Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Birds form powerful imagery in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One of the most potent groups of creatures are the eagles, who save Gandalf, Frodo and Sam.
Tolkein had great respect for all of nature, and for the eagle in particular. When Gandalf is stranded at the top of Saruman's tower in Book 1, it is the Lord of the Eagles, Gwaihir, that comes to rescue Gandalf. When Frodo and Sam have lost all hope in the end of Book 3, once again it is the eagles who come to the rescue, to carry them to safety.
Tolkein was always quite clear in his writings that the eagles were not merely a "convenient taxi service". There are important reasons that the eagles didn't simply carry Frodo from Rivendell to Mount Doom and drop him off at its door. In The Silmarillion, which Tolkein wrote to describe the basis of the spiritual beginnings of Middle Earth, we learn about Manwe, a powerful god-like figure who oversees the entire land. The eagles are direct representatives of Manwe, there to watch and report back only. Only in very extreme situations are they allowed to intervene and affect the direction of events.
Tolkein has his eagles so swift that they can even outrun the dragons that the Nazgul ride. In Book 3 he writes, "Then come, and let your brother go with us, and some other of your folk who is most swift! For we have need of speed greater than any wind, outmatching the wings of the Nazgūl." The eagles in fact directly join the fight against the Nazgul before the Black Gate, lending their sharp talons to the desperate battle.
In fact, Aragorn does service for both Rohan and Gondor in his younger years, but does so under an assumed name so neither feel threatened by him. The name he chooses is Thorongil, which means Eagle of the Star.
Those of us who treasure those beautiful birds in our real world were happy to see them there.
Birds that Mate for Life