How the Eagle King won his Crown, the tale as Told by the Eagles.
Long have been the years, numberless the Birds that have flown from Egg
to Fall, yet still is this tale told, nestlings falling silent to hear
The sky was high and clear, the keen, cold wind raced down from the
high peaks and poured out over the great winter-pale plain. They circled,
wheeling in great loops that took them up beyond sight, then they
swirled down like leaves borne before the gale. Their voices were various
and wild, piercing as the wind, sweet as the spring rains that bring the
green grass, gentle as the Moonlight that gleams on the wide sea.
From all over Middle Earth they came, called by the Eagle King, to sing
the praises of his father Gwaihir, who was now dead, his spirit soaring
from his shrunken old feathered frame and rising to the realm where
Eagles spread their wings between the stars.
Here they were then, Birds of all races, even Birds who had never flown
these skies, called by the Heir of Gwaihir, Gwaihir again, taking the
name to himself, the next in the line of Eagle Kings. This was his home,
the skies above Middle Earth, above the Ered Luin, the Ered Nimrais,
above The Misty Mountains, above all the peaks that sliced up into the
sky from the kingdoms of Men below.
From the far unknown lands of the West came Thunderbird, and Raven.
From other lands unknown came Quetzalcoatl, he of the beautiful tail, the
Feathered Serpent. From the desert skies of Khand and Rhun and Umbar
came the mighty Kondors, from the white frozen North came crystal Falcons
with wingspans of two fathoms and talons sharp as shards of ice. From
the Ocean lands came the great Frigate birds, snowbreasted, and the grey
Gulls crying. From the fields and gardens of all the lands came the
little birds, Doves and Wrens and long-tailed Swallows, little grey birds
and brown, bright-eyed and soft feathered. From the throats of jungle
flowers came the magical fierce Hummingbirds, they whose tiny wings bear
them on the longest journeys of all who fly. All the birds of the air
were come. Black Crows and yellow Canaries, jewel-bright Parrots and
stilt-legged Storks. Apart, aloof, unlovely, riding the unseen rivers of
air came even the Vultures with their naked necks and blood red heads,
to the funeral of the Eagle King. Thus came all the Bird people, for
Gwaihir had been their ruler, chief among chiefs, greatest among the great
lords of the air, the Eagles.
For it has been ordered, by those who order things, that the Bird
Kingdom is ruled by the Eagles, and all those creatures whose nature gives
them flight acknowledge the sway of the great pinioned Raptors, since
the days of Thorondor. And of the Eagles, the children of Gwaihir the
Windlord are the mightiest. This is not as the kingdoms of Men, where
unbridled passions and covetous ambition lead to enslavement and war. No,
among the Feathered ones the Kingship is honour and honour only, it is
not given to the Eagle King to impose his will or desire upon his folk.
Long had Gwaihir ruled in wisdom and peace, until his courageous heart
ceased beating, and he sank his mighty head upon his breast, and his
children and their children circled his eryie in awe and sadness and knew
that he would fly no more.
Gwaihir son of Gwaihir summoned his kin. "Dead is my father the King.
We will soar in his sky, and sing of his beauty. Great was he among
Birds. Great were his deeds. We will praise him." For it had been the fate
of Gwaihir to do mighty deeds, and even the Walkers, the Flightless
ground dwelling Men, knew of Gwaihir. The Walking ones honoured Gwaihir,
and one of them of old employed him as no Bird had allowed before.
For on a time word came to the Eagle King that his friend the Walker
Lord Mithrandir was in need. It suited the mood of Gwaihir to succor his
friend Mithrandir, carrying him even on his neck. Then up spoke
Gwaihir's brothers Meneldor and Landroval, saying that even such a great
Walker Lord as Mithrandir should not so use a Bird. "For is it not so,
brother," said Meneldor, "that these two-legged walking folk pierce our kin
with sticks fletched with our own feathers, and make sport with others
of us? Why should we aid them?"
Then it was that Gwaihir showed his wisdom. "My brother Meneldor, you
speak truth. The walking ones do so use us. But worse evil than arrows
and jesses there be, and this evil has arisen in the lands below us, and
if we do not aid the Walkers, it may be that the evil will seize us,
too." He rose soaring on his great wings and the Eagles followed him and
looked below and saw the smokes and fumes of Wickedness, and saw that
Death rode on the very wind. They then ceased speaking against the wish
of Gwaihir and indeed Meneldor and Landroval his brothers took his part
so fully that they took upon themselves the task of speaking to all the
Birds of the world, saying that it was the earnest desire of the Eagle
King that the two-legged Walkers should be aided as might be in the
days to come.
A second time the call came that Mithrandir needed the wings of
Gwaihir, but the word came not from his own lips, but from the Walker Lady of
the land of the Golden Trees. She it was who summoned the Eagle King in
some way suited to her nature, and she named Mithrandir as having
become Gandalf the White. (It is so with these Walking folk that they
sometimes bear several names.) It is believed that this change of name was of
great significance to the Walking folk, showing that the Lord
Mithrandir had been raised to greater heights, and given new duties. It is also
known that these folk are not only bound to the Earth by lack of Wings,
but that their forked bodies are naked and unfeathered, requiring to be
covered against the cold Wind or the water that falls as Rain. It is
told that they even cover themselves with the hides of the four-legged
walking people. The Lord Mithrandir had thus changed not only his name
from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White, but he changed his body's
covering from some Grey substance to a White substance, signifying his
altered nature, rather as does the fledgling who sheds his first feathers
when he leaves the nest.
Twice then had Gwaihir King of Eagles spread his wings in flight to aid
the Walkers. Came the third call, and again it was from the Lord
Mithrandir, calling for three Eagles, as soon as might be. The Eagle King
rose, on his right wingtip his brother Landroval, on his left wingtip his
brother Meneldor. They flew with Gwaihir who carried upon his neck the
Walker lord Mithrandir into the very eryie of Evil where even the
rivers of the Air were befouled and burned. Lost in the wreck and chaos of
the land below were two Walkers precious to Mithrandir and his King. The
Eagles swooped down into the midst of ruin and searched with their keen
farseeing eyes and found them near to death covered in grey ash, in
peril of fire, and they carried away the two Walkers, carried them up into
the high clean airs near the stars and so to the Walking King himself,
who bent his knee to the Eagles.
"Hail, King of Eagles!" the Walking King cried. He wore upon his head a
shining helm, white Mithril in the sunlight of the day. "Praise be the
wings and talons of the Eagle King. In token of your deeds in the war
against Sauron, this Helm I give you to put upon your head. Come now,
and receive it from my hands."
Gwaihir settled himself upon the earth, the realm of those who walk,
and of those who crawl. He bowed his head to the Walking King. Aragorn,
for that was the name of this Walking King, lifted from the hands of
Mithrandir a helm of Mithril, fashioned so that it would fit the noble
head of Gwaihir. He suffered the helm to be placed upon his shining
feathers and it glistened white and pure as snow. He raised his head and
regarded the Walker King Aragorn and his wild yellow eyes were alight with
laughter. "Is it fit, King of Walkers, that a Bird be thus adorned?
Still, I thank you for the honour, cumbersome though it be." Always has it
been a matter for amusement for the Feathered Ones to consider the ways
of the Walkers.
Now stepped forward the Walker lord Mithrandir. He bowed his head to
Gwaihir and raised his old, long hands. "My friend," he said. "Do you
bend your neck to me, and I will mend this matter and so please both you
and my King."
Gwaihir arched his gleaming neck and spread his wings and all there
were struck with awe, so great was his beauty and nobility. The Walking
lord Mithrandir spoke Words and the air between his hands and the head of
Gwaihir sang with power. The helm of Mithril was altered in its
substance by the power of Mithrandir's hands; it shimmered and became feathers
of white that crowned the head of Gwaihir. The great Bird lifted his
head and spoke. "Thus will I wear my honour. I and the heirs of my body,
until the land and the sky are become one, and Walkers and Birds are no
So it was, indeed. Even yet, in the skies of Middle Earth, even now
after the lands have been changed and changed again, Eagles ride the wind
and their white helms gleam in the Sunlight.
The funeral song of Gwaihir the Windlord was sung:
Still his wings are.
His great heart stopped,
Golden eyes glazed with Death.
Well was he loved,
High was he lifted
On wings of honour.
While he was King, still in the fullness of his great power, Gwaihir
the Windlord took under his wing his sons and his sons' sons, singing to
them as the rays of the morning Sun first struck the high peaks where
was built his Eryie--
Rise on the Airs,
Seize life in your Talons.
Master the Wind.
So sang the Eagle King in the morning. So sings the Eagle King still,
for those who have ears to hear.