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Orcs
Race
John Howe - In Mordor.jpg
"In Mordor" by John Howe
General Information
Other namesGoblins, Glamhoth, Yrch
OriginsObscure, but apparently bred from Elves
See Orcs/Origin
LocationsUtumno, Angband, Mordor, Misty Mountains, Angmar, Mount Gundabad, High Pass, Dol Guldur, Isengard
AffiliationMorgoth, Sauron
RivalriesElves, Men, Dwarves
LanguagesBlack Speech; numerous Orkish languages; Westron
PeopleUruk-hai, Goblin-men, Half-orcs, Hobgoblins, Mountain Orcs, Eastern Orcs, Mordor Orcs, Isengard Orcs
MembersOthrod, Azog, Bolg, Gorbag, Great Goblin, Grishnákh
Physical Description
LifespanUnknown
DistinctionsEvil footsoldiers of the Enemy; preferred darkness
Average heightShort[1]
Skin colorSallow, green, brown, grey, black, swarthy
GalleryImages of Orcs

Orcs (also called Goblins) were the footsoldiers of the two Dark Lords - Morgoth and Sauron.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Origins and early years

Main article: Orcs/Origin
The vilest deed of Melkor by Anna Kulisz

The Orcs were bred by Melkor in mockery of the Elves, sometime during the Great Darkness.[2][3] How this was done is unclear, as the Dark Lord did not possess the power to create life, only to corrupt it. It is unknown whether corrupted Elves, Men or other creatures were used to achieve this.

It is unclear exactly when Orcs were created, but it certainly happened before the Battle of the Powers in his stronghold of Utumno. Whether the Orcs were at this time a capable fighting force against the host of Valinor is not known. But some of them survived this war: a few stayed hidden in the deep vaults of Angband, and multiplied, waiting for their master, while the many more stronger ones ventured into far eastern regions.

They first came out of Angband in Y.T. 1330, passing over the mountains to Beleriand with other dark creatures.[4]

When Melkor (now known as Morgoth) returned to Middle-earth, he fashioned himself new fresh hosts of Orcs and invaded Beleriand, where the First Battle of Beleriand took place. These hordes also fought in Dagor-nuin-Giliath. However, the Eastern Orcs remained outside Morgoth's reach and self-ruling, though they ended up squabbling among themselves as much as they troubled Men.[5]

[edit] First Age

Orc Swordsman by John Howe

Orcs appear in the First Age as the core force of Morgoth. Hundreds of thousands of Orcs were bred in Angband to participate in the Battles of Beleriand, which lasted 587 years.

Orcs first appear in the First Age in the Battle of the Lammoth, where they were defeated by Fingolfin and his Noldor. Orcs participated in battles such as the Dagor Aglareb, Dagor Bragollach, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Fall of the Falas, and finally in the War of Wrath, where they were almost extinguished. Those that survived the defeat fled eastwards and hid probably in the Mountains of Angmar and the Ered Mithrin.

[edit] Second Age

Around the year S.A. 1000 Sauron reappeared, took the land of Mordor as his realm and started the construction of Barad-dûr. His servants among Orc-kind were at this time of northern stock, who had escaped Morgoth's vanquishment, and it was not only until much later that he gathered all of their foul race under his command - as long as he went among the Elves in a fair visage, the Eastern Orcs resented him. [5] Still for a long time Sauron's servants did not play an important role, for the Dark Lord had chosen a more subtle way to overthrow the free people by creating the Rings of Power.

During the War of the Elves and Sauron, in S.A. 1700, Orcs formed the main power of Sauron's host. Despite the immeasurable number of Orcs, Sauron was defeated by the united hosts of Elves and Númenóreans. Still Sauron was powerful east of the Misty Mountains and the Orcs that inhabited the mountains and the eastern lands multiplied.

The Orcs of the Misty Mountains started a war against the Dwarves, resulting in the First Sack of Gundabad and its occupation by the Orcs. Finally, Orcs were the core force of Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance, and fought in great battles such as the Battle of Dagorlad and the Siege of Barad-dûr.

[edit] Third Age

During the Third Age, Orcs were the standard troops of Sauron (both in Mordor and in Dol Guldur), and his great servants - such as the Witch-king and Saruman.

In Angmar, Orcs fought for the Witch-king in the Angmar War. Years later, they invaded Eriador under the leadership of the Necromancer.

The Orcs of the Misty Mountains, one of the few (more or less) independent Orcish societies, and their leader Azog started out the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, and after their defeat they retreated in their caves. They appeared again in T.A. 2941, when the Battle of Five Armies took place, suffering yet another terrible loss.

To both carry out Sauron's war on Rohan and his own efforts to harry the Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman began to assemble his own Orcs into an army in Isengard - these he gathered from the tribes of the Misty Mountains as well as Orcs he bred, some being crossed with Men. The Orcs of Isengard fought in the early-mid battles of the War of the Ring, such as the First and Second Battles of the Fords of Isen, but were crushed or scattered at the Battle of the Hornburg.

The Orcs of Mordor fought in major battles during the War of the Ring, such as the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, but the majority of Mordor's forces were destroyed or scattered at the Battle of the Morannon. Sporadic fighting in the following weeks led to the Orcs finally being driven out of the western end of Mordor, though it is unclear how many Orcs Sauron had in his armies, and it is also unclear how many survived after his defeat.

The Orcs in Dol Guldur remained in Mirkwood until the Fall of Dol Guldur, one of the last battles of the War of the Ring.

[edit] Later history

The fate of the Orcs after the Third Age is unknown. Though many of Sauron's Orcs fought on and were slain in the weeks following the Battle of the Morannon, the true number of Sauron's hosts is unclear, as are the numbers of Orcs not within Mordor that may still inhabit the rest of Middle-earth. It is at least known that the Orcs of Moria either fled or were slain by the Fourth Age, as it is mentioned that the Dwarves managed to retake Moria and the mines within it.

[edit] Characteristics

[edit] Culture

Orc Army by Jan Pospíšil

It is certain that most Orcs were dependent on the Dark Lords in various ways: after the War of Wrath, the Orcs were confused and dismayed without Morgoth, and were easily scattered by their enemies. In the millennia after his defeat and banishment from Arda, they were without a leader and degenerated into small, quarrelsome tribes hiding in wild places, such as the Misty Mountains and the Mountains of Angmar. Orcs remained a threat to travelers and isolated settlements, and when united could pose a great regional threat, but they could never amount to the force they were under Morgoth. Only when Sauron returned to power did they begin to reclaim their old power. The same happened after Sauron's defeat by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men: only under the Witch-King's command, and when Sauron returned as the Necromancer of Mirkwood, did the Orcs become a real danger for all of Middle-earth again. Orcs were warlike and often cruel, fighting with reckless ferocity and delighting in the slaughter and torture of their foes; many had a cowardly nature however, and were often regarded as inferior, though far more expendable, than the soldiers of Men, Elves, and Dwarves. It is said that Sauron, at the height of his power, had greater control over his Orcs than Morgoth had had, though this was because he had not yet spent so much of himself in dominating others as well as due to a lesser threat posed by his adversaries than those of his predecessor. Orcs also proved themselves adept at taming and riding Wolves and even Wargs, an abillity harnessed by the Dark Lords for their armies.

[edit] Lifespan

It is unknown if the Orcs were immortal like the Elves. There is, in any case, a hint for a long lifespan in the story of two of the most famous Orc-chieftains: Azog and Bolg. Bolg, being the son of Azog, was the chieftain of the Orcs who attacked Erebor in the Battle of Five Armies in T.A. 2941. Azog himself was killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar in T.A. 2799, so Bolg was at least 150 years old.

[edit] Appearance

Orcs were described as smaller in stature than Men on average, strong but crooked in frame and bow-legged. One "huge orc-chieftain" was described as "almost Man-high", but some must have been of a similar size to Hobbits (Frodo and Sam succeeded in disguising themselves as Orcs in Mordor). Their overall appearance varied: they had long arms and fanged mouths; Tolkien describes them as "swart" or "sallow", although one in Mordor is "black-skinned" and others are described generally as "black" (possibly not a reference to skin colour).

[edit] Kinds of Orcs

The Fellowship usually encountered the large soldier-Orcs bred for war, and sometimes the "snaga" variety which were more geared towards being labourers. Another type is referred to as "snufflers", smaller, black-skinned Orcs with wide nostrils, who excelled in tracking. Despite the smaller size, one snuffler was able to skillfully kill a soldier-orc when they got into a disagreement.[6]

[edit] Orcs and goblins

Goblins by Darek Zabrocki

The term goblin was used primarily in The Hobbit but also in The Lord of the Rings where it is used synonymously with "Orc".[7] It is said to be a translation of Orc in a note on languages and runic letters in The Hobbit.

Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin
The Hobbit
There were four goblin-soldiers of greater stature [...] Upon their shields they bore [...] a small white hand in the centre of the black field
The Two Towers, "The Departure of Boromir"

[edit] Etymology

"The word as far as I am concerned actually derived from Old English orc, demon, but only because of its phonetic suitability."
J.R.R. Tolkien in Letter 144

[edit] Orc

The word Orc is said to be the "form of the name that other races had for this foul people as it was in the language of Rohan".[8]

In his late, post-Lord of the Rings writings, Tolkien preferred the spelling Ork.[9]

It also is "supposed to be the CS[Common Speech] name of these creatures at that time".[10]

The statement may be ambiguous due to Tolkien's use of the term Common Speech for both Westron and English. But Tolkien continued to say "It should therefore according to the system be translated into E[English]. or the LT[Language of Translation]. It was translated 'goblin' in The H.[Hobbit]"[10]. This may suggest it is a genuine Westron word, which Tolkien kept untranslated because he liked the sound of it: "In any case orc seemed to me, and seems, in sound a good name for these creatures. It should be retained."[10]

Fictionally, it is then possibly derived from 'orch', the Sindarin word for Orc. The original sense of the word seems to be "bogey", "bogeyman", that is, something that provokes fear, as seen in the Quenya cognate urko, pl. urqui.[11]

Tolkien derived the word orc from Old English believing it refers to a kind of evil spirits,[12] which in turn is thought to derive from Latin Orcus "Hades", although Tolkien doubted this etymology.[13] He also thought it survives in the modern language for sea-beasts,[14] such as the Orca Whale.

Orc is an Old English word that refers mainly to a kind of metal cup (from Latin Urceus).[note 1] However, in an 11th century glossary, this entry was conflated with another entry which refers to evil giants such as þyrs and other monsters, also glossed in Latin as Orcus. This merge of the two entries made many philologists of the previous centuries, like Tolkien, to believe that Orc was an actual Old English word that refers to any kind of evil creature from the underworld.[15]

The word Orcnéas is once found only in Beowulf (lines 112-113) and is cited as an example of the word "Orc" in Old English text. Actually its meaning is not clear, and it is thought to refer to corpses (néas) from the Underworld.

[edit] "Orcs" in Tolkien's languages

Tolkien said that one of the reason of choosing "Orc" over "Goblin" was the similarity with his fictional languages.[16] Indeed most Elvish, Mannish and other words for Orc, are similar to the English word.

The basic Primitive Quendian root, from which the words for Orc derive, is RUKU (said to refer to any "bogey" that scared the Elves)[16]:

In the earliest versions of Qenya, Tolkien had words such as "Ork (orq-) pl. Orqi and fem. "orqindi".[source?]

In Noldorin, the earlier version of Sindarin, the word for Orc is the same: orch (pl yrch).[23][24][25] The Gnomish word for "one of a tribe of the orcs. a goblin" is said to be Gong.[26]

[edit] Goblin

Goblin is a folk word which according to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English is probably derived from the Anglo-French gobelin a diminutive of gobel (cf. kobold). William D.B. Loos notes that goblin is a Romance-derived word, unlike other Germanic words preferred by Tolkien.[27]

[edit] "Goblin" in Tolkien's languages

In the Etymologies, the Elvish names used to translate "goblin" derive from root ÓROK and are:[23]

In an early linguistic writing, Tolkien translated the Gnomish word Gong as "one of a tribe of the orcs. a goblin."[29]

[edit] Other versions of the legendarium

Main article: Orcs/Origin

[edit] Controversy

Tolkien's Orcs have been a subject of criticism of racism. Tolkien described Orcs as "squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types".[30]

[edit] Other writings

In The Father Christmas Letters, goblins appear as the enemies of Father Christmas and the Red Elves.

[edit] Portrayal in adaptations

[edit] Orcs

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.

2001-2003: Pán prsteňov (2001-2003 Slovak radio series):

Due to timing and certain legal issues, the radio series uses the term skirt (pron. "skeert") and skirti for an "orc" and "orcs" (a neologism derived from the Czech translation's skrět, skrěti, "goblins"). Some of the orc characters are credited, e.g. Grishnakh in The Two Towers is portrayed by Eduard Vitek, and in The Return of the King, a Mordor orc commander whipping a disguised Frodo and Sam into shape is played by Jozef Šimonovič.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Orc-kind is a genus that includes the species of Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Half-orcs, Boggarts, Bugans and Uruk-hai.
Orcs are very common in Middle-earth. They are about the size of a man with a hunchback, though some of the sub-races are of larger or smaller stature.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

Orcs are first seen in Fornost, where they immediately attack Eradan, Andriel and Farin as they near the citadel.[31] Orc warriors are stronger then normal Orcs. Some Orcs have been taught sorcery by Agandaûr, these are known as Orc Sorcerers'

===Goblins==='.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Goblins have been made clearly distinct from Orcs.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Goblins have been made clearly distinct from Orcs.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Goblins are a separate race and can be found in Evendim, the Shire, Ered Luin, Bree-land, Lone-lands, North Downs, Misty Mountains, Angmar and Moria. They are small in stature; a little shorter than Hobbits. In contrast, Orcs are about the size of Men. Goblins are also weaker than the orcs.

2011: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North:

Goblins first appear in Fornost Erain, where they attack Eradan, Andriel and Farin immediately when they reach the city.[31] Goblins are weaker than Orcs.

2012: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Goblins are again made clearly distinct from Orcs in the film series. They are lesser relatives of Orcs; they are smaller (the very large Great Goblin notwithstanding), less powerful, and generally have pale, diseased skin, riddled with warts.

2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:

A band of "Goblin mercenaries" appear on Ravenhill during the Battle of Five Armies, but are taken care of by the Dwarves without much troub

==See also==le.

Notes

  1. The word Orc occurs twice in Beowulf.
  2. Orchoth is likely a compound of orch + hoth.
  3. Rukhs appears to contain the radical R-Kh-S.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm" The "huge" orc-chieftain is described as "almost man high"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Treebeard"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §26-27
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: XVIII. Note on the Delay of Gil-galad and the Númenóreans", p. 370
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  7. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 24
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels Quendi and Eldar
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Letter to Gene Wolfe" (letter)
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 762
  15. Bosworth and Toller's An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (1898), corrected in later editions
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix C. Elvish names for the Orcs", pp. 389-91
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 47
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §27, p. 12
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, pp. 74, 194
  20. 20.0 20.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), pp. 52-4
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 99
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Ride of the Rohirrim"
  23. 23.0 23.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", p. 379 (entry for ÓROK)
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (I) The First Phase: 7. Of the Flight of the Noldor", p. 195
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, "A Secret Vice", p. 217
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 41
  27. William D.B. Loos, Enemies and Miscellaneous: What was the relationship between Orcs and Goblins? at The Tolkien Frequently Asked Questions List (accessed 3 July 2011)
  28. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part Two" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 46, July 2004, p. 7
  29. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 41
  30. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 210, (undated, written June 1958)
  31. 31.0 31.1 The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Chapter 1: Fornost, Main Gate