- "Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places [in The Hobbit] but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds)."
- —J.R.R. Tolkien in the Preface of The Hobbit
Many Orcs (along with fallen Maiar and other evil servants of Melkor) survived in the deep caves, pits, chambers, and tunnels of Melkor's great underground fortresses of Utumno and Angband. They multiplied and later spread through northern Middle-earth. They were first seen by the Dwarves of the Blue Mountains who reported them to King Thingol, the High King of the Sindar, causing the latter to seek weapons of war for the first time. For over a millennium, the orcs were only a minor problem, but when Melkor (Morgoth) returned with the Silmarils he took full charge of them and soon unleashed them on Beleriand. The newly organised orcs killed Denethor, the King of the lightly armed Laiquendi, but were eventually defeated by Thingol and his allies. They besieged the Havens of the Falas under Círdan, and the siege wasn't broken until the arrival of the Ñoldor. The heavy losses that the Sindar suffered at the hands of the Orcs frightened them to the point that Melian, Queen of Doriath raised a great enchantment to protect their kingdom. The Laiquendi, who suffered the most in the battle, hid themselves in the Ossiriand under the cloak of secrecy, or took refuge in Doriath.
Before First Age
Before Oromë found the Elves at Cuiviénen, Melkor enslaved some of them. Melkor was the first to learn of the Awakening. He soon began sending evil spirits among the Elves, who planted seeds of doubt against the Valar. It is also rumoured that some of the Elves were being captured by a Rider if they strayed too far, and the Elves later believed these were brought to Utumno, who cruelly tortured and twisted them into Orcs.
In the First Age, thousands of Orcs were bred in Angband by Morgoth and to participate in the Battles of Beleriand, which lasted 587 years. They first appeared in the Battle of Lhammoth, where they were defeated by the Noldor. When the House of Fëanor returned to Middle-earth Morgoth sent a force of Orcs against them. Although the Orcs outnumbered the exiles they were no match for the power and wrath of the Ñoldor, and were quickly and easily defeated. However, Fëanor could not defeat the power of Morgoth alone and he was killed, leaving the Orcs to continue to breed under the Dark Lord. Years later, when the House of Fingolfin arrived in Middle-earth, Orcs were sent against them as well, but they were utterly defeated in the Battle of the Lammoth.After their crushing defeat in the Dagor Aglareb and in a minor raid on Hithlum, the Orcs nevertheless regained their numbers and fought again in large numbers in the Dagor Bragollach and Nirnaeth Arnoediad. They were nearly destroyed in the War of Wrath, and those that survived fled eastwards into the Mountains of Angmar and the Grey Mountains.
Sometime around SA 1000, Sauron reappeared in Middle-earth and made the land of Mordor his realm, and then started to build the foundations of Barad-Dûr. During the War of the Elves and Sauron in SA 1700, the Orcs formed the main host of Sauron's power. Despite the immeasurable number of Orcs present, the battle was won by the Elves and the Numenoreans due to their united force and numbers.
Fourth Age and Beyond
Although the entire force of Sauron was extinguished by the end of the War of the Ring, groups of orcs continue to dwell in the Misty Mountains. However, after Durin VII reclaimed Khazad-dûm, the Dwarves hounded the orcs to near extinction.
In Tolkien's writings, Orcs were evil, cruel, wicked, hateful, blackhearted, and hated everybody and everything, particularly the orderly and prosperous. Physically, they were short in stature (unless of the Uruk variety) and humanoid in shape. They were generally squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, bow-legged, with wide mouths and slant eyes, long arms, dark skin, and fangs. Tolkien describes one "huge Orc chieftain" as "almost Man-high", and some must have been close to Hobbit height, as Sam and Frodo are able to disguise themselves as Orcs in Mordor.
Orcs made no beautiful things, but many clever ones including machines, tools, weapons, and instruments of torture, were delighted by wheels, engines, and explosions, and could tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled Dwarves. This was so since the day they were bred by Melkor from corrupted, tortured and mutilated Elves. They hate themselves and have an even deeper hatred of the Dark Lord who has brought them to this end. The result is a violent and warlike race in a perpetual state of chaos with itself and others. Despite their abominable nature, they are not dim-witted and are clever and crafty and make good tools, weapons, and machines of war but produce no beautiful things nor do they trade or share anything with others, unless ordered to by a Dark Lord for the purposes of war and conquest. Their tools and weapons, however, are of poor quality when compared to those of the Free Peoples.
They also developed tunnel-making, for living underground away from the light. Wickedness and violence were their nature, and they were known to quarrel and kill each other over petty things. An example of this destructiveness was its effect on nature such as was the case with forests and trees, which were often destroyed to fuel their war-making. See: Fangorn forest during the War of the Ring and the western part of Middle-earth after Sauron's War on the Elves in the mid-Second Age. However, perhaps the best example of this was during the War of the Ring, when two different groups of Orc soldiers captured the Hobbit Frodo Baggins, and then killed each other to the last in the Tower of Cirith Ungol due to a quarrel over his belongings. This allowed Samwise Gamgee to rescue Frodo and ultimately caused the destruction of the One Ring. Orcs generally hated all Elves, Dwarves, and Men, and yet some were said to make alliances with wicked Dwarf groups and others with corrupted Men. Without the leadership of a Dark Lord, Orcs usually live in tribal communities in underground lairs under mountains under the rule of brutal chieftains, raiding and pillaging settlements of other races that are unfortunate enough to live near them. Thus, they were hated by almost every race that knows them, even those allied with them. Without firm leadership, Orcs presumably went into battle often in complete disarray and without any semblance of formation or tactics. Their strength in combat came from numbers and sheer violence. Due to superior organization, training and weaponry, Men, Dwarves, Elves, and at times even Hobbits, were able to defeat larger numbers of Orcs, provided an ability to withstand the horror and shock of the initial onslaught.
Orcs versus Goblins
The word goblin as used by Tolkien is merely another word for Orc, although in popular culture goblin is often used by readers of Tolkien's works to refer to the smaller breeds of Orc and the more wild Orcs of the Misty Mountains. The original edition of The Hobbit and early drafts of The Lord of the Rings used 'goblin' throughout to refer to Orcs and used 'Hobgoblin' to refer to larger and/or more evil orcs. In the introduction to later editions of The Hobbit, Tolkien explained that goblins is the translation he used to refer to the creatures referred to by the Hobbits as Orcs.
A clear illustration that Tolkien considered goblins and Orcs to be the same thing is shown in The Hobbit (the only one of Tolkien's works in which he usually refers to Orcs as goblins) when Gandalf asks Thorin if he remembers "Azog the Goblin" who killed his grandfather Thror, while in all his other writings Tolkien describes Azog as a "great Orc." In The Lord of the Rings, "Orc" is used predominantly, with "goblin" used mostly in the Hobbits' conversation but occasionally in the general narrative. The Uruk-hai of Isengard are described in the narrative as "goblin-soldiers of greater stature", for example, and the severed head of one of them is a "great goblin head". Grishnakh is described as both an Orc and a goblin, as (by implication) is Ugluk. It is also notable that 'Orcrist' is translated from Sindarin as 'Goblin-cleaver'. In the Brazilian translation of The Hobbit, goblins are also referred to by the word orcs. An example of this is the translation of Great Goblin to Great Orc.
- Main article: Snaga
Snaga comes from a word in the Black Speech meaning 'slave'. The plural of the word, snagae, is the term for the lesser Orc-breed used both by Saruman, as laborers in Isengard, and by Sauron, who had them first and used them as the core of his Orc-Host at the Pelennor.
- Main article: Gundabad Orcs
Gundabad Orcs were like the name suggests Orcs from the former Dwarven city Gundabad.
- Main article: Uruk-hai
Uruk-hai were a stronger breed of Orc. The Uruks were originally only in Mordor in battle against Ithilien before Sauron returned, during the time Angmar brought war upon Arnor, and these Orcs are called Black Uruks. Saruman also used Uruk-hai during his campaign against Rohan.
- Main article: Black Uruks
Black Uruks were an extremely rare breed of Orc, being one of the most high-ranking and were powerful. They were considered elite, being the best of Sauron's army, and two were notable of being Black Uruks: Murgash, lieutenant of Gothmog, and Shagrat, captain of Cirith Ungol.
- Main article: Morannon Orcs
Morannon Orcs were a breed of Orc similar in size to Uruk-Hai that appeared in the late Third Age, only originating in Mordor. They were larger, standing at least 5 feet and a half tall, and more stocky. The Morannon Orcs were Sauron's primary infantry in the War of the Ring at the Battle of Osgiliath, Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Battle of Cair Andros and the Battle of the Black Gate. These Orcs also knew how to operate siege engines like catapults and battering rams.
Morgul Orcs were the inhabitants of Minas Morgul. Their leader was the Witch King of Angmar, and they fought in almost all the major battles of the War of the Ring, during which they number at over 104,000 troops. It is most likely that these orcs were a mixture of Goblins and Snagae.
In Tolkien's Sindarin language, "Orc" is orch, plural yrch. In his late, post-Lord of the Rings writings (published in The Peoples of Middle-earth), he preferred the spelling "Ork", evidently mainly to avoid the form Orcish, which would be naturally pronounced with the c as /s/ instead of /k/. (In Tolkien's languages the letter c was always pronounced /k/.) It is also possible that the word is a Common Tongue Version of '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. In the old English Orc means "demon." The term Uruk-hai merely means "orc-folk" in the Black Speech, and was the Uruk-hai's name for themselves.
"Yrrch" was the name used by Haldir and his brother, Elves of Lothlorien. This same variation on "orc" was also used by Legolas indicating that it is Sindarin.
- The Great Goblin
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's film trilogy
In the Peter Jackson films, orcs range greatly in appearance. Skin colour ranges from bone white (Azog and Bolg) and peachy colours (orcs like Gothmog) to shades of green (the Orcs of Moria and Gorbag). Most Orcs and later Uruks, however, are shown as having darker shades of black or brown skin (for example, the Black uruks and Sharku). Some orcs are also much more human-like than others, Azog looks like a large and muscular but pale and hairless human whilst Gothmog looks much more deformed and less human-like. Towards the end of The Two Towers the Uruk-hai were made to deliberately have more blotchy and patchy skin. This was to hint that the Uruks had already been unnaturally overbred and the race had become inbred. Later Isengard Uruks look much less impressive and well-formed than the first batch of Uruks like Lurtz. In general the Orcs tend to be shorter than most men. According to official Top Trumps most Orcs stand somewhere around 5'4" while the Moria Orcs are the smallest at around 4'5". Later breeds shown, like the Morannon Orcs at the Pelennor Fields , seem to be much taller, closer to 6'3" (like Gothmog). Uruk-hai tend to be the same size as men, at around 6' or more. In Isengard the fearsome Uruk Berserkers stood at over 7 feet, and Shagrat, the Uruk captain of Cirith Ungol, was nearly 7'1". Early orcs shown are particularly slack with poor posture and broad with long arms (Grishnakh) is a good example of this shape) but some later Orcs are a more human shape. Uruk-Hai are shown as bulkier and more muscular with much more similar posture to men. Another variety of Orc/Goblin appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. These stunted creatures dwelling within the misty mountains in Goblintown. In the movie, these goblins are short, diseased, mutated creatures covered in dubious warts and unidentified growths. They have pallid pinkish-white skin, large heads, and bat-like or porcine facial features. Many of these goblins also had small amounts of thinning white hair, and cataracts on their sensitive eyes. Also notable is the size of these goblins: while some were easily as big as a man, others were so small they'd be hard pressed to reach a Hobbit's shoulder height.
The clothing and armour they wear also ranges greatly. The first orcs seen in the movie seem to wear an assortment of different styles of armour and clothing and also commonly have various piercings and tribal scars. The clothing and armour was probably scavenged. Other Orcs wear specifically designed and made uniform armour for battle. Uruks tend to wear heavier, thicker armour or leather armour and headwear unless they choose not (for example Lurtz wears much less armour than the rest of his Uruk scouts). Orcs are often bald or balding, but there are also Orcs who have longer matted hair. The new Uruk-Hai have longer thicker hair, which they tend to wear back, except the Berserkers who have theirs shaved off. The Orcs' hair is nearly always dark or greying in colour, but in The Return of the King some orcs with blonde hair and beards can be seen marching from Minas Morgul. The favourite weapon of the Orcs is an Orc Scimitar, used by Orcs from all areas. Uruks have a different heavier sword with a hook at the end, designed to deal out more damage and pull people off their horses. Overall, the typical features that are included in all films on all species of Orc and Uruk-hai include fangs (sharp teeth that are definitely not human), flared nostrils (almost ape-like on some but much more refined on others), thin patchy skin, a broad stocky shape and black gums and blood.
|Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles.|
- The term "Orc" is an Old English term for a dirty creature which is used occasionally in the epic poem Beowulf.
Translations around the World
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Kurdish||ۆرچس (Arabic script) Orçs (Latin)|
|Serbian||Орци (Cyrillic) Orci(Latin)|
|Uzbek||Орчс (Cyrillic) Orchs (Latin)|
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow:
- ↑ The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter V: "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
- ↑ The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
- ↑ The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Sindar"
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 The Hobbit, Chapter IV: "Over Hill and Under Hill
- ↑ The Complete Guide to Middle-earth