…but how much fun would that be?
In the vein of Spencer Ackerman’s strategic analysis of the Battle of Hoth, an explanation of the most vexing question in Lord of the Rings: Why couldn’t Frodo just fly into Mordor on one of those giant eagles?
The author gives a potential plan and takes on 12 claims of eagle-skeptics, finding them all wanting. The best argument for trekking versus flying, he says, is simply the need to tell a good story:
To mind, the strongest argument that there is nothing to rule out the “eagles” plan, and that this is simply a hole in the plot, is that the matter is not discussed at the Council of Elrond. Every possible plan is discussed: sending the Ring to Tom Bombadil to keep, guarding it in Imladris or Lórien or the Havens, sending it across the ocean, dropping it into the ocean, using it, etc. In each instance, there is a good explanation given to rule out the plan; this is the literary device by which Tolkien sets up the quest to Mt. Doom as the direction which the story must take.
In all of this discussion, no mention is made of the possibility that the eagles could help in taking the Ring to Mt. Doom. …
Since Gandalf had just related his rescue from Orthanc just prior to the discussion of the various possible plans, the eagles would have been in the thought of everybody at the Council of Elrond, and it is very likely that somebody would have brought the possibility up. But they do not, and I think there are two possible explanations: 1) the possibility never occurred to Tolkien, or 2) Tolkien realized he had a problem and opted not to draw attention to it. In either case, the matter should be counted as a hole in the plot.