Saturday, 9 August 2014

It's Basically Bird Racism

Obviously this - via Friend of the Blog Llama God - is brilliant in every way.  The absolute tip-toppymost of "fanwank" (a disgraceful term for so rewarding a hobby). I'm not sure where the idea comes from that there are enough Great Eagles to take on the Nazgul, and it's not like Mordor didn't have any ranged weapons or the ability to put trolls at every entrance to Mount Doom, but as an answer to "why not use the eagles?" it's supremely well-crafted.

Except...  why is everyone so dead set on the eagle flight idea in the first place? To me the response to why it was never tried was always obvious: the Great Eagles are sentient creatures just like men, Dwaves, Elves and Hobbits. Why on Middle Earth would we assume they'd be any more resistant to the One Ring than Boromir or Saruman were? Hell, everyone was pissing their chainmail boxer shorts over the idea Sean Bean might grab the Ring and start causing trouble. Can you imagine how screwed Middle Earth would be if a giant flying predator with talons that could rip an elephant into steak tartare decided it was time to become an invisible master sorcerer?

"Hey Gandalf, I just realised we could have flown eagles to Mount Doom and saved us months of exhausting travel and dangerous encounters!"
"Hey Frodo, I just realised the brutal dictatorship of an unstoppable flying magic bird of prey would fucking suck!"

It's a much less pretty theory than the one at Tickld, I grant you, but it has the advantage of treating animals smart enough to speak both English and Moth (and man would I have loved to see that scene - "What's that, Mothie? Little Gandalf's trapped up a tower? SQUAWK!") and show up to battles for the freedom of civilisation as something more than glorified private planes. Talking animals deserve our respect, even if in this case I'm asking that we respect them enough to be terrified that they might succumb to temptation and become our ruthless avian overlords.


Dan said...

I think the reason why everyone likes to beat on the fact that the Eagles are such an obvious easy solution, is simply the fact they were utilised in the book itself as a remarkably convenient way to ensure Frodo and Sam get out alive without any real bother. Tolkien can't have his cake and eat it, if he utilises a relatively lazy device for that (one which has already been used earlier in the book as well) then he can expect some flak in the form of "well if they an rescue Frodo they could survey have carried them their in the first place".

SpaceSquid said...

I think that's an entirely fair point insofar as the narrative should explicitly state why the eagles can't be used, though I confess I can't remember if the eagle airlift takes place in the books. I don't really have a problem with handwaving (or I guess wingwaving) away how Frodo and Sam escape from Mount Doom since the point of the story was so explicitly to get them there, indeed there are absolutely hundreds of examples of stories that get from the finale to the epilogue by just having the hero pass out and come to having been rescued; the point is that they did their job, not how they got a ride home afterwards.

But yeah, I can see the point. My objection is that it's generally not framed as "there should obviously have been a reason given for not doing X" but as "X was clearly a great idea and there's no reason it wouldn't have worked". The first is entirely reasonable, the latter is just failing to think the actual logic of the story through.

darkman said...

But the eagles where only able to fly to Mount Doom after Sauron was defeated and the air wasn't full of Nazgul on wings.

SpaceSquid said...

Also an entirely fair point; it's just always assumed that the Nazgul couldn't stop the one eagle with the ring in aerial combat. And like I've said, Mordor won't have lacked for AA options. Much as I love the Gandalf theory, I can't deny getting a chuckle out of the idea that a swarm of giant eagle flight over dozens of leagues of enemy territory would constitute a surprise attack.

BigHead said...

I don't believe we're given any particular details on exactly how the Eagle - Fell Beast matchup works. Also, we don't know how many Fell Beasts there are (I can't remember if we see all nine Nazgul flying at once in the book, and we don't know whether Legolas actually killed the one he shot) nor whether they are operational without riders. Further, we know that Sauron + Lackeys has access to lots of "sorcery" but we never find out what they can do. Boromir suggests that Sauron can control the weather of Mordor, which would inconvenience flying attackers.

Another problem for eagle-assault is that we don't know how far Eagles can carry people. We know that Gwaihir carries Gandalf from Durin's Tower to Caras Galadhon, which is a tidy way (as the Gaffer might say) but who knows whether he had to rest at all on the way. Our best guess comes from Gandalf's escape from Isengard, where he can't be carried all the way to the Shire an so goes for a horse instead. This suggests that Eagle-assaults aren't a particularly viable long-distance operation.

Stronger potential uses for the Eagles would be for short-distance transport (for instance could they get the party over the mountains?) and for launching decoy flights and airdrops to confuse the many spies of the Enemy. Indeed, we don't see any distraction operations from Team Rivendell at all, which given how paranoid they are about the Fellowship being discovered seems a bit odd. Still, there's also no suggestion that the Eagles are actually up for this anyway. Maybe they hadn't decided whether to get involved, or maybe Team Rivendell didn't trust them enough.

darkman said...

Anyways, the easiest solution wouldn't be to use the eagles to fly the ring to Mordor but to use a catapult: