Orcs were the most commonplace villains serving the Dark Powers in Tolkien Mythology, a race of sentient beings bred by the Vala Melkor (Morgoth), and then Sauron, Saruman, and other dark servants of evil in Middle-earth, and often used by them as soldiers and henchmen. In the Hobbit, which was written as a book for children, Tolkien called them by the more common English word goblins.
No female orcs are ever mentioned by Tolkien, but in The Silmarillion he wrote that "the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of "Illuvatar"; and that Melkor had created them before the First Age by breeding Elves he had captured and corrupted, by means of torture and mutilation.
Tolkien did not regard Orcs as evil in their own right, but only as tools of Morgoth and Sauron. Orcs were dependent on the Dark Lord in various ways: after their leader was defeated, the Orcs were confused and dismayed, and easily scattered by their enemies. In the millennia after Morgoth's defeat and banishment from Arda, they were without a leader, and degenerated to small, quarrelsome tribes hiding in the Misty Mountains. Only when led by a Maia like Sauron did they begin to reclaim some of their old power and become a real danger for Middle-earth.
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 (Ered Luin) who reported them to King Thingol, the High Lord of the Sindar.
The War of the Jewels
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 the Beleriand. At first, the newly organized orcs were successful killing Denethor, the King of the lightly armed Laiquendi but were eventually defeated by Thingol and his allies, but continued besieging the Havens of the Falas under Círdan which wasn't broken until the arrival of the Ñoldor. The heavy losses that the Sindar suffered to the Orcs frightened them to the point that Melian, Queen of Doriath raised a great enchanted wall to protect themselves. The Laiquendi, who suffered the most in the battle hid themselves in the Ossiriand under the cloak of secrecy or took refuge in Doriath. When the House of Fëanor returned to Middle-earth, Morgoth sent a force of orcs against them and although they 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 so was he was killed leaving the orcs to continue to breed under the Dark Lord. Years later as the House of Fingolfin arrived in Middle-earth, orcs were sent against them as well but were utterly defeated in the Battle of the Lammoth.
The Orcs, despite their viciousness and williness to kill, were proven weak in the face of the superiority in arms of the Ñoldor but even knowing this, Morgoth once again used them in great numbers against the Ñoldor thinking them busy with others matters. Once again the orcs were defeated utterly in a complete victory that confined them to Angband for almost four-hundred years. In this time, Morgoth never again used them, save for one lone attack in such massive numbers. Orcs were instead withheld until the right time and on occasion used as spies.
Orcs and GoblinsAs mentioned previously, 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.
The original edition of The Hobbit and early drafts of The Lord of the Rings used 'goblin' throughout and used 'Hobgoblin' to refer to larger and/or more evil goblins. In the introduction to later editions of The Hobbit, Tolkien explained that Orc is generally to be translated as goblin.
Orcs appeared manlike (roughly) but looked repulsive. They were shorter in height then Men and Elves and bow-legged with long arms, dark skin, wide mouths with fangs, and slant eyes. Their blood is black. They are generally filthy and dirty. Sunlight makes most Orcs uncomfortable.
Orcs are miserable beings and are only able to destroy, not to create. This has been so from the day they were bred by Melkor from corrupted, tortured and mutilated elves that may also have been forced to breed with other unnatural abominations in the dominion of the Dark Powers. They hate themselves and have an even deeper hatred of the Dark Lord and his successors who have brought them to this end. The result was 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. They have also perfected tunnel making and underground living away from the light. Wickedness and violence are their nature and are known to quarrel and kill each other over seemingly anything, and are known for despoiling and destroying the good things of the world. An example of this destructiveness was its effect on nature such was the case with Forests and trees which are 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.
They generally hate Elves and Men but some were said to make alliances with wicked dwarf groups and others with Men no doubt for the purposes of pillage, plunder, and division of the spoils of it. Usually without a Dark Lord or one of his servants directing them to a goal of some kind, orcs usually lived in tribal communities in underground lairs under mountains under the rule of brutal chieftains and are usually troublesome to other races that are unfortunate to live near them. Thus, they are hated by almost every race that knows them even those allied with them.
Without firm leadership especially in wars, orcs, due to their chaotic way of life have been known to go into complete disarray and in battle are easily scattered and defeated by their enemies with heavy losses.
Orcs had a language of their own but also used the Black Speech when dealing in Mordor. The dialects are usually the words from other languages corrupted by them (an insult to a philologist such as Tolkien).
Snagae is the term for the lesser Orc-breed that both Saruman used, as laborers in Isengard and Sauron, who had them first and uses them as the core of his Orc-Host at the Pelennor. Two orcs in the trilogy actually have this name; one is from Isengard mentioned in the chapter The Uruk-hai in the 2nd book, and the other is an orc at Cirith Ungol mentioned in the 1st chapter of Book six, in the third book, and he is slain by Sam in the uppermost chamber where Frodo was kept. This breed was the closest to Goblins in terms of size (but not ferociousness), even though by other orcs they necessarily aren't always underestimated.
- 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. Shagrat was a prime example of a Uruk. Those Uruks are from Barad-dûr only, and are barely seen at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Saruman apparently improved on this kind of orc and bred his own.
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 six feet tall, and more stocky. The Morannon orcs were Sauron's primary infantry in War of the Ring at the Battle of Osgiliath, Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Battle of Cair Andros and the Battle of the Morannon. These orcs also knew how to operate siege engines like catapults and battering rams. They were heavy infantry troops and wore heavy thick black armor of sharpened plate steel and were actually taught how to fight and defend, as opposed to the uncontrolled rabbles of the Second Age, or the cowardly Goblins of Moria. They used the same weapons as all of the other orcs in Sauron's army but due to their training, these orcs fought much better and could anticipate enemy attacks faster than the rest of the orcs.
Morannon orcs were the most sophisticated breed of orc aside from Uruk-hai. The troops invading Osgiliath and laying siege to Minas Tirith appear to be a mixture of many breeds, mostly Morannon orcs, some Mordor Uruk-hai (Black Uruks) and large factions of lesser orcs.
Their skill in battle is very comparable to that of the Uruk-hai; however, they are NOT Uruks. They are merely Orcs superior to normal ones in every way. In Battle for Middle-earth II (expansion pack only), they are called Black Orcs and can be fully upgraded.
Morgul Orcs were orcs who lived/patrolled in the city of Minas Morgul, in the Morgul Vale. They are not that distinct from basic Snagae (plural of Snaga), and the two kinds are basically hard to differ.
They participated in The Battle of Osgiliath and in The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. During the War of the Ring, Morgul Orcs numbered at over 150,000 troops. They were armed with orc scimitars, bows, spears, glaves, halberds, other pikes, axes, and odd new-fangled weapons. The lingering orc-hosts in Osgiliath, combined with the host marching from Minas Morgul, made 4 legions, and that excluded the host coming out of Udun which were from Sauron.
- "Release all four legions..."
- —The Witch King to Gothmog before the besieging of Minas Tirith
Outside of Mordor
Goblins/Orcs of the Misty Mountains
Orcs of the Misty Mountains were the only known non-Mordor and non-Isengard "Glamhoth" in Middle-earth. They were groups that lived in Misty Mountains since Morgoth's final defeat in the War of Wrath where they took refuge.
For thousands of years, they plagued the North and drove out the Dwarves of Mount Gundabad by Second Age and were probably used by Sauron in the his War with the Elves and in the War of the Last Alliance. They continued harassing the dwarves until they drove them out and then after the War of the Dwarves and Orcs the dwarves forced them out, but because they refused to claim Khazad-dûm the orcs regained the mountains. They dominated the Misty Mountains in "Goblin-town" until Thorin and Company killed the Great Goblin and won the Battle of the Five Armies. Afterwards, they still infested Moria and the Ettenmoors. They had also lived in the Mountains of Angmar, especially Mount Gundabad, where they served the Witch-King's empire at Carn Dûm until its fall in TA 1975. Unlike regular orcs, the Goblins of the Misty Mountains were not directly allied to Sauron or Saruman, and were primarily self-governing. Their mentioned leaders were alive at various times.
And Golfimbul, the only Goblin to ever attack the Shire, and was killed by the valiant Bandobras Took, was the Orc-leader of Mount Gram, the prime mountain in the Ettenmoors, where many goblins and trolls also reside.
- Main article: Balcmeg
Balcmeg was one of the Orcs killed in the Fall of Gondolin by Tuor, according to The Book of Lost Tales. Tolkien wrote the story of the fall of the city in 1917 and never fully revised it, and Balcmeg does not appear in the published Silmarillion, although he was obviously of some importance, for only three orcs out of many that Tuor slew in Gondolin were named.
- Main article: Boldog (Character)
- Main article: Bolg
Bolg was a Goblin chieftain, the son of Azog, who came to power in Moria after Azog was killed in the war with Dwarves.
- Main article: Golfimbul
Golfimbul was a chieftain of the Goblins of Mount Gram, in the Ettenmoors, who led his band in an invasion of The Shire. He was defeated at the Battle of Greenfields by Bullroarer Took. His head was clubbed off by the Bullroarer and fell into a rabbit's hole. According to Hobbit folklore, the name of golf is therefore a shortening of his name. Some fans consider his name specifically constructed for this pun.
The Orc incursion in the northern Shire occurred during the reign of Arassuil as Chieftain of the Dúnedain, and the Orcs led by Golfimbul were but the most western pack of Orcs which had left the Hithaeglir. The only reason Golfimbul could make it all the way to the Shire was that the Rangers at the time were fighting many battles with Orcs, preventing them from settling all of Eriador.
- Main article: Gorbag
- Main article: Gorgol
Gorgol was an Orc chieftain, also called the Butcher, who lived in Middle-earth during the First Age. He was slain by Beren.
- Main article: Gothmog (Lieutenant of Morgul)
Gothmog was the Witch-King's second in command at the siege of Minas Tirith. His species is unknown.
The Great Goblin
- Main article: Great Goblin
The Great Goblin was a Goblin leader who lived in the Misty Mountains during the Third Age, as recounted in The Hobbit. His followers captured Thorin, Bilbo and company during the quest for the Lonely Mountain, and took them to their underground stronghold, Goblin-town. He was slain by Gandalf.
- Main article: Grishnákh
An Orc captain from the ashen wastes of Mordor, Grishnákh was part of a group of Orc hunters under Sauron's dominion that joined Uglúk's Uruk-hai troop on the plains of Rohan. Grishnákh's plans for the troops' captives, Merry and Pippin, were in conflict with Uglúk's orders to deliver them to Saruman. Believing they might have the treasure his lord sought, he tried to steal the Hobbits away from the Uruk-hai in order to take what they had for himself; eventually leading to his death.
- Main article: Lagduf
Lagduf was an Orc of the tower of Cirith Ungol under the command of Shagrat; he and Muzgash were killed by Gorbag's Orcs in the battle over Frodo's mithril-shirt.
- Main article: Muzgash
Muzgash was an Orc of the tower of Cirith Ungol under the command of Shagrat; he and Lagduf were killed by Gorbag's Orcs in the battle over Frodo's Mithril-shirt.
- Main article: Radbug
Radbug was an Orc, probably of a patrol from the tower of Cirith Ungol, who was killed by Shagrat in the battle over Frodo's Mithril-shirt. Shagrat had squeezed his eyes out, according to the aforesaid.
- Main article: Shagrat
Shagrat was the Orc in command of the tower of Cirith Ungol, which guarded a pass into Mordor. After the discovery of the unconscious Frodo, he had Frodo put into the highest room of the tower. In a dispute over Frodo's Mithril Shirt, most of Shagrat's and Gorbag's Orcs were killed. Shagrat was one of only two Orc survivors. He took the mithril-shirt, as well as Frodo's Elven cloak and Sam's sword, to the Barad-dûr. These were used by the Mouth of Sauron as evidence of Frodo's capture.
For the orc-breed term, see Snagae
Most minor Orcs were called Snaga, but Snaga is the name of two different Orcs actually mentioned in The Lord of the Rings:
- Main article: Ufthak
Ufthak was in the service of the Tower of Cirith Ungol, under the command of Shagrat. He was captured, poisoned, and then forgotten by Shelob. Nonetheless, his fellow Orcs who discovered him made no attempt to rescue him, for they were humored at his hanging and they didn't want to interfere with Shelob.
- Main article: Gorkil
Gorkil is a hero in the game Battle for Middle-earth IIforthe goblin faction and rides a rare giant scorpion. He was killed by Glorfindel and Gloin during an assault on his fortress in the Ettenmoors.
- Main article: Murgash
This orc appears only in the films as a non-canon character. He was a Morannon Orc under the command of Gothmog at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He was ordered by Gothmog to break down the gates of Minas Tirith, but complained that they were too strong, making Gothmog order Grond to be brought up to the gates. He survived the Rohirim charge and went with Guritz to the docks. He was killed when the Army of the Dead swarmed on to the Corsair ships.
- Main article: Sharku
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."
|Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided. Please relocate any relevant information into appropriate sections or articles.|
- The term "Ork" is an Old English term for a dirty creature which is used occasionally in the epic poem Beowulf.
Races of the Creatures of Arda
- The Silmarillion: Quenta Silmarillion
- The Hobbit
- The Lord of the Rings
- Unfinished Tales: The Disaster of the Gladden Fields
- The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
- The Atlas of Middle-earth pgs. 40-1 & 187-88