Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Once again, the vexed issue of flying mounts in LOTRO raises its gory head. Some want them, most don’t; the parties of the first part don’t see why they shouldn’t get the thrill of zooming above Middle-Earth like the Red Baron, while the parties of the second part describe the idea as the last nail in the coffin of the Lore. You can read just about every view on the subject here.

Personally, I have to say I’m against it – not because I am a diehard adherent of the Church of Tolkien (after all, if you think about it for a moment, the whole concept of a MMORPG based on Tolkien is about as anti-lore as you can get), but because a measure of respect for the basic parameters of Middle-Earth is what makes LOTRO different from other online fantasy games – and I happen to believe different is good. Look at it this way: wine is good, and so is coffee. Would you want them homogenised so that you end up with a single product called, say, wifee? Do we want all online fantasy games to be exactly the same, containing the exact same elements, so that you can no longer tell LOTRO from WoW from Product X?

For the moment, anyway, the issue is moot, since as LOTRO designer Scenario points out, “Flight is not something we support within our game mechanics (we totally fake our flying monsters)”, and “Even if it was supported, our existing landscape is not designed to support it (monster camp balance and just general terrain development)”. So that’s that as far as flying dromedaries in LOTRO are concerned.

However, there’s another fascinating parameter to the issue, namely the glaring hole in the Lord of the Rings plotline which almost every reader of the book has noticed – the fact that given the existence of friendly eagles in Middle-Earth, why didn’t the Council of Elrond have an eagle carry the Ring-Bearer directly to Mt. Doom? Tolkien himself was aware of the problem; in Letter 210, he noted, “The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness. The alighting of a Great Eagle of the Misty Mountains in the Shire is absurd; it also makes the later capture of G. [Gandalf] by Saruman incredible, and spoils the account of his escape.”

Sean Crist has compiled an excellent essay on this subject, “Could Eagles have Flown Frodo into Mordor?”, which you can consult here. He explores every argument, pro and con, basing his conclusions on hard evidence from the published sources. His final conclusion? “Once [Tolkien] has placed the eagles in the world of his sub-creation, the possibility of the ‘eagles’ scenario is open, and so far as I am aware, there is nothing in Tolkien's writing to rule it out. For this reason, I am calling it a hole in the plot.” But what a plot!

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