It is fairly safe to assume that Sauron knew about the Great Eagles as his master, Morgoth, definitely did.

Noting this, and Morgoth's hate for and frustration with to the Eagles (refer to Why didn't Morgoth track the Eagles to find the location of Gondolin? for more info), why didn't Sauron try to do anything about the Eagles? If he had attempted to do anything to them or even find them are we told about it in The Silmarillion or any other works?

  • 26
    He especially hated 'Hotel California'
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:01
  • 1
    @Valorum At the end, Eisengard was kinda isolated. You could check in... but not check out
    – Machavity
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 0:10
  • 6
    The Eagles are Manwe's representatives. They're like an American embassy in South America. If you mess with a country in South America, but not the embassy, the worst you get is a couple elite CIA field agents codenamed Istari to come meddle. You start messing with the embassy and you get some shock and awe.
    – Shamshiel
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 9:56
  • 1
    Could he actually do anything about them? Morgoth was a lot more powerful than Sauron, and even he couldn't do anything about them.
    – Maksim
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 9:11
  • He only started working with Saruman because the White Wizard promised to cut down Fangorn Forest and use the wood to build a bunch of giant scarecrows. Commented Aug 31, 2022 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


Sauron was busy taking over Middle-earth. If he had concentrated on the Eagles, he would have had to divert some effort from some other task, in which case, that might have turned out to be his downfall. One of the ways that "fate" (my term, I don't think Tolkien used it much) works in Middle-earth is that whatever factor the forces of evil overlook or underestimate just happens to turn out to be the factor that defeats them.

It is also possible that he had little in the way of "air power" to challenge the Eagles. The winged beasts that the Nazgûl used were probably being kept secret for the great war. We don't even know if those beasts could take on the Eagles; the only time they meet, the beasts retreat as the Nazgûl are being recalled by Sauron.

But the Nazgûl turned and fled, and vanished into Mordor's shadows, hearing a sudden terrible call out of the Dark Tower....

The Return of the King: "The Field of Cormallen"

Until close to the War of the Ring, Sauron had little direct ability to act as he was gathering strength. In the War of the Ring, the Eagles had only a few actions and Sauron could probably not have anticipated them (except the first).

  1. The Eagles help gather news that is used in the Council of Elrond.
  2. Gwaihir rescues Gandalf from Isengard (thanks @iMerchant for reminding me).
  3. Gwaihir carries Gandalf's body from the Misty Mountains after his battle with the Balrog.
  4. The Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom after the Ring is destroyed.

I don't see any reason why Sauron would have thought going after the Eagles would be worth his time.

  • 1
    1.5 Gwaihir rescues Gandalf from the top of Orthnac after his fight with Saruman.
    – iMerchant
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 2:22
  • @iMerchant You're right of course. I hope you won't mind if I edit my answer to include that.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 3:14
  • 3
    Edit away. We're all in this together, to get the best answers we can.
    – iMerchant
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 3:18
  • @Blackwood if I remember correctly, in the books at least the winged beasts weren't being kept THAT secret, since the fellowship first sees one at the end of The Fellowship just before the ambush on Amon Hen. Legolas shoots it down though, so even though they all felt the dread of the Nazgul and Frodo was reminded of his wound, the fellbeast itself was not particularly threatening
    – childcat15
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 14:46
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    @childcat15 Yes, I assume that was one of the winged beasts, but keep in mind this was only about two weeks before the Dawnless Day and the start of open warfare.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:50

They would have been too difficult to hunt.

In, The Hobbit, Tolkien says:

The goblins hated the eagles and feared them, but could not reach their lofty seats, or drive them from the mountains.

So, Sauron wouldn't have known exactly where the eagles were, and his orcs couldn't climb that high. If he would have sent out huge numbers of orcs that were trained in mountaineering, that would be a costly diversion of resources, with a low chance of success, since the eagles could always relocate.

Middle-earth is about the size of Europe 1, and the eagles are extremely mobile. So if they fled their main nests in the northern Misty Mountains, it could take years for Sauron's forces to find their new home, at which point they could resettle again.

One might argue that Sauron could have hunted them with the Nazgûl and fell beasts. The problem with that is that he didn't start using the fell beasts until a relatively late time. He probably had a limited number of them and wanted to save them for the campaigns against Rohan and Gondor.

Secondly, we don't know how fast or high fell beasts can fly. If they managed to fly to the highest peaks of the Misty Mountains and find the eagles, the eagles still could fly away or possibly kill the fell beasts. Sauron wouldn't have wanted to risk that.

  • I agree that Sauron may have had a limited number of the fell beasts, but in the books at least he starts using them as early as the end of The Fellowship, when the fellowship is leaving Lothlorien
    – childcat15
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 14:48
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    True, but Sauron didn't let them cross the Anduin until the attack on Minas Tirith. Grishnákh says, "But the winged Nazgûl: not yet, not yet. He won't let them show themselves across the Great River yet, not too soon. They're for the War-and other purposes." The fell beasts are great at causing terror -- particulary to men -- but we don't how tough they are in battle. Legolas kills one pretty easily. Éowyn kills one, of course. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 18:28
  • We never get to see them fight the eagles. When the eagles arrive at the Black Gate, there's no indication that they're afraid of the Nazgûl. There are also a lot of them. "Long swift lines came all their vassals from the northern mountains." It really doesn't seem that hunting them using fell beasts would have been viable or something Sauron would have been willing to risk. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 18:29
  • True, I'm just trying to point out that stealth/concealment of the fell beasts was likely not a hindrance to fighting the eagles. Even if Sauron didn't want them "showing themselves" across the Anduin, if they had been going up to the peaks to root out eagles no man would have seen them. But I agree it seems the fell beasts were not as strong as the eagles, and not up to the task of hunting them
    – childcat15
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 3:00

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