It's been a busy couple of days. Here's something I wrote yesterday and didn't have time to post:
B. and I watched the Fellowship of the Ring DVD last night. The Mordor & Gondor expansion to the Lord of the Rings Risk set is out in games shops now, and I found myself considering the whole getting-the-Ring-to-Mount-Doom problem in strategic terms.
The problem is, of course, that only the fires of Mount Doom can destroy the Ring, but Mount Doom is in the middle of Mordor, surrounded by Sauron's forces. The free peoples of Middle-Earth stand no chance whatsoever of taking or holding any part of Mordor as long as Sauron is in power. The plan the Council adopts is to send in a small taskforce -- the Fellowship -- in the hope that they can avoid detection. It's a plan which (with plentiful hitches) pays off in the end, but it's hideously risky. There's far too high a chance of the ring falling into Sauron's hands, which spells apocalyptic disaster.
Unlike Sauron with his winged Nazgul, Gandalf, Elrond and Co have omitted to consider the possibility of an aerial assault. My alternative plan would work as follows.
First, you need the Eagles on your side. If they refuse to help for reasons of Good or of enlightened self-interest, then offer them a yearly tribute of thousands of sheep or something (protected species status, possibly). You might need to call in Radagast the Brown as a negotiator. While this is going on, you send out a general call for as much mithril as can possibly be obtained, and set the Dwarves to smelting it into armour for the Eagles. They probably need at least helms, to protect them from mobs of carrion birds, and mail on their bellies to cover ground-to-air arrows. Mithril is light enough not to impede their flight, and pretty much impermeable.
Then, while Aragorn and others arrange the diversion with the armies at the Gates of Mordor (just as in the books and films), a battalion of armoured Eagles with riders heads for Mordor, disposed as follows:
1. Outriders with Elven archers, to ward off flying Nazgul and other aerial attackers.
2. Bombers carrying military "fireworks" (we see Saruman deploy explosives at Helm's Deep, so they surely can't be beyond Gandalf's expertise), who take out all the approaches to Mount Doom.
3. The leader (Gwaihir probably) carrying as incorruptible a Ringbearer as can be identified. (You'd need to do some research -- exposing people momentarily to the Ring and gauging their reactions -- but I reckon a youngish Elf like Arwen might well be your best bet here. She'd also not be much of a threat if she became corrupted.)
After this, it's a simple matter of landing the Ringbearer at Mount Doom and consigning the Ring to the flames, destroying Sauron and throwing his forces into disarray, which the armies of Men can mop up fairly readily. After that all Aragorn need do is set up an interim administration until the Orcs can be persuaded to elect their own democratic government, and the whole Mordor problem is contained.
Of course, he may then decide to turn his attention to Isengard. And, of course, Moria. Then possibly the Southlands...