Many studies of Tolkien’s Eagles have emphasized their role as a narrative device (the deus ex machina) or spiritual symbol and have focused primarily on their intervention in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This essay argues for a more comprehensive interpretation, and demonstrates that the Eagles function as essential characters throughout Tolkien’s legendarium, beginning with the earliest stories. The importance of eagles in mythology, folklore and literature is highlighted to show how Tolkien combined his deep knowledge of these subjects with his attention to the biology and anatomy of actual eagles to create his own inimitable Eagles: original characters possessing names, histories and agency, in addition to the characteristics of their avian counterparts in the primary world. I conclude that Tolkien’s Eagles were especially dear to him because they enabled him to dramatize his concept of eucatastrophe, “the joy of the happy ending,” as developed in his essay “On Fairy-stories.”



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