- For other uses of Uruk-hai see also: Uruk-hai (disambiguation)
The Uruk-hai were a larger and more advanced breed of Orc that appeared during the Third Age, used first by Sauron before the Great Years (see Black Uruks) and then majorly by Saruman in his war on Rohan.
Uruk-hai breathed harshly and deeply, and were enormously strong, tense creatures, top-heavy juggernauts with massive chest, neck, shoulder, and jaw development. They snarled and grimaced constantly, as they were in constant pain and their only relief lay in violence. Their gait was like walking uphill on narrow poles, probably because as soon as they were spawned they were locked into heavy plate armor, so there was a perceived sense of crushing weight and momentum to their stride. They had difficulty turning quickly. They probably had limited formal training, just basic drill work, but they were lethal, instinctive fighters, much more dangerous than [common] Orcs. They used their falchions and spiked shields pretty much interchangeably, smashing and bashing. Their defenses were power blocks - no finesse, no deflections, just brutal chops that could bounce an attacking weapon back the way it came.
Sometimes they didn't even bother to defend themselves; they just relied on their armor and moved straight into the attack. They would hammer and chop, and occasionally flip their swords around and use the back-spike to pinion an enemy, or gut them with the prongs on their shields. In the books, they were described as black skinned, had slant eyes and hated Goblins and called them hole maggots. Also in their book description, they were armed with bows made of yew, short-swords and spears. Some had iron collars. It is possible in Tolkien's books, they possibly looked different equipment-wise. When Ugluk said "We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the Great Warrior. We took the prisoners We are the servants of Saruman the Wise 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." must have made the orcs afraid, meaning they had to do what the "...cursed Isengarders!" told them to, or Ugluk would have to "...knock off a couple more heads!".
Crossbreeding with MenEdit
Following Treebeard's speculative statements, some readers have questioned whether Saruman's Uruk-hai at least, and all Uruk-hai at most, were bred by crossbreeding with Men. The book does not directly state this, though it heavily hints at it. In the movie version Gandalf tells Elrond that Saruman made Uruk-hai by crossbreeding orcs with goblin-men.
Other forces in Saruman's armies, and under his command in the Shire, definitely appear to have been hybrids, though these individuals, called "half-orcs" and "goblin-men" in The Two Towers, were as tall as Men and are never described simply as Orcs, as the Uruk-hai frequently are, and an account of the first Battle of the Fords of Isen in Unfinished Tales (part of Tolkien's hitherto unpublished writings) apparently treats Uruk-hai and "orc-men" separately.
Dunlendings were often used to create Uruks, or sometimes Rohan prisoners, but no matter who they are, they end up being bloodthirsty and vicious. Saruman also bred uruk "jockeys": a smaller, lighter breed often the same size as orcs but sometimes taller and by far stronger. These were used to ride Wargs.
Given that "Orc-man" and "Men-orcs", Half-orcs are treated as distinct types of hybrids, and that "Orc-men" is differentiated from Uruk-hai in Unfinished Tales, some then assume that the "Man-orcs large and cunning" are the Uruk-hai, at least those of Saruman. However, there is nothing in the quotation itself that states that the term "Man-orcs" specifically applies to Uruk-hai.
Types of Uruk-haiEdit
In the Uruk army of ten thousand that marched to Helms Deep, there were five types of soldiers; Pikemen, Swordsmen, Crossbow-men, Berserkers, and Sappers. The majority of the soldiers were Pikemen. The Pikemen had a dual purpose: to protect the Uruks from any horsemen that tried to attack the main body of soldiers, and to push the ladders full of Uruks up to the wall. Their pikes had a hook designed especially for this purpose. The Swordsmen were simply the hardiest fighting force of Saruman's army. There were also many Crossbow-men within the army. As their name implies, these soldiers each had a crossbow and quiver of bolts and picked off elves and men standing on the battlements. Another important group of Uruk-hai were the Berserkers, seven-foot monsters armed with nothing but a loincloth, a tightfitting helmet, and a five-foot sword with an 18-inch handle and a six-inch spike on either side of the blade. They were designed for one purpose only—to give the Swordsmen time to swarm onto the battlements. There was exactly one Berserker at the top of each ladder, and the second that the ladder was all the way up, they jumped off and attacked the defenders. Their sword was not very practical (for example, the spikes could become lodged in someone, costing the Uruk time), but the level of intimidation created by such a weapon was huge. Last, but definitely not least, were the Sappers. These creatures were in charge of the ballistae and siege equipment and looked after the army's most precious and deadly cargo—the two bombs known as "exploding fire."
In addition to these five groups were the Scouts. There were no Scouts in the army that marched to Helm's Deep. They were mainly used while Saruman's army was still being created. The largest group of Scouts (about 100) were sent to capture the Hobbits and bring them to Saruman. It was also this group that killed Boromir.
- "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 Uruk-hai made up a large part of Saruman's Army, together with the Dunlendings, Man-enemies of Rohan, and also served as the elite troops of Mordor. The Uruk-hai are faster than normal Orcs and could travel during the day without being weakened by the sun. They are significantly more muscular and not quite so bow-legged as orcs, and often stood six feet tall, notably larger than orcs but still shorter than most men. These top-heavy juggernauts winced and grimaced constantly, as if they were always in pain and their only relief lay in violence. 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. It has also been suggested that they are the cross-breeds of goblins and orcs. Saruman's army of Uruk-hai fought against King Théoden of Rohan and his people at Helm's Deep.
They first appeared about the year TA 2475, when they conquered Ithilien and destroyed the city of Osgiliath. The Orcs and 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. At least one, a guard, on the march with Merry and Pippin had a black knife with a long saw-edged blade, used by Pippin to cut through the ropes on his hands. They could see better in the dark than the Isengarders could. 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 curved scimitar, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, in length and shape as those of Men. They also appeared different physically: greater stature, squat, slant-eyed, thick legs and large hands. Although they did not like the light of the Sun, they could withstand it better than other Orcs. Saruman promised them man-flesh as a treat. He aided them 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.
Uglúk led the Uruk-hai of Isengard, and since they were the strongest he felt that he led the Hobbit march as well, insisting on going back by way of Isengard. This was the group that slew Boromir, and was annihilated by Éomer and the Riders of Rohan.
The swords of the Uruk-hai are strangely crafted. They are straight the whole way; however, at the top of the weapon there is a spike potruding from the blade, used to snare a horseman and pull him to the ground. Also, if the sword was held backwards, it would still increase pain and likeliness of the enemy's death.
"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."
A concern about the in-movie making of the weapons is that in the scene in The Two Towers where Isengard is being transformed and armor and weapons are being made, the swords are being cast in open molds and then hammered on anvils. If any metal is used for the casting scene it's bronze or brass or steel (although molten steel did not exist in the Medieval world the Lord of the Rings were based on); even if it were cast iron they would be far too brittle (due to the high carbon content of cast iron) to use as a weapon. It would require additional forging through heating and repeated hammering (as portrayed in the movie) to turn it into a viable weapon.
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 (Noldorin 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.
Hai is a collective plural. "The Uruk-hai" in some contexts is to "Uruk" as "Mankind" is to "man". But it can also mean all Uruks under consideration. "Saruman's Uruk-hai" means all Saruman's Uruks, while "the Uruk-hai" in the description of a battle would mean all Uruks present on the battlefield. It is not used for ordinary plural, as in "several Uruks," and of course never in the singular, but the Uruks of Mordor meant orcs, while 'Black Uruks' meant Uruk-hai of Mordor or really powerful Barad-dur orcs in the service of the Eye.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
- "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. 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"). In the movies Uruk-hai are described as a crossbreed between Orcs and "goblin-men": this is probably a dialogue error because in Tolkien's works "Orc" is a synonym for goblin, though the goblin-men may be half-orcs. They are larger than Orcs, standing as tall or, in the case of the Berserkers, taller than men, whereas the Uruks in the books are depicted as being shorter than men, standing roughly five and a half feet tall. Saruman's Uruks are also depicted as savage and animal-like, often roaring like big cats. These Uruks are sent after the Fellowship, and their leader is Lurtz, a movie-only character.
- "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 doubly-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 Beserkers 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 limbs and heads like a hot knife on butter. 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.
Mordor Uruk-hai differ greatly from their Isengard kin. While the Uruk-hai of Isengard were well-armed, using hardened iron armour and shields and wielding finely 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. However, the harsh climate of Mordor also left them more susceptible to mutation than the Isengard breed, and the Mordor breed are a little taller and have bent knees.
The Uruk-hai appear in Third Age: Total War as part of the Isengard faction, along with Dunlendings and Warg Riders. The Uruk-hai fill out Saruman's heavy and light infantry, longswordmen (berserkers), pikemen, and archers.
- Main article: Uglúk
He was one of Saruman's Uruk-hai, and the leader of the band of Uruks that attacked the Fellowship of the Ring and captured Merry and Pippin. His band was slain by Rohirrim commanded by Éomer and he fought a duel against Eomer in which he was slain by the Rohirrim captain. Ugluk can be considered one of the more "respectable" of Orcs, since he followed his commander Saruman's orders and quelled any action to the contrary, even under threat of Mordor by Grishnakh.
- Main article: Shagrat
Shagrat was the Uruk in command of the tower of Cirith Ungol, which guarded a pass into Mordor. In the movie, he is portrayed as an orc with bluish paint on his face. 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 cloakand Sam's sword, to the Barad-dûr. These were used by the Mouth of Sauron as evidence of Frodo's capture. Like Ugluk, he was loyal to his masters in Barad-dur and followed Sauron's orders to the letter, again quelling any resistance to such orders (namely from Gorbag). Unlike the rest of the uruk-hai shown here, Shagrat came from Mordor, not Isengard.
- Main article: Mauhúr
Mauhúr 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.
- Main article: Lugdush
He was one of Saruman's Uruk-hai, and appears to be a trusted subordinate of Uglúk.
- Main article: 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. He was portrayed by New Zealand actor Lawrence Makoare.
List of Uruk-hai military unitsEdit
Races of the Creatures of Arda
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "The Uruk-hai"
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, "The Riders of Rohan"
- The Lord of the Rings: Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
- The Complete Guide to Middle-earth