The Great Eagles were beings of Arda said to have been "devised" by Manwë Súlimo, leader of the Valar, and were often called the Eagles of Manwë. They were sent from Valinor to Middle-earth to keep an eye on the exiled Ñoldor, and also upon their foe the evil Vala Morgoth, and later upon Sauron.
The Great Eagles were the messengers and spies of Manwë, and possessed the ability to see through all physical matter except for the blackness of Morgoth's evil pits. Morgoth first discovered the limits of their sight prior to the fall of the great stronghold of Utumno.
For a time the King of the Eagles, Thorondor, kept his eyries at the top of Thangorodrim, the three mighty peaks that Morgoth raised from the Iron Mountains above the gates of Angband. While they lived there, Thorondor helped Fingon rescue Maedhros. Thorondor's folk later removed their eyries to the Crissaegrim, part of the Echoriath about Gondolin. There they were friends of Turgon, and kept spies off the mountains.
In the Second Age, a pair of Eagles had an eyrie in the King's House in Armenelos, the capital of Númenor, until the Kings became hostile to the Valar. The Eagles also watched the peak of Mount Meneltarma, and three Eagles would always appear when someone climbed to the summit.
In The Hobbit, no eagles were identified by name. Only the title "Lord of the Eagles" distinguished the eagle leader from other eagles in this story.[note 1] Many readers assume that it was Gwaihir and Landroval who rescued Thorin Oakenshield and Company from a band of Wargs and goblins, flying them to the river Anduin, and later assisting in the Battle of the Five Armies fought near Lonely Mountain. However, in The Return of the King Gandalf says that Gwaihir has carried him twice before, while the proper count would be three times if Gwaihir and the Lord of the Eagles were the same individual.
Before and during the War of the Ring, Gwaihir rescued Gandalf the Grey from the top of Isengard—having been dispatched by Radagast—and again from Zirak-Zigil. The Eagles aided troops of King Elessar at the Battle of the Morannon at the Black Gate. The Eagles arrived in time to overthrow some Nazgûl. Gwaihir, with others of his people, rescued Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from Mount Doom in Mordor after the One Ring had been destroyed.
Notable Great Eagles
Behind the scenes
Tolkien's painting of an eagle on a crag appears in some editions of The Hobbit. According to Christopher Tolkien, the author based this picture on a painting by Archibald Thorburn of an immature Golden Eagle, which Christopher found for him in The Birds of the British Isles by T. A. Coward. However, Tolkien's use of this model does not necessarily mean that his birds were ordinary Golden Eagles. In some of his texts Tolkien speculated that these great Eagles were actually Maiar in bird-shape, as he felt it unlikely Ilúvatar would grant feär to animals. If this was true, then Roäc the Raven and the Thrush, who appear in The Hobbit, might also be Maiar or other spirits in animal form (and possibly even Beorn, who sometimes takes the form of a bear).
Earlier versions of the legendarium
In earlier texts, Tolkien once envisioned the Great Eagles as bird-shaped Maiar. However, he had remembered that he abandoned the concept of the Children of the Valar, and that Gwaihir and Landroval were descendants of Thorondor during the events of The Lord of the Rings. Eventually, Tolkien decided that the Great Eagles were animals that had been "taught language by the Valar, and raised to a higher level — but they still had no fëar."
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's film trilogies
In Peter Jackson's film trilogies (those of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), the Eagles are smaller than they are in the book. They have been noted to be around 6m (20ft) tall, with a wingspan of no more than 23m (75ft). Also, in the film adaptations the birds are not shown to be capable of speech. During the titular events of The Battle of the Five Armies, the Eagles carry Radagast and Beorn into battle against Azog's army; otherwise their role in the films is identical to that of the books, though the Eagle that carries Gandalf from Orthanc is summoned by Gandalf and not sent by Radagast.
- In The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, an eagle named Beleram acts as a supporting character, aiding the players in battle by attacking enemies like Trolls and Uruk-hai.
- In Lego The Hobbit, the eagles act as a transportation form that carry the player(s) all over Middle-earth. The eagles appear in the same scenes as they did in the first two films.
- In The Battle for Middle-earth II, the Elven faction may summon one Great Eagle with the "Eagle's Nest" upgrade to their fortress.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Albanian||Shqiponjat e Madhe|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Вялікія арлы|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Велики орли|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||巨鷹|
|Cebuano||Dagko nga mga agila|
|Faroese||Stórur ørnirnar ?|
|Filipino||Dakilang mga Agila|
|Irish Gaelic||Hiolair Mór|
|Kazakh||Ұлы бүркіттер (Cyrillic) Ulı bürkitter (Latin)|
|Kurdish||Egles mezin (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Улуу бүркүттөр|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Греат Еаглес|
|Malagasy||Voromahery Lehibe ?|
|Manx||Rauee ny Vooarey ?|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Их бүргэдүүд|
|Scottish Gaelic||Iolair Mór|
|Serbian||Велики орлови (Cyrillic) Veliki orlovi (Latin)|
|Sesotho||E khōlō lintsu|
|Tajik Cyrillic||уқобҳо бузург ?|
|Turkmen||Beýik bürgüt ?|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Великі орли|
|Uzbek||Греат Еаглес (Cyrillic) Buyuk Burgutlar (Latin)|
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow:
- The Atlas of Middle-earth, Regional Maps, "The Misty Mountains"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter I: "Of the Beginning of Days"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XIII: "Of the Return of the Noldor"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XVIII: "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
- The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XXIV: "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
- Unfinished Tales, Introduction, Part Two, chapter I: "A Description of the Island of Númenor"
- The Silmarillion, Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor)
- The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter II: "The Council of Elrond"
- The Hobbit, Chapter XVII: "The Clouds Burst"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter III: "Mount Doom"
- The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin names
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. V: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies"
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 210, From a letter to Forrest J. Ackerman
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth's Ring, The Annals of Aman
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth's Ring, Myths Transformed
- The text added that he was given the title King of All Birds at a later date.