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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Eagle plothole revisited ... and an invitation to have fun with it! :D
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Mari D.
Rivendell


Aug 5, 1:59pm

Post #1 of 45 (3324 views)
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Eagle plothole revisited ... and an invitation to have fun with it! :D Can't Post

As I'm waiting for more news on the Amazon-series, I thought I'd in the meantime repost here parts of a blog entry of mine. It concerns a different LotR question. I'd like to hear your opinion Smile
-- I'm sorry if this idea has been brought up before ... I don't recall ever reading about it. --

Here goes:

Back in the 2000s as a Lord the Rings nerd, I became aware of the Eagle Plot Hole. It was said that a long, arduous journey to Mordor was unnecessary. Frodo et alii could have just flown into Mordor, right to Mount Doom, with the aid of a cooperative giant eagle.
After taking time last year to research this question online, and finding no answers, I had to concede that my favourite novel, regardless of all its qualities, held one gaping plot hole. However, when recently reading in FotR again, I came across a passage that could explain how Sauron might have stopped eagles from flying into his land.


Quote
This is what I feared, he said. What do you say now, Aragorn?
That I feared it too, Aragorn answered, but less than other things. I knew the risk of snow, though it seldom falls heavily so far south, save high up in the mountains. But we are not high yet; we are still far down, where the paths are usually open all the winter.
I wonder if this is a contrivance of the Enemy, said Boromir. They say in my land that he can govern the storms in the Mountains of Shadow that stand upon the borders of Mordor. He has strange powers and many allies.

Fellowship of the Ring, chapter 3: The Ring Goes South, emphasis added


What do you think? Would causing storms have been a useful defense against eagles?

Secondly, whether or not you think that theory has merit ...

I would like to invite you to come up with your funniest idea of what was really the reason that the fellowship didn't fly by Eagle.

Have fun!


I'll allow myself to chose a winner after a while, like with the caption contests Wink


(This post was edited by Mari D. on Aug 5, 2:02pm)


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 5, 2:05pm

Post #2 of 45 (3216 views)
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For all of the Eagles' good intentions, they could not be trusted with 'Shinies'. [In reply to] Can't Post

Nor, for that matter, could they be trusted not to filch string.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Aug 5, 2:08pm)


Hasuwandil
Rivendell


Aug 6, 3:43am

Post #3 of 45 (3147 views)
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One does not simply fly into Mordor [In reply to] Can't Post

...although it does seem the Fellowship were winging it all along.

The problem with taking the eagles (in addition to their possible refusal to help or potential to become corrupted by the bright, shiny thing) is that they would essentially be engaging in a full-frontal assault on Mordor against the Nazgl and their fell beasts. (Although I'm not sure if Gandalf or anyone knew about the fell beasts.) Perhaps better odds than a ground attack, but still highly risky. Of course, trying to sneak it in was also risky, but it did prove to do the trick, when combined with a well-timed diversion.

Hl Aurwandil, angil berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 8, 4:19pm

Post #4 of 45 (3081 views)
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For and against [In reply to] Can't Post

I personally don't think Sauron was maintaining active aerial defenses against Eagle incursions to destroy the Ring. Gandalf says in the chapter "The White Rider"

Quote
That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream.

Mordor is big and exposed, and there are only 9 Nazgul to fly air patrol, and they were inactive after being drowned at the Ford of Bruinen. So if Eages were an option, the logical thing at the Council was to summon them right away and fly a patrol of great fighters like Glorfindel to Mount Doom (instead of hobbits; they might meet resistance at the Crack of Doom, but I wouldn't guess much since Frodo met none). I don't see why a whole bunch of Eagles couldn't wipe out the fell beasts--I assume the Eagles number in the hundreds, and those beasts can be killed (just ask Eowyn).

But in Tolkien's world, the Eagles are almost only used as a last resort, the cavalry appearing over the ridge to save the day when the good guys look like they're going down in defeat. I say almost, because Gwaihir was used as a mundane messenger boy by Radagast, Galadriel, and Gandalf. But put that aside, and the Eagles only show up as a last-minute air force. So, logical or consistent or not, those are the author's rules. So for me, it's not a plot hole. I think they're used only by special dispensation from Manwe, and you don't call in your divine favors too often.

Having said all that, someone could counter: "But if they show up at the battle of the slag hills, why not call in that favor sooner?" And my reply would be: again by the author's logic, the Valar expect the people of Middle-earth to deal with Sauron themselves as much as they can (which is why the Wizards stay behind the front lines). Outsourcing the Ring mission at the Council of Elrond isn't showing the same kind of commitment that going on a suicide march to Sauron's front gates shows.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 8, 4:20pm

Post #5 of 45 (3072 views)
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The Eagles couldn't do the mission because they had just discovered Netflix and were bingeing on rabbit-hunting documentaries. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 9, 12:16am

Post #6 of 45 (3066 views)
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Pet peeve! [In reply to] Can't Post

PLEASE stop calling them "fell beasts!" That's a movie-ism that seems permanently embedded in the popular vocabulary, like the misuse of "crescendo."

They were beasts, winged beasts, flying beasts, flying/winged Nazgul steeds, impliedly prehistoric beasts: Tolkien never named them. "Fell" is merely an adjective, meaning "deadly, dangerous."

Anyway, contrary to the movies, there's no suggestion they had any aerial combat abilities.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 9, 5:10pm

Post #7 of 45 (3042 views)
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Tolkien doesn't exactly make that clear, though... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But in Tolkien's world, the Eagles are almost only used as a last resort, the cavalry appearing over the ridge to save the day when the good guys look like they're going down in defeat. I say almost, because Gwaihir was used as a mundane messenger boy by Radagast, Galadriel, and Gandalf. But put that aside, and the Eagles only show up as a last-minute air force. So, logical or consistent or not, those are the author's rules. So for me, it's not a plot hole. I think they're used only by special dispensation from Manwe, and you don't call in your divine favors too often.


Firstly, I agree: I think that eagles are a divine favour: you get it if you deserve it, or if Fate (or whatever the Power is) has different plans for you than you being stuck where you are; not if you ask for a lift.

But I think Tolkien has hardly made those 'rules' clear to a reader of Hobbit and LOTR. So I think it's not unreasonable for people to conclude that Eagles are sentient creatures like, say, Ents or elves, without any sort of divine restrictions on what they might do. And having made that conclusion, that eagles might be deployed as military units in the service of winning the war efficiently, the idea of trying to get Frodo into Mordor by air does seem to follow.

I notice we have problem like this elsewhere - for example why the Black Riders don't storm Bree, or press their attack after Weathertop. I think that, again, the answer is that Tolkien isn't thinking of them as military units: rather,I htink they behave creepily and unpredictably, like the ghouls they resemble.

Perhaps ideally Tolkien would have added 'Operation Eagle' to the options that are ruled out at the Council of Elrond. But I think he'd been careful to keep the Divine in the far background of the work. Given that, a section on who Eru and the Valar are and how they love us really, but expect us to fix our own mistakes might have been a difficult or unwise thing to fit in to an already long and dense chapter.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 9, 5:11pm

Post #8 of 45 (3039 views)
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Eagle: "Smelled hobbit feet once, never again..." :) [In reply to] Can't Post

"...well OK, maybe it won't be so bad now they mostly smell of scorched hair. OK, we'll give eth little guys a lift out out of Mordor just this once"

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


(This post was edited by noWizardme on Aug 9, 5:20pm)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 9, 5:16pm

Post #9 of 45 (3039 views)
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Oh, how can we possibly argue if you start off by agreeing with me?!!? [In reply to] Can't Post

Jokes aside, good point: for someone not steeped in all the backstory, it is a reasonable plothole that can't be easily explained away. Except that they were bingeing on Netflix AND had smelled hobbit feet.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 9, 5:42pm

Post #10 of 45 (3032 views)
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OK then, I'll disagree about the chances of operation Eagle... :) [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're absolutely right that we have to assume Sauron has not the least concern that someone might try to destroy the Ring. If he did, then he coudl readily guard all approached to Mt Doom, or seal it off or something & that really would be a plot hole.

Darn, wait - I'm supposed to be quibbling, aren't I...?

But I think one or more eagles approaching Mordor might be noticable and unwlecome anyway. Who knows what Sauron might do as counter-measures. Mari D.'s magical storms seems a good workable idea; or if Sauron can get Mt Doom to give his armies smoke cover, maybe he could get it to gas the entire airspace. Or, or, or... "but Sauron - who knows what he can do." as Gandalf comments. a Google searcvh for "eagle plothole" got me 21500 hits, so I suppose there are lots of suggestions to play with.

I suppose that the conditions F&S see don't necessarily tell us the situation that planners of Operation Eagle should be anticipating. The approaches to Mt. Doom are empty when F&S pass through, but that's because everyone's been sent to the front, to go squash Aragorn's army. Who knows how busy it normally is. Roads to it are well maintained, suggesting that there's a need to go there reasonably often. Maybe the whole areas is usually crawling with orcs, enough to subdue or hold off any realistically-sized airborne force.

Who knows about the nazgul and their f*** beasts (I thought they were 'fell beasts' because they ate fell runners, but that's probably just me). Maybe they can fight eagles, but maybe they should be excluded form the list of reasons why Operation Eagle wasn't attempted because maybe the Wise don't know about flying nazgul until after Frodo's been sent off on foot.

Of course, disagreeing too vehmently about Operation Eagle is a bit silly anyway - in the absence of much info from Tolkien, we're really just deciding what is feasible within our respective head canons....

...oooh head cannons - I bet Sauron's got whole units of those as an anti-aircraft defence....

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 9, 6:02pm

Post #11 of 45 (3030 views)
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Maybe we should ask the Eagles? :) [In reply to] Can't Post

On a dark Mordor flyway
Smoke and ash in the air
Warm smell of bromodosis
Rising up from foot hair
Up ahead in the distance, saw some poisonous gas
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
We hit the ground with a crash

and so on...

[You have to work a bit to make 'bromodosis' scan, but since it's about feet and poets love feet, I guess that's OK.]

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 9, 6:19pm

Post #12 of 45 (3028 views)
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Fell...creatures? [In reply to] Can't Post

"Fell beasts" is an apt description and rolls off the tongue. I can see your point about the impropriety of using it as a proper name, but it works well otherwise when discussing the creatures.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 9, 7:34pm

Post #13 of 45 (3018 views)
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If only "California" rhymed with "Barad-dur" [In reply to] Can't Post

We could make that song take off.

"Welcome to the Hotel Barad-dur...You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

You don't have to change many lyrics to make it a creepy rendition of Barad-dur or Minas Morgul. Such as: "He's got a lot of pretty Nazgul boys, he calls friends."

Those Eagles (the band) were possibly playing for both sides, which is the real reason they couldn't be trusted to take the Ring to Mt Doom.


Hasuwandil
Rivendell


Aug 9, 9:05pm

Post #14 of 45 (3004 views)
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Fell [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I thought they were 'fell beasts' because they ate fell runners, but that's probably just me


They're called that because owyn felled one. Tongue

Hl Aurwandil, angil berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


Hasuwandil
Rivendell


Aug 9, 10:12pm

Post #15 of 45 (3005 views)
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Neither fish nor beast [In reply to] Can't Post

My pet peeve is when people refer to them as Nazgl. Not that I see that much any more.

I agree that "fell beast" might not be the best name, but I'm not sure I see another, clearly preferable term. Tolkien referred to the creature(s) in the text of Lord of the Rings as "winged Shadows", "flying darkness", "great shadow", "winged creature", "steed", "great beast", and yes, "fell beast". I'm pretty sure "fell beast" does not appear at all in the movie dialog (unless we're talking about Rankin/Bass, which I hardly remember), though it probably appears in the script and some marketing materials, where there is more of a need to be consistent than in a work of literature. I'm still not sure what the problem is with referring to them as "fell beasts", especially since I specified them as "their fell beasts", "their" referring to the Nazgl, although I suppose they could have other non-winged beasts that are fell. Perhaps the problem with the term "fell beasts" is that, despite appearing scary, they don't really live up to the description?

To me, the noun is about as problematic as the adjective. Perhaps they should be called "fell fowls" or, given the meaning of "fell", "wild fowls". Or maybe "winged things". If we wanted to be Tolkienian, we could call them "winged creatures", but there again "winged" is just an adjective referring to anything that has wings. However, the adjective is pretty much necessary in, for example, "(their) winged steeds", because otherwise one could be referring to their horses.

Does anyone who does not care for "fell beast" have a preferred alternative?

Hl Aurwandil, angil berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 10, 1:02am

Post #16 of 45 (2992 views)
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Um, [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Does anyone who does not care for "fell beast" have a preferred alternative?


Veloraptors? Cool


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 10, 1:04am

Post #17 of 45 (2988 views)
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Seriously [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always gone with "Nazgul beasts" or just "winged beasts." Aside from dragons, they appear to be the only beasts with wings out there.


(And, no, Balrogs aren't beasts, so don't even go there Wink)


(This post was edited by Solicitr on Aug 10, 1:05am)


Hasuwandil
Rivendell


Aug 10, 2:21am

Post #18 of 45 (2974 views)
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What raptors? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Does anyone who does not care for "fell beast" have a preferred alternative?


Veloraptors? Cool


I'll see your veloraptor and raise you a ferociraptor. It even preserves the meaning. Tongue

A few more ideas: Beregond called them "hell-hawks" in ROTK, and Tolkien apparently referred to them as "Nazgl-birds" in a letter.

In addition, I suggest "Ring-roc" or "Barad-buzzard".

Hl Aurwandil, angil berhtost,
oƀar Middangard mannum gisandid!


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 10, 1:27pm

Post #19 of 45 (2914 views)
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Gwaihir wouldn't take the Ring to Mordor; he was too tempted, like Galadriel [In reply to] Can't Post

From unpublished Tolkien notes, this was Gwaihir's reaction to the Ring:

Quote
And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Tower you will set up a Dark Nest. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Robin and the Peacock! Fair as the Lark and the Bluejay and the Birdseed scattered beneath the Bird Feeder! Dreadful as the Guano and the Musty Cage! Stronger than the foundations of the Egg. All shall love my feathers and despair!

Rumor has it he also had a brief moment of looking nuclear-radiated too.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 11, 10:45am

Post #20 of 45 (2808 views)
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"Welcome to the Hotel Barad-dur, yeah"? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 11, 11:17am

Post #21 of 45 (2822 views)
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No eagle is "called" to the Council of Elrond [In reply to] Can't Post

I was thinking about what clues Tolkien gives an LOTR-only reader that Eagles aren't just available to be used as if they were handy helicopters. I think we're invited to see the lack of Eagles at the Council as significant. That's because Elrond makes an extrordinary claim at the Council:


Quote
The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring...? That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world.

Council of Elrond (my bolds)*


I wonder whether it follows that, since there isn't an Eagle sitting on the balcony, it's not for the Council to assume that the Eagles are essential partners in what the Council decides. And that would be for the reason that if Eagles were 'meant' to be heavily involved, one would have turned up at Rivendell 'by chance as it may seem', like the other 'delegates'.

--
*Hope you don't mind being called "my bolds" me hearties? Wink

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 11, 1:13pm

Post #22 of 45 (2812 views)
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There's always the theory... [In reply to] Can't Post

There's always that theory that I've seen around on the Internet. It is that Gandalf actually had secretly planned a rendevous with an Eagle for a lift. But he hadn't told anyone else in the Fellowship, and so the plan went awry when Gandalf fell into the chasm in Moria. "Fly you fools!" is supposed to be a Gandalf's desperate last-minute attempt to tip the rest of the company off to the secret.

Don't give this idea much credence myself, because I see it as lacking any textual support at all (and 'fly', I'm perfectly satisfied, is from 'to flee' , as in 'run for it, you fools.'). But there we are - the theory exists for anyone who likes it.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 11, 4:35pm

Post #23 of 45 (2794 views)
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The Eagles overthought the problem... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Eagles overthought the problem until they convinced themselves that reality contained a plothole and they didn't believe in it any more.

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Aug 11, 4:39pm

Post #24 of 45 (2794 views)
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It takes so little to get me going [In reply to] Can't Post

 
On a dark Cirith Ungol, spider webs in my hair
Warm smell of orcitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night.

There he stood in the doorway;
I heard the Morgul bell
And I was thinking to myself
'This could be heaven or this could be Hell'
Then he lit up a candle, and he showed me the way
There were death cries down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say

Welcome to the Hotel Minas Morgul
Such a deadly place (such a deadly place)
Such a ghoulish face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel Minas Morgul
Any time of year (any time of year) you can die right here

His mind is Black Rider-twisted, he got the carrion blends
He got a lot of pretty Nazgul boys, that he calls friends
How they hex in the courtyard, sweet Mordor sweat
Some hex to remember, some hex to forget
So I called up the Captain,

'Please bring me my kine'
He said, 'we haven't had that beastie here since First Age sixty-nine'
And still those voices are screaming from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say

Welcome to the Hotel Minas Morgul
Such an evil place (such an evil place)
Such a deadly face.
They livin' it up at the Hotel Minas Morgul
What a bad surprise (what a bad surprise), bring your captives' eyes

Corpses on the ceiling,
The hobbits' blood on ice
And he said, 'we are all just prisoners here, of our own device'
And in the torture chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the [fell] beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
'Relax' said the Nazgul,
'We are programmed to deceive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!'


noWizardme
Valinor


Aug 11, 5:16pm

Post #25 of 45 (2783 views)
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magnificent! // [In reply to] Can't Post

Nice to see you 'Take It To The Limit" ;)

~~~~~~
"Go down to the shovel store and take your pick." Traditional prank played on dwarves when they start down the mine.

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