In The Fellowship of the Ring we see the Gap of Rohan being constantly watched by Dunland's Crebains (crows) which Saruman used as spies. So, when Gandalf was reborn as Gandalf the White, or even later when he banished Saruman from Orthanc, why didn't he use those crows or other animals as spies? Even Radagast knew about what happened in the Dark Forest due to his own animals.

I mean, it would be useful to know when a group of wargs is going to attack your caravan, or when your reinforcements would arrive, or you know, if there's an army riding 10m tall elephants approaching; intel is always welcomed.

  • Because it would not have been an honorable thing to do ? (even with the answer below)
    – Max
    Aug 30, 2022 at 10:49
  • Because Saruman operates his power kinda as a city state, and Gandalf operates through 1-to-1 interpersonal relationships as an individual?
    – Lexible
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Max Only if you use the term "spies." Replace it with "scouts," and there's nothing dishonorable about it.
    – Misha R
    Aug 30, 2022 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


Why not? For instance, Gwaihir in The Two Towers:

'The eagle!' said Legolas. 'I have seen an eagle high and far off: the last time was three days ago, above the Emyn Muil.'

'Yes,' said Gandalf, 'that was Gwaihir the Windlord, who rescued me from Orthanc. I sent him before me to watch the River and gather tidings.'
(The Two Towers, chapter 5: "The White Rider")

Gwaihir in "The Return of the King", picking up Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom

  • 3
    He also had the rangers keeping eyes on the Shire for years, and almost certainly gathered intelligence from Barliman Butterbur when he visited Bree. It’s easy to imagine he had many watchful eyes willing to inform him of what they saw throughout a wide swath of middle earth, that are not mentioned in the text. Aug 26, 2022 at 2:05
  • 3
    Gandalf had also asked Radagast to get information from the birds and beasts, though Saruman used that gathered intelligence against Gandalf before his, Sarumans, treachery was out in the open.
    – JohnHunt
    Aug 26, 2022 at 2:29

Forgive this answer for only being semi-serious, but I can think of a few notable "spies" explicitly recruited for stealth missions by Gandalf through the years:

  • Bilbo Baggins. Was actually recruited as a thief but mainly served the purpose of intelligence gathering during the encounter with Smaug. Successfully manages to uncover the secret path into the dragon's lair, as well as the dragon's weak spot.
  • Aragorn son of Arathorn. First recruited together with Dúnedain to secretly keep a close eye on the Shire when Gandalf started to suspect that the Baggins' ring was the One Ring. He was later also tasked with the quest to track down Gollum.
  • Barliman Butterbur. Trusted with relaying sensitive messages and letters, although with diverse success.
  • Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee. Recruited for the stealth mission to bring the One Ring to Mount Doom, something they partially did under cover, disguising themselves as orcs.

It's hard to see where the eagles would have helped.

Prior to the Fellowship's attempt to pass through Moria, the focus was on secrecy. Having giant eagles -- not native to the southern Misty Mountains or the White Mountains -- suddenly appear and occasionally fly down to chat with Gandalf would have been ill-advised. Secrecy is best preserved by not drawing attention to yourself.

Once Gandalf had returned from the dead, when would there have been time or any real tactical value? From when Gandalf met Aragorn, et al, at the edge of Fangorn and got up-to-date information on the Fellowship to when they are in Helm's Deep preparing to withstand a siege was just a few days and their course was completely determined. They had to rouse Rohan, and to do that they had to end the menace to Rohan of Saruman. They lacked the strength to attack head-on, so they had to go to Helm's Deep and wait for reinforcements. They knew Saurman was coming. The only thing they did not know for sure was what the Ents would do, but while that decisively affected the outcome, it didn't really affect what Gandalf and Rohan would need to do.

Following that, Gandalf was off to Minas Tirith and, once again, the task was to rouse Gondor to withstand a siege that they knew must come. The did not have the force to sally out and, say, fend off the Corsairs to free up the forces of the Southlands or to clear the road from Rohan.

Better intelligence would have made the lives of the leadership of the Gondorian defense more comfortable -- though look what it did to Denethor! -- but would not have changed their actions in any significant way.

Bottom line: Gandalf's strategy was focused entirely on getting the Ring safely to Mt Doom. Using the Eagles would have imperiled that up until Moria. After Gandalf's resurrection, his strategy was entirely to use grossly inferior forces keep Sauron occupied by resisting him as long as possible. It was an entirely defensive strategy.

(It's also worth noting that the Eagles were not Gandalf's servants and are portrayed as proud and independent. While they certainly helped multiple times, it was usually on their own terms. It's not clear that they would have been interested in long-term service as Gandalf's aerial reconnaissance force.)

The single place where the Eagles might have been useful was when the Host of the West set off on their doomed attack on the Black Gate. Some Eagle spies drawing Sauron's attention might have been useful. But certainly not necessary.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.