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

    10 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.

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