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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: Orc domesticity: Edit Log

The Shire

Jan 10 2013, 7:54pm

Views: 863
Orc domesticity

my conclusion is that lady orcs exist and have babies, but Tolkien didn't feel like writing about them.

I agree. I've always thought, particularly since Tolkien was in a real war, that he invented orcs because he needed an enemy that could be unequivocally evil and not very person-like so that his heroes could be unequivocally right to fight and kill them. The closest encounter a hobbit (the species of protagonist with whom the reader can most closely identify) has with a human enemy is the scene in Ithillien when a dead warrior from the south prompts Frodo to wonder about him as a person, why he left home, and if he would have preferred to stay there. (Apologies -- my book is in another state or I would give the exact quote!) That passage seemed so achingly personal to me, I wondered if it was an echo of Tolkien's own emotions during WWI. While I don't believe LOTR is an allegory of either world war, it seems impossible that somebody who experienced war could keep his thoughts about it from shaping the way he invented a war in his fiction. No real war can be satisfactory if it involves human enemies because most humans (even if they are required/persuaded to follow an evil leader, such as Hitler) are not 100% evil. Tolkien's sympathy for Gollum -- who had a tiny but real chance at redemption & joining the good guys -- and this nameless warrior from the south indicates that, to him, the concept of war that goes "They may not be totally evil but we have to fight them anyway because they are attacking us" is a very troubling one. I think Tolkien's love of old poems and sagas depicting glorious warfare was at odds with his compassion for real people. So -- much as he did when, unsatisfied with the "moving" of Birnam Wood in MacBeth, he created Ents -- I think Tolkien's dissatisfaction with real warfare prompted him to make a world in which glorious fighting was actually possible.

In that case, thinking too hard about orc families with wives and children would invalidate their purpose. I think biological reproduction must be happening, but that the thought of orc babies would have been unbearable to an author who positioned their species as an enemy whom it is always acceptable to kill. No people in Tolkien's world start evil, even if they become very evil later by their own choices; the fact that orcs are ruined elves allows that rule to still apply: they started out good but were pushed past the point where they could possibly be redeemed. Innocent orc babies who've never hurt anybody (even if they grow up to do so) would upset the concept, so that's why I think Tolkien didn't want to think about them.

(I hope I didn't get too far off topic!)

(This post was edited by Gwenhwyfar on Jan 10 2013, 7:56pm)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Gwenhwyfar (The Shire) on Jan 10 2013, 7:55pm
Post edited by Gwenhwyfar (The Shire) on Jan 10 2013, 7:56pm

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