Why couldn't the Eagles just take the Ring to Mordor?
As a Lord of the Rings fan and a patriotic New Zealander, I felt obliged to fight back against the growing ignorance that is spreading regarding this most important matter. There is a grave injustice being done unto the name of Tolkien, claiming of a plot-hole, or denouncing the good intentions of the noble Eagle race; and if it is within my power to correct this evil, I will see it done.
Common reasons why people believe it’s ridiculous to think that the Eagles could have taken the Ring to Mordor:
The Eagles are a proud race and not a taxi service;
Mordor archers could have shot the Eagles down;
Sauron/the Eye would have seen them coming from far away;
The Nazgul and their fellbeasts (aka Wraiths on wings) would have intercepted the Eagles;
There are some other minor reasons, but they’re so ludicrous that I refuse to acknowledge them.
Pardon me, but all these arguments are FLAWED. The Nazgul aren’t always on their fellbeasts guarding the volcano; arrows wouldn’t come anywhere close to reaching that high*; and even IF the fellbeasts came on time to intercept the Eagles, the Eagles outnumber them and have shown (in the Battle of the Black Gate) that they can certainly handle their own against them. If the Eagles didn’t fly within the direct vision of the Eye (i.e. low, and behind the mountain ranges surrounding Mordor**), they could have easily dropped off a couple of Hobbits to run inside and throw it in (or dropped it in the top in a flyover; it is a volcano, after all.***), especially when the plan was completely unanticipated by Sauron. It might also be worth noting that a single Eagle does fly into the heart of Orc-infested and highly weaponised Isengard to rescue Gandalf right in front of Saruman. The result being zero casualties or even any attempts to stop/attack the intruder.
As for the ‘they’re not a taxi service’ argument, the Eagles do come to rescue Frodo once the deed is done, which is far less important than destroying the Ring itself, so they’re obviously not against making the trip, whether that’s as a favour to Gandalf or as an altruistic act for the good of Middle Earth.
Gandalf’s last words, “Fly, you fools!”, were cryptic instructions to go meet the Eagles, hence their paths through Moria and the Misty Mountains — to get to the eastern side where the Eagles’ nest is said to be. Seeing as the old warlock is known to play Chinese Whispers with moths, I would think he had already booked his flight before making such an arduous journey — especially since he was rescued from his “delay” at Isengard by one of the Eagles before he meets the Fellowship at Rivendell. But he couldn’t trust the Fellowship or anyone to know this secret plan, lest they spill the beans, get captured, or give away the secret somehow. Of course ‘fly’ in this context has another meaning — to flee — and was interpreted as such. The rest of the Fellowship didn’t make this connection, and by the time Gandalf came back he had lost track of Frodo.
Full theory below. It checks out.
* Mt Doom is said to be 4,500 feet (1,370 metres), with the base/entry around 3,000 feet up (915 metres). A modern-day compound bow (significantly more powerful than any Orc bow) likely can’t even reach 500m, and accounting for the additional horizontal distance from the bottom of the mountain, the Eagles/Hobbits/whoever would be way out of range. Plus, given time ordering/notifying, arming, assembling and marching archers to a good shooting spot, it would be far too late.
** In rebuttal to my own point, Saruman does tell Gandalf that Sauron’s gaze “pierces cloud, shadow, earth and flesh”, which I would interpret as being able to see through matter to an extent. His vision is not unrestricted, however, and seems to at least have limited focus and range (excluding when the Ring is worn). If he could see perfectly through earth and flesh, he would have seen Frodo (who he would surely recognise as the Ringbearer from their “I see you” encounters like at the Prancing Pony) wearing the Ring inside Mordor when he collapses like a fairy, and not fall for the distraction at the entrance of the Black Gate. Therefore, I would conclude that Sauron likely has a severe cataract, short-term memory loss, and would likely not have the vision or the faculties to intercept an Eagle dive-bomb.
*** On the point of dive-bombs, it might be said that it’s the sure & secure way to walk the Ring in to destroy it, but realistically Mt Doom is a massive volcano with a pretty girthy crater, and the only thing likely to obstruct a ring’s flight down into the lava is the narrow walkway. We’ve seen in the Shire (when Bilbo drops it) that the Ring doesn’t appear to have much bounce to it, so it could be said that this thin walkway still is enough of a risk to necessitate a walk-in. Still, between perching up the top and dropping a Hobbit at the entrance, the difference in time would likely be all that of a fifteen-second difference. Max. To cover all bases, the theory is not suggesting that the Ring is given directly to an Eagle to throw in, but Frodo (or someone) could easily be placed on the rim, or hovered above, to drop it directly down into the lava.
Further reading: http://www.sean-crist.com/personal/pages/eagles/index.html
If you disagree with the above, you’re more than welcome to challenge it on Facebook or discuss it via email.