Forum: Here Be Orcs

Discussing: Orcs!

Orcs!

OK, so it's a silly thread title, but that's all I could think off during a caffeine withdrawal syndrome.

I love all things related to orcs, and I sincerely believe that they were a greatly misunderstood race. Danm that Elven propaganda! ;)

Anyway, good to be here.

Werecat

 

 

Re: Orcs!

No worse than "Here Be Orcs."  Anyway - yay, a thread!

Now if I could only think of something intelligent to say....

Ooh, ooh! Do you think Orcs have souls?  I was reading Anna Wing's very intelligent essay on the subject and I must say, it made me most distressed.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that! Why?

Werecat, if you're intereste,  Olog-Hai, who writes as a Special Guest on ToRN.net (in their Green Books section) has some interesting comments on Orcs.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Oh, the idea that Orcs wouldn't have souls.  I don't know why it bothers me - I suspect Orcs themselves would be pretty disinterested/disparaging of the soul anyway.  "You need to think of the state of your soul, son!"  Response: laughter/evisceration.

 The idea of fragments of Morgoth's will inhabiting these beings and allowing them to function with separate personalities and wills and all, though, sounds disturbingly like some kind of anti-soul.  With all the emphasis that Tolkien put on evil not being able to create, only to corrupt/pervert, the idea of Morgoth being able to devise something of that nature, even if it comes of his own spiritual substance, is astonishing to me for how nigh it comes the divine.  I'm playing with it in my head - what would happen to these animating fragments of will when the beings (Orcs, Trolls, etc.) die?  Do they retain their parameters as it were, or do they dissipate into the broader creation again, or do they return to Morgoth in the Void?

Or am I really misunderstanding the concept? 

 

 

Re: Orcs!

In the late essay on Morgoth in HoME X "Morgoth's Ring", Tolkien did say that Melkor, having dissipated bits of himself throughout the material substance of Arda, and into his slaves, to control their wills, would have lost conscious control of those parts of himself, as well conscious access to that part of his strength. He would not have been able to get it back without full repentence and genuine self-abnegation. That is of course the same thing that Sauron did with the Ring, ie turned himself from "Sauron" the unitary entity to "Sauron+Ring", to the point that when the "ring" part of the equation was removed, what was left of could no longer sustain itself as an independent entity, or maintain its hold on its slaves.

<Do they retain their parameters as it were, or do they dissipate into the broader creation again, or do they return to Morgoth in the Void?>

Since Sauron did not regain his strength when the Ring was destroyed, I would assume the the bits of Morgoth that animated his servants were similarly dissipated, presumably into the general corruption of Arda. By analogy, electric current doesn't stay in the shape of the machine it's driving once the machine is switched off.

<is astonishing to me for how nigh it comes the divine. >

I always thought that Morgoth was divine. All the Ainur are bits of the thought of the One budded off, at least, that is how I always understood it. Yavanna can create life, no problem; she just can't create sapience, which I understood to be the unique province of the originating Godhead. In the accounts of the creation of the Dwarves, Tolkien did say that Aule couldn't animate them successfully, they only did what he willed them to do, without volition of their own, until the One adopted them into the Plan.

And if you think about it a bit more, the implications become even more interesting, because why would Eru have let flawed music stand (why not, "right chaps, let's try that one more time from the top,  and could we follow the score this time please?"), if not to try to salvage that bit of Itself that had rejected It? So really one could argue that the whole universe exists for the ultimate purpose of eventually redeeming Melkor.

Though actually, I have never quite understood why it would be wrong to want to sing your own song. Without messing up other people's music, or trying to make them sing yours if they don't want to, of course. Why not?

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Yavanna can create life, no problem;  she just can't create sapience, which I understood to be the unique province of the originating Godhead.

Oh quite! and that's actually just what I meant to say by my clumsy remark about the divine - of course the Ainur are divine, but the notion of Morgoth creating sapience surprised me because that seems like Eru's perview. The key, I suppose, would be that Morgoth was not creating it but lending it of his own substance - and, by your theory, it would be a mutable form of sapience that does not retain its unity when it departs the corporeal body of the inhabited Orc but dissipates.

According to which the entities of Ugluk, Grishnakh, Gorbag and other lads I have so loved are quite gone....

 

 

Re: Orcs!

It would appear so, yes. Following the Aule precedent I couldn't really see any alternatives, sorry. I think of orcs as being like von Neumann machines programmed for quite complex behaviours (question: could an Orc pass the Turing test? I suspect so. But eating the tester would probably invalidate the result.).

You could just assume that orcs have souls; I know that most writers do. When I began my essay I was fully expecting to find that that would be a viable position. I was quite surprised, after I'd looked at everything that I could find on the subject, to realise that if I wanted to account for the maximum information available, it wasn't.

Someone did object that the existence of half-orcs in LOTR invalidated my argument, but I don't think it does.  First, the existence of half-orcs is speculated upon by the characters, but not confirmed within the narration. Second, if orcs were made as I proposed from varying mixtures of genetic material from men, elves and whatever, adding a bit more wouldn't make any difference to whether they had souls or not. I don't get the impression that in Middle-earth having a soul is a continuum thing like race for humans. It's either-or.

Sorry to go on and on, but it's really such fun finding someone who's at all interested in the subject!

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Sorry I've not replied - it isn't out of any intentional rudeness, I've just been sitting around thinking about soulless Orcs and feeling bummed. Obviously I take this stuff far too seriously!

Anyhow, I didn't want to reply unless I actually had something interesting to contribute to the conversation beyond, "...I'm so sad." I was talking the other night with a fellow Orc enthusiast about the matter and she showed me an old e-mail she'd once written about the matter. It actually functions as a reply of sorts to Tolkien's position on the matter, and moves from the matter of the soul to the issue of language.


"I can't really believe that all Orcs would be soulless, though. If their speech was just parrot-like imitation of that of their masters, I'd expect it to be a lot more robotic and uncreative, following certain fixed patterns - the Orcs who got some dialogue spoke fluently and, importantly, showed an ability to manipulate language to suit their communicative needs. This is a linguistic ability that, in our world, is exclusive to humans; in Tolkien's world, it should apply to all other humanoid races as well.

Tolkien was a passionate linguist and philologist. He loved languages and in his eyes, Orcs who did not cherish them were somehow worse than the other races for that fact alone. I can see him deciding that such shameless language-debasers with no love of beauty might as well be soulless, even if they had intelligence. (You might even theorise that appreciation of arts and beauty were "soul things" for him, while the orkish appreciation for practicality and distaste of pretty objects were cold, hard "intelligence things". Remember, Tolkien also disliked machines, the things of science Orcs were fascinated with.)

And since languages were such a hugely important thing for Tolkien, I'm going to just feel free to theorise a bit more on their influence on his attitude towards Orcs. I think it's pretty safe to assume that he was an "old school" linguist (for the simple reason that he was born as early as 1892 and didn't seem like a person who easily subscribed to more modern theories, in any case), and he strikes me as a believer in the linguistic determinism theory, which states that language shapes the way its speakers perceive the world around them. That would be one of the reasons Orcs are so inherently evil: their language is unpleasant and hateful, and so they see the world as something unpleasant and hate it. Also, their disregard for languages prevents them from ever gaining a more positive way of looking at the world, and so they are naturally and nearly irredeemably bad. It's a vicious circle of sorts.

However, the linguistic determinism theory isn't terribly popular nowadays, as it's believed that it's the people who shape the language, not the other way around. And so, according to that theory, the Orcs show their badness by making their language "bad". That's even further proof that they have the ability to manipulate language for their own needs, even if those needs are mostly for swearing and insulting. It may not be beautiful, but in doing that they prove themselves to be linguistic creatures just like Elves, Hobbits etc., and therefore not just mindless beasts or animals who simply repeat what they hear. If in Tolkien's mind being capable of using language is one of the signs of having a soul, then I've convinced at least myself that Orcs have souls, too.

I still haven't completely figured out where they get them from, though."


Interestingly, even this wouldn't be difficult to reconcile with many of the points in your essay, Anna, if one is willing to consider animating fragments of Morgoth's will to approximate something like souls, if only of a temporal and vicious sort. The idea makes sense to me, though I know that even referring to them as "anti-souls" would probably appall Tolkien to no end.

Not that I care if I appall Tolkien. We are not on speaking terms at present. [glares at dead British author]

 

 

Re: Orcs!

[if one is willing to consider animating fragments of Morgoth's will to approximate something like souls, if only of a temporal and vicious sort. ]

I have no difficulty with that interpretation, recalling that Tolkien himself said that "fea" and "hroa" mean "soul" and "body" only in a rather approximate way. The point about the effect of language use on the user and vice versa is a very interesting one.  I suspect that it is one of those situations where feedback has a tremendous effect, so that it is not a one-way process either way. Environment (including of course the linguistic environment) modifying behaviour which modifies environment etc etc. including across generations.

I am curious about why it should be troubling that orcs might not have souls. The original review comments to my essay did seem to indicate that it is quite a common feeling (to the point where one reviewer rejected it purely because they disagreed with the conclusion, rather than for instance, flaws in the argument), and I do not precisely understand why this should be so.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Anna Wing,

I've read your essay and even though my reading of Tolkien is not the same (I imagine orcs to have souls, but then again I write them not so differently from Werecat), I liked it. It would explain why orcs are shot on sight by the heroes, and why relatively little thought is given in canon to the idea of redeeming them. This POV seems to be relatively under-explored by people who are discussing the topic, maybe because most people who write about orcs think of them as full-fledged characters rather than simply bodies animated with Morgoth's will. They do, after all, have names even though their names are Tolkien's representation of ugly, horrible ones. But that doesn't mean they have individual souls. We do get a (possible) hint that orcs have an afterlife, when Gorbag says about the Nazgul that "they skin the body off you as soon as look at you, and leave you all cold in the dark on the other side." But like many lines the orcs say, that could mean any of a number of things.

I think much of Tolkien is ambiguous and can be left to endless fanfiction interpretations and scholarly debate, and the status of Orc souls and extent of Orc corruption are definitely on that list. One of my favorite aspects of Tolkien is that it leaves the reader with just enough skepticism--being ostensibly elven histories or hobbit diaries, the books don't show us the aspects of middle earth that these characters don't see, but there are hints that these aspects are there. In effect, it invites the reader to step into the fantasy world and imagine these things. This is one reason I suspect there's much more fanfiction and online discussion about Tolkien than about almost any other book (go to www.fanfiction.net to see the numbers).

--AFriedman

 

 

Re: Orcs!

I've read your essay and even though my reading of Tolkien is not the same (I imagine orcs to have souls, but then again I write them not so differently from Werecat), I liked it. It would explain why orcs are shot on sight by the heroes, and why relatively little thought is given in canon to the idea of redeeming them.

To AFriedman: Quite right! and I think that even if Orcs did have souls, certainly many of "our heroes" - fellows like Elladan, Elrohir, and other members of other non-Orkish humanoid races who make a cause of exterminating Orcs - don't think they do for a moment.  Or if they do they justify their genocide with "Mandos will know his own," as I recall Legolas saying in one fic I read.

BTW, I hope you will link up some of your stories to this forum at some point.  I always enjoy meeting new Orcs.

I am curious about why it should be troubling that orcs might not have souls. The original review comments to my essay did seem to indicate that it is quite a common feeling (to the point where one reviewer rejected it purely because they disagreed with the conclusion, rather than for instance, flaws in the argument), and I do not precisely understand why this should be so.

To Anna Wing: Heh, I can sympathize with your one reviewer.  I think I tend to side with my friend and want to argue the point with Tolkien: "Ok, you said this but I still disagree, and here's why!"  He didn't deal kindly by his Orcs anyway, I think they ought to be taken away from him and sent to a special foster care system for imaginary races maligned/abused/neglected by their creative authors.  I just worry that they'd eat the other children....

I guess it goes to the matter of whether you like Orcs and what you consider the soul to be, and the purpose(s) you ascribe to it.  I mentioned my dismay that individual Orcs should be quite gone when they died, the animating force of their personalities disippated and scattered to the four winds.  The usual Christian/Islamic concept of the soul is a kind of unified essence of self: we are "living souls" and are not simply gone when we die but continue to live beyond the corruption and decay of our bodies.  Thinking otherwise generally makes people from this kind of faith tradition insecure and anxious: the Buddhist ideal of an ultimate rejection of the self and personal identity, individuals seeking to lose themselves for merger with a greater One, would be very troubling to someone who is deeply invested in not being lost or dissipated.

For my part, and at this point in my life it is probably a very immature idea of both God and souls in general, but I think of my soul as the means both by which I am accountable to God and God is accountable to me.  When I think of Orcs as having no souls then, I think of them as essentially having no spiritual recourse.  On top of their miserable experiences on earth, this seems like salt in the wound. Of course, if they did have souls then Orcs would be held accountable for their carnal deeds and atrocities in the hereafter.  Is having souls a kindness in that case?  I argue with myself about this.

Not have the most concrete idea of either the soul or its precise purpose, my biggest problem is probably with the fact that while the Orcs don't get these soul things, the Elves/Humans/Dwarves do.  But it's just par for the course with that wacky Eru, I suppose: he's already playing games with the races who *do* have souls.  This whole business of a separate Doom for Elves and Men.  What an awful lot of trouble to cause.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

To the lauderdale:

Quite right!  I agree with you that the heroes of Tolkien canon are neither always correct nor always knowing, especially about matters relating to the Dark Lord's classified information.  Nobody would tell them how orcs were corrupted or whether they had souls, and they don't seem to have run experiments on orcs.  Thus, I don't think it's clear.

Where is the story in which Legolas says "Mandos will know his own"?  I think that's a very interesting line that fills a canonical gap in his POV.

Re: your novel "Orcbrat," I'd want to see what you do with it.  I really like how much individuality your characters have and especially how you handled switches between such drastically different points of view.  I was also fascinated by your method of presenting all the characters so non-judgmentally, even when some are doing what to humans are incredibly terrible things.  I was wondering why you wrote it, and what you wanted to say about the canon or the world at large through it.  (The segment on this site doesn't seem to be finished and I don't know if this will be more apparent in the conclusion.)  "Orcbrat" seems only loosely connected to Tolkien's storylines, and what do you think about changing the setting and removing it from the genre of fanfiction?  I suspect that would get around some of the questions Anna Wing brings up, since in an AU of your own design your characters don't need to be labeled as "Elves," "Humans" or "Orcs" in the Tolkienish sense and you don't need to worry about whether the status of their souls is canonical.  (By the way, I believe race in Tolkien is overemphasized and is too often used as a shorthand and less-than-satisfactory substitute for character development, so I'm the author of the "Unnamed Races Challenge" in Prospective Challenges.  I was hoping that you, in particular, would take up that one.)

My work is not finished--I apologize that it will probably be a while before it's up.  For your interest, it's in comic rather than story form and I don't think HASA is designed for that.  But I'm sure some other place is. 

--A Fried man

 

 

Re: Orcs!

The lauderdale and AFriedman:

The usual Christian/Islamic concept of the soul is a kind of unified essence of self: we are "living souls" and are not simply gone when we die but continue to live beyond the corruption and decay of our bodies. Thinking otherwise generally makes people from this kind of faith tradition insecure and anxious

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks.  Well, certainly from his letters Tolkien was troubled by the question of orcs, and whether they could be considered a separate race or not (which in his terms would affect whether they had fear or not). The whole problem really seems to stem from the very specific and specialised nature of the fea in Tolkien's universe.  

 If Arda were this universe, there wouldn't be a problem. Since Men and Elves are clearly genetically close enough to produce fertile hybrids, one could describe Men (and the Hobbit sub-species) as a successful mutation of Elves, in which a dominant gene complex for mortality appeared. Dwarves and Ents would be entirely separate species; there is absolutely no indication of a hybrid dwarf, or a hybrid ent (the mind boggles; if fanfic.net has something on that point, please don't tell me!). In a universe like that there would be no problem with giving Orcs equal status as a species with the rest. They would all have souls, or not, as the case might be, on equal terms.

The problem therefore is that Arda is a dualist universe with specific rules about both species and souls.  And since it is basically a tragic universe, the rules aren't necessarily fair rules by the standards of the people who have to live under them. Tolkien's emphasis on the need for hope and trust in the goodwill of the One does seem to indicate that he didn't think the rules were fair either. But this seems to be the unavoidable problem with a supreme god that is simultaneously omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent.

But is it so unjust that Orcs should be soul-less in the first place? Aule made dwarves because he wanted children to love and teach; he apologised, so Eru took them on and gave them souls. Melkor rebelled and was nasty and wanted slaves, so Eru didn't give them souls, thus, one could argue, ensuring that their suffering would be finite, since they would not have to endure the misery of their own corruption even after bodily death. If they are just doing what orcs do, without the ability not to do it, guilt or innocence would be inapplicable concepts. It would be like criticising an obligate carnivore for not being vegetarian.

On a separate point, I am not sure that the ease with which Orcs are killed by the heroes in LOTR would have anything to do with whether they have souls or not. People in the real world do not have any problems with killing other people, whom they presumably would acknowledge also had souls. One could argue that Orcs and Easterlings were being killed for straightforward reasons of self-and-civilisation-preservation.

Though of course, if killing sapient creatures is wrong per se, then it is wrong whoever is doing it and for whatever reason. It may be necessary, but it does not thereby cease to be wrong.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Anna Wing,

OK, I have a few other things to say about your essay (more later):

1.   "[Orcs]' known characteristics - mortality"

I don't believe there is a canonical "smoking gun" that says orcs are mortal, or immortal for that matter.  Personally I imagine orcs to be immortal, for two main reasons: (1) their environment and habits seem to be ideal breeding grounds for disease pathogens, but if they were immune to being killed from disease that might help them survive.  However, the Men and Hobbits also aren't really shown with diseases, even when they pass through Orc haunts.  (2) A line in the Two Towers, chapter 3, describes Orc legs as "unresting...beating out the nightmare seconds of an endless time."  This seems to imply, if not explicitly state, that Orcs do not receive the gift of Men.  The Orc origin hypothesis that you quote, of Elves mated with beasts and Men, contains what to me is the qualifier "maybe" and the implicit assumption that "their life span would be diminished" is a speculation.  I don't recall any canonical examples of protagonists knowing Orcs for long periods of time, long enough for them to learn whether orcs are, indeed, immortal.

2.  Yes, you seem to have dealt with the idea of Saruman's orcs having recent human ancestors quite well.  But how do you explain the creatures belonging to Saruman that are described as Men, not orcs, and that don't seem to be full-fledged orcs (e.g. they don't seem to eat people, and can sit in the Prancing Pony inn while behaving close enough to human customers) but are described as "half-orcs," physically resemble orcs, and show some Orc behaviors such as the propensity for rapacity and destruction?  The quote from Morgoth's Ring, Myths transformed 419 says "There is no doubt [not "maybe"] that Saruman committed...the interbreeding of orcs and men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."

3.  Although your essay is plausible to me, it also seems plausible that Orcs would be left with souls for the same reason that Arda (as you suggest) might have been allowed to continue despite Morgoth's marring, i.e. so that they could in theory be redeemable.  Although a fan of Middle-Earth, I am not such a fan of Elves, Hobbits, and highfalutin tarks who think that having Elf blood puts them a whole grade above other Men, and I know these folks don't really think about other races so much.  So I believe that they're capable of killing without thinking, even when maybe (but I'm not saying definitely, because of course they need to protect themselves) they should.  On that note, Sam does feel compassion for a Southron fallen in battle, although not really for the orcs (although Sam, as canonical heroes go, is relatively ignorant of other cultures and of the status of souls in Middle Earth).

--AFriedman

 

 

Re: Orcs!

The quote from Morgoth's Ring, Myths transformed 419 says "There is no doubt [not "maybe"] that Saruman committed...the interbreeding of orcs and men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."

Why do I have this vision of orc breeding that looks like how you get mules and hinnies?

Mule: The hybrid animal produced when a male ass (Jack) is crossed with a female horse, and often looks more donkey-like than horse- like

 Hinny: This is the term used for the hybrid animal produced when the female ass (jennet) is mated to the male horse (stallion) to produce a foal, and often looks more horse-like

Male orc to female human get an Orc-man.

Female orc to male human gets a Man-orc. 

or would that be vice versa?

I'd guess that there are a lot more Orc-men than Man-orcs.  Of course, they say that some men are always willing... and all women are the same lying down.

Gwynnyd 

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Gwynnyd,

Lots of ways to imagine how this happened.  One of my personal favorites is "Children of Hurin" by Salsify, which has a different take from yours and seems to be carefully written so as not to be AU.

--AFriedman

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Ah, theodyssey and the conundrum of reconciling perfect God with imperfect universe.  I've taken the weener way out of this one by tentatively opting with God's imperfection...but this wouldn't likely be a tenable position for devoutly Catholic Tolkien.  There is possibly more leeway when taking AFriedman's approach to LOTR and the extended body of Middle Earth writings as as objects for healthy skepticism: Tolkien's translation and synthesis of ancient works by Elven, Human and Hobbit chroniclers, sources often several times removed from the original.

In Tyellas' excellent "The Unnatural History of Tolkien's Orcs" (www.ansereg.com/unnatural_history_of_orcs.htm) there is a quote from one of his letters:

"They would be Morgoth's greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad.  (I nearly wrote "irredeemably bad'; but that would be going too far.  Because by accepting or tolerating their making - necessary to their actual existence - even Orcs would become part of the world, which is God's and ultimately good)."

I wonder where this quote fits into the scheme of things.  Would this be a point where Tolkien is entertaining the possibility of Orcs having souls?  Or the possibility that, while they don't have souls they could obtain them in some kind of Orkish "Little Mermaid" scenario?  (In which case, would they sit on rocks singing with their nasty hair streaming behind them?)  Or does it still not necessarily entertain the possibility of souls at all?  After all, beasts are a part of the world and yet somehow I don't get the notion that Tolkien thinks they have souls - or does he?  (With due exception for those Maiar who choose to inhabit or to guise themselves as animals.)

And I propose that we start a new thread at once for the purpose of discussing Orkish breeding in all its aspects.  Plus I'm going to start one in which to yack about my own story Orc-brat, since AFriedman mentioned it and that's all it takes to get me rolling....

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Re point 1: Hmm. You may be right. I don't recall anything either that said one thing or another. I don't find your two reasons particularly convincing, though.

For the first, it might equally be that Orcs who are vulnerable to the pathogens around at any particular point die and the ones that aren't transmit their immunity to their descendants, as happens to humans in the same circumstances. I'm not certain what you mean by the reference to Men and Hobbits, sorry.  If the question is why they don't get sick, well, one possible solution is that their pathogens are different.

For the second,  I understood that line to mean that the time seemed endless to the listeners ie the besieged.

Re point 2: But how do you explain the creatures belonging to Saruman that are described as Men, not orcs, and that don't seem to be full-fledged orcs (e.g. they don't seem to eat people, and can sit in the Prancing Pony inn while behaving close enough to human customers) but are described as "half-orcs," physically resemble orcs, and show some Orc behaviors such as the propensity for rapacity and destruction? 

I note in passing that human history (not to mention a look at the BBC website at any moment of the day) proves that the propensity for rapacity and destruction is an entirely human characteristic. Otherwise I do not precisely understand the point that you are making, sorry. There is nothing in LOTR that states that Orcs are completely incapable of self-control in obedience to the will of their masters. Consider Ugluk in the chapter "The Uruk-Hai". Also within LOTR, the proposition that Saruman interbred orcs and Men remains speculation.

The quote from Morgoth's Ring, Myths transformed 419 says "There is no doubt [not "maybe"] that Saruman committed...the interbreeding of orcs and men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."

Even so, neither version needs to have souls.

Re point 3: yes, that is about the only plausible reason why the One would connive in the corruption of Its creatures by continuing to give them fear. BTW, the idea that Arda Marred was allowed to come into being as a vehicle for the redemption of Morgoth is most certainly not Tolkien's. It is in fact, subsequent investigation with Google tells me, something similar to a proposition of Origen, one of the dodgier Fathers of the Church, who suffered some posthumous condemnation on account of it. 

As I've said before, Tolkien said many things about Orcs, many mutually contradictory, and never came to a decision about the soul question. My essay was intended to be a synthesis of the different things he said, with an outcome that was consistent with as many of them as possible. I am certainly not trying to say that it is the only possible outcome, merely that it is one that satisfies me.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Oh ,I'm always happy to talk about Orc breeding anywhere! Here is as good as anywhere else.

Tolkien did say in a letter that Orcs reproduced sexually (rather than asexually, by parthenogenesis or other methods). But sexual reproduction covers a lot of possibilities. If I were an evil and paranoid deity who wanted to conquer the universe and was looking to create vast numbers of minions on the cheap, how would I do it?

1  Accelerated growth rates, so that they reach physical maturity and sexual maturity together and as quickly as possible. Say, by 5 or 6. Average life-span maybe 20-30 years.

2  Ability to produce multiple offspring at each birth ie litters, and multiple litters per year.  If the offspring are all animated by  My will, they should not need much in the way of care, training and socialisation, so the females could have multiple litters per year. The weaklings will be weeded out automatically and recycled.

3 Omnivorous with no social taboos about cannibalism, so they could eat each other when they die of old age, illness or violence, or if they are born deformed or dead. This would reduce the resources needed to feed them.

4  Physically tough,  with efficient immune systems (NB, get that from Elves), and varying in size, conformation and intelligence level, so that they can be used for different tasks. I'd probably want to keep a few lines breeding true for specialised purposes, and have the rest general-purpose and interbreeding freely, to allow possibly useful mutations to show up. Useless ones would be recycled.

5  Since I would be immortal and have Ages in which to tinker, I would probably vary the basic pattern a lot, depending on which would be most useful at any particular time. For instance, sexual dimorphism or not? What kind of social structure? I would be limited by the lack of imagination that comes with evilness, so all of them would probably end up being highly aggressive in occasionally self-defeating ways. However, I would assume that sheer numbers would render this problem trivial, and I would usually be right.

6  Unfortunately my notes would all be lost during the War of Wrath, so my unworthy successor and usurper, that jumped-up minion Sauron would have to rediscover most of the above in his own bumbling and incompetent fashion, as would the even more unworthy and pathetic wannabe Saruman.

There, those are my preliminary suggestions. What do you think?

 

 

Re: Orcs!

Oh, sure Anna!  I was just thinking that a new thread might make the line of discussion clearer, so I made one in the forum ("A question of breeding") but either way's fine.

Additional, to AFriedman: I'm toying around your Unnamed Races Challenge.  I'm still an unbearable n00b in many respects and haven't done any of the challenges before, but this looks interesting.  I hope you will let us know the minute you have even some of your work up: be thrilled to see an Orc comic.  (I'm waiting for "Orc's Treasure" to come out in paperback.)  Also, that story with the Legolas quote was "Hope for the Uruk" by Grond.  It has, IMO, a *massive* mischaracterization of one of Tolkien's canon characters...but it also has a very entertaining Shagrat and great Orc content.  It is in the HASA public archive.

 

 

Re: Orcs!

To the lauderdale,

Thanks for taking up the challenge I posted.  I will let you know when my stuff is up, but I'm warning you--the word "Orc" doesn't appear anywhere in it, and that's intentional.  I know the story "Hope for the Uruk" and that it's won some fanfiction awards--it's pretty good, given the premise "let's take something super-weird and super-against-canon, and see how consistent with canon we can make it."  But I think pairings stories (both het and slash) are an overdone genre, and so are Orcs-turning-elvish stories.  That one seemed gratuitous to me despite its being better-written and more original than most.  Is the mischaracterization you're thinking about, the character who is paired with Shagrat?  I find it hard to believe he would do that.  I also think the author has stretched the gentlest possible interpretation of Shagrat to the breaking point, although this is not a blanket condemnation of OOC behavior in fanfiction.

I'll write an answer to Anna Wing later.

--AFriedman

 

 

Re: Orcs!

But I think pairings stories (both het and slash) are an overdone genre, and so are Orcs-turning-elvish stories.  That one seems gratuitous to me despite its being better-written and more original than most.  Is the mischaracterization you're thinking about, the character who is paired with Shagrat?  I find it hard to believe he would do that.

 Hard to believe - impossible to my way of thinking!  Yes, and I think that's when it becomes gratuitous.  He - well, you read the story, so I'll just say it openly - ARAGORN would never do that.  I don't have a problem with OOC behavior if the story makes it plausible, when character developments or events occur to make what would normally be OOC behavior in-character and plausible.  But there isn't anything in HftU to make Aragorn's behavior credible, and he also feels too different from either book or movie Aragorn: infinitely younger and boyish, and it's too weird that none of his men recognize him when he's puttering around in his own dungeons.

I never really thought of "Hope for the Uruk" as an Orc-turning-Elvish story, though I'm familiar with those kind.  Shagrat and the other Orcs in HftU seem happy with being Orcs, and not disposed to change their stripes beyond some reluctant concessions in keeping with a new working relationship under Aragorn's kingship. 

 There *is* a somewhat more plausible pairing story with Shagrat called "Captain of Mordor" - it was on Uruk-hai.org, though that site was sadly taken down two days ago.  A longtime favorite site, it was, and knowing it would be coming down on March 31st is part of what sent me to HASA, wanting a new source of quality fiction.  Anyway, I think the author had originally read and liked "Hope for the Uruk" and that it formed the seed for her own story, but IMO "Captain of Mordor" handles the premise better, though it is Shagrat/Faramir rather than Shagrat/Aragorn.  More is done with Faramir to make it plausible, and there is much more insight into Shagrat - he is, if anything, "sweeter" than the Shagrat in HftU, but there is more thought put into it and this softer side does not seem impossible to reconcile with the steely veteran of Tolkien's writing.  The author also makes interesting choices with regard to "timing" in the story: the bulk of the story takes place ten years before the Ring War, shortly after a much younger and more uncertain Faramir has begun his first military posting as a ranger in Ithilien.

Enough of my blathering - I'll just say that I really do have a soft spot for "Captain of Mordor," and understand that there is supposed to be a sequel in the works.  Haven't heard anything further, though. [looks wistful]

 

 

Re: Orcs!

The lauderdale,

I actually never read "Captain of Mordor"--probably because I never bothered to get the password from that woman for that site, and just started going onto fanfiction anyway. I generally prefer PG-level writing about orcs anyway, because it tends to be somewhere between disturbingly sanitized and disturbingly gratuitous. The less-pleasant sides of characters have enough room to appear, yet there's more pressure on the writer to give the story a point besides gratuitous sex and violence. (I don't have a problem with sex and violence, as long as it has a purpose in the construction of the story.)

Anna Wing,

Re: points 1 and 3, I'm not convinced by the points I bring up either. So I think we ultimately agree about mortality and the soul question (both ambiguous).

Re: point 2, I know that humans can be incredibly rapacious and destructive, and that side of humanity seems to have been the inspiration for Orcs. In a trilogy in which the heroes must overcome evil by overcoming their own greed and lust for power, dark creatures such as Orcs or Nazgul, whose greed and lust for power have turned them into almost unrecognizable monsters, serve as effective character foils. Not only are these creatures fearsome because of their potential to kill, they are also fearsome because they represent what the heroes are terrified of becoming.

However, I find it hard to believe that the orc-like creatures referred to as "Men" lack souls. My assumption is that if they are placed in the same racial category as other men, the status of their souls is the same. Because of their resemblance to orcs and the quote from "Morgoth's Ring," I also believe they have Orc ancestry and were the "Orc-men" mentioned in Morgoth's Ring. (The Uruk-hai would have been the "Man-orcs.") However, the ruffians of the Shire were given relative freedom to do what they wished, and don't seem to have been given strict orders not to eat people or hobbits for example. They acted rapaciously (as Orcs and many humans do) but apparently did not eat the people and hobbits they killed (a behavior characteristic of Orcs). The fact that they didn't eat people or hobbits doesn't seem to have been merely because they were obeying orders. Do you understand now?

--AFriedman

 

 

Re: Orcs!

However, the ruffians of the Shire were given relative freedom to do what they wished, and don't seem to have been given strict orders not to eat people or hobbits for example. They acted rapaciously (as Orcs and many humans do) but apparently did not eat the people and hobbits they killed (a behavior characteristic of Orcs). The fact that they didn't eat people or hobbits doesn't seem to have been merely because they were obeying orders. Do you understand now?

I'm afraid not. The ruffians of the Shire were clearly Men, just particularly barbarous and degraded ones. There would have been no need for Orc ancestry for them to behave in the way that they were behaving. "Orc-like" could just as well be a description of behaviour as of genetics. The fact that a marsupial may look and behave like a mammal in the same ecological niche does not make it a mammal or vice versa.

 Tolkien did say in one of his letters that he thought that Men could be turned into orcs through successive generations of degradation, but I don't recall whether he was speaking "literally" ie referring specifically to his secondary World creations, or metaphorically, referring to the human characteristics that they were created to reflect (in the same way that the Elves reflected the artistic/scientific elements in humans). 

 

 

Re: Orcs!

To me, it seems all but explicitly stated that those particular Men actually had Orc ancestry. (1) Their physical appearance is described as strikingly Orkish. (2) They are actually referred to as "half-orcs" in the chapter "The scouring of the Shire." (3) The quote in Morgoth's Ring seems to mention both human-like orcs and orc-like humans, both of whom apparently had mixed ancestry. Based on these passages, I believe the Shire ruffians were the orc-like humans and the Uruk-hai were the human-like orcs.

The quote about full humans being turned into orcs does not say they became orcs per se, but that they could "under the dominion of Morgoth...be reduced to almost the Orc level of mind and habits" and could then be cross-bred with orcs.

--AFriedman

 

 

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