The Great Eagles during the fall of Gondolin

Eagles' Rescue© Warner Bros. & MGM Studios

I asked a particular question on the Tolkien Society Facebook page, in the hope of getting some interesting answers. But since that didn’t really happen, nor did it instigate a thought-provoking discussion, I’m re-posting the question here on this blog, hoping to evoke some comments and ideas from you all!

I’m in the process of reading The Fall of Gondolin and I’m intrigued by the fact that Thorondor and the other Great Eagles, the ever-watchful and vigilant creatures around the Hidden City, fail to notice and warn Turgon of the approaching attack.

The Silmarillion, ‘The Sketch of the Mythology’ and the Earliest Text (in The Fall of Gondolin), all seem to introduce Thorondor’s presence only after the attack has long begun, to help aid the escapees during Glorfindel’s duel with the Balrog. Yet, a few pages before the battle, we are told that as Gondolin’s approached, “Tidings were brought by Thorondor”.

The only explanation I can provide, is the fact that the Eagles resided in the Crissaegrim (thus to the south of the Encircling Mountains), whilst Morgoth’s hosts came from the North. Still, it does not seem a very strong argument, considering how the Eagles are described as being on constant watch around the Mountains, and still failed to witness the approach of such a vast army …

So I ask again … is this some kind of Tolkienesque loophole? Am I missing something? Am I looking too much into this little detail?

Thoughts, ideas, comments welcome! 🙂

10 thoughts on “The Great Eagles during the fall of Gondolin

  1. Your suggestion seems like the most likely solution. I doubt it was because Morgoth’s forces were moving in the dark/shadow of the mountains. I would assume the Eagles’ sight (especially because of their connection to Manwe) would pierce the dark. I’m not yet to that point in my reading of TFOG, so when I get there, I’ll see if I can see another clue.

  2. For what it’s worth, an initial thought: The Fall of Gondolin was inseparable from the doom of Mandos, not just the city but also its people. The help of the Eagles enabled the key branches of descendancy culminating in the union of Aragorn and Arwen to continue. Perhaps it was less about saving Gondolin and its citizens, and more about the quiet melody ever persevering in the cacophony around it. Ultimately it is that quiet melody that triumphs, not the Valar.

    1. Now that’s some seriously deep thinking! The idea of the Doom being inevitable sounds like the most likely answer, and yet, from a narrative perspective I can’t help but think the omission of the Eagles just before such a crucial moment in the tale (before the battle) feels more like an oversight from the part of the author … things that happen after all, I would guess.

    1. In The Silmarillion, we are told that these were the Eagles of Manwë, and that “their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world.” Plus, I’d imagine if they saw a dark cloud approach the Hidden City, they’d think it suspicious sooo … 😉

      1. Problem noted 🙂 Back to the drawing-board, then… OTOH, this is Morgoth who is attacking, and he seems to be in origin more powerful even than Manwe, so perhaps he would be formidable enough even for them. They might simply not be capable of detecting an army led by him, until it was too late. They are primarily messengers, not a replacement for an Elvenhost.

  3. I really don’t have any idea how to respond to your question. I am curious, though, about the source of the photo. Where did you find it?

    1. Hey Mark! The image is actually from the first ‘Hobbit’ film – thought it was rather fitting for the topic … with the mountains and all … 🙂

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