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Old 12-28-2001, 11:26 AM   #1
Ulmo
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Question The Great Eagle Mystery

Greetings all! I am longtime Tolkien fan and a first time poster here (well, 3rd post really). This is one fantastic Tolkien site!

Anyway, I have a question for you all, one that has nagged at me for a long time:

How come Gandalf didn't simply strap Frodo onto the back of an Eagle and send him on his way to Mordor? [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] Seems like it would have a much more efficient way to destroy the ring, no? I realize that this would have totally altered the main storyline and create a much less exciting adventure, but the lapse in logic is glaring. Did Tolkien ever address this issue? Maybe Eagles were afraid of the Ring? Any thoughts?...........
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Old 12-28-2001, 11:39 AM   #2
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because gandalf is not a crack head
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Old 12-28-2001, 11:45 AM   #3
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naw i am just joking maybe because people could shoot down the eagles like the wood elves and frodo can't handle the dangers of mordor by himself and i doubt an eagle can carry horses and men, and gandalf,etc..
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Old 12-28-2001, 11:51 AM   #4
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How can you shoot down an Eagle that is flying a couple thousand feet up in the air? Besides, it's obvious that it would be much safer to fly to Mordor than to walk/run/ride/float, yes? Why would horses have to come with them? Frodo was going to go off to Mordor by himself anyway, at the end of FotR, so why couldn't he simply go off by himself, or with Gandalf only, on the back of an Eagle?
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Old 12-28-2001, 02:12 PM   #5
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I think it's more because the Eagles did not typically "bear" people on their backs. It was a great favor that the Lord of the Eagles did for Gandalf in rescuing him from Orthanc and bearing him to Rohan. He did it because he is in debted to Gandalf - Gandalf saved his life once by healing him of an arrow wound. It would have been too much to ask for the Eagle to carry Frodo all the way to Mordor. Also, the Eagles are "servants" of Manwe, kind of like Gandalf serves the Valar. Gandalf can not use his power to rule men, only to guide them. I think the Eagles role is much the same - they can provide aid, but need to remain a bit removed from the troubles of Middle Earth. Anyway, just my thoughts.
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Old 12-28-2001, 02:22 PM   #6
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This is a frequently discussed question. The obvious answer, that it wouldn't be much of a story then, doesn't serve here. Otherwise, there are several possible responses.

1. The eagles were not under Gandalf's control. In the Hobbit, they were attracted to the fir wood by the fire and commotion, and the Battle of Five Armies by the din and hue of war. Gandalf is rescued from Orthanc by an eagle who journeyed there at Radagast's request and later from the top of Zirak-zigil perhaps at Manwe's request.

2. Assuming that Gandalf did not know of the airborne Nazgul, Sauron did nonetheless have spies in the air in the form of crows, etc. The Ringwraiths were abroad and were capable of sensing the Ring. A flight of eagles bearing Frodo and the Ring would eventually be detected before reaching Mordor. The eagles could not fly the whole way at once so there was danger of assault during a rest stop and again when the eagles reached Mordor.

3. Gandalf knew of the Nazgul, or suspected that Mordor was otherwise protected from intrusion via the air. A flight of eagles would have been very open and obvious as it approached Mordor.

4. The eagles could not carry such a burden over such a distance or they would not do so. Also, the eagles were only nominal allies; the Hobbit notes that some are not trustworthy.

I'm sure I'm missing a few possible reasons. Welcome to the Barrow-Downs Ulmo!
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Old 12-28-2001, 03:01 PM   #7
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The Eagles certainly seem rather mysterious beasts. They either turn up when escape by other means appears impossible, or at the crucial moment of a finely balenced battle.

It is possible that the Eagles were a way in which the Lords of the West influenced events in Middle Earth when a little help was needed. For example, the consequences of Gandalf not being rescued from Orthanc would quite likely have been disasterous.

However, if the eagles were under the control of the Lords of the West, they would almost certainly have not been prepared to do something as direct as carry the Ring to the fire. The Ring 'belonged to Middle Earth' - it was something for the free peoples to deal with on their own.

From a pratical standpoint, it would probably have been a very tiring journey for both Frodo and the Eagle carrying him. I don't recall any instances of people actually riding on Eagle's backs - they always seem to have been carried by the arms. All the recorded 'eagle carryings' were over relatively short distances compared to the flight from (say) Rivendell to Mordor.

Finally, even if an eagle had succeeded in carrying Frodo and the Ring all the way to Mount Doom, Frodo would not have been able to throw it into the Fire, and the whole quest would be vain. Frodo would quickly have been spotted by Sauron, and the ring would have been taken from him and returned to Sauron.

It was Galadriel who sent Gwaihir to look for Gandalf when he was carried (newly reincarnated) from Zirak-Zigal.

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Old 12-28-2001, 03:42 PM   #8
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1420!

Interesting insights, thank you Amyrlis, Mithadan, and Voronwe. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Still tho, it seems odd to me that the journey would be a difficult one for an Eagle. If a Butterfly can fly 3,000 miles+ [give or take [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]] (The Monarch), in one migration, it doesn't seem a stretch to believe that a 9-10 ft. Eagle could fly from Rivendell (or anywhere else) to Mordor, even with an 80 lb.(?) Hobbit in tow! If it wouldn't be wise to have the Eagle fly straight into Mt. Doom (and why this, I am still not quite clear)[the image of Frodo on the back of an Eagle, flying into the heart of Mordor, with Wagner music blaring in the background, with the enemy all around them, dodging one close encounter after another, "delivering the payload", and then flying out of there to safety is pretty damn cool! [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img] ] , wouldn't it still be better to have the Eagle "drop Frodo off", so to speak, somewhere near Mt. Doom, or Mordor? Seems like it would eliminate a lot of potential encounters with the enemey on the ground. And if Gandalf could not summon an Eagle, why not Radagast? (Could Gandalf have gotten in touch with Radagast?) Why not Galadriel? Also, I understand that if you had a big flock of Eagles, say for one for every member of the Fellowship, it would be easy for the enemy to spot, but what about one elite Eagle (with Frodo), flying high and stealthy, under cloud cover? Would that be easy for the enemy to spot? It doesn't seem like it would be. Anyway...........

Food for thought [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]

[ December 28, 2001: Message edited by: Ulmo ]
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Old 01-04-2002, 01:53 PM   #9
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I have a question. How would Frodo breathe if he were flying that high in the claws (or on the back) of an eagle. Doesn't the air get thin at that elevation? i don't know about that kind of thing, and i just wondered.
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Old 01-04-2002, 02:40 PM   #10
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Another possibility:

The mountains surrounding Mordor are too high for the eagles to fly over.

However, I think I'll stick with the explanation previously posted - that the eagle would be spotted and the ring subsequently captured by Sauron, thus defeating the purpose.
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Old 01-04-2002, 03:13 PM   #11
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Silmaril

this may be a weak point but the air above Mordor was always thick with smoke and ash-which would make it hard to both breathe and navigate
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Old 01-04-2002, 04:00 PM   #12
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As Voronwe has noted, even if the Eagles could have flown Frodo to the entryway of Orodruin, the quest still would have failed. Frodo, unprepared and untempered by his journey, would certainly have claimed the Ring rather than casting it into the fire, and without Gollum along, there is no doubt as to the eventual outcome of that scenario. JRRT hints in Letters that if Gollum had not caused the Ring’s destruction in the way that he did, Frodo might have had a moment of clarity after claiming the Ring where he could have thrown himself (and it) into the fire for a suicidal victory, but I’d venture to say that an untested Frodo would not have been able to accomplish that. The journey was necessary, and Gandalf’s foresight that Gollum would play a pivotal role at the end turned out to be true.

I know we usually stick to Tolkien’s works here, but stepping back and viewing the story in mythological terms (once again), I’m struck by this topic as an example of something I recently read in Joseph Campbell (a well-known authority on comparative mythology):
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“…if the hero, instead of submitting to all of the initiatory tests, has, like Prometheus, simply darted to his goal (by violence, quick device, or luck) and plucked the boon for the world that he intended, then the powers that he has unbalanced may react so sharply that he will be blasted from within and without..."
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Old 01-04-2002, 04:47 PM   #13
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The butterflies don't carry extra baggage [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

The trip is a long one...the Eagle would have to stop to let Frodo rest and eat.

Even if the Eagles were at the command of Gandalf, and one *could* carry Frodo that distance, evil would be drawn to the ring. Through the palantir, Saruman could've easily spotted their plan and I'm sure that with his vast power and knowledge of magic, he could've made the journey unbearable for the eagle.

[ May 01, 2003: Message edited by: Legolas ]
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Old 01-04-2002, 04:48 PM   #14
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Quote:
and later from the top of Zirak-zigil perhaps at Manwe's request.
I thought that Galadriel had sensed that Gandalf was still alive and in need of help so she sent out an eagle *Gwaihir?* to look for him. Then he saw the lightning and such coming from the top of Zirak-Zigul and came there to find Gandalf.
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Old 01-04-2002, 06:26 PM   #15
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your right i think she did send a eagle to look after him. and i like your sig.
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Old 01-05-2002, 03:46 AM   #16
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I dunno much but isn't the only reason the plan wored anyway because it was the last thing that Sauron expected them to do? Anything else would have therefore easily been foreseen!
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Old 01-05-2002, 10:06 AM   #17
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Yeah, you guys are right, the plan probably would not have worked (and we wouldn't have had the great, epic story of the War of the Ring if it had worked, so I am glad it didn't turn out that way). I just like the image of Frodo, on the back of a giant Eagle, soaring into the heart of Mordor! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

BTW, what do giant Eagles eat? Deer? Orcs? Men!?

Thanks for all of your insights. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-06-2002, 02:04 AM   #18
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Old 01-06-2002, 07:06 AM   #19
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The Eagle in question could ofcourse have tossed the ring in the fire himself, either with or without a hobbit attached.

Don't flame me for this plz, I'm in a particularly evil mood today
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Old 01-06-2002, 08:18 AM   #20
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Would the ring have corrupted the eagle, I wonder.

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Old 01-06-2002, 01:49 PM   #21
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I don't think an eagle could fit down the shaft leading to the Sammath Naur. Whether the "smoking cone" of the mountain provided a large enough aperture to dive bomb a Hobbit through is open to debate.
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Old 01-29-2002, 07:17 AM   #22
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I agree with Mr. Underhill on the deeper, mythological meaning of the long journey. We would probably all like shortcuts in life, but find out that they don't take us where we want to go, or need to go, perhaps. We aren't ready for the goal until we've completed the way there.
Frodo would not have had the inner (and outer!) strength for the final, most difficult part of the journey had he not built it up through earlier experiences. (Kind of like athletic training for the soul!)
And at the end of the book, when Gandalf leaves the hobbits, he tells them that their experiences have been trained them to take care of the Shire's problems without him.
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Old 02-02-2002, 01:05 AM   #23
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OK, here goes: (since we can't use the "would have ended the book" defense.)

Sauron would probably have had defenses that would have forbidden Gwaihir and his folk from entering his realm. Like "Eagle Zappers" or something.

But when the ring was destroyed and Sauron was cast down then all his defenses would have failed, making it (relatively) safe for the eagles to swoop in and rescue Frodo and Sam.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

BTW - What IS the airspeed velocity of an unladen eagle?
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Old 02-02-2002, 04:10 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by Birdland:
<STRONG>OK, here goes: (since we can't use the "would have ended the book" defense.)

Sauron would probably have had defenses that would have forbidden Gwaihir and his folk from entering his realm. Like "Eagle Zappers" or something.
</STRONG>
Are those like giant bug zappers? [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
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Old 02-02-2002, 10:25 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by Sindalómiel:
<STRONG>

Are those like giant bug zappers? [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]</STRONG>
Exactly! Eagle Zappers, Hobbit Hotels, Ranger Raid...there is no end to Sauron's treacheries. [img]smilies/evil.gif[/img]
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Old 02-02-2002, 08:52 PM   #26
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If Frodo were to fly to Mordor on an Eagle, there would have to be an armada of Eagles to protect them from the fliyng Nazgul. Many Eagles would have to die protecting Frodo and the one who carries him. The eagles were most likely not willing to do this. Also there is a chance that the Nazul would have killed frodo, or the eagle that bore him and all would be lost. It is better to sneak in rather than an all out attack. I think the Council of Elrond chose the smarter thing and that's why it worked.
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Old 02-03-2002, 03:37 AM   #27
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Quote:
I don't recall any instances of people actually riding on Eagle's backs - they always seem to have been carried by the arms.
In The Hobbit, when the eagles return the group from their eyrie, they let at least Bilbo ride on the back of the eagle.

Quote:
This time he was allowed to climb on to an eagle's back and cling between his wings.
Also from the hobbit, the Eagle Lord in speaking with Gandalf says that they won't fly them near men less they think the eagles are coming to steal their sheep and shoot at them. If they are that adverse to flying into the "danger" of a lone sheppard, flying into Mordor would have been out of the question until Sauron was defeated.
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Old 05-25-2003, 03:18 PM   #28
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If eagles could fly over the Pelori, they could easily fly into Mordor. Also, Gandalf knew that Frodo might give in to the ring. Gandalf also knew that Gollum was important to the quest.
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Old 05-26-2003, 05:44 PM   #29
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I think that the Eagle Zappers that everyone is talking about were the flying Nazgul. I mean, think about it. Can an unarmed eagle fight a Ringwraith on top of a clawed flying lizard-thingy? Especially if it has a Hobbit on its back? Even if it could, I don't think anyone would want the Eagle to succeed. Think about it. "In place of a Dark Lord you shall have an EAGLE! Not dark, but feathery!" The thought itself is amusing.
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Old 05-27-2003, 01:21 PM   #30
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I think Sauron would also remember what damage eagles could do back in his young lieutenant days, and had the proper zappers plugged in for them...

You could ask the same question of why didnt Bombadill or Beor do it? Enigmas.......
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Old 05-29-2003, 04:31 PM   #31
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Quote:
You could ask the same question of why didnt Bombadill or Beor do it?
Beor- as one of the Fathers of Men had been dead for several thousand years at the time of the War of the Ring. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Beorn- (which is who I think you meant) was also, I believe dead at this point. Tolkien mentions specifically that in the time since Bilbo visited that the leadership of his 'tribe' had been taken over by his son, Grimbeorn. This suggests, at least to me, that Beorn himself had died. As for why he wouldn't have taken the ring, go back and read that chapter over again. He's really less of a likely candidate than Bombadil. Very disinclined to join the affairs of the world.

[img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img] I just had to jump in and mention the difference between Beor and Beorn. I suppose it's a common typo, as I see it rather a lot.

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Old 06-02-2003, 01:02 AM   #32
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And Bom badil was the same way. Someone did suggest that they send the Ring to him, but they (the smart people at the council) knew that he would forget about it, and wouldn't take proper care. Frankly, I can't see him leaving Goldberry and the Old Forest, just to destroy the Ring, even though it did have no power over him.

Sorry about the space in the middle of Tom's last name, but the program keeps censoring the first part of it.

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Old 06-11-2003, 07:30 PM   #33
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How well do you think that one eagle could take on 9 nazgul. Or even if there were more Sauron would surely know of the eagles approach and send billowing smoke over his mountains. The eagles wouldn't fare very well in ash from MOUNT DOOM! So they would have to fly low, and you get shot with arrows if you fly low. Sauron would have a plan for that anyways, he is one smart man. [img]smilies/evil.gif[/img]
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Old 06-18-2003, 12:31 AM   #34
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I think you are ignoring the obvious fact of the ring itself. We know the ring has different levels of influence over different species. The reason Gandalf didnt take it apon himself to carry it was that he would not be able to resist its power.
I dont remember any direct evidence of this with the eagles, but its certainly possible that they have a low resistance to the ring's power, so they could not be trusted even with carrying one who held it.
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Old 07-09-2003, 10:49 AM   #35
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Another potential hazard for an aerial assault would be the weather itself. If Sauron's arm was long enough to send a storm upon Caradhras, then surely he could whip up a doozy of a storm closer to home. This, combined with the lack of secrecy, the smokes, vapors and ashes from Oroduin, and the Nazgul, crows, and Sauron-knows-what-else, would have almost certainly doomed the mission. Besides, it seems that Manwe sends the Eagles to the rescue AFTER the people have faithfully done what was needful.
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Old 07-09-2003, 11:26 PM   #36
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While the storm on Caradhras may not have been anything to do with Sauron, it is true that
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His arm has grown long indeed
and that he had to power to do such things. As I've said, the Nazgul were in all probability faster than the Eagles in flight, and certainly much better aerial warriors. Eagles were dreadful to those on the ground, but such birds of prey need to drop from a height and strike with talons. The Nazgul not only wielded swords and dragonish creatures that probably could fight in the air, but fear. A guard of Eagles would not have been much good, as the Nazgul would know immediately which one was carrying the Ringbearer.

It simply fits in with the point of the whole thing, that a full assault on Mordor is doomed to failure. Mordor was invincible to the powers that its enemies wielded.
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Old 07-10-2003, 02:34 PM   #37
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All in all it would be stupid to try this.Eventhough destroying the Ring in Mt. Doom was 'folly and a desperate action'.
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Old 07-14-2003, 10:09 PM   #38
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I think the Eagles were faster than the ringwraiths' beasts, but the ash and dust would slow them down and make it impossible for the eagles to fly. The ringwraiths and their beasts are used to ash and dust, and could easily have overpowered them.
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BTW, what do giant Eagles eat? Deer? Orcs? Men!?
ANYTHING THEY WANT TO!
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Old 07-15-2003, 02:04 AM   #39
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Yes, such as sheep, stolen from the Woodmen I believe.

Actually it's impossible to say which was faster, Nazgul or Eagle. Both are fast. There is some evidence to suggest that Nazgul are faster, though, namely that they were able to fly, in the Battle of the Captains of the West, from the Morannon, across Gorgoroth and thence perhaps over half the way to Orodruin in less than a minute -- of course, they burnt up when Gollum finally fell in. There is the feeling that they did manage cover a lot of the distance between the Gates of Mordor to Mount Doom before the Ring was destroyed.
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Old 07-15-2003, 08:18 AM   #40
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That was also because they were driven by Sauron's desperation to get there. His very existence depended upon them getting to Orodruin in time. That was a very powerful driving force, and since Sauron put his entire will into getting him there, it is understandable that they made that journey in about a minute or two.
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