The Eagles of Manwë Praise the Faithfulness of the People of Minas Tirith.

Last week I promised to continue the love story of Faramir and Éowyn but I ask you to permit me to make you wait one week more before we return to it. Last week we thought about the great wave that seemed to threaten the end of all things and yet brought a joy that was both entirely unlooked for and which brought tears to those who were pierced by it. Now all the people in the city learn what has brought such joy for,

“Before the Sun had fallen far from the noon out of the East there came a great Eagle flying, and he brought tidings beyond hope from the Lords of the West, crying:

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor, for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever, and the Dark Tower is thrown down.”

I hope that discerning readers will have noticed that Tolkien is careful about the use of capital letters for nouns in his work. In an earlier post on this blog we saw it in his use of the word, Pity, and so here Tolkien uses it to draw our attention to the importance of the noun that is capitalised. In the sentence that I quoted above there are four nouns that receive a capital letter, a sign that this is a sentence of particular importance, but the one that I want to focus on is the word, Eagle.

This is no ordinary Eagle. For one thing the Eagle sings in human speech and comes to Minas Tirith as the herald of the free peoples of Middle-earth. For another this Eagle was one of those who came to the climactic battle before the Black Gate. This Eagle is a descendant of those that Manwë, the lord of the Valar, sent to Middle-earth in the First Age to be his messengers. Their task was to keep watch on Morgoth, who was Sauron’s lord, and to do this they built their eyries on the peak of Thangorodrim itself, the very mountain beneath which Morgoth built his fortress of Angband.

They have kept their watch faithfully through long ages and from time to time, at crucial moments, they have intervened directly in the affairs of the free peoples. They carried Beren and Lúthien from Angband, the party of Thorin’s dwarves from the trees in which they were trapped by orcs and wargs, Gandalf from the Tower of Orthanc when he was held captive by Saruman and later carried him from the mountain top after the great battle with the Balrog and finally they attacked the Nazgûl at the Battle of the Black Gate.

It is thus no coincidence that it is an Eagle of Manwë that is the herald of the fall of Sauron. The faithfulness of the Eagles speaks to the faithfulness of Minas Tirith.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard, for your watch hath not been in vain.”

Just as the armies of the West were drawn into the story of Frodo and Sam at the Field of Cormallen so that it became their story too so all who have remained in the city as the host went to battle are brought into the story of the faithful vigil of the ages. The boys who play with Bergil, son of Beregond of the Guard of the Tower, the women who Ioreth of the Houses of Healing tells of the first coming of the king to his city, all become part of the story of the faithful watch.

The 16th century English theologian, Richard Hooker, once wrote, “How are the people to know they are faithful unless their captains tell them?” Faithfulness will lie at the very heart of the civilisation that is born with the downfall of Sauron and the return of the King and the story of faithfulness with which the new age begins will dignify every man, woman and child to whom the captains tell it. It is this act of giving dignity to the people that is one of the central tasks of the captain whether a parent, teacher, chief executive, president or king. Any who fail in this task are not true captains.


12 thoughts on “The Eagles of Manwë Praise the Faithfulness of the People of Minas Tirith.

  1. ‘The faithfulness of the Eagles’ is a topic I would be glad to see more written on, it is good to see it addressed at this juncture. I am reflecting on the truth of the last paragraph, thank you for articulating this point so clearly.
    I have yet to respond to your replies to some of my comments on previous posts, I shall do so soon I hope!

    • I was greatly impressed by the fact that it is the faithful eagles who give praise to faithful Gondor. Also how important it is to name the faithfulness of others whenever possible.
      I look forward to your further thoughts and responses.

    • Once again, thank you for guiding me to a new insight! Of course, who else but the faithful eagles would call the city by its ancient name, recalling the age of Elendil, Isildur and Anarion. I love your analogy too. I get called, sir, more often these days. English culture has become aggressively informal in recent years so I find this quite striking.

  2. Captains who tell of faithfulness give dignity to the hearers. That is a concept I had not thought of before. Thank you for bringing this out!

  3. Something struck me I’m your quoted passage, and I had to look it up. “That also shall come to be by the heed of Ilúvatar, and before the Children awake there shall go forth with wings like the wind the Eagles of the Lords of the West.’” from “The Silmarillion” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien. Do you think it coincidence that JRRT used Lords of the West for Aragorn’s armies? Was that Gandalf’s idea?

    • Thank you so much for drawing my attention to this reference from The Silmarillion. I don’t think that it is a coincidence at all that the Eagles are present at both events because of their relationship to Manwë. There is a difference between the two references to the Lords of the West, however. In The Lord of the Rings it refers to Aragorn and Eomer etc, while in The Silmarillion it refers to the Valar. I don’t know if that is a slip on Tolkien’s part or that in some way Aragorn now shares in the lordship of the Valar, being one who receives his lordship from them.
      Both Gandalf, as one of the Istari, and the Eagles are emissaries of the Valar in Middle-earth and their thought is often in profound harmony with one another. I like the grumpiness that Gwaihir shows when he rescues Gandalf from Orthanc too! Eagles are free creatures and not servants. Gwaihir is not going to carry Gandalf for ever. He must go to Edoras in order to beg for a horse from Théoden and be humiliated while he does so.

  4. Wonderfully written!
    The Eagles have always been a very interesting and mysterious aspect of the Legendarium. They often act as heralds or, as in the case of Númenor, a warning that something has to be changed in the Númenóreans’ minds. They are very often a sign, a harbinger of something. A very powerful device, indeed.

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