J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, is known for his expansive imagination and creative genius. He thought up civilizations, giving them rich histories and cultures, as well as devising fleshed-out languages for them. He invented a slew of mythical creatures, such as the Balrog and the orcs, but what about more mundane creatures, such as birds? Does the fictional world of Middle-Earth have the same birds we have in our world or any more fantastical ones?
The Great Eagles
For most Lord of the Rings fans, the first thing they will think of when they hear “Lord of the Rings bird” will be the Great Eagles. These are great sized birds, nothing like a parrolet. The Great Eagles are very important in Tolkien’s mythology, both in the background history and the stories themselves, such as the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. They are no ordinary birds, but as intelligent as men or elves and can speak. They are also immortal. The Eagles are servants of Manwë, the leader of the Valar (their original task was to watch over Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, after his fall from grace). The true nature of the Eagles is mysterious (Tolkien himself wasn’t sure about their definitive nature), though they may be Maiar, a type of spirit. These Eagles are also much larger than an ordinary eagle – Thorondor, the largest of them all, had a wingspan of 180 feet! Some named Eagles include Thorondor, Meneldor, Gwaihir, and Landroval. The Great Eagles have a habit of showing up when they are most needed, such as in the Hobbit when they save Bilbo and the gang from goblins and wargs, and in the Lord of the Rings films when one rescues Gandalf from Saruman’s Tower.
Speaking of Saruman, he used birds as spies to try and locate Frodo and the Fellowship in the Fellowship of the Ring. These birds are called the Crebain (another specifically Lord of the Rings bird) and are raven or crow-like, flying in large flocks which cast a huge shadow upon the ground and are known to make terrible screeching noises (alerting people to their presence and perhaps making them not ideal spies). They had some degree of intelligence, though they never speak as the Great Eagles do.
What about other, less fantastical birds? Middle-Earth does seem to have similar animal life to what we have in our world (actually, it’s interesting to note that Tolkien considered his stories to be actual history of our world, lost to time). A thrush serves an important role in The Hobbit book, telling the archer Bard Smaug’s only weak spot and allow him to kill the dragon (yes, even ordinary birds in Middle-Earth can talk from time to time). Ravens serve as messengers, and some can speak Westron (the language of humans). Kingfishers, hawks, sparrows, owls, larks, nightingales, and other birds familiar to us also exist in this universe.
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