Everything you wanted to know about Middle Earth but were afraid to ask
February 5, 2015 2:18 PM   Subscribe

 
Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

Because that would have been really obvious and they would have been immediately shot down, which is why they sent the most unobtrusive possible people to do it secretly, DUH god this argument makes me so irrationally mad
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2015 [32 favorites]


Append ?share=1 to any Quora link to skip the pop up.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2015 [17 favorites]


Because it's a fantasy.
posted by adept256 at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


So Tom Bombadil is basically a demigod?
posted by misterbee at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2015


Tom Bombadil is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a hey di hi di ho da diddle da dum.
posted by maxsparber at 2:28 PM on February 5, 2015 [57 favorites]




Wait, where is the citation for the claim that Thorondor and/or Gwaihir were bound as servants of Manwe and, by that proxy connection barred from flying The Ring[bearer] into Mordor? Seems that Gwaihir's/eagles interventions into the Battle of the Five Armies and the stand at the Black Gate go against any theory that 'direct intervention' with Middle Earth's politics, and the ring in particular, wasn't their cup of tea.

/tempestinatolkienteapot
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2015


(Morgoth's Law: all Tolkein discussions eventually end up being about either eagles or Tom Bombadil.)
posted by Guy Smiley at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2015 [42 favorites]


Tom Bombadil is one of those "there is no right answer" kind of problems that whips us nerds into a froth because we just have to figure everything out. We know exactly one thing for sure, which is that whatever Tolkien knows about him, he ain't tellin'.

"And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)."
posted by annekate at 2:37 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tom Bombadil is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a hey di hi di ho da diddle da dum.

And a nod to a childhood doll-of-his-kiddo right?
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:38 PM on February 5, 2015


More about those damn eagles
posted by annekate at 2:39 PM on February 5, 2015


Tom Bombadil is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a hey di hi di ho da diddle da dum.

Ned Flanders is Tom Bombadil, Hobbitarino.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:41 PM on February 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


> Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

Because that would have been really obvious and they would have been immediately shot down, which is why they sent the most unobtrusive possible people to do it secretly, DUH god this argument makes me so irrationally mad


There's apparently this FANTASTIC moment in the directors' commentary track for ROtK where Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are having the exact same "yeah, that's weird, why didn't Frodo just take the Eagles to Mordor" discussion back and forth for a couple minutes, and then finally Phillippa whats-her-name snaps at both of them to say precisely this ("that's exactly what Sauron would have been expecting, so duh"), and then there's a couple moments' silence, followed by Peter Jackson admitting that actually, yeah, that's a good point.

From the article:

And here's the thing: Valinor's policy towards Middle-earth is one of non-intervention (or rather, they try not to intervene as far as possible).

So, wait, they're saying that the reason the eagles didn't fly Frodo to Mordor is because....of The Prime Directive.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:44 PM on February 5, 2015 [17 favorites]


That and too much mithril in the atmosphere blocking their transporters.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 2:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh boy I imagine the Enterprise orbiting middle-earth, Picard chewing his teeth over whether or not to intervene, and Riker flirting with Arwen.
posted by adept256 at 2:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [14 favorites]


Because that would have been really obvious and they would have been immediately shot down, which is why they sent the most unobtrusive possible people to do it secretly, DUH god this argument makes me so irrationally mad

Seriously, the entire point of the Fellowship was that Sauron would neither expect nor be able to see a small group of travelers walking the roads toward Mordor. Ancient and powerful beings flying there would be both glaringly obvious and exactly what he was on guard for.

I hate this argument even more when it comes out of the movies because in the movies Sauron is literally a giant eye made of fire that shoots death rays at things in his line of sight.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


Because that would have been really obvious and they would have been immediately shot down, which is why they sent the most unobtrusive possible people to do it secretly, DUH god this argument makes me so irrationally mad

Nazgul.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


(as a side note since you mentioned the LOTR commentaries, talking about the Nazgul's mounts in the special features DRIVES ME OUT OF MY GOT-DAMNED MIND. 'Fell' as in 'fell beasts' is an adjective! It's a descriptor of them being terrible, it's not a species designation! I don't necessarily expect a graphic design student to know this but surely Alan Lee or John Howe did oh my god aauaiuhgiuhctp84cp)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:06 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Tom Bombadil is Tolkien's Mary Sue. Admit it.
posted by Renoroc at 3:07 PM on February 5, 2015


Nah, that's Treebeard.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Tom Bambadil and the Ents are the reason I gave up on Book 1 much to the consternation of my wife.
posted by edbles at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tom Bombadil is Ilúvatar, the "oldest and fatherless" is hardly cryptic. (and I'm sticking to it!)
posted by Cosine at 3:10 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Seriously, the entire point of the Fellowship was that Sauron would neither expect nor be able to see a small group of travelers walking the roads toward Mordor."

"The empire doesn't consider a small, one-man fighter a threat, or they would have had a tighter defense!"
posted by kaibutsu at 3:14 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I get the whole Bombadil-is-Ilúvatar theory and it holds together within the books. But Tolkien was a pretty devout Catholic, and it doesn't quite gel for me that he'd write God into his books as a hey-nonny-nonny cryptic prat who lounges about talking to trees while the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sauron ju-ju radar.
posted by clavdivs at 3:15 PM on February 5, 2015


Tom Bombadil is the low-hanging branch that invariably smacks into people and causes them to come to a crashing halt right as things are starting to get slightly interesting. Some folks get back on the narrative horse, others find other things to do. Bombadil is from another kind of myth (English vs Nordic) entirely, which is why I think he sticks out like a sore thumb.

The real Mary Sue is Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth. Shows up out of nowhere right at the end, gets included in all the battles from there on out, gets a long description of his banners, etc.

My unanswered question is why they send Legolas when Glorfindel is RIGHT THERE.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:16 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


An alternative eagle theory. (NSFShire)
posted by dannyboybell at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


It is true that using the eagles has its risks, and that they would probably have been seen, but I don't see why that settles the question. The "sneak into Mordor by the back way" strategy is nearly suicidally risky, with a huge probability of detection or simple death-by-misadventure.

Yeah, Sauron gets to see the Eagles and think "hmmm, this looks bad, I'd best send the Nazgul"--but that's hardly sure and certain failure, is it? Get ALL the eagles together and send them against the Nazgul and that looks, to me, like much better odds than the plan they did settle on. Those eagles move extremely swiftly and are immensely powerful.

And the real point of the "why not use the Eagles" question is not "Tolkein couldn't have come up with a plausible reason not to" but "it was a mistake on Tolkein's part not to think of this as an option they ought to have discussed and discarded at Elrond's council." It isn't a problem that he chose to tell a multi-book nailbiting adventure story rather than a two-sentence "and the eagles solved everything" story, it's a problem that he failed to address a "why not..." that will naturally occur to a lot of readers.

It's as if we had the encounter with Tom Bombadil--clearly invulnerable to the ring and immensely powerful--and no one even raised the question of giving it to him.
posted by yoink at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "I get the whole Bombadil-is-Ilúvatar theory and it holds together within the books. But Tolkien was a pretty devout Catholic, and it doesn't quite gel for me that he'd write God into his books as a hey-nonny-nonny cryptic prat who lounges about talking to trees while the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket."

Also known as No True Deity.
posted by Splunge at 3:18 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


My unanswered question is why they send Legolas when Glorfindel is RIGHT THERE.

Legolas volunteered, and Glorfindel was crowded out by the inclusion of Merry and Pippin. When Elrond gets grouchy about including the other two hobbits instead of someone more awesome, Gandalf says: "Even if you chose for us an elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him."
posted by dorque at 3:20 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


My unanswered question is why they send Legolas when Glorfindel is RIGHT THERE.

"In an early draft of LOTR, apparently Glorfindel was supposed to go with the Fellowship. But Tolkien felt he was too powerful and could get the Fellowship out of too many scrapes by virtue of his innate power, so he was ditched for Legolas. After that Tolkien must have added the discussion to the Council of Elrond, where they discuss sending a mighty elf lord and come to the conclusion that it would draw too much attention to the Fellowship."

Why didn't Glorfindel, Elrond, or Galadriel go with the Fellowship?
posted by annekate at 3:21 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rivendell was already more or less represented in the Fellowship. I can never remember which group of Elves are whom, but if memory serves basically in Mirkwood you have the Sindar, Lothlorien are the Noldor, and Elrond comes from the Vanyar? I think. In any case, I feel like part of how the Fellowship was constituted was very symbolic, which includes the different Elven peoples coming together again.


...or, on preview, what everyone else has said about Glorfindel makes more sense and is supported in the text.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2015


I finished watching LOTR an hour ago. Strange timing!
posted by chrillsicka at 3:33 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, nor to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short.

James R. R. Tolkien
posted by adept256 at 3:51 PM on February 5, 2015 [16 favorites]


I am proud to say I know (at least one) answer to all of the questions in the FPP.

Also, Tom Bombadil is dumb and so is his wife Dingleberry Goldberry.
posted by GrumpyDan at 3:52 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


James R. R. Tolkien

John.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:56 PM on February 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Tom Bombadil is..... ASLAN !
posted by edgeways at 4:00 PM on February 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

i already answered that question here a while ago
posted by pyramid termite at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would be delighted to have a set of The Hobbit and LOTR with Tom Bombadil left out, or at least in light grey type. gah. I like the Ents. Read LOTR young enough that I still had a lot of fairy tales mucking around in my subconscious.
posted by theora55 at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2015


I liked Bob The Angry Flower's take. It's flippant, but it makes a point. It's almost impossible to give up the ring even when Sauron isn't bending his will towards reclaiming it. Just being near it is shown to have a powerful effect on people. Even if the eagles could get you to mount doom and get past the Nazgul, there's no way they could do it without Sauron knowing. And once Sauron knows and can focus on the ring it's entirely possible no-one at all can give it up.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2015


I can never remember which group of Elves are whom, but if memory serves basically in Mirkwood you have the Sindar, Lothlorien are the Noldor, and Elrond comes from the Vanyar?

The timing of this is so weird, as i just finished the Silmarillion (again) for no good reason...

Elrond wasn't Vanyar, as no Vanyar came to Middle-earth, though Galadriel's line had a Vanya as a matriarch. Elrond was half-elven (complicated). Galadriel was basically Noldorin, BUT the citizen-elves she ruled were all sorts. Mirkwood I can't even...
posted by Zerowensboring at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Even if the Eagles couldn't have taken them to Mount Doom, they sure could have cut the journey short, e.g. by flying them to Gondor.
posted by idb at 4:10 PM on February 5, 2015


Because that would have been really obvious and they would have been immediately shot down

I'm not entirely buying this argument. First of all, Sauron expected his opponents to eventually use the Ring, not take it straight to Mount Doom. Secondly, no one said they had to make a direct, non-stop flight. Flying only at night to minimize exposure and making stops at more-or-less safe zones would have made the long arduous journey much faster and easier, and with a speedy trip there's less likelihood of your opponent discovering what you're doing.

In addition, the allies could have started using multiple eagles on similar paths. Perhaps using couriers. Something which would make a particular eagle flight be less noticed since eagle flights with passengers are now routine. I don't think it would have been too difficult to obfuscate the Fellowship's intentions.

The final stop didn't have to be Mount Doom. The final part of the journey could have been done on foot if the danger of surveillance was too high in Mordor.

When you have something which shaves off weeks or months of travel time when your opponents (at least in the beginning) are still on horse, it's a shame not to find some way to use it. It would have helped the Fellowship avoid almost every situation where Frodo was nearly caught.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:12 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


i already answered that question here a while ago

Magnificent.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:14 PM on February 5, 2015


i was kinda hoping to find some stephen colbert answers in there. it'd be awesome if that was the only kind of answer he'd give.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 4:15 PM on February 5, 2015


tom bombadil is actually a deliberately misleading literary device designed for those readers who'd read the hobbit, or at least were inclined to take this book as a lighthearted romp through a middle earth with cartoonish evil and cartoonish heroes rescuing the silly hobbits from their misadventures - gradually, beginning with bree, the evil starts getting more genuinely frightening and aragorn, the next rescuer of the hobbits is a much darker figure who has to struggle with himself over possession of the ring and has to work and risk much to save the company instead of saying silly rhymes

it's tolkien's way of saying a fond farewell to the original conception of the hobbit while making the subsequent action seem much harder and less fairytale like

i'm really not sure that he 100% needed that device or pulled it off that well, but i think that was his purpose
posted by pyramid termite at 4:18 PM on February 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

Well it's a one-way ticket, so sure, that could have worked. But then HOW DO THEY GET BACK??? In an alternate universe, Tolkien wrote the story of Frodo & Sam finding their way slowwwwwly all the way back to the Shire, acquiring new friends along the way, telling tales of their quick and easy trip to Mt. Doom. In this case Frodo gets to keep all his fingers too.
posted by ORthey at 4:18 PM on February 5, 2015


"that's exactly what Sauron would have been expecting, so duh"

Sauron's expecting an attack. He figures Elrond or Aragorn or Galadriel is going to head straight for Barad-Dur and challenge him. That said, Barad-Dur is close enough to Orodruin that he'd any incoming giant eagles would probably be spotted in time to intercept them.

(It's said, multiple times I think, that Sauron would never imagine anyone would want to destroy the One Ring. That'd be crazy. Destroying it nullifies the Elves' earthly power (the Three rings) as well as throwing away the opportunity to rule the world. Nobody would do that.)
posted by Foosnark at 4:33 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


JOHN! JOHN!

oh crap I failed
posted by adept256 at 4:33 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tom Bombadil was actually one of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth during the time of the War of the Ring, if not the most powerful.

... The sheer amount of power required to accomplish that is staggering.


Lots of things were unaffected by the Ring .. trees, mountains, the chain it was on, Shelob, .. Tom's immunity to the Ring demonstrates his nature, not the magnitude of his power.

5) An incarnation of the essence of Arda itself or at least of its ancient and once-ubiquitous forests; not a spirit created by Eru but a manifestation of the power contained in every rock, tree and water drop in Arda. There is not much to recommend this possibility except a certain amount of poetic beauty, such as his wearing a crown of autumn leaves, and there are at least a few shortcomings arguing against it.

I'm unsure what these "shortcomings" are meant to be. Though perhaps he is wrong to: (a) yet again focus on "power" as opposed to nature, (b) suggest Tom is a manifestation of the entirety of the natural world, instead of a specific bit of countryside (he thus ignores what Tolkien stated about Tom in his Letters); (c) suggest Tom is a spirit of the forest, ignoring that Tom lived on the line between the forest and the downs. Tom was a gardener and cultivator and tamer, not just a "wild spirit".
posted by wilko at 4:34 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


This confirms my feeling that I am the only person in the whole world who actually like the Bombadil character. Firstly I always imagined him looking like Dr Teeth from the Muppets band because kids are odd. But as I got older, he became more sensible - even though this runs contrary to everything Tolkien himself said - as some cousin of the Green Man/Herne the hunter: ancient, supremely powerful in place, but ultimately powerless in the face of modernity and urbanisation. It makes his rumadildoldo-ing less irritating too if it's voiced straight from the oldest of English folk tunes. He's also some distant cousin of the Excession, I'm sure.
posted by cromagnon at 4:43 PM on February 5, 2015 [25 favorites]


Ned Flanders is Tom Bombadil, Hobbitarino.

Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.

In between, he's wearin' nothin' at all. Nothin' at all. Nothin' at all. Nothin' at all...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:51 PM on February 5, 2015 [16 favorites]


Time for a Waiting For Godot fanfic about two goblin bat-riders waiting on a mountain peak near Mount Doom, fruitlessly scanning the skies for Eagle Sign.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:56 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: a hey-nonny-nonny cryptic prat who lounges about talking to trees while the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket.

sounds about right!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:04 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suspect you looked in my Google search history somehow to assemble this list of questions because I think I have actually googled all of them?
posted by town of cats at 5:07 PM on February 5, 2015


I feel like I'm the only person on Earth who actually liked Tom Bombadil. I mean, I was a teenager when I read Fellowship, but yeah, he was kind of my favorite character. I understand this is not a very popular choice.

(As an adult I like to collect books and recordings of traditional British folk songs; maybe I just have an unusual tolerance for people going "fal lal the willow!")
posted by teponaztli at 5:09 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I liked Bob The Angry Flower's take. It's flippant, but it makes a point.

Yes - even if Frodo did ride an eagle to Mt Doom, would he have actually been able to throw it in? Because in this scenario, Gollum isn't there, and without Gollum I don't think the ring would have been destroyed.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:17 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


No, see, they couldn't have ridden the eagles to Mt Doom, because eagles aren't real birds.
posted by dorque at 5:18 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


That makes me think teponaztli; I am also a fan of both Bombadil and traditional British folk songs...anyone out there needing a dissertation topic? Look for a connection.
posted by Sing Fool Sing at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean, in the end, _no one_ had the willpower to destroy the ring on purpose. Only the final "battle" between Frodo and Gollum resulted in its destruction. So any carefully built plan would have failed.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

Well it's a one-way ticket, so sure, that could have worked. But then HOW DO THEY GET BACK???


The actual answer is much simpler, as excellent author and myth creator as was Tolkien he just wrote himself into a corner. A huge molten corner but looking at that long opus without a wordprocessor, what do you do if you don't want to just kill off your beloved protagonist or do a full rewrite? Easy Peasy, invent Giant Eagles!
posted by sammyo at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

You just don't get it, do you?
posted by uosuaq at 5:21 PM on February 5, 2015


I'll have you know that I am a thoroughly un-cryptic prat, TYVM.

invent Giant Eagles

Already invented in The Hobbit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:23 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes - even if Frodo did ride an eagle to Mt Doom, would he have actually been able to throw it in? Because in this scenario, Gollum isn't there, and without Gollum I don't think the ring would have been destroyed.

A) Gollum isn't part of the plan, so that's neither here nor there.

B) It is pretty clear that Frodo becomes more under the thrall of the ring the longer he carries it. One of the great advantages of the eagle plan is that he spends less time with the ring. It's clear at the time of the Council that he's still happy to part with it. It's only after the long march to Mt. Doom that he falls victim to the ring's power.

It is telling, really, that the plan formulated at the Council does actually fail. The ring's destruction is sheer fluke. I still say that getting Frodo to ride an eagle looks like a higher percentage plan all round.
posted by yoink at 5:24 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is telling, really, that the plan formulated at the Council does actually fail. The ring's destruction is sheer fluke. I still say that getting Frodo to ride an eagle looks like a higher percentage plan all round.
.


Thats a good point. I was thinking in terms of outcome --- the "happy ending" as written is dependent on Gollum (in what seems a relatively clear moral lesson about good actions winning out over 'doing whatever it takes' and such). But thats just the narrative logic --- the "in-world" logic would be in favor of whatever gets him there fastest.

Still no guarantee he could throw it in, of course, but I guess really they have no way to predict that --- they just hoped that Frodo would be able to do it (while acknowledging that most of them didn't think they could).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bombadillios 4 Life! The Old Forest- In The House of Tom Bombadil-Fog On The Barrow Downs chapters are are (IMO) some of Tolkien's best writing. They may not fit tonally* with the rest of LOTR but I think they a captured a much stronger sense of the unknowable powers that Frodo and his fellow hobbits are up against than anything else in the books.

*I have a theory on this that relates to Tolkien's early version of his Legendarium and The Cottage of Lost Play framing device from The Book of Lost Tales that I need more time thaI have right now to properly express; TLDR version: Bombadil and his chapters are Tolkien's way of letting go of his own desire to see his Legendarium published on his own terms for the sake of the story he's telling in LOTR.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:37 PM on February 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's most annoying about the eagle question is how it flies in the face of the books' themes. The whole point of LotR, and The Hobbit too, is that these small, insignificant people can do what all the great and powerful can't, precisely because they are small.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:40 PM on February 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


What's most annoying about the eagle question is how it flies in the face of the books' themes.

This is true, but it makes a lot of sense people would ask it. My dad read me those books when I was a kid and when the eagles showed up at the end, even as a child I felt a little cheated. Like, what? After three longass books, they just hitch a ride on some eagles?

I get it now. But it's a very logical question to ponder.
posted by ORthey at 5:50 PM on February 5, 2015


I always think that LOTR is a story before being a mythos, and that the essence of that story sits on two main plots. The first (and most important) is, of course, Frodo's journey from being just a country hobbit to being someone who delivers the ring to Mount Doom, only to find out that he has succumbed to the power of the ring. On the way he finds all kinds of personal strength, and (with the help of Gollum) triumphs, and then discovers that his triumph was (for him at least) empty. (It can well be argued that Sam is the true hero in this plot, but Frodo is certainly the character who gets the spotlight.) The second is delivering Aragorn to the throne - he has to discard his secondary identity, wield the sword, get the riders of Rohan to trust him and follow him, walk the Paths of the Dead and keep Gondor from being destroyed (and a few other things). These intertwine in all kinds of ways, and if you take out much of one, the other will fall apart.

As the stories move along the tone of the book shifts - from the bright contentment of the Shire down to the rather horrific climax where Frodo and Sam are struggling in the darkness to reach the one place where they can destroy the ring and maybe escape the horror while at the same time the armies are facing the Black Gate, and then back up again.

The interactions of Frodo, Sam and Gollum are essential to the destruction of the ring and little time is wasted in building their dynamic. (Three books? Shorter in total than so much on the shelves these days.) Could the eagles have delivered them - maybe, but would Frodo have had the strength to throw away the ring then? We already see his attachment to it in Rivendell.

There are repeated cycles of light episodes and dark ones. The Shire, the Nazgul and Old Man Willow, Bombadil and Bree, the trek to Weathertop and the fight there, then the flight, and then Rivendell (and so on). As the books progress, the tendency is for the darker episodes to become more dark and more dominant.

Tom Bombadil seems to me an essential part of this process (yes, I like him). The hobbits have left the Shire and escaped the Nazgul only to discover that there are more dangers than the Nine - Old Man Willow, and the barrow wights. This serves both to educate them and to introduce us to the magic of Middle Earth. Tom Bombadil helps them out when things could have been Very Bad and shows them that not all magic, nor all the strange people they meet, are bad. As such he may be a factor in Frodo being willing to trust Aragorn in the Prancing Pony. (But yes, he's so much the Excession.)

The elevation of Aragorn to kingship and the extended light episodes around it are then countered by Scouring of the Shire and and then by Frodo's realization that he can not stay in Middle Earth.

And then again Maybe Not. I'm not a good literary critic - I'm a much better Enthusiastic Reader. And it has been too long since I read the books. But I don't care so much about the mythos, I enjoy the books and take something different from them every time I re-read them.
posted by Death and Gravity at 6:02 PM on February 5, 2015 [15 favorites]


Tolkien established the eagle cheat code TWICE in the Hobbit; once in the Misty Mountains ("I have written my characters into a corner, i mean up a tree-- how do I get them out of this?") and again at The Battle of The Five Armies ("I have no fucking clue how I can have the good guys win against overwhelming odds nor do I have interest in writing the grisly deaths of several characters-- Ahh, yes, those eagles again! Plus, a rock to knock my invisible POV character out for the duration of the battle!). Why WOUDN'T he use the same plot device again? We all loved it the first two times!
posted by KingEdRa at 6:02 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


My pressing question is where are the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm getting their food from? The great feast that Gimli brags about, particularly the beer and the mutton- where does the grain come from? Who raises the sheep? Are they brought in from outside? If that's the case, there should be more than simply two smallish entrances to the mines. Are the sheep raised on the mountainside? If so, it should be quite easy to get into Moria, as there should be many portals for the Dwarven shepherds to bring their flocks in and out of.

Or are the Dwarves brewing fungus beer? Are they raising a breed of blind, albino sheep in the depths? Because if that's the case, bring on the Balrog.

"I'm not digging for mithril- I'm digging to get away from those damn sheep. They creep me the hell out."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:04 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


When you live a lonely life deep within a mountain, and no women are around, and even if they were they'd be bearded, you _know_ where to find a sheep when you need one.

Er. Um.
posted by delfin at 6:11 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's most annoying about the eagle question is how it flies in the face of the books' themes. The whole point of LotR, and The Hobbit too, is that these small, insignificant people can do what all the great and powerful can't, precisely because they are small.

But, again, the point of the question is not "why didn't he write a boring book about a swift eagle flight" the point is "why didn't he spend five minutes thinking up a hand-wavy magic explanation that took the eagles off the table?"

I mean, nobody bothers with "why didn't they give it to Tom Bombadil" because he addressed the issue (and, really, the explanation isn't much more than "because, so!"). It's a fault in the book (not a major, story-destroying fault, but a fault nonetheless) to introduce characters who are on the side of the good guys, who seem obviously equipped to make the good guys' job enormously easier, and not offer any reason why the good guys don't just ask them to help.
posted by yoink at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


These sheep, do they menace with spikes?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


"When you live a lonely life deep within a mountain, and no women are around, and even if they were they'd be bearded, you _know_ where to find a sheep when you need one."

Please, please please... No forthcoming Kiwi/sheep/Middle Earth jokes!
posted by maupuia at 6:14 PM on February 5, 2015


I have it on good authority that Kiwis take their relationship with sheep extremely seriously.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't dwarves trade?
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:22 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


My pressing question is where are the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm getting their food from?

To get to the bottom of this, I propose we create an extremely intricate computer simulation of society inside such a "dwarf redoubt."
posted by Iridic at 6:26 PM on February 5, 2015 [25 favorites]


I figure massive farming caverns, possibly lit by skylights hidden high in impassable peaks.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:29 PM on February 5, 2015


Unrelated to Eagles or Bombadils, I would just like to take the opportunity to say that I've always been tickled at the image some wikia editor over at the Lord of the Rings Wiki chose to depict Gandalf in his original incarnation as a Maiar named Olórin.

Stupid Sexy Gandalf. (Complete with lens flare.)
posted by radwolf76 at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


We cannot get out. We cannot get out. They have taken the bridge and Second Hall. Frár and Lóni and Náli fell there bravely while the rest retr{eated to the Chamber …Mazarbul. We still ho{ldin}g...but hope …Óin’s party went five days ago but today only four returned. The pool is up to the wall at West-gate. The Watcher in the Water took Óin--we cannot get out. The end comes soon. We hear baas, baas in the deep. They are coming
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:36 PM on February 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


Not ONE f'ing link about dragons?!?

I want the real skinny on Ancalagon. This place sucks.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2015


I would be delighted to have a set of The Hobbit and LOTR with Tom Bombadil left out, or at least in light grey type. gah. I like the Ents. Read LOTR young enough that I still had a lot of fairy tales mucking around in my subconscious.
posted by theora55 at 7:10 PM on February 5, 2015


Faramir was the other one unaffected by the temptations of the ring. If I recall, in the book his says something like "If I were to see this thing by the side of the road I wouldn't bother to pick it up". This might be an empty boast, but Faramir didn't really seem the type to extoll his own virtues.
posted by um at 7:17 PM on February 5, 2015


Faramir can reasonably be seen to be the only character in the entire Tolkien world that always hews to his own principles. I understand why they changed him for the movie--Philippa Boyens talks about how it's narrative death to build up the Ring's power and suddenly have someone go "eh, nope" in the LOTR special features--but it gave me a sad.

He does the right thing, always. Not in a stiff-necked way, not in a damn-the-torpedoes-way, but he does the right thing and always strives to fulfil his duty. I've always felt kind of sorry for him, to be honest. He tries his best, and because everyone else around has such varying agendas, it's never quite good enough for anyone. Indeed, he's even Eowyn's second choice--though it's arguable that at the end of the day he got a better outcome than literally anyone else in the books.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:23 PM on February 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, the not using the eagles was just a mistake on Tolkein's plotting. Just leave it at that and enjoy the books.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on February 5, 2015


No, not saying "we can't use the Eagles" was a mistake in his plotting. Using them leads to a really damn boring story. And if he had, I think we wouldn't be talking about LOTR today.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:35 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


yoink: “But, again, the point of the question is not "why didn't he write a boring book about a swift eagle flight" the point is "why didn't he spend five minutes thinking up a hand-wavy magic explanation that took the eagles off the table?"”
Gwahir and Gandalf are both servants of Manwe. However the aeries of the Eagles lie atop the Misty Mountains in the Wilderland. Despite what is shown in the movies, messages are not easily passed to them. Gwahir was not summoned by Gandalf but was in fact seeking him out to convey news when he happened upon him imprisoned atop Orthanc.

The Eagles were sent by Manwe to keep watch over Middle-earth and the Noldor for him. While they sometimes intervened, their help often came unexpectedly. Gandalf was sent at the behest of Manwe and Varda, but the Istari were forbidden form attacking Sauron directly.

Thus, it is entirely reasonable to say that asking Gwahir to just carry Frodo to Mount Doom probably never entered Gandalf's mind. There's no argument, however, that these explanations are not written into the story, but are instead contained in thousands of pages of backstory not published until decades after the book was released.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:40 PM on February 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Faramir was the other one unaffected by the temptations of the ring. If I recall, in the book his says something like "If I were to see this thing by the side of the road I wouldn't bother to pick it up". This might be an empty boast, but Faramir didn't really seem the type to extoll his own virtues.

This is one of the most interesting things about Faramir, for me. The text is a bit ambiguous about whether he's affected. When he says "not if it lay by the highway would I take it," he doesn't yet know what Frodo has, just that it's dangerous and belongs to Sauron, and that it led to his brother's death. A bit later Sam spills the beans about it being the One Ring, and there's a moment that could be read a couple of ways:
The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way - to me? And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!
I could read this as a kind of resigned awareness of the situation, in which he's not deeply affected by the Ring.
But the BBC radio drama [which I like a lot despite its being abridged, don't judge] from the '80s chooses to play this as Faramir's moment of temptation (his lines are delivered in a kind of trance-like way and underlaid with a sound effect they use elsewhere to indicate that someone is under the Ring's influence), which he then shakes off, which he can do because (a) he's of Numenorean descent and (b) he already promised Frodo he wouldn't take it ("even though I knew not clearly what this thing was when I spoke, still I should take those words as a vow and be held by them"). I've always found that interpretation compelling.
posted by dorque at 7:49 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!

And then he did show his quality. "The very highest," per Boyens et al.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:55 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Us hobbits all know: you don't talk to eagles.... eagles talk to you. So, yeah.
posted by valkane at 7:56 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


And then he did show his quality. "The very highest," per Boyens et al.

Yes, exactly. (Per the text, even! I think Sam's the one who says it originally.) (In conclusion, it's possible I've listened to that BBC version a few too many times.)
posted by dorque at 8:03 PM on February 5, 2015


I too always thought Bombadil was a stand-in for Herne. In my experience if you meet a kindly, eccentric man in the wilderness odds are excellent that he is not someone you would be wise to offend, even if he's not one of the Maiar.

I speak as someone who has still dreams of becoming an Ent. I'd love to be an Ent.
posted by winna at 8:08 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


My impression is that the eagles have agency in Middle Earth. Not sure why everyone assumes the eagles are there to be ordered around. I mean, a whole lot of the book involved rallying different peoples and it really didn't seem like everyone was just old pals in Middle Earth, that had each others' backs no matter what.
posted by Hoopo at 8:18 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


At last, a place on Metafilter where I can link What Tolkien Officially Said about Elf Sex.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:21 PM on February 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would be delighted to have a set of The Hobbit and LOTR with Tom Bombadil left out, or at least in light grey type.

See, I don't actually understand this Bombadil hate. My favorite parts of the LOTR were all the little things that didn't really do anything for the plot, but just offered neat little glimpses of the world.

OK, so maybe I do get why people hate that character. Still my favorite.
posted by teponaztli at 8:31 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dear winna made-of-meat,

Becoming an Ent is a noble ambition, but let us not be hasty. Many questions must be answered. By what name shall we call you? What species of tree will you be? There are thousands upon thousands from which we might choose, and no promising candidate should be neglected. Do you understand fire, and could you explain it? Are you good at photosynthesis? Hroom hoom...

We are excited and eager to answer your request. You shall hear from us in no more than three hundred years (five hundred if it rains from time to time)

Yours till the sun grows red,

The Entmoot
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:32 PM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


In my head canon, Tom Bombadil is Fourth Doctor-era Tom Baker, complete with scarf and velvet frock coat. Second (blonde) Romana is Goldberry (blanking on the actress's name).
posted by orrnyereg at 8:46 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


The eagles in The Hobbit and the early parts of LOTR are the one of the places where Tolkien gets closest to a proper myth, in the sense of something emerging from an oral tradition. It's a kind of convention, like saying "...and then Odin bargained with Hræsvelgr, and he set his eagles upon the enemy, and drove all before them." It's something that would be satisfying to the listener, but also entirely dependent on the politics of gods and giants and such- in that sense, not wholly explicable in terms of human motivations or necessities. This does become a bit of a problem when figuring out how to deal with the one ring, but only if you assume that the eagles are just there, and available to the requirements of men and elves.

Tom Bombadil plays a similar role in the narrative, in the sense of oral tradition- he represents a much older folkloric belief, but also a point in the story that distracts from more serious events, and also lets everybody have a good sing together and get a bit drunk. He is a kind of wassail.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:51 PM on February 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Eagles Ex Machina
posted by dry white toast at 8:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thus, it is entirely reasonable to say that asking Gwahir to just carry Frodo to Mount Doom probably never entered Gandalf's mind.

or

My impression is that the eagles have agency in Middle Earth. Not sure why everyone assumes the eagles are there to be ordered around. I mean, a whole lot of the book involved rallying different peoples and it really didn't seem like everyone was just old pals in Middle Earth, that had each others' backs no matter what.

Either of these would be perfectly good "reasons" for not giving the eagle plan a shot. The point is not that it's hard to dream up reasons why the eagles can't be used; it's that Tolkien failed to dream any of these reasons up and put them into the book. And when you're going to use the eagles as a deus ex machina to save Frodo and Sam at the end, you really, really need some sort of "well, sure, they're obviously easy to contact when we need to rescue someone from Mt. Doom, but there's just no way to ask them to take someone to Mt. Doom" explanation somewhere.

Heck, even someone saying "the eagles are capricious; we simply couldn't trust them with this task" would be enough. "No one knows why the eagles decide to help when they do!" Whatever. But in the book that we have the eagles seem very happy to act as super-helpful, super-effective Mordor-SWAT-teams and nobody even raises the question: "so...uh...has anyone thought of asking the eagles to just, you know, whip the ring there before Sauron has much of a chance to react?"
posted by yoink at 8:56 PM on February 5, 2015


Second (blonde) Romana is Goldberry (blanking on the actress's name).


Lalla Ward. That's not a bad analogy.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:03 PM on February 5, 2015


it's that Tolkien failed to dream any of these reasons up and put them into the book.

Logical error: the only supportable statement here is that he didn't put any thoughts into the book. There is no evidence at all that he didn't think about it, and given how he wrote the book it's not actually all that surprising that in the last hundred pages or so he didn't go "Oh, crap, need to start over."

Plus, it's also worth considering this: Tolkien was explicitly trying to create a mythology. Look at the myths that persist in our culture; Zeus and the golden rain, for example, or turning water into wine. Very, very few of them hew to modern beliefs about narrative. It's entirely possible that part of his mindset was fueled by pTerry's narrativium and not by logic. Of course it makes sense for the heroes to be rescued at the end by eagles. How does that not make sense? Heroes being rescued at the last minute from their labours is how myths work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:05 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

There was a fan theory that I really liked:

Gandalf's plan from the start was to use the Eagles. In fact, he had arranged it after he was saved by the eagles from Isengard. There was a problem, however. The Eagles were on the wrong side of the Misty Mountains. If they'd gone straight to Rivendell, they would have certainly been seen by the orcs that infested the mountains.

Secrecy was paramount. If Gandalf could get Fordo to the Eagles, they could fly him there in no time. The first warning Sauron would get would be shadows over Mordor itself.

So, Gandalf set out with the Fellowship for the High Pass, the most direct route to the Eagles. However, Saruman turn them back with his magic. Isengard was the safer route, but too far south. Grudingly, Gandalf led the Fellowship into Moria.

He knew what they would find there, but couldn't let on for fear that his choice would seem daft. He rolled the dice and led them into the jaws of a million goblins.

And, at first, things were going ok (the watcher not withstanding). It wasn't until Merry tipped the hordes off with this shenanigans that the goblins descended on them. The Fellowship cut their way through the mountain but are confronted with the Balrog.

Even now, Gandalf dared not reveal his ultimate aim. If they knew and any one of them were captured and compelled to speak, all would have been lost. He unleashed everything he had at the Balrog and cast it down into the darkness.

But then, snake eyes. Natural 1. The Balrog's whip snatches Gandalf's ankle and pulls him down.

Panic! They don't know! He must tell them!

Barely trusting himself to speak his plan over a high whisper, he gave Frodo his last message:

"Fly! You fools!"
posted by Reyturner at 9:10 PM on February 5, 2015 [64 favorites]


It wasn't until Merry tipped the hordes off with this shenanigans that the goblins descended on them.

Pippin. Not Merry. Peregrine Took was always the "oh shit whatever" of the two of them. Meriadoc was more thoughtful.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:13 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reyturner, I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:18 PM on February 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

Oglaf's Ornithology panel explains it quite neatly (SFW, unlike most of the rest of Oglaf...)
posted by ninazer0 at 9:31 PM on February 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Logical error: the only supportable statement here is that he didn't put any thoughts into the book.

It's rather kinder to say he didn't think of it than to say he deliberately chose to kind up fuck that up.

Look at the myths that persist in our culture; Zeus and the golden rain, for example, or turning water into wine. Very, very few of them hew to modern beliefs about narrative. It's entirely possible that part of his mindset was fueled by pTerry's narrativium and not by logic. Of course it makes sense for the heroes to be rescued at the end by eagles.


Zeus is a god. He explicitly has the power to do pretty much whatever the fuck he likes. Tokien's world isn't, remotely, like the world of Greek myth. And, no, it doesn't make sense for the heroes to be rescued at the end by eagles. There is no specific internal mythic logic at work there at all (as there would be if, say, eagles were an established totemic animal of the Hobbits or some such). The only logic Tolkien's following by sending in eagles is a purely "realist" (within the storyworld) one: what kind of beast can get there fast enough to save Frodo and Sam, and save me having to write a long tedious account of their travels back out of Mordor. The eagles are the only winged allies he's imagined, so they get the gig.
posted by yoink at 9:39 PM on February 5, 2015


And, no, it doesn't make sense for the heroes to be rescued at the end by eagles.

Mythically, it does. Look at every myth, every fairy tale, which is precisely what Tolkien was writing: there are endless examples of "handwave and then they lived happily ever after" in the stories of all human cultures.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:51 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tolkien was writing something that was believable in the same way that the Greek or Norse or Celtic mythos is believable, not something that holds up under modern analysis; stories you've never heard but that you know. Logical inconsistencies are part of the terrain.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:53 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


See, I don't actually understand this Bombadil hate. My favorite parts of the LOTR were all the little things that didn't really do anything for the plot, but just offered neat little glimpses of the world.

I sort of agree here. The only problem is, the Bombadil "little thing" goes on for quite a long time at a point in the story when things are finally really heating up. I wasn't remotely surprised to NOT see him in the movie.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 PM on February 5, 2015


This gem, from the link on elven sex (emphasis mine):
Then again, Tolkien does mention that Celeborn was "the lover of Galadriel, who she later wedded." This comment does date back to an early set of notes when Celeborn's name, in Quenya, was Teleporno. You can see why he changed that one. (History of Galadriel and Celeborn, UF)
posted by tickingclock at 10:21 PM on February 5, 2015


Ned Flanders is Tom Bombadil, Hobbitarino.

I could well imagine Slartibartfast as a Wizard in Tolkien's universe.
posted by juiceCake at 10:31 PM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tom Bombadil is a stand in for James Joyce.

I know too little of the literary cannon, or lives, of Tolkien and Joyce to substantiate this claim but if it seems to click for anyone else then, by all means, have a go at it. I just listened to a podcast about Joyce today, read a good deal of this FPP, and it just felt like a fine suggestion. Here is a nugget to help you on your way.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:11 PM on February 5, 2015


Tom Bombadil = Sauron
J.R.R Tolkien = Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo R.R.Tolkien
Gandalf = Don Henley
Eagles = The Eagles
Samwise Gamgee = Tyler Durden
Billy Joel = Gimli
Christie Brinkley = Galadriel
Lothlorien = Uptown
Lonely Mountain = Downtown
Mount Doom = We Didn't Start the Fire
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:12 PM on February 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


I like Bombadil too, and actually I'm with someone else above who likes all those little odd parts, and the less important characters, narratively, like whatshisface with the giant bees (who is practically our household god, solemnly invoked whenever we make bread and slather it with honey)(oh yes: Beorn). I like Bombadil because for me he is like the perfect distillation of all that is charming, picturesque and yet somehow deeply and inexplicably unsettling about English folklore.

I like Ents too, but I really want to know more about the Entwives. I like to imagine them as looking just like people very fond of gardening, maybe they like long swirly skirts and earrings, but their "eyes were still the eyes of our own people" (the Ents). They were driven away out of the Brown Lands by Sauron. But to where?
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 11:34 PM on February 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ned Flanders is Tom Bombadil, Hobbitarino.

Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow

In between, he's wearin' nothin' at all. Nothin' at all.Nothin' at all.Nothin' at all...


BRB; registering Stupid Sexy Bombadil username...
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:04 AM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


I too always thought Bombadil was a stand-in for Herne. In my experience if you meet a kindly, eccentric man in the wilderness odds are excellent that he is not someone you would be wise to offend, even if he's not one of the Maiar.

Or the harmless old man with seven canaries.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:13 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why didn't Frodo just fly an eagle to Mount Doom?

(Eye + air force) of Sauron = dead eagle + captured ring
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:38 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why did Saruman need an army if he was so powerful?

A good question for devotees of the lords of this Age as well.
posted by Pararrayos at 3:50 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Only just spotted this thread so I'm hours behind the wave front but ...

Bombadil is Puck. A little more Kipling than Shakespeare, but he is the spirit of the (Eng)land. It would not be untrue to say that he is one of the most powerful forces in Middle Earth, but power as such is not his characteristic. Objects like the Ring work by corrupting the hearts of those who desire power over others, thereby gaining power over them. Bombadil however is true to himself (he wants no power over others) and as such, things like the Ring have no power over him.

If push came to shove, Sauron could have overwhelmed Bombadil. He might have done it out of sheer malice. Bombadil's shield was that doing so simply wasn't worth the effort, at least until Sauron should complete his conquest of the rest of middle Earth - which fortunately the sacrifices of Frodo and Gollum prevented.

I would argue that the reason The Shire rode out the destruction of the North Kingdom was the protective presence of Bombadil on its western border, more than anything else, and that the Hobbits developed much of their indomitable nature due to his proximity.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 3:51 AM on February 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


Reyturner, wonderful theory which works in the films but I believe Gandalf never says "fly you fools" in the books.
posted by Braeburn at 4:00 AM on February 6, 2015


With a terrible cry the Balrog fell forward, and its shadow plunged down and vanished. But even as it fell it swung its whip, and the thongs lashed and curled about the wizard’s knees, dragging him to the brink. He staggered and fell, grasped vainly at the stone, and slid into the abyss. ‘Fly, you fools!’ he cried, and was gone. LotR, II:5
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:15 AM on February 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Why wasn't the Fellowship accompanied by some great Elvish warriors like Glorfindel? Let's call it the "Boromir Effect".

The Ring (and all Rings of Power while it survived) was especially perilous to those with innate power. For the quest to have any hope of success, the Ringbearer had to be someone with little innate power, someone not strong enough to wield the Ring even if they claimed it, someone not raised to command others as of right and therefore less exposed to its corrupting effect. A Hobbit was what came to hand.

Of those who could have wielded the Ring effectively, Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel, bearers of the Three Rings, were able to resist its lure. Over Bombadil such things had no power. Faramir's ambitions were otherwise directed. But Boromir, raised to exert power over others, failed, as would his father, had Boromir brought the Ring to Minas Tirith. Saruman would also have failed. Most Elves and Men ... would have failed.

In their failure, Sauron would have seen his opportunity. It was what Sauron was counting on. His strategy was bent towards building sufficient political and military dominance that he could have defeated any self-proclaimed Lord of the Ring that might appear before his enemy could build a power base capable of resisting him. Then he would have reclaimed the Ring. (If nobody claimed the Ring, he had enough power while the Ring survived to simply conquer the world militarily.) Sauron's great fear was that a usurper wielding the Ring might, if not destroyed quickly, eventually become strong enough to deadlock him.

Aragorn's strategy in taking an army to the Black Gate was precisely designed to mislead Sauron into thinking that an arrogant Ringbearer had overreached himself, and to cause Sauron to move his reserves from the Plain of Gorgoroth (where they protected the Mountain and blocked Frodo and Sam's progress) into Udun, in order to crush the usurper and take back the Ring.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:47 AM on February 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


* Bombadil on the west - I meant eastern border of The Shire.

Looks at his hands ... uh, which of you guys is the right and which is the left? Seems I can't tell.

I think I'll just be going to bed now. :)
posted by Autumn Leaf at 4:55 AM on February 6, 2015


The EagleAir idea just doesn't fly. The Eagles, like the Ents aren't really on Team Humanity/Elvenkind. They have their own concerns that are just different those of the earthbound children of Iluvatar and may or may not have points of overlap. They don't have a representative at the council of Elrond and wouldn't send one.

They don't do general scouting duty for Elves or Men or reliably provide assistance. They may be telling Manwe about troop movements, but they never pass the intel on to the kings of Gondor. One eagle carred Gandalf someplace three times over the course of Gandalf's nearly 2000 years in Middle Earth for reasons of its own. A few Eagles saved Bilbo and the dwarves out of accipitridaen sentiment, but they never seem to have a general policy of interference. The battle of the five armies might have been an exception to this policy, but perhaps they felt some sort of obligation to humans and elves for taking out the dragon, which from an eagle-centric perspective was a bigger concern than Sauron, who didn't even move around on the ground, much less in the air.

Are the eagles really worried about Sauron? They've got their eyries on inaccessible peaks, they've got the power of flight, maybe the only reason they interfere as much as they did is irritation at Sauron's chutzpah in getting the Nazgul airborne.
posted by pseudonick at 6:03 AM on February 6, 2015


Non-intervention is not just a policy. It's also common sense. After lighting a fire in the snow on Caradhras, Gandalf says, "I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin." Clearly, powerful magic in Middle Earth is visible to the Maiar, and the post-Maiar talking eagles are far up enough in the hierarchy of beings that alterations to their normal behavior, such as ferrying a ring to Mordor, would light up Sauron's magic detector no matter where his eye was looking at the time.
posted by zhwj at 6:18 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


They were driven away out of the Brown Lands by Sauron. But to where?

Probably right into his dungeons where he turned them into trolls. There's something in the timeline that matches up--I believe this was mentioned in the last LOTR thread.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:27 AM on February 6, 2015


At last, a place on Metafilter where I can link What Tolkien Officially Said about Elf Sex.
posted by gnomeloaf


Can I pretend that Suddenly, Elf Ass also co-posted this with you so this can be the most eponysterical thing ever?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've never read the trilogy but I will read anything about Tom Bombadil. I find that character, and maybe more so the reactions he causes, fascinating.
posted by GrapeApiary at 6:57 AM on February 6, 2015


Ok, I get why the Balrog didn't come back. And I understand how the destruction of the ring of power destroyed Sauron. But how did a knife in a back kill Saruman? His staff was broken, but that didn't remove his Maiar spirit contained within his body. Or did Gandalf's breaking of his staff somehow bind him to being essentially mortal? (I don't see how that works, but am open to enlightenment.)
posted by Hactar at 7:53 AM on February 6, 2015


I think it's a mis-read to chalk the Bombadil-hate up to some fascinating and unfathomable reader reaction. As I suggested already up thread, I think it's mostly just sloppy plotting on Tolkien's part. Look no further than Bombadil's almost completely seamless absence from the movies (ie: if you hadn't read the books, you simply didn't miss him ... or feel any narrative hole between Buckleberry Ferry and Bree).

Which isn't to say that Middle Earth itself doesn't want/need him. Which Autumn Leaf explains better than I ever could.

I would argue that the reason The Shire rode out the destruction of the North Kingdom was the protective presence of Bombadil on its western border, more than anything else, and that the Hobbits developed much of their indomitable nature due to his proximity.

If Tolkien had figured out a better way to work Bombadil him into the telling, well LOTR would just be that much more magnificent.
posted by philip-random at 7:58 AM on February 6, 2015


But how did a knife in a back kill Saruman? His staff was broken, but that didn't remove his Maiar spirit contained within his body.

The Valar refused to allow his spirit to come back to Valinor. I'm too lazy to go get the book, but there's a line that's something something his spirit looked to the West and faded away something something.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2015


“To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising very slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.”
posted by Chrysostom at 8:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


The EagleAir idea just doesn't fly. The Eagles, like the Ents aren't really on Team Humanity/Elvenkind

Except that they keep showing up in the nick of time to Save The Day for Our Heroes.

And, sure, it's easy to create rationalizations for that. The problem being that Tolkien forgot to put any of those rationalizations into his book.
posted by yoink at 8:49 AM on February 6, 2015


The Eagles, like the Ents aren't really on Team Humanity/Elvenkind. They have their own concerns that are just different those of the earthbound children of Iluvatar and may or may not have points of overlap.

Yup, most of the "Eagles should do this!" comments treat them like pack mules ready and waiting to do our bidding. I think Tolkien calling them "Eagles" was a disservice, it obfuscates just how different they are from the rest of our group of intelligent beings.
posted by Cosine at 8:51 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised no one here has mentioned the risk of putting the Ruling Ring in the eagles' talons (wrapped in a hobbit, but small matter there). Remember how Gandalf refused to touch the Ring himself? Do you imagine Gwaihir would dispassionately stand by and watch Frodo dispose of the Ring?

In the end, of course, no one could destroy it or let it be destroyed. Even Sam wasn't really put to that test.
posted by argybarg at 9:08 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


the risk of putting the Ruling Ring in the eagles' talons

Don't they ride on the eagle's back? And, really, "the eagle might not let him destroy the ring" is really no more of an issue than "any one of the company might not let Frodo destroy the ring." Given that the eagles would shave an enormous amount of time off the whole voyage they reduce the risks of 'ring-induced corruption' immensely.
posted by yoink at 9:23 AM on February 6, 2015


If we're just quoting bits we love:

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin's sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.


It never fails to give me goosebumps and take me to the verge of tears. I must have read it a million times and even just now posting the quote all my hair prickled and I had to blink hard.
posted by winna at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Looking at that elf sex link, it's fascinating and not very surprising at all how much elvish sexual ethics and mores line up with the positions of the Catholic church. Sex is for procreation, life begins at conception, no teleporno.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2015


Yeah, the Great Eagles of Manwe aren't just some species of Really Smart Bird; they are immortal agents of the Valar (possibly even Maiar that opted to be bound to a mortal form, much like the Istari--Tolkien was ambiguous on that point in his letters) that act as their eyes and ears in Middle Earth. They have their own agenda and generally refrained from directly acting in the affairs of Middle Earth. As a matter of fact, they only seem to intervene when Gandalf (who is the only other Maia/Istari in Middle Earth actually still working for the Valar by the time of The Hobbit & LOTR besides the eagles, everybody else having turned evil, gone native, or disappeared) is in need of their assistance. I would imagine that they are under the same prohibition of contending directly w/ Sauron that the Istari are under.

That said, I get why people who only have seen the movies or only read cursorily read the books get hung up on this. IIRC, Tolkien never makes the Eagles nature (and their llimitations) explicit in the text of the LOTR, so unless you bother dig down and read all the appendices, letters and post-humous works, you're not going to have that "Oh, THAT'S why they can just Eagle their way to Mordor!" moment. I guess that sort confusion is to be expected when the author is backfilling his current novel with stuff from what was originally meant to be a seperate, unrelated work. I often wonder if JRRT ever regretted throwing in that passing remark about Gondolin in The Hobbit when they find the elvish swords among the Troll's hoard. It seemed to have forced him to go back and have to revise his Legendarium with his later works, so much so that he never lived to see its eventual publication as The Silmarillion.

So, yeah, the Eagles are still a lazy plot device by Tolkien to get himself out of a corner he had written himself into but at least their appearnces are internally consistent with the "rules" of his universe.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


The problem being that Tolkien forgot to put any of those rationalizations into his book.

Because he didn't have to. Tolkien is under no obligation to rule out every possible "better" way to get the ring to Mt Doom that some guy that watched the movies might come up with (which is when this argument seems to have really exploded, after the movies). We're not taking these details about the eagles and the ring/Sauron situation from nowhere, and they have pretty significant ramifications to the 'fly the ring to the mountain" theory. No small number of people who read the books came away with no issue regarding the decision to not fly on eagles to Mt Doom, and that no, it is not in fact the most logical way to do things in this world. Pointing out they could have flown on eagles is not some fatal blow to the narrative. Because there's no indication they could have. Because we come to trust the judgement of characters like Gandalf.
posted by Hoopo at 10:20 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Philippa Boyens talks about how it's narrative death to build up the Ring's power and suddenly have someone go "eh, nope"

How I wish someone had remembered this when the dwarves were running rings round Sauron with their stupid molten flood of gold.
posted by glasseyes at 10:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


That said, I get why people who only have seen the movies or only read cursorily read the books get hung up on this. IIRC, Tolkien never makes the Eagles nature (and their llimitations) explicit in the text of the LOTR, so unless you bother dig down and read all the appendices, letters and post-humous works, you're not going to have that "Oh, THAT'S why they can just Eagle their way to Mordor!" moment.

Well, except that as this thread shows, even the people who do read all that stuff come up with entirely different theories about why the eagles can't be used. I mean, your own account ends up hinging on a guess: "I would imagine that they are under the same prohibition of contending directly w/ Sauron that the Istari are under." You "would imagine" that--fine--but Tolkien never says it anywhere, not in the LotR books or in any of the paratexts.

And it isn't really consistent with what we do see of the eagles' behavior. They do participate in battles; they do help out on the side of the Good Guys. There are eagle vs. Nazgul battles right there in the books, so in fact your "the eagles can't get involved" hypothesis doesn't really work.

It really is just a slip up on Tolkien's part, plain and simple. It's not that big a deal (I don't actually think it occurs to most readers of the book unaided--it's become a Thing Everyone Talks About in the age of the internet, but I doubt it crossed the minds of all that many readers back in the day), but it's undoubtedly a simple case of "author error."
posted by yoink at 10:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It really is just a slip up on Tolkien's part, plain and simple

Or it's just really not that important, and as Hoopo said, he didn't have to outline every alternative method of Ring-delivery because that's just silly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:35 AM on February 6, 2015


he didn't have to outline every alternative method of Ring-delivery because that's just silly.

Of course he doesn't have to outline them all. He just has to provide enough explanation to satisfy readers that obvious, plot-central methods haven't been foolishly ignored.

Look, if you are writing a story in which, say, your hero is fighting off the Bad Guys with a bow and arrow when--CURSES--his bowstring snaps and he's taken prisoner but then you have a later scene in which he's threatened by the same enemies, bowless, and mutters an incantation which kills them all, then it's obviously a mistake not to bake in some explanation why he couldn't use that incantation earlier, right? If incantations are never used you don't need to explain the fact that they're not.

Tolkien puts a scene into his story in which the eagles can race to Mt. Doom in almost no time at all to rescue Frodo and Sam. He puts in scenes in which the eagles are fighting against Sauron on the side of the Good Guys, and in which we see that they can hold their own against the Nazgul pretty well. It was, simply and straightforwardly, a plotting error not to have tossed in a simple little handwavy explanation in the Council of Elrond for why no one would even suggest making an appeal to the eagles to aid the quest.

As I say, I don't think it's that big a deal, but it gets a bit wearisome hearing people insist that it's obvious why the eagles couldn't be used when A) none of them agree about what it is that ruled them out and B) none of the explanations bear much scrutiny and C) most of them are contradicted by what the eagles are clearly perfectly willing to do in the book.
posted by yoink at 11:03 AM on February 6, 2015


Except that most of the explanations do bear scrutiny, suggesting that there is textual basis within the book--without even having to go to letters or the Silmarillion--for a whole raft of reasons why they didn't just travel Air Eagle. The birds might be able to fight Nazgul in battle, but probably not as effectively when there's a Hobbit on their back. All a Ringwraith would need to do is dislodge Frodo; boom, he's a pancake in the middle of Mordor and scooping up the Ring is a piece of cake.

Books don't have to spell everything out when there are perfectly reasonable inferences to draw from the text. This is, like, one of the most basic things about writing there is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


frankly, the fact that we can easily come up with explanations why they couldn't take the eagles IS the point. There are clearly lots of reasons why flying on eagles wasn't an option they had at their disposal. That we can supply supporting evidence for, from the books themselves and from the copious amount of supplemental materials. Certainly more reasons against than for, and the "for" side only seems to be offering "it's the most LOGICAL way to get the noble halfling who is less corruptible because reasons to the one random magical place that can destroy the super duper magic ring that the Big Bad wants, because magic and reasons"

I mean, Shadowfax is a pretty fast, kick-ass horse. Why didn't they just give him to Frodo and take him to Mt Doom before anyone could catch him? Why didn't Aragorn just convince the army of pirate ghosts that owed him a solid to do it? The Elves sure let things get pretty far along before they decided to step up, huh? Ents, too. And what the hell was Gandalf doing all this time while Sauron was getting his shit together? Elves, Maiar, and other enchanted magic shit don't like to get involved? But they did get involved! Checkmate, atheists!

A) none of them agree about what it is that ruled them out and B) none of the explanations bear much scrutiny and C) most of them are contradicted by what the eagles are clearly perfectly willing to do in the book.

Eh, this is kind of a stretch. There's no need for unanimity here. A lot of them make some sense. They bear scrutiny just fine, at least as well as "they coulda just flown on eagles." And it's not a contradiction of anything that they show up at the final battle. Convenient? Hell yes! No one's saying it's not basically deus ex machina.
posted by Hoopo at 11:25 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except that most of the explanations do bear scrutiny, suggesting that there is textual basis within the book--without even having to go to letters or the Silmarillion--for a whole raft of reasons why they didn't just travel Air Eagle. The birds might be able to fight Nazgul in battle, but probably not as effectively when there's a Hobbit on their back. All a Ringwraith would need to do is dislodge Frodo; boom, he's a pancake in the middle of Mordor and scooping up the Ring is a piece of cake.

But the claim isn't "the eagles would obviously have worked perfectly and nothing could possibly have gone wrong if they'd used the eagles." All you're doing is pointing out that there is a risk of failure using the eagles. Well, sure. On the other hand, it's pretty much a miracle that Frodo even made it to Mt. Doom using the plan they did settle on, and once he got there the whole trip had taken so long he was no longer able to cast the ring aside.

It's not a question of "which plan was the magically failure proof one" it's a question of "was this a plan that we would reasonably expect the Council of Elrond, in their wisdom, to consider." Get all the eagles together, tell the one carrying Frodo to ignore the plight of the others and let them fight off the Nazgul, make as quick and high-altitude a trip as possible to Mt. Doom...yeah, sure, there are lots of ways for that to fail--but so far as I can see many, many fewer than the plan they did choose (which, ultimately, did fail--for a foreseeable reason).

They should have been raised as an option at the Council and some magical fol-de-rol should have been trotted out as to why they can't do it (and why they can't even assist with the plan as agreed up--e.g., flying the whole party to the outskirts of Mordor).
posted by yoink at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2015


The role of the Eagles are numerous in amount. One thing they carry is a ringbearer, or as the Hobbits call him, "Frodo". Another famous Hobbit was "Samwise Gamgee". In conclusion, Eagles is a land of contrast. Thank you.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


"was this a plan that we would reasonably expect the Council of Elrond, in their wisdom, to consider."

Gandalf and Elrond are portrayed as ancient and wise people with knowledge we do not have. I think you're kinda supposed to take it on faith that they didn't see this as an option, and are left only with a Hail Mary. That's not really a problem to me.

which, ultimately, did fail--for a foreseeable reason

The ring was destroyed. The plan was to destroy the ring. It ultimately worked.
posted by Hoopo at 11:34 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tolkien acknowledged in Letters that he had used the Eagles to the "absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness". From Letter #210 to Forrest J. Ackerman (June 1958), concerning an abortive film treatment of LOTR he had been sent to read:

Here we meet the first intrusion of the Eagles. I think they are a major mistake of Z [Morton Grady Zimmerrnan], and without warrant.
The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness. The alighting of a Great Eagle of the Misty Mountains in the Shire is absurd; it also makes the later capture of G. by Saruman incredible, and spoils the account of his escape. (One of Z's chief faults is his tendency to anticipate scenes or devices used later, thereby flattening the tale out.)

posted by wilko at 11:35 AM on February 6, 2015


And it's not a contradiction of anything that they show up at the final battle.

It's a contradiction of every single one of the "they refuse to get involved" arguments--which are legion in this thread.

frankly, the fact that we can easily come up with explanations why they couldn't take the eagles IS the point.

But inventing reasons is easy. They only become real if Tolkien actually writes them down. The "reasons" offered in this thread could all be made to work (more or less) if Elrond or Galdalf had given them in the book as The Truth About Eagles. But he didn't. So what you're doing is not giving "reasons the book offers us" but "reasons which Tolkien might have given us, had he not failed to think of it at the time."

Think of it this way; if Tolkien wrote a sequel to Lord of the Rings in which Sauron rose again, rebuilt Mordor, reforged the ring etc. and, basically, the whole plot played out again except that, at the Council of Elrond, some new Hobbit--"Brodo"--says "hey, I know, let's ask the eagles to help!" and they did ask them and they did help and they flew them Mt. Doom and YAY the ring got destroyed is there anything at all you could point to in either the LotR or the various paratexts which you could say made that plotline inherently inconsistent with What We Are Told About the Eagles and Their Powers (as, for example, would be the case if we had a hobbit who was ten feet tall or who was stronger than an Ent or something)?

If the answer to that is "no" (and I'm pretty confident it is, because nothing has been brought forward so far) then there is not, in fact, any reason given in the books or the paratext to explain the failure to think of the eagles and it remains a simple authorial error.
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The ring was destroyed. The plan was to destroy the ring. It ultimately worked.

The ring was destroyed by a piece of unforeseen luck. The plan was for Frodo to cast it into Mt. Doom. The plan failed. Then luck intervened and saved their butts.
posted by yoink at 11:38 AM on February 6, 2015


because nothing has been brought forward so far

Lots of things have been brought forward so far. Asserting that they haven't doesn't make it true, sorry.

Hoopo's nailed it, in any case: "Gandalf and Elrond are portrayed as ancient and wise people with knowledge we do not have. I think you're kinda supposed to take it on faith that they didn't see this as an option, and are left only with a Hail Mary."

At the end of the day, there are all kinds of things they could have done--Hoopo alluded to several--that we are provided zero explanation for why they didn't. There's no reason provided for not going directly to the Paths of the Dead and getting the ghost army to overrun Mordor. No reason provided for why the Ring couldn't just be sent to Valinor--Melkor's gone, no way Sauron could get in.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2015


Gandalf and Elrond are portrayed as ancient and wise people with knowledge we do not have.

They aren't the only people at the council. Everyone there knows about the powers of the eagles, someone ought to think of it and suggest it (Gandalf and Elrond know about Tom Bombadil, but Tolkien knows that having introduced this ring-immune superbeing into the story he has to rule him out at the council so that readers won't be constantly thinking "WTF, just give it to superTOM!?").

"I'll assume the characters know why they're not doing X obvious thing because they're obviously smart characters" is a stance readers only take when, like all of Tolkien's ardent defenders on this issue, they're already so wedded to the books that they're firmly locked in "LEAVE J.R.R. ALONE" mode. It's not a sensible defense for an author failing to properly cover their bases, as Tolkien manifestly did here.
posted by yoink at 11:44 AM on February 6, 2015


Or maybe everyone at the Council knows that the Eagles aren't an option, so why bother bringing it up? It's not like the CIA plans an infiltration with someone at the table saying "Why don't we just call Jean Claude van Damme?"
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:48 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


because nothing has been brought forward so far

Lots of things have been brought forward so far. Asserting that they haven't doesn't make it true, sorry.


O.K., tell me one thing--give it your very best shot, choose the One Thing in this thread which you think is the strongest "obviously the eagles can't be used" fact out there--which would make that hypothetical sequel a logical contradiction. (Again, it can't be just a "this is one way in which the eagles might fail" thing or a "this is one reason why the eagles might be reluctant to help" thing--it has to be a "hey, wait up, you said here that the eagles would burst into flames if they flew within X-miles of Mordor" kind of thing--something that rules out the hypothetical plot if "true" within the storyworld).

I'll be over here waiting.
posted by yoink at 11:48 AM on February 6, 2015


Or maybe everyone at the Council knows that the Eagles aren't an option, so why bother bringing it up?

Oh jeez. That's not how stories work. If that were an acceptable argument then there would be no such thing as plotholes. "Hey, why did they do that obviously crazy thing? Oh well, obviously there must be a perfectly good explanation that all the characters know about. That's good enough for me!"
posted by yoink at 11:50 AM on February 6, 2015


As I said above, one can reasonably make inferences from texts. This is, in fact, how fiction works. The only reason it doesn't, for you, is because you elided the sentence right after that one which indicated how this sort of thing does in fact work in the real world. It's not a plot hole.

And, in fact, that 'One Thing' has been laid out for you already. It's the fifth link in the FPP.

Oh but that's not good enough for you. Stories can't contain inferences, they have to be explicitly spelled out.

So, to quote Hoopo:

I mean, Shadowfax is a pretty fast, kick-ass horse. Why didn't they just give him to Frodo and take him to Mt Doom before anyone could catch him? Why didn't Aragorn just convince the army of pirate ghosts that owed him a solid to do it? The Elves sure let things get pretty far along before they decided to step up, huh? Ents, too. And what the hell was Gandalf doing all this time while Sauron was getting his shit together?

Did Tolkien have to explicitly state all these things, too?

Seriously, are you familiar with the concept that in fiction authors often invite the reader to read between the lines?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:56 AM on February 6, 2015


The ring was destroyed by a piece of unforeseen luck. The plan was for Frodo to cast it into Mt. Doom. The plan failed. Then luck intervened and saved their butts.

That's the Catholicism kicking in.
posted by maxsparber at 11:57 AM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


In yoink's ideal novel, the first chapter is a beautiful establishing shot of a world full of promise, adventure, and legend. Chapter 2 begins with a discussion surrounding the first problem that faces the characters, and in the remaining 98 chapters they discuss the many ways in which the problem might be resolved.

The extremely satisfying conclusion to the novel is that a rigorous solution is found.
posted by gilrain at 12:23 PM on February 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh wait, no, that's a math textbook.
posted by gilrain at 12:29 PM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would read that book and enjoy it greatly, but that book is not the book Tolkien wrote.

Someone please write A Detailed Analysis of Socio-Political Struggle in the Third Age: Inter-Species Conflict and Compromise (Fourth Edition) so I can curl up and enjoy it.
posted by winna at 12:32 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a contradiction of every single one of the "they refuse to get involved" arguments--which are legion in this thread.

Not really. A lot of things didn't want to get involved but did in the end. There's no law saying they can't get involved, it's a preference. They changed their minds, like a lot of others in the story.

Everyone there knows about the powers of the eagles, someone ought to think of it and suggest it (Gandalf and Elrond know about Tom Bombadil, but Tolkien knows that having introduced this ring-immune superbeing into the story he has to rule him out at the council so that readers won't be constantly thinking "WTF, just give it to superTOM!?")

Bombadil came up at the council because they gave a recap of their journey. No one had encountered the eagles thus far. There was no reason to point out the reason why the eagles couldn't help because they hadn't been introduced yet.


The plan was for Frodo to cast it into Mt. Doom. The plan failed.


Oh good lord. Would you call it a failure if Samwise had done it instead of Frodo because the plan was to have Frodo do it? The plan was to destroy the One Ring. The hobbits were the means they chose to get it done. It was destroyed.

But inventing reasons is easy.


You keep saying this. It really doesn't matter how easy it is. The fact it's easy is the point. It's what you're supposed to do. What Tolkien has written seems to get across to most readers that there was a reason they didn't take the eagles. They can point to any number of details Tolkien provided in the vast backround of his fantasy world and say "that's why". You, on the other hand, feel that's not how stories work and that stories always spell everything out explicitly or something.

yoink: no one is saying there's no ambiguity in the eagles. wilko up there pointed out even Tolkien considered them a "dangerous machine" and intentionally used them sparingly as a result. They were a way out of a jam he wrote himself into. But Tolkien has put enough detail in these books to give most readers the ability to accept there are reasons why the eagles weren't option 1. (Shit, here's another: you know how the ring plays tricks on the bearer in terms of weight? try dealing that while flying.) It is not some massive gotcha moment to say "hey maybe they coulda just taken the eagles because it's totally not a realistic oversight for elves and wizards and hobbits in the third age." There's enough provided for this to not be a huge gap in plausibility for the average reader.
posted by Hoopo at 12:58 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, in fact, that 'One Thing' has been laid out for you already. It's the fifth link in the FPP.

Nice try. Unfortunately, the argument on that page explicitly turns on a non-textual "assumption" about the eagles's relationship to the Valar ("I have always assumed that Gwaihir is also a servant of the Valar"). It also desperately hand-waves away the fact that the eagles clearly do NOT have any rigorous policy of non-intervention.

So it is both non-textual AND inconsistent with what happens in the books.

So, no, the books themselves AND the paratexts contain no explanation of why the eagles could not have been appealed to for aid.
posted by yoink at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2015


oh ffs
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


A Detailed Analysis of Socio-Political Struggle in the Third Age: Inter-Species Conflict and Compromise (Fourth Edition)


Chapter 1:

It is impossible to understand the conflicts that rocked the end of the Third Age (and which would ultimately usher in the Fourth), without understanding The Shire, and immense influence it held over the post-Númenórean polities; an influence belied by its geographic isolation and modest population, not to mention the apparent provincialism of its inhabitants. Key to this prestige was the wealth derived from its vast overseas colonies, the result of centuries of relentless foreign adventure and methodical military campaigning...

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: Your favorite eagle back-story sucks!
posted by blue_beetle at 1:23 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


In yoink's ideal novel, the first chapter is a beautiful establishing shot of a world full of promise, adventure, and legend. Chapter 2 begins with a discussion surrounding the first problem that faces the characters, and in the remaining 98 chapters they discuss the many ways in which the problem might be resolved.

No, my ideal novel is pretty much he one Tolkein wrote, but where he added two or three sentences to the Council of Elron scene to fix an obvious minor plothole.

As I've said repeatedly, the point is not that every POSSIBLE plan needs to be canvassed, just that OBVIOUSLY promising plans which the narrative of the book shows us to be promising need to be canvassed.

Take "why not use Shadowfax" for example. Well, if Shadowfax had shown up to rescue Frodo a matter of minutes after the ring is destroyed, then, yeah, that plan would have to be discussed at the Council. But given that that doesn't happen I don't really see how one can propose a sensible "let's use Shadowfax" plan. I mean, he could carry, what, Frodo and Gandalf? He's fast, but he's earthbound and not invisible, so he can't just gallop through battallions of orcs unnoticed. If you are wedded to a terrestrial approach to Mt. Doom then stealth is obviousy the only course--a fast horse is no help there. Getting to the outskirts of Mordor quickly is good, but then your party is pretty small etc. etc.

No, nothing that happens in the story prompts us to think "hey, why not just use Shadowfax." So no discussion of Shadowfax at the Council was required. But Tolkien DID put in a scene where the eagles A) show that they're capable of taking on the Nazgul and B) capable of getting to Mt Doom very, very rapidly without having to fear anything from ANY ground-based baddie until they start descending toward Mt. Doom itself. Once you put that scene in the book, you make it necessary to explain why that obvious solution wasn't even discussed at the Council.

Oh, and as for Tolkien saying he used the eagles as sparingly as possible: yes, of course. Once again, NO ONE IS SAYING THE BOOK WOULD BE BETTER IF HE'D USED THE EAGLES. What we're saying is that it would have been better if he'd added three sentences into the Council of Elrond which explained why they couldn't be used.
posted by yoink at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Did Frodo fail to destroy the ring, or was his heeding of Gandalf's wise advice regarding pity the only means by which it could actually be accomplished, given the rings corrupting power?
posted by walrus at 1:32 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


If he'd added those three sentences, you'd be in this thread arguing about a further three sentences he needed to add to cover some other contingency. The Lord of the Rings, or indeed any book, is not a perfect, much less so if you tenaciously refuse to engage with its mythology on its own terms, which is what makes it so enjoyable to so many.

At this point, your argument just sounds like, "You shouldn't like that book you really like as much as you do! If you could approach it from my cold, logical distance, you'd see..." What? That it's hard to enjoy fiction when you approach it from a cold, logical distance? You've certainly convinced me of that, at least!
posted by gilrain at 1:35 PM on February 6, 2015


All the arguments about "well, you're supposed to just infer the reason," by the way are arguments to the effect that there are no such things as plot holes. Because you could apply that to every single case ever.

Let's say you're watching a superman story and superman comes across a man trapped under a boulder the size of, oh, a car. He tries to lift the boulder, but can't. Does the writer have to explain why he can't? Of course not. We know Superman is smart and honest. Obviously there must be some perfectly good reason that in this one instance he can't lift a boulder that he would normally toss aside like a ping pong ball. Maybe it is infused with kryptonite? Maybe it is made up entirely of condensed planets. Who knows? Who cares, right? It would be perfectly fine to just leave it unexplained because reasons are easy to invent, and there's no particular reason for Superman to explicitly spell out the problem, right?
posted by yoink at 1:35 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, of all the mysteries in Tolkien's works, the eagle debate is easily the most boring.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:41 PM on February 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yes, and people who enjoy Superman probably wouldn't mind if half the fun was reading in the later canon that, aha!, that boulder tied in nicely with the whole... whatever Superman stuff.

You're frustrated Tolkien fans aren't willing to criticize the Lord of the Rings as an isolated work of fiction, when the entire joy of being a Tolkien fan is that there is a whole library of additional material. You're someone barging into a languages conference with a niggle about a wild inconsistency in English, and then shouting "You can't do that!" when people point out that it makes sense if you consider the Norman scribes' influence on the language.
posted by gilrain at 1:42 PM on February 6, 2015


If he'd added those three sentences, you'd be in this thread arguing about a further three sentences he needed to add to cover some other contingency.

No, I can't think of any other particularly glaring plothole in the book. There's a reason this one keeps coming up, and it's not because people want to be mean about the book or because they don't enjoy the book's mythology--it's because Tolkien made an error.

And as I have also said, repeatedly, it's not a massive error, it doesn't ruin the story or anything like that--but pretending that there is some internal explanation that rules the eagles out or that this is some sort of deliberate mystery is just silly. It's a goof, like a continuity error or visible crew in a movie.
posted by yoink at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2015


And just about everyone is willing to overlook it, plug the hole with whatever explanation they like, and get back to enjoying the rest of it.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:49 PM on February 6, 2015


when the entire joy of being a Tolkien fan is that there is a whole library of additional material.

A whole library of additional material which, as we've thoroughly established, does not contain a single conclusive account of why the eagles weren't appealed to.
posted by yoink at 1:50 PM on February 6, 2015


There are, in fact, many internal explanations that rule the eagles out. That isn't silly, it's a fact. Your whole problem is that "internal", to you, means a single work in a huge corpus.
posted by gilrain at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2015


And just about everyone is willing to overlook it, plug the hole in with whatever explanation they like, and get back to enjoying the rest of it.

Indeed, as do I. It doesn't prevent me from acknowledging the error was made, however.
posted by yoink at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2015


There are, in fact, many internal explanations that rule the eagles out. That isn't silly, it's a fact.

Odd how no one seems able to name one.
posted by yoink at 1:53 PM on February 6, 2015


B) capable of getting to Mt Doom very, very rapidly without having to fear anything from ANY ground-based baddie until they start descending toward Mt. Doom itself

After Sauron was destroyed.

You keep ignoring questions I ask you so I don't know why I'm bothering again, but given the number of plausible explanations people come up with, don't you think there's a remote possibility that the characters themselves know all these things and thus don't explain them because the reader can work it out for themselves?

Right here in the real world, do people simply not bother bringing up ideas they know won't work?

It would be perfectly fine to just leave it unexplained because reasons are easy to invent, and there's no particular reason for Superman to explicitly spell out the problem, right?

Invent and infer are different words that mean different things. We're not inventing plausible reasons why the Eagles didn't do it, we are inferring from clues that are in the damn text.

1) The connection to Manwe
2) Sauron also has air power, making it a dicey chance
3) The entire mission is based on sneaking and eagles with hundred-foot wingspans are not exactly unlikely to attract notice winging their way across Mordor

So let's say you're in charge of a sneaky infiltration mission. Why would you even bother suggesting the non-sneaky alternative? Remaining unnoticed is the whole point.

But none of that's good enough for you.

Quote from the text:
' "How far can you bear me? " I said to Gwaihir.

' "Many leagues," said he, "but not to the ends of the earth. I was sent to bear tidings not burdens."
FOTR, chapter 14. Gwaihir then carries Gandalf from Orthanc to Edoras, which, eyeballing a map is about 1/8th the distance from Rivendell to Orodruin.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someone please write A Detailed Analysis of Socio-Political Struggle in the Third Age: Inter-Species Conflict and Compromise (Fourth Edition) so I can curl up and enjoy it.

There's always Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn's commentary track for the movies.

Among the probing questions asked: who benefits from making the viewer assume that being an on-fire eye is such a terrible affliction to have?
posted by Copronymus at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


And looking at this map, which actually has a scale, it's on the order of 700 miles in a direct line from Rivendell to Orodruin, which is a bit more than 'many' leagues--it's more like 240-ish.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2015


Guys, can't we just talk about what a dick Fëanor is?
posted by Chrysostom at 2:09 PM on February 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Odd how no one seems able to name one... to my satisfaction.

I'm off, need to make a pizza and have a gin.
posted by gilrain at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


but pretending that there is some internal explanation that rules the eagles out or that this is some sort of deliberate mystery is just silly

There's nothing silly about it. Beyond arguing over the rules in a fantasy book, I guess. Good fiction allows you to fill in blanks with your imagination. Nothing is mentioned about the eagles being able to fly into Mt Doom. It wasn't necessary, for me, or many other readers. For you, you need documented proof of some kind that the eagles are not able to accomplish the task themselves, or otherwise Tolkien totes fucked up! Someone else could ask you what proof there is that the eagles could do this, and there would be no more proof than what you are asking for. It is simply not addressed, it is not important, it is not a "hole" in the story. You might as well be arguing passionately about whether Batman can beat up Superman.

Well, if Shadowfax had shown up to rescue Frodo a matter of minutes after the ring is destroyed, then, yeah, that plan would have to be discussed at the Council

Haha what? no

They never discussed how to get out of Mount Doom, did they? Escape wasn't really fleshed out.

Odd how no one seems able to name one.

OMFG
posted by Hoopo at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2015


It is simply not addressed, it is not important, it is not a "hole" in the story.

It's not a hole in the story for you and others. But it's a question that's been consistently asked over the years, it's a hole for some people.

I haven't heard an explanation that explains why the eagles weren't used it my satisfaction, but that's ok, that's my particular interpretation of the story. It's still a damn fine story and thoroughly enjoyable.

You might as well be arguing passionately about whether Batman can beat up Superman.

Terribly analogy , Superman would crush the Bat in no time flat.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:00 PM on February 6, 2015


Chrysostom: “Guys, can't we just talk about what a dick Fëanor is?”
Word.

Or how about what a badass Galadriel is?
posted by ob1quixote at 3:05 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


what i just don't understand is why the council didn't have the dwarves dig a tunnel from rivendell to the crack of doom

sauron would have NEVER expected that and they'd all be hidden so no one could see them

sure, it might of taken a thousand years or so, but they'd already had the ring around for several thousand, another thousand is nothing and maybe sauron would fall asleep or something

ANSWER ME THAT, mr tolkien!!!

also, benjamin franklin on eagles -

"He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

"With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The Witch King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District."

i rest my case
posted by pyramid termite at 4:52 PM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Someone please write A Detailed Analysis of Socio-Political Struggle in the Third Age: Inter-Species Conflict and Compromise (Fourth Edition) so I can curl up and enjoy it.

Well... it's not exactly that, but if you are at all serious about this idea, you might enjoy The Last Ring-bearer.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:57 PM on February 6, 2015


The connection to Manwe

Which, as we've seen, is not spelled out by Tolkien explicitly. And which, insofar as speculation about it leads to the claim that the eagles are somehow bound not to interfere leads to the problem that the eagles DO interfere. There simply is no clear textual statement by Tolkien anywhere that the eagles would have refused to aid the mission.

Sauron also has air power.

Yes. He does. But we know that the Nazgul are not the automatic victors in a fight with the eagles, so that's just a risk. The course they choose to pursue is full of risks--so far as I can see greater risks than those posed by the Nazgul to the eagles. And using the eagles eliminates ALL other risks. That is, the course they choose to pursue must run the risk of encountering ALL of Sauron's forces--land AND air. Using the eagles limits that pretty drastically.

The entire mission is based on sneaking

Well, yes, the course they eventually decide to pursue is based on sneaking. But the question is whether that is a better, lower risk choice than asking the eagles to help. We know that the Eagles can fly so high that it is beyond Aragorn's power to even see them. A high altitude flight over Mt Doom followed by a sudden dive down seems pretty stealthy and reasonably likely to succeed--certainly more so than the unbelievably chancy plan they settled on.

How far can you bear me

Far enough. No one says the eagles have to do it in one flight from Rivendell to Mt Doom. But we know from the fact of Frodo's and Sam's rescue that they can carry a hobbit (a lot lighter than Gandalf) as far as need be.
posted by yoink at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2015


Eagles. Breaking the 4th wall for a moment, Tolkien was raised before the era of modern aircraft. Yes he was writing LotR during WWII, but his own attitudes were formed during WWI and before, when the main role of air power was in support of ground forces - as aerial observers or as raiders harassing the enemy's aerial observers. Most aircraft had relatively short ranges and were extremely vulnerable to ground fire. Does that sound like anything we might be discussing here?

To those of us raised after WWII, when air power seemed all-conquering, the Eagles are an obvious way to get the Ring to Mt Doom. To someone from an older generation, not so obvious.

Closing the 4th wall, don't forget that although Mordor was the heartland of Sauron's power, he was not restricted to Mordor. The lands between Rivendell and Mordor contained many natural allies of the Fellowship, but also many enemies. Unburdened Eagles had fairly long ranges, but Eagles carrying heavy burdens would have to stop and rest multiple times on the way, and we know that for example the Misty Mountains were infested with orcs, trolls and stone giants and their roots were "gnawed by nameless things". Every stop would be fraught.

We also know that the Eye could see things far away, under certain circumstances. Sauron did not expect his foes to try to destroy the Ring, but given Sauron's daunting military buildup, one possible move by a powerful new Ringlord would be to fly in to Barad-Dur with a select group of powerful minions and face Sauron down there, instead of trying to fight through a million orcs. It wouldn't be the first time his enemies did something like that - Gandalf penetrated Dol Guldur (albeit on foot) and the White Council later forced him from that place. (We can ignore Peter Jackson's take on that.) We must also remember the "Eagles of the West" that Manwe sent over Numenor in the days when Sauron was there. Sauron would definitely have considered the possibility that his enemies would use Eagles against him and it is no stretch to assume that he had developed the means to make things hot for anyone trying to fly into Mordor.

We do not know Gandalf's plan for destroying the Ring! What we see in LotR is what Frodo and Sam and Gollum came up with after Gandalf was out of the picture, not what Gandalf himself intended. For example, he never meant to go by way of Cirith Ungol: he was surprised when Faramir told them of Faramir's encounter with the Hobbits. Since the Black Gate appeared inpenetrable, we can only speculate how Gandalf intended to get into Mordor. Perhaps Gandalf intended to meet up with the Eagles near the Black Gate, to make the last dash by air, giving Sauron no time to react?

In the end the Ring was destroyed because of Bilbo's pity, many years before.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 5:31 PM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


ob1quixote: "Or how about what a badass Galadriel is?"

Sure. Tolkien is often (rightfully!) criticized for his lack of strong female characters, but the Silmarillion has a fair number of pretty cool women. Galadriel, Lúthien, Haleth, Melian, Idril, not to mention Yavanna and Varda!
posted by Chrysostom at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which, as we've seen, is not spelled out by Tolkien explicitly

Actually, it is. Gwaihir is descended from Thorondor, who was Manwe's servant and actually kicked Morgoth's ass at one point. And everywhere in Tolkien it's pretty clear that ancestry=destiny, and descent from whomever binds you to the same kind of deal they got.

We know that the Eagles can fly so high that it is beyond Aragorn's power to even see them.

Actually, per The Hobbit we know they have to fly low enough to be shot by archers in Dale.

Beyond that, I'm seriously fucking tired of this. I've been trying to engage with you in good faith, but you're not engaging with us in good faith. I keep asking you questions, you ignore them. Other people raise cogent points, you ignore them. So, fine: Tolkien should have explicitly outlined every single possible plan they could have used to get to the Ring and shouldn't have left anything up to the readers to infer because obviously that's not how fiction works according to Supreme Literary Critic yoink and we all need to be spoonfed every single detail because every reader except SLC yoink is too damn stupid to see THE TRUTH.

Because it is patently ridiculous that a gathering of the Wise and representatives of the most learned and powerful cultures in Middle Earth wouldn't bother getting into detail about a scheme they know won't work.

Happy now?

*headdesk*
*headdesk*
*headdesk*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:39 PM on February 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: No reason provided for why the Ring couldn't just be sent to Valinor

Actually, someone suggests it, and Elrond says that the west wouldn't accept the ring because it's part of Middle-Earth and for them to deal with. Kind of dickish, considering that Aule could almost certainly destroy it with no problem, but there you go.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:30 PM on February 6, 2015


Well, the Valar being basically hands off with Middle-earth goes way back before the First Age. I mean, they could have kicked Morgoth's ass long before the War of Wrath - it's not as if the Noldor were the only victims - but they didn't. They move in mysterious ways, I guess.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:37 PM on February 6, 2015


sure, it might of taken a thousand years or so

Not with Dwarves! Riddle me that, Tolkien!
posted by Hoopo at 6:37 PM on February 6, 2015


orc captain yoink surveys the preparations he's made as the mouth of sauron enters the staging area

"are you sure this will work?" he asks, wondering at the scores of morghul slingshots - "the orcs climb on fully armed, then are catapulted high up in the air where they are to grab the eagles and start hacking away at them - but what if they miss?"

yoink shrugs - "it won't work out too well for them personally - but we have hundreds of orcs and they are quite expendable"

"of course - but how did you manage to get the council to decide on this scheme?"

"i had a renegade elf translate my monograph on principles of efficient literary plotting into elvish and had him sneak into elrond's library where he would be sure to see it"

"literary? but this is war"

"for some reason they all believe they are in a book that is being written by an author, so naturally, i've taken on the task of influencing that author by having his characters read literary analysis - you see they believed the best course was to take the ring and to walk it into mordor, but now they are convinced that the author thinks it's more plot realistic to fly the ring down here - and that conviction has carried through to the author"

"but if there is an author, yoink, can't he just decide that that any or all of us would not exist just by tearing up some pages?"

yoink smiles and the mouth of sauron blinks out of existence - then the slingshots and the hoards of orcs waiting to use them - from the north, a group of eagles come and when they are overhead, disappear like desert clouds - a faint screaming comes from the sky and frodo the hobbit smashes into the ground, bouncing a little - a golden ring bounces too, right into yoink's hand

sauron's great eye suddenly apprears before him - "good job captain - i'll take that now"

"you're a crushing bore," yoink says and sauron is naught

a hollow sounding wind starts going through the black gates - "this place seriously sucks" - yoink snaps his fingers - and a red 1971 cadillac eldorado appears on a highway with a seriously wasted man sucking ether from a straw

yoink shakes his fist at the sky - "fuck you, JRR!! - we're going to vegas!"

he suddenly remembers the ring in his hand and tosses it over his shoulder - "i'm an author, damn it - i don't need no stinking ring to rule my world"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:46 PM on February 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, my bad on that one Mitrovarr.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:50 PM on February 6, 2015


A Detailed Analysis of Socio-Political Struggle in the Third Age: Inter-Species Conflict and Compromise (Fifth Edition)

Chapter Five: Gandalf's plan for the destruction of the Ring.

Researchers have recently come across a small letter from Gandalf to Frodo that was intended to be included in Frodo's opus but somehow got stitched into the liner of the Red Book and overlooked.
Dear Frodo,

In Gondor you asked me how I planned to destroy the Ring. I am sorry that events intervened and I was unable to answer at the time, so I shall attempt to emend that now.

I had many cares at the time. In particular, I had to bring Aragorn and Boromir to Gondor together, in order to cure Denethor of his madness and heal the South Kingdom, and yet the Ring must not be allowed within Denethor's reach. I also had to neutralise Saruman's threat to Rohan so that the Rohirrim would continue to defend Gondor from the north.

My plan when we set out from Rivendell was to cross the Misty Mountains by the high pass and to come down thence to Lothlorien, where I would consult with Galadriel and Celeborn. Along the way I hoped to make contact with the Eagles, to arrange the final stage of your journey.

I hoped to arrange an alliance between Lothlorien and Rohan. Aragorn and Boromir would accompany an army from Lothlorien to join with the Rohirrim to destroy the threat of Isengard, and then they would continue with the Rohirrim to Minas Tirith. This was intended to draw Sauron's Eye and keep him focused to the west, beyond Mordor. He would see in these maneuverings the early stages of a campaign to raise a champion who could bear the Ring against him.

Meanwhile, Frodo, you, me, and such others of the of the Fellowship as chose to continue with us, would be escorted by Elves in a loop to the east, avoiding the Marshes, and brought down to the walls of Morder at a point east of Udun where the Ered Lithui have no passes and seem uncrossable, yet the straight-line distance to Orodruin is least. There you would be met by Eagles. Although Sauron surely expected to be attacked by Eagles, his preparations were directed towards preventing them from landing strong foes in Barad-Dur. It never occurred to him that they would go to Orodruin, for there was nothing there that they could use to harm him.

Once at Orodruin, Frodo, my foresight failed. For if, like Isildur, you chose not to throw the Ring into the fires then the quest would fail, for I would not force you to throw it in. And yet, risky as it was, of all our choices, it was the only one that had any chance of success. There was a hand guiding our endeavours, Frodo. Bilbo was
meant to have the Ring. You were meant to have the Ring. My plan was therefore to bring you to the one place in Middle-Earth where the Ring could be destroyed. Once at Orodruin, anything could happen.

Ever your friend,

Gandalf
posted by Autumn Leaf at 7:16 PM on February 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


"To avoid the Ringwraiths (also Sméagol)
We should fly into Mordor by eagle!"
So posited Frodo
But Gandalf said, "Woah, bro -
That pipe-weed you're smoking's illegal."
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:13 PM on February 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


Did Frodo fail to destroy the ring, or was his heeding of Gandalf's wise advice regarding pity the only means by which it could actually be accomplished, given the rings corrupting power?

To my mind, Bilbo's pity for Gollum way back when is the very heart of the tale. And thus, one of the more annoying additions to the movie is the big deal Frodo-Gollum fight before the ring finally goes into the fire. The book does it far more elegantly. Frodo fails his quest, can't destroy the ring, puts it on. Gollum jumps him, tears his finger off (and with it the ring), and his careless joy sends him tumbling ...

That such a long and complex tale should have such a succinct and resonant climactic moment remains breathtaking to me.

As for the Eagles, I'm with Lebowski. Fuck 'em.
posted by philip-random at 11:57 PM on February 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


That such a long and complex tale should have such a succinct and resonant climactic moment remains breathtaking to me.

"The One Ring!" said Sam, "Frodo, sling her
In Mount Doom's deep fire, don't linger!"
"But Gollum's a pest!",
Cried Frodo, "my quest
Must pause while I give him the finger."
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:59 AM on February 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


You never see a Philadelphian in these debates, because we know that Eagles can't be trusted to get a ball in from 1st and goal, let alone the One Ring halfway across Middle Earth.
posted by zap rowsdower at 5:52 AM on February 7, 2015 [9 favorites]


Joey Jo-Jo JuniorJoey Jo-Jo JuniorJoey Jo-Jo JuniorJoey Jo-Jo JuniorJoey Jo-Jo Junio
Bombabaduel is the last of the Aqua elf sin eaters, on land.

I can never listen to Theodore again.
posted by clavdivs at 9:10 PM on February 7, 2015


“The Lord of the Rings Mythology Explained”—C. G. P. Grey, 17 December 2014
“The One Ring Explained”Id., 09 February 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 3:11 PM on February 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


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