good question

It’s an entirely valid question, with at least 4 equally valid answers, the first 3 of which can be found here.

1. “The Fellowship walks (they don’t even have horses, except poor Bill the Pony) so they can have adventures. The end.”

Fair enough. The books would have been over with almost no tension had the eagles simply ferried Sam and Frodo to the slopes of Mount Doom. As the author of the above referenced article states, “you could complain that this is poor storytelling,” and you could, but would it be better story telling to completely remove all sense of adventure, danger and struggle from the tale? Hardly.

2. “Eagles don’t take orders,” (at least, not from mortals).

The eagles are not beasts of burden. These are not mules. In fact, they are something more akin to archangels. You can’t hail one like a cab, folks.

3. “The Eagles don’t make the quest to destroy the Ring easy because the gods [of Tolkien’s world] want mortals to solve the problem on their own.”

Again quoting the referenced article, “No matter what Eagles are, all sources agree they are servants of Manwë Súlimo, King of the Valar (greater gods or archangels), making them quite literally deus ex machina. The Eagles provide help when Manwë wishes them to do so, and only then.”

And, if those reasons aren’t enough, I’ll add a fourth of mine own which I humble suggests has the potential to trump them all.

4. Because the story doesn’t require it.

All that really matters in story-telling is in-the-moment suspension of disbelief. Any work of fiction can be picked apart after the fact. It’s not even that hard to do. There are almost always holes, even if there are only a few. But the holes don’t matter provided they don’t break suspension of disbelief.

The proof of this is easy enough. The Lord of the Rings books and movies include talking trees, ghosts, orcs, giants, magic, and a ring that makes the wearer invisible. If you’re going to quibble over how realistic the story is, why not mention all of that shit? Some of it is pretty outlandish. I’ll tell you why–because Tolkien sells it. We buy it. When we’re reading, we don’t even think to question it.

I don’t know of anyone (though I’m sure there are a few people out there) who, while reading or watching LOTR, was thinking, in the moment, “What the hell? Get the eagles to take you all the way!” That’s something you think about later.

Any work of fantasy or horror has the potential to completely disintegrate in the light of day, but we read such stories and enjoy them because they lead us out of direct sunlight and into shadow. In those dark, shaded places, all kinds of strange and wonderful things happen, and for a time, we allow it.

As a writer, you should try to avoid gaping holes in your stories, but don’t fret over trying to justify everything. You can’t, and even if you could, it would make the story tedious and boring. Instead, focus on creating an atmosphere of belief.

And, as a reader, stop trying to undo great, classical works. Instead, enjoy them with child-like awe. It’s a helluvalot more fun.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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