- For other uses of Uruk-hai see also: Uruk-hai (disambiguation).
"Uruk-hai" appears to be the full Black Speech term for Uruks, the great soldier-orcs of Mordor and Isengard. (Christopher Tolkien identified "uruks" as an "anglicisation" of "Uruk-hai".) In The Lord of the Rings, Saruman's orcs identify themselves as the "fighting Uruk-hai", that name is the common term used to refer to them. Later in one instance, a tracker-orc in Mordor makes reference to a "pack of rebel Uruk-hai", apparently in reference towards Gorbag's troop of orcs who were Uruks of Mordor.
Tolkien described the Uruk-hai of Isengard as large, smart orcs with slanted eyes, thick legs, and large hands. They were armed with bows made of yew and short, broad-bladed swords. The Isengarders' equipment was noted as quite different from normal orcish gear.
- "We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, The White Hand: The Hand that gives us man's-flesh to eat. We came out of Isengard, and led you here, and we shall lead you back by the way we choose."
- —The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Chapter 3, "The Uruk-hai".
Uruk-hai were first created by Sauron late in the Third Age. In the War of the Ring, the Uruk-hai made up a large part of Saruman's Army, together with the Dunlendings, man-enemies of Rohan. There are suggestions that the Uruk-hai were the result of crossbreeding orcs and men. Certainly, there were other creatures in Saruman's armies, and under his command in the Shire, that appear to have been hybrids. "Half-orcs" were as tall as Men and are never described simply as orcs, as the Uruk-hai frequently are. Saruman's army of Uruk-hai fought against King Théoden of Rohan and his people at Helm's Deep.
The Uruks first appeared about the year TA 2475, when they conquered Ithilien and destroyed the city of Osgiliath. The Uruks in the service of Barad-dûr, the folk of Mordor, used the symbol of the red Eye of Sauron. The Red Eye was also painted on their shields. The Uruks of Saruman the White used an 'S' Elf-rune wrought in white metal on the front of their iron helms. It was clear this 'S' stood for Saruman, because their shields had a small white hand (the symbol of Saruman) centered on a black field. Aragorn commented that their gear was not in the manner of other orcs at all. Instead of the curved scimitar, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, of the same length and shape as those of men. Unlike the smaller orcs of the Misty Mountains, the Isengarders appeared indifferent to the Sun.
Saruman appeared to aid his orcs with his wizardry as well: when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas followed the party of Uruks who kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Saruman's will caused weariness of the heart for the pursuers and lent speed to the orcs. This was the group that slew Boromir, and was annihilated by Éomer and the Riders of Rohan.
Uruk-hai was a Black Speech word that meant "Orc-folk". The name "Uruk-hai" has the element Uruk, which was a Black Speech word related to orc, related to the (Valinórean) Quenya word urko (Ñoldorin Quenya: orko) of the same meaning. The element hai means "folk", so "Uruk-hai" is "Orc-folk". A similar term is Olog-hai ("troll-folk"), used for a breed of especially strong and vicious trolls capable of surviving sunlight.
Christopher Tolkien describes "uruks" as an Anglicization of "Uruk-hai" and his father used the two terms interchangeably a number of times. Some readers assume the two terms are different because in The Lord of the Rings 'Uruk-hai' is used primarily to describe Saruman's forces while 'uruks' and 'Black Uruks of Mordor' are used primarily to describe Sauron's. However, there are examples of each term being used in reference to either group. While 'Uruk-hai' means simply 'Orc-folk', the term was reserved for the soldier orcs of Mordor and Isengard, with snaga ('slave') being their term for other breeds.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
The Lord of the Ring film trilogyEdit
- "Do you know how the Orcs first came to be? They were Elves once, taken by the Dark Lord, tortured and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life. And now, perfected. My fighting Uruk-hai."
In The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy by Peter Jackson, Saruman appeared to be the only one who created the Uruks. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf mentioned of Saruman breeding the Uruks to possess the traits of orcs and goblin men without the two races' weaknesses. However, the book Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare cleared up this discrepancy by explaining that he is in fact only replicating the method that had already been used by Sauron. Sauron's uruks, seen in The Return of the King, have noticeably rougher features than Saruman's. They are shown in the movie as being released from a kind of membrane in the mud deep under Isengard (special commentary on the DVD edition explained that they were trying to base the scene on an early description of Tolkien's that orcs "worm their way out of the ground like maggots").
- "This is no rabble of mindless Orcs. These are the Uruk-hai, their armor thick and their shields broad..."
His Uruks include pikemen, swordsmen, crossbowmen, sappers, scouts, and berserkers. The berserkers are even larger and more vicious Uruks. They shave their heads and fill their helmets with human blood, so that when they put on the helmets the blood runs down their backs and its scent sends them into a killing frenzy. They carry double-bent swords. These swords were feared by their Rohirrim enemies for good reason. First, they had double spikes on the end (used for hamstringing or disemboweling horses). Second, the tremendous strength of the berserkers could easily take the head off of any human. Last, they had a keen cutting edge that could easily cut through the leather armor of the Rohirrim (for the massive swords were powerful enough to cut through even steel armor). The sappers were responsible for crewing the ballistae, handling the ladders and carrying Saruman's bombs.
Pikemen, as the name suggests, carry pikes and, likewise, crossbowmen carry crossbows. Normal Uruk infantry wield swords and shields. These swords maximize the brute strength of the Uruks, being able to cut off limbs and heads very easily. The upward-pointing spike on the end was an ingenious addition by Saruman, a learned scholar skilled in the arts of warfare. Knowing that he would be facing the legendary Rohirrim cavalry, the additional spike could pull a rider from his horse with minimal effort and either kill or disable his mount. It also served as a terror weapon, sending many shivers down the spine of even experienced soldiers. Given that Saruman wished to make a great army of destructive soldiers quickly, he devoted more time to arming and birthing his Uruks than he did training them. Given the quickened births of his second batch of Uruk-hai warriors, they were unable to be trained in many tactics of war.
Most of their weapons show this, requiring little thought to be used. The sword would hack an enemy with the straight side in one direction then stab the enemy with the jutting bladed part on the other side, repeated until the Uruk either died or ran out of things to kill. They also sometimes use bladed shields with the white hand painted on them, as seen in Amon Hen during Aragorn's fight against Lurtz. These were broad shields, made of durable iron that could defend well against incoming attacks and would provide an alternative weapon by using the bladed side, should the Uruk lose his other weapon. Scouts wear light, leather armor and have leather helmets with no crests or brims, and wield short swords, axes, daggers, and powerful bows of yew with a tremendous draw weight. Their armor is grey and is made up of large lames and has a groin guard. Underneath is a layer of chainmail that covers the torso, half the arm and a small fraction of the legs. They also wear arm armor but they have bare legs. For footwear they have puttees and sandals that are covered by foot and leg armor. The helmets vary. Heavy Uruk helms are metal caps with an eye slit, horizontal crests and two smaller crests at either side of the mouth. Crossbow and engineer helms are a simple metal cap that covers the top half of the head (just the eyes on the face) and have huge brims at the bottom. Berserker helms have two circular eyeholes and an empty space for the mouth. They have no crests or brims. Commander helms are basically berserker helms with massive crests. Almost all the helms have the white hand of Saruman painted on them. Despite the strong iron used in most of an Isengard Uruk-hai's armor, it provided little protection at joints, so as to not constrict movement, or at the back, as Saruman was to use them for attack purposes and would not expect any form of flanking attack.
As the Isengard Uruk-hai were an army that was being rapidly grown, mass production of arms was required to equip them quickly. The metal weapons used by the Isengard uruks, as depicted in The Fellowship of the Ring, are likely made from iron (or possibly steel) melted in a foundry, cast in open molds, then forged, and finally finished by sharpening on grindstones. Armor and helmets are also seen being hammered and shaped en masse. Though the weapons and armor were competently crafted, the quality is depicted as relatively crude compared to the more finely honed weapons of the elves, men, and Dwarves. This lack of quality is not shown as hindering effectiveness.
Mordor Uruk-hai differ greatly from their Isengard kin. While the Uruk-hai of Isengard were uniformly well-armed, using hardened iron armour, shields, and wielding well-crafted yet simple weaponry, Mordor's Black Uruks wore scraps of black leather armour with hoods along with chainmail and would use any sort of weapon they came across. Additionally, while most of the Uruk-hai of Saruman were rushed in their birthings, needing to amass an army quickly, Sauron's Uruk-hai were not, having no need to create an army of Uruk-hai quickly when he had innumerable garrisons of orcs, trolls, evil men, and all manner of other maleficent beings under his command that could be sent forth at any time he wished, and so were able to be bred fully, rising to their full capacities.
- Ugluk - He was one of Saruman's Uruk-hai who was among the scouts that attacked the Fellowship of the Ring and captured Merry and Pippin. While a leader in the book, Ugluk started off as second-in-command until Lurtz was slain by Aragorn. Ugluk later died fighting Éomer when his band was slain by Rohirrim. Ugluk can be considered one of the more "respectable" members of his kind, following Saruman's orders without question and quelling any action to the contrary, even from Grishnakh.
- Shagrat - Shagrat was a huge, tall and long-armed Uruk Captain in command of the tower of Cirith Ungol, which guarded a pass into Mordor. He was responsible for the capture of Frodo Baggins and the death of fellow Orcs Gorbag and Lagduf. He was killed or maybe rewarded for his loyalty by the Mouth of Sauron.
- Mauhúr - He was an Uruk-hai captain under the command of Ugluk, whose company was one night surrounded by a group of Rohirrim, led by Éomer. When the Uruk-hai attacked, the Rohirrim rode to meet them in a bloody battle where many orcs were slaughtered. The orcs' captives, Merry and Pippin, found themselves outside the circle and were able to escape into Fangorn Forest. Mauhúr perished with the other orcs in the ensuing battle.
- Lugdush - He was one of Saruman's Uruk-hai, and appears to be a trusted subordinate of Uglúk.
- Lurtz - Lurtz does not appear in the books and was a character created specifically for Peter Jackson's movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. In the movie he is the first Uruk-hai made in Isengard and kills the first thing he sees, strangles the orc who oversaw his birth. As the first Uruk made, he is shown to be the strongest Uruk, and his skin appears a muddy brown instead of the other Uruk-hai's more reddish skin. Saruman places him in command of the Uruk-hai scouts and tells him of the orcs' origins to make Lurtz believe he is the first of a superior race. This results in Lurtz mercilessly murdering several Orcs. Saruman sends him along with a company of Uruks to find the Fellowship. He kills Boromir with a bow, shooting him three times. He has a short fight with Aragorn where he loses his arm, is impaled by Aragorn's sword, and finally beheaded. He was portrayed by New Zealand actor Lawrence Makoare.
Translations around the WorldEdit
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Serbian||Урук-хаи (Cyrillic) Uruk-hai (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Урук-ҳаи (Cyrillic) Uruk-hai (Latin)|
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow: