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Eagle attacking orcs
Great Eagles
Name Great Eagles
Dominions Taniquetil, Crissaegrim, Eagles Eyrie[1]
Languages Westron, Quenya, Sindarin, Valarin
Height Huge, possibly larger than 100'
Skin Color
Hair Color
Lifespan Immortal
Distinctions Tall, gigantic, agile, graceful, courteous, fair
Members Gwaihir, Thorondor, Landroval

The Great Eagles were 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 on their foe the evil Vala Morgoth and later his lieutenant and future Dark Lord, Sauron.


First AgeEdit

Ted Nasmith - The Eagles of Manwe

The Eagles of Manwë, by Ted Nasmith

The Great Eagles were the messengers and spies of the King of Arda, 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.[5]

Second AgeEdit

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.[6]

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.[7]

Third AgeEdit

Ted Nasmith - Bilbo and the Eagles

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.[8]

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.[9] However, in 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.

LOTR mega-eagle

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 Zirak-Zigil.[8] 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, including Khamûl. Gwaihir, with others of his people, rescued Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from Mount Doom in Mordor after the One Ring had been destroyed.[10]

Notable Great EaglesEdit


The Elves have various names for the Eagles, including the Sindarin thoron or thorn and the Quenya soron.[11][12]

Behind the ScenesEdit

"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[13]

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).

Other versions of the legendariumEdit

In earlier texts, Tolkien once envisioned the Great Eagles as bird-shaped Maiar.[14] 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."[15]

Portrayal in adaptationsEdit

Peter Jackson's film trilogiesEdit

In Peter Jackson's film trilogies (those of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), the Eagles are much smaller than depicted in the book. They have been noted to been around 6m (20ft) tall, and have a wingspan of no more than 23m (75ft). Also, in the film adaptations, unlike in the books, 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.

Video gamesEdit

Translations around the WorldEdit

Foreign Language Translated name
Chinese (Hong Kong) 巨鷹
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Good Races:

Ainur | Dwarves | Ents | Hobbits | Men | Elves | Great Eagles

Evil Races:

Dragons | Balrogs | Orcs | Uruk-hai | Wargs | Werewolves | Trolls | Giant Spiders


  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. Unfinished Tales, Introduction, Part Two, I: "A Description of the Island of Númenor"
  7. The Silmarillion, Akallabêth (The Downfall of Númenor)
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter II: "The Council of Elrond"
  9. The Hobbit, Chapter XVII: "The Clouds Burst"
  10. The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter III: "Mount Doom"
  11. The Silmarillion, Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin names
  12. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5: The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies"
  13. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 210 From a letter to Forrest J. Ackerman
  14. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, The Annals of Aman
  15. The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, Myths Transformed


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

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