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I realize of course that if Gandalf had summoned his eagle friends at the beginning of the story, and flown the entire party to Smaug's mountain, then this would not make a particularly riveting adventure. However, it did seem a bit strange that the giant birds should drop the party off and not take them all the way after their escape from the pale orc.

Is there a good reason for this?

Any hidden snippets from the book(s) that can shed more light on Gandalf's reluctance to make the trip a bit easier?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In the books the Eagles are:

sentient and capable of speech

In the movies (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) we never hear them talk.


In the book The Hobbit Gandalf doesn't call for the Eagles to help, but:

Luckily for the company, the Lord of the Eagles has seen the commotion from his roost high in the mountains. With a number of other eagles, he swoops down, picks up the marooned travelers, and flies them to safety.

The eagles are friends of Gandalf’s and enemies of the goblins. They are happy to provide food and rest for the weary travelers, who then continue on their journey.

and

Although the eagles help the company tremendously, they express that hatred for goblins, rather than love for dwarves, is their main reason for helping the company.

... the eagles [don't] have any interest in the dwarves’ gold, but as representatives of pure nature, they are the sworn enemies of corrupted nature, represented by the goblins and Wargs.

The eagles generally keep distant from the affairs of other races...


There has been a similar question regarding the Lord of the Rings:

  • Why aren't the eagles used to fly the Ring to Mount Doom?

    It seems that nobody noticed this alleged plot-hole during Tolkien's lifetime, as there is no surviving letter where Tolkien is inquired so. It is unknown whether Tolkien ever was aware of the issue while writing the book or later.

    Tolkien's only relevant mention is concerning a possible adaptation of the Lord of the Rings into a movie, where he simply mentions that the Eagles should be used carefully as a plot device and was self-aware whenever he used them.

There are a couple of theories about why the Eagles weren't used.

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That final link is very interesting - it seems Tolkien had reservations himself about including the eagles. I'll wait a couple of days to see if anything else is unearthed before signing off on your answer - thanks, Oliver. –  Nobby Jan 3 '13 at 16:28
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Using the big birds as a short cut seems like a great idea, but it short circuits the whole point of the adventure. The party are on an adventure to reclaim their home, and in any adventure they grow along the way, Frodo especially. What do you think would have happened to Frodo if they just showed up to the dragon's door without him going through all of the previous sticky situations? He would have gotten scared and ran. Instead, by not short circuting the adventure the characters get to progress, learn, and grow.

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I totally appreciate that, DForck. However, I would argue that if one wanted to write a rollicking adventure, one shouldn't include an easy option which then leads to grumpy old farts like me arguing their merits. –  Nobby Jan 3 '13 at 16:44
    
@nobby when one writes a story, they don't examine it from every angle to make sure that nothing could short circuit their work. instead, you write what feels right, what makes sense for the story. that's why when people complain about time travel movies or "they shoul dhave done this", i just tune them out. that's not the point. the point is that we are seeing how the author, director, whoever, throught that this was the best way forward for their story. –  DForck42 Jan 3 '13 at 17:05
    
I would disagree, but then I've only sold a couple of short stories and am not Tolkien, so I'll defer to your sensible comments. I'm just being unnecessarily pedantic this morning. –  Nobby Jan 3 '13 at 17:25
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Assume you mean Bilbo, not Frodo? –  Mark Mayo Feb 6 '13 at 18:55
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In the book, it says that the eagles cannot fly them to erebor because men with bows would shoot them as they thought the eagles wanted to eat their sheep

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If you could add a bit more content to this answer like expanding on your explanation or sources, then you would garner much more upvotes. –  TylerShads Feb 6 '13 at 19:11
    
Eat their sheep? man shooting arrows? They can't reach far, while they fly high in the sky. –  danny Dec 31 '13 at 23:41
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