While thinking about "holes" in the wonderful, epic The Lord of the Rings story, I had a thought:

Why did they go through all this trouble of very slowly sneaking around with a whole fellowship, when they could have simply had Gandalf call for his Eagle friends and have them transport Frodo, carrying the ring in a sealed bag, all the way from Baggend to Minas Tirith (in order to not go straight to Mordor), then wait a little while and then do the same thing from Minas Tirith straight to Mount Doom? And there, the Eagle would drop off Frodo, have him throw the ring still in the bag into the fiery lava without even seeing it (as to not tempt him), and then simply bring him back immediately?

For the trip from Baggend to Minas Tirith, they could have lots of protection eagles flying around or nearby, without raising any suspicion from Mordor, since they are not heading there. For the last part, which is a relatively short flight (Minas Tirith => Mount Doom), they probably will only want to use one (the fastest) Eagle, as to minimize the risk that Sauron sees this as an attack, or even notices it at all.

It seems to me as if they could have saved a ton of problems by doing it this way instead of all the slow, dangerous sneaking. It's not like they didn't bring attention to themselves on the way anyway, and by foot (mostly), on the ground, it took them over a year instead of hours.

The ring could have been destroyed in hours from Gandalf arriving to Frodo after realizing what the ring was, assuming that Gandalf could easily call for the Eagles.

There's probably something I'm forgetting to take into consideration here, but the Eagles almost seem like a "deus ex machina", in both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They basically come to save the day when everything is hopeless, but why do they always wait until the very last minute? Even if the Eagles don't care about anyone other than themselves (which doesn't seem to be the case at all), it should definitely be in their interest to not have Darkness take over Middle-earth completely.

Feel free to poke holes in my "clever" solution. I'm sure there's some fundamental issue with it, as Tolkien seemed to have thought of everything.

  • 4
    You have no idea how many times this question has been asked (by Tolkien fans in general, not just on Stack), and to put it simply you won't get a truly definitive answer. Nov 2, 2020 at 3:18
  • A more interesting question might be, "Did Tolkien ever explain why Gandalf didn't simply have the eagles help Frodo?" People can argue all they want about the matter, but unless Tolkien had a reason for this, there will never be an answer that ends the discussion.
    – llywrch
    Nov 2, 2020 at 19:06

2 Answers 2


This is essentially the same question as this very popular one on our sister site Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange: Why didn't Gandalf or Frodo Fly to Mount Doom? Several in-universe and out-of-universe explanations are given:

  • nobody can willingly destroy the Ring, the story needed the 'accident' of Gollum falling off the cliff with the Ring
  • in particular the Eagles would keep the Ring themselves instead of destroying it
  • stealth was needed to get safely into Mordor as long as Sauron was still in power
  • the story would be too short and not interesting
  • it would be contrary to the main theme of the story

One very practical answer is that Volcanos often plug themselves up with solidified magma and ash.

So possibly the conspicuous giant eagles might have to wait for around for days or weeks waiting for an eruption to clear the path down to the magma chambers. And Sauron might send forces to attack the waiting eagles.

And once Mount Doom was erupting and its throat was clear, the eagles could have been killed by the eruption while still rather far away from the crater and its throat. Thus the ring would have fallen on the outer slopes of Mount Doom.

I don't know how much Tolkien knew about volcanoes but he might have known that dropping something into a crater wasn't enough to be certain that object would reach a magma chamber.

Furthermore, everyone seems to assume that the Ring could only be destroyed in the magma of Mount doom, which was the only substance on Middle-earth hot enough to melt the One Ring. But maybe the temperature of the magma wasn't important. Maybe the Ring could only be destroyed in the place where it was made. That would be a fairly reasonable magical assumption.

And that would mean that the Ring only be destroyed in the specific magma chamber where it was forged, and not in any other chambers or channels full of magma which might inside Mount Doom.

So dropping the ring into the crater might cause it to land in some magma, but not the right magma. And maybe landing in the wrong magma wouldn't destroy the ring for magical reasons, no matter how hot that wrong magma was. So maybe the ring had to be carried into Mount Doom via Sauron's tunnels to the Crack of Doom and thrown in there and only there to be destroyed.

And there is the problem that the giant eagles would be quite conspicuous and might be seen by watchers and guards, and might also be too big to fit into Sauron's tunnels - I doubt Gandalf or anyone knew the width the tunnels. So the eagles might have to let off a few person at the mouth of the tunnels who might have to fight their way past whatever guards who might be in the tunnels. The tunnel turned out to be unguarded, but how could anyone have known that ahead of time.

And of course there was the problem with the Ring possibly corrupting the eagles on the way to Mount Doom. The eagles were fierce predators who were large enough to catch and eat people like Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs, Elves, and Men. I don't know if they ever did eat people, but that is a possibility. And they seem to have been friendly with Gandalf and Radagast, and Galadrieal. So they were probably more opposed to Sauron than opposed to the Free Peoples.

That doesn't mean they were very good, merely that they were good enough to oppose Sauron and his followers sometimes. And it seems that nobody could resist the temptation of the Ring enough to destroy it once they reached the Crack of Doom, but Hobbits had the most resistance and the best chance to do so. And it is quite possible that Elrond and Gandalf had enough knowledge of the eagles to predict that the eagles had less resistance to the temptation of the Ring than Hobbits or Men or Elves.

And those are some reasons why I don't think that not using the plan of riding the eagles into Mordor was a plot hole by Tolkien or a mistake by the characters.

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