In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, how long would it take someone to walk from the Shire to Mordor and how much quicker would it be to fly the journey on the back of an eagle? In both Tolkien's original work and Peter Jackson's movie trilogy, young Frodo Baggins is tasked with carrying his uncle's world-threatening ring to the one place in the land where it can be unmade. This involves travelling, largely by foot no less, from Frodo's home in Hobbiton to the crack of Mount Doom in Mordor, where the One Ring was first forged.
Thankfully, Frodo needn't bear this burden alone, and he is accompanied every step of the way by faithful friend, Samwise Gamgee. After finally completing their mission to destroy the ring, the two beaten and battered Hobbits sit on the black slopes of Mount Doom and quietly give up any hopes of seeing their home again, at which point Gandalf appears alongside a trio of Great Eagles, rescuing Middle earth's heroes from a slow demise. One major point of contention among fans of both Lord of the Rings versions is why Gandalf didn't let Frodo fly to Mordor on an eagle in the first place? This surely would've been quicker, easier and avoided many of the hardships Frodo faced during his trek.
The first question to ask is: how far did Frodo travel on his journey from Bag End to Mordor? It's known from Tolkien's text that Frodo left the Shire on September 23rd, a day after turning 50. In Return of the King, Gandalf declares that, "In Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell," pinpointing the date Frodo Baggins finally stood upon the crack of Mount Doom. This means that the events of The Lord of the Rings take place over six months, or 182 days using the Shire calendar. However, Frodo took many diversions during his journey, meaning this figure doesn't give a true representation of how long the trek should take.
Widely respected cartographer, Karen Wynn Fonstad, nails the distance Frodo covered on his route to 1779 miles. A physically fit person could cover roughly 12 miles per day, taking into account breaks, sleeping and difficult terrain. This suggests that, without being chased by Ringwraiths or giant spiders, one could actually travel from the Shire's Bag End to Mount Doom in Mordor in a brisk 148 days.
With that target in mind, how much faster could the Great Eagles have made the journey? This is somewhat trickier to calculate, requiring a mixture of arithmetic and guesswork to reach an answer. Using a scale map (via EncyclopediaOfArda), the distance between the Shire and Mordor as the crow (or eagle) flies can be estimated at around 1100 miles. Working out how fast the Great Eagles can travel in The Lord of the Rings is much harder, especially since the creatures only carry Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom "out of the fire to the King," suggesting that the Hobbits were flown down to the field of battle, rather than directly to Gondor.
Another notable journey Gwaihir makes is more helpful. The eagle rescues Gandalf from the Tower of Orthanc on the night of September 18th and drops him off in Edoras "ere dawn," suggesting a flight around 6 hours in length. Again referring to the map mentioned above, this trip from Isengard spans roughly 125 miles. With this information, it can be estimated that Gwaihir could fly from the Shire to Mordor in just over 2 days, uninterrupted. Factoring in rest breaks for both beast and Hobbit, this would likely extend to almost one week.
Clearly this is far quicker than Frodo managed on foot and should come as no surprise, since the Great Eagles are not merely larger than their real-life kin but are also mystical beings - something that was glossed over in Jackson's movie trilogy. Regular golden eagles and bald eagles can reach incredible speeds in the real world, so it's only natural that their Tolkien counterparts are even more impressive. Whether Frodo could've flown to Mordor on an eagle in The Lord of the Rings remains a highly contested point, but he certainly would've got there quicker.