into the Eye of Sauron, even without considering the draw of the Ring. The strongest good characters in the story are many times described as not certain of their ability to face Sauron's power directly. It's actually a question that comes up a lot, asked about Tom Bombadil, Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel, and Denethor, at least. And I don't think all these comparisons are meant to be military, even the talk about Tom Bombadil being overwhelmed as the guardian of the Ring or of Galadriel's contest of wills between her and Dol Guldur. It is not just, or even not primarily, Sauron's military strength that makes him formidable. In the books, his strength is more about force of will & malice & spiritual(?) presence.

    Finally, when you add to the eagle flight scenario the Ring, which entices and draws the user according to Sauron's will, it becomes more impossible. Aside from confrontation with Sauron, both Galadriel and Gandalf have hinted that they feel they are not strong enough to be trusted with the Ring. I do not think they would count themselves strong enough to fly directly into the Eye with it unless perhaps they were to claim it for themselves.

    Sidenote - Flying Unnoticed

    To the argument that they might slip by Sauron's gaze unnoticed, I would first mention that Frodo has to battle against Sauron's gaze/will/power/etc without even being seen. Also I contest that they would likely be seen in the open sky, because this mysterious "spiritual" nature of Sauron's power applies to his sight especially, aside from any Palantir. (He is called the "Great Eye", after all). There are several examples in the books of characters like Gandalf (after the battle of Pelennor fields) or Aragorn (talking about the King's seat above Rauros), having or discussing experiences of seeing without a Palantir more from a high place than could probably be physically, mechanically seen. I'm not a medieval literature scholar but I would not be surprised if this idea was drawn from older romances and fairy tales. Hurin's imprisonment by Morgoth on a high place while he sees the lives of his children is an example of this as well. Considering Frodo's numerous experiences of being hundreds of miles away and feeling the Eye just moments away from seeing him, I think we can safely say that this is part of the nature/power/aura/enchantment of Sauron. How the palantir adds to this I am not sure, but I think it is more than physical sight. Also, the whole attack on the Black Gate was calculated to draw away his attention from his own lands, so his ability to see all that goes on in Morder is clearly a central concern in the story. For this reason, I think it would be especially risky to fly bare and unconcealed into the open sky into Mordor, even high up. There is a large chance they would be spotted, especially given the nature of the Ring. And once they were spotted, they (hobbit & eagle) would be confronted with the strength of all of Sauron's will and malice as alluded to above.

    And of course on top of all this are the risks others have mentioned: Sauron's military might, the arrows of orcs and the strength of the Nazgul, who themselves have a terrible power of their own.

    Update

    I just watched "The LEGO Batman Movie". Apparently, you can fly straight into the Eye's gaze if you are Barbara Gordon. But she's a special case.

    You’re very right about how Tolkien leaves details of magic to the reader, and that this works well if you take it the right way.

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