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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.


First Age

The Eagles of Manwë, by Ted Nasmith

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.

Thorondor wounded Morgoth in the face after Morgoth's battle with Fingolfin, and carried Fingolfin's corpse to the Echoriath, where Turgon buried him.[4]

The Great Eagles fought alongside the army of the Valar, Elves and Edain during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, intervening decisively with Eärendil in the battle against Ancalagon.[5]

Second Age

In the Second Age, a pair of Eagles had an eyrie in the King's House in Armenelos, the capital of Númenor, until the reign of Tar-Ancalimon[6] when 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 and during the festivals of Erukyermë, Eruhantalë and Erulaitalë.[7]

Towards the end of Númenor, the Valar sent storm clouds in the shape of Great Eagles in an attempt to warn them of their folly and impending doom.[8]

Third Age

Bilbo and the Eagles, by Ted Nasmith

In the Third Age, Thorondor's descendants Gwaihir and Landroval lived in an eyrie to the east of the Misty Mountains in Wilderland.

These Eagles helped the Elves of Rivendell and Radagast in watching the land and in gathering news about the Orcs.[9]

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.[10] 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.

Gwaihir rescues Gandalf from Orthanc

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 Zirakzigil.[9] 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.[11]

After the events of the War of the Ring the Great Eagles departed Middle-earth.

Notable Great Eagles


Elvish words for the Eagles were Sindarin thoron or thorn and the Quenya soron.[12][13]

Behind the scenes

The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness.
J.R.R. Tolkien on flying the One Ring to Mount Doom[14]

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.

Earlier versions of the legendarium

In earlier texts, Tolkien once envisioned the Great Eagles as bird-shaped Maiar.[15] 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."[16]

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.

In An Unexpected Journey, after Thorin and Company are cornered by Azog and his Orc pack after their escape from Goblin-town in the Misty Mountains, they fend off Azog and his followers by starting a fire, but Thorin confronts Azog and is defeated and wounded, but Bilbo and the others defend him by fighting against the Orcs and Wargs until eventually they are rescued by the Eagles, who also take out some of Azog's pet Wargs, much to his fury. They carry Thorin and Company throughout the lands, landing them on the Carrock before departing.

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.

Video games

  • 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
Afrikaans Groot Arende
Albanian Shqiponjat e Madhe
Amharic ታላላቅ ንስሮች
Arabic العقبان العظيمة
Armenian Գրեատ Եագլես
Azerbaijani Böyük qartal
Basque Handia arranoak
Belarusian Cyrillic Вялікія арлы
Bengali মহান ঈগল
Bosnian Veliki orlovi
Bulgarian Cyrillic Велики орли
Chinese (Hong Kong) 巨鷹
Catalan Grans Àguiles
Cebuano Dagko nga mga agila
Croatian Veliki Orlovi
Czech Velcí Orli
Danish Store ørne
Dutch Grote Adelaars
Esperanto Grandaj Agloj
Estonian Suured kotkad
Faroese Stórur ørnirnar ?
Filipino Dakilang mga Agila
Finnish Kotkat
French Grands Aigles
Georgian გრეათ ეაგლეს
German Große Adler
Greek Μεγάλοι αετοί
Gujarati ગ્રેટ ઇગલ્સ
Hausa Babban Gaggafa
Hebrew נשרים גדולים
Hindi महान ईगल्स
Hungarian Nagy Sasok
Icelandic Mikill Ernir
Indonesian Elang-elang besar
Italian Grandi Aquile
Irish Gaelic Hiolair Mór
Japanese 大鷲
Javanese Gedhe elang
Kannada ಗ್ರೇಟ್ ಹದ್ದುಗಳು
Kazakh Ұлы бүркіттер (Cyrillic) Ulı bürkitter (Latin)
Korean 위대한 독수리
Kurdish Egles mezin (Kurmanji Kurdish)
Cambodian ឥន្ទ្រីដ៏ធំ
Kyrgyz Cyrillic Улуу бүркүттөр
Latin Magnae Aquilae
Latvian Lieliski ērgļi
Lithuanian Didieji ereliai
Macedonian Cyrillic Греат Еаглес
Malaysian Helang Besar
Malayalam ഗ്രേറ്റ് കഴുകന്മാരുടെ
Malagasy Voromahery Lehibe ?
Maltese Kbira ajkli
Manx Rauee ny Vooarey ?
Marathi ग्रेट गरुड
Mongolian Cyrillic Их бүргэдүүд
Nepalese ठूलो ईगलहरू
Norwegian Stor ørner
Pashto غوره ایګلونه
Persian بزرگ ایگلز
Polish Wielkie Orły
Portuguese Grandes Águias
Punjabi ਗ੍ਰੇਟ ਈਗਲਜ਼
Romanian Mari Vulturi
Russian Великие Орлы
Scottish Gaelic Iolair Mór
Serbian Велики орлови (Cyrillic) Veliki orlovi (Latin)
Sesotho E khōlō lintsu
Sindhi عظيم ايگلز
Sinhalese මහා රාජාලීන්
Slovak Veľké Orly
Slovenian Veliki Orli
Spanish Grandes Águilas
Swahili Tai Kubwa
Swedish Stora Örnar
Tajik Cyrillic уқобҳо бузург ?
Tamil பெரிய கழுகுகள்
Telugu గ్రేట్ ఈగల్స్
Thai พญาอินทรี
Turkish Büyük kartallar
Turkmen Beýik bürgüt ?
Ukrainian Cyrillic Великі орли
Urdu عظیم ایگلز
Uzbek Греат Еаглес (Cyrillic) Buyuk Burgutlar (Latin)
Welsh Eryr Mawr
Yiddish גרויס יגאַלז
Zulu Okukhulu izinkozi
Races of Arda
Free Folk:

Ainur | Dwarves | Elves | Ents | Great Eagles | Hobbits | Huorns | Men | Petty-dwarves | Skin-changers (Beornings)

Servants of the Shadow:

Barrow-wights | Demons | Dragons (Fire-drakes) | Goblins | Ogres | Orcs | Spiders | Trolls | Úvanimor | Vampires | Wargs | Werewolves


  1. The Atlas of Middle-earth, Regional Maps, "The Misty Mountains"
  2. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter I: "Of the Beginning of Days"
  3. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XIII: "Of the Return of the Noldor"
  4. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XVIII: "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin"
  5. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter XXIV: "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"
  6. The Nature of Middle-earth, Of the Land and Beasts of Númenor, pg 337.
  7. Unfinished Tales, Introduction, Part Two, chapter I: "A Description of the Island of Númenor"
  8. The Silmarillion, Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor)
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter II: "The Council of Elrond"
  10. The Hobbit, Chapter XVII: "The Clouds Burst"
  11. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter III: "Mount Doom"
  12. The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin names
  13. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. V: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies"
  14. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 210, From a letter to Forrest J. Ackerman
  15. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth's Ring, The Annals of Aman
  16. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. X: Morgoth's Ring, Myths Transformed


  1. The text added that he was given the title King of All Birds at a later date.