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In The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, eagles appear occasionally.

How do they decide where to drop people off?

Is it directed by a character? Or are they conscious enough to decide on a particular location?

  • 5
    Short answer is that they're sentient and intelligent – Valorum Jun 13 at 11:01
  • Good answer. Is that true? Gandalf doesn't tell them where he wants to go? I totally believe you, I'm just curious... – LevenTrek Jun 13 at 11:07
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    By communicating? "Hey Gandalf, pretty tired now, this an ok place to drop you off?" "Ye, sure bud." – Edlothiad Jun 13 at 11:31
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    @LevenTrek The Eagles didn't go all the way to Erebor because they were afraid the Woodmen of Mirkwood would shoot at them. – Mat Cauthon Jun 13 at 13:42
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    Off the top of my head, upon reading The Hobbit, FotR and TTT, it's clear that Eagles in LOTR are sentient and capable of making their own decisions. See [Why didn't Gandalf or Frodo Fly to Mount Doom?]( scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2333/…) and its links and I think it's pretty straightforward what the answer is: they think for themselves. – Mat Cauthon Jun 13 at 13:46
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Eagles are intelligent and can speak. They are sympathetic to the cause of the West in the wars of the Third Age, but they do not offer a free taxi service. The few times we are told of them carrying people, it is because of great need and on their own terms. It is either obvious where the people should be dropped off, or it is arranged in advance.

Rescue of Gandalf, Bilbo and the dwarves from the goblins

After the Lord of the Eagles rescues Gandalf, Gandalf persuades him to return to get Bilbo and the dwarves.

There was a howl of anger and surprise from the goblins. Loud cried the Lord of the Eagles, to whom Gandalf had now spoken. Back swept the great birds that were with him, and down they came like huge black shadows. The wolves yammered and gnashed their teeth; the goblins yelled and stamped with rage, and flung their heavy spears in the air in vain. Over them swooped the eagles; the dark rush of their beating wings smote them to the floor or drove them far away; their talons tore at goblin faces. Other birds flew to the tree-tops and seized the dwarves, who were scrambling up now as far as ever they dared to go.

The Hobbit Chapter 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
Page 99 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

The eagles take them as far as their eyrie. This is presumably the closest place where they will be safe from the goblins.

The flight ended only just in time for him, just before his arms gave way. He loosed Dori's ankles with a gasp and fell onto the rough platform of an eagle's eyrie.

The Hobbit Chapter 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
Page 100 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

From the eyrie to the Carrock

The eagles agree to take Gandalf and his friends part of the way on their journey, but are not willing to go the whole way.

As Bilbo listened to the talk of Gandalf he realized that at last they were going to escape really and truly from the dreadful mountains. He was discussing plans with the Great Eagle for carrying the dwarves and himself and Bilbo far away and setting them down well on their journey across the plains below.

The Lord of the Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived. "They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew," he said, "for they would think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right. No! we are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you, but we will not risk ourselves for dwarves in the southward plains."

"Very well," said Gandalf. "Take us where and as far as you will! We are already deeply obliged to you."

The Hobbit Chapter 6: Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire
Page 102 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

The place the eagles are will to take them turns out to be "The Carrock" on the Great River (Anduin).

After a good while the eagles must have seen the point they were making for, even from their great height, for they began to go down circling round in great spirals. They did this for a long while, and at last the hobbit opened his eyes again. The earth was much nearer, and below them were trees that looked like oaks and elms, and wide grass lands, and a river running through it all. But cropping out of the ground, right in the path of the stream which looped itself about it, was a great rock, almost a hill of stone, like a last outpost of the distant mountains, or a huge piece cast miles into the plain by some giant among giants.

Quickly now to the top of this rock the eagles swooped one by one and set down their passengers.

The Hobbit Chapter 7: Queer Lodgings
Page 104 (Unwin Books 1966 paperback edition)

Rescue of Gandalf from Orthanc

When Gwaihir rescues Gandalf from Orthanc, he is bringing news to Orthanc as Saruman requested in a message sent through Radagast. Seeing Gandalf imprisoned, he rescues him and arranges to take him to where he can find a horse.

‘That was the undoing of Saruman’s plot. For Radagast knew no reason why he should not do as I asked; and he rode away towards Mirkwood where he had many friends of old. And the Eagles of the Mountains went far and wide, and they saw many things: the gathering of wolves and the mustering of Orcs; and the Nine Riders going hither and thither in the lands; and they heard news of the escape of Gollum. And they sent a messenger to bring these tidings to me.

‘So it was that when summer waned, there came a night of moon, and Gwaihir the Windlord, swiftest of the Great Eagles, came unlooked-for to Orthanc; and he found me standing on the pinnacle. Then I spoke to him and he bore me away, before Saruman was aware. I was far from Isengard, ere the wolves and orcs issued from the gate to pursue me.

‘“How far can you bear me?” I said to Gwaihir.

‘“Many leagues,” said he, “but not to the ends of the earth. I was sent to bear tidings not burdens.”

‘“Then I must have a steed on land,” I said, “and a steed surpassingly swift, for I have never had such need of haste before.”

‘“Then I will bear you to Edoras, where the Lord of Rohan sits in his halls,” he said; “for that is not very far off.”

The Lord of the Rings Book Two, Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond
Page 261 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Carrying Galdalf from Zirakzigil

We are told that it was Gwaihir who carried Gandalf from the peak of Zirakzigil after his fight with the Balrog. Towards the end of the battle before the Black Gate, Gandalf asks Gwaihir to carry him for a third and last time.

Then Gandalf, leaving all such matters of battle and command to Aragorn and the other lords, stood upon the hill-top and called; and down to him came the great eagle, Gwaihir the Windlord, and stood before him.

‘Twice you have borne me, Gwaihir my friend,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thrice shall pay for all, if you are willing. You will not find me a burden much greater than when you bore me from Zirakzigil, where my old life burned away.’

The Lord of the Rings Book Six, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen
Page 949 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Note that Gandalf says that this will be the third time Gwaihir has carried him (the other two being from Orthanc and from Zirakzigil). If true, that means it must have been another (perhaps earlier) Lord of the Eagles who carried him in The Hobbit.

Rescue of Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom

It turns out that Gandalf's reason for riding on Gwaihir from the Black Gate was to search for Frodo and Sam.

And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death.

Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir, and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire.

The Lord of the Rings Book Six, Chapter 4: The Field of Cormallen
Page 951 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Single Volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

  • Thanks for the edits @DavidW – Blackwood Jun 23 at 0:24

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