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Origin of Orcs
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Eowyn3
Rivendell

Jan 16 2013, 1:37am

Post #1 of 36 (927 views)
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Origin of Orcs Can't Post

I would like to hear others opinions on the origin of Orcs. I have never been comfortable with the theory that Orcs come from Elves. It just bothers me, and since Tolkien never fully address that I would love to hear some other theory


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Jan 16 2013, 2:51am

Post #2 of 36 (619 views)
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I'd be interested to know why that bothers you. [In reply to] Can't Post

As for the Orcs' orgin, we know that Morgoth couldn't create anything, only mar what was in existence. That means he had to corrupt something to fashion a race of Orcs. Elves are as good a candidate as any, especially as they are the first-born of Arda and so reforming them to his owns means gives Morgoth a way of sticking one in the eye of Eru.

I know some have a problem with the idea of Orcs being immortal, given their Elvish heritage. I figure that any marring of Elves to form Orcs could well have broken that immortality as well.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Eowyn3
Rivendell

Jan 16 2013, 3:56am

Post #3 of 36 (598 views)
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Origin of Orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess I always think of Elves as higher beings, somehow more pure than men, therefore I don't like to imagine that they could be turned into something as foul as Orcs.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 16 2013, 4:49am

Post #4 of 36 (625 views)
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Well, Melkor and Sauron started out as pure, higher beings... [In reply to] Can't Post

Orcs had the same deterioriation. Though Melkor and Sauron chose their own destiny. That's what makes Orcs tragic--they were twisted into evil against their will, and they stayed that way, never reverting to their true selves. As an idealist, I'd like to think that the spirit could overcome such things, but there's too much evidence in real life for me to keep up my end of the argument.


DanielLB
Immortal


Jan 16 2013, 9:51am

Post #5 of 36 (602 views)
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I think it's really disturbing that Orcs may be descended from Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

And that's why I like it! Elves aren't (always) a pure, kind and loving race.

But since Tolkien never addresses it, I like to think that are many different origins. I know it's wikipedia, but this article does a good job of summarizing the various origins.


Súlimë
Rivendell


Jan 16 2013, 10:05am

Post #6 of 36 (537 views)
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I actually like it! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it is wonderfully sad and twisted that Orcs came from Elves. I got a chill down my spine when one of the Orcs in the book exclaims "Ai!", just like the Elves, and I was reminded of the fact that they were somehow 'related'.

I guess it just gave me the sense that "all good things are touched by evil" and it makes the struggles of Elvenkind and Mankind even more poignant.


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jan 16 2013, 3:22pm

Post #7 of 36 (565 views)
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I agree, the elvish origin idea has too many problems [In reply to] Can't Post

and Tolkien never came up with "the origin" just several possible sources, including men etc.

I favor the idea that Melkor did exactly what Aule did in the making of dwarves. The orcs have their existence in and through him, as he created a race to mock the Firstborn.
Maybe they were crossed with humans to form new varieties. The Elf origin has problems of spirit, immortalitiy, reproduction rates etc.

What are the origin of Trolls?
Wargs?
Fell beasts?


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Jan 16 2013, 3:27pm)


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jan 16 2013, 3:37pm

Post #8 of 36 (514 views)
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However, if the orcs are like dwarves as first made by Aule [In reply to] Can't Post

since Illuvatar hadn't given them free will they would have been like puppets of his will and would have stood still like rocks when he (Aule) turned his mind elsewhere.
This would have required Melkor....and by transmission if possible - Sauron to have their wills invested in all orcs to animate their actions. This poses a problem as well.
What if the proto orcs were somehow mated with humans - then, you might get "free"er" will" by corruption.
They do seem to have been dominated by Melkor and then Sauron in their minds.


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Jan 16 2013, 3:38pm)


sador
Half-elven


Jan 16 2013, 3:38pm

Post #9 of 36 (494 views)
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Welcome to TORn! [In reply to] Can't Post

And for whatever it's worth, I feel the same.


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jan 16 2013, 3:48pm

Post #10 of 36 (519 views)
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Perhaps trolls could not reproduce? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
What are the origin of Trolls?
Wargs?
Fell beasts?



Trolls may have been completely artificial beings that could not reproduce but could only be manufactured by Morgoth or Sauron. Or maybe they were corrupted from the stone-giants (of which we know very little).

Wargs may have been made from what we would call prehistoric dire wolves. That is how I have always seen them, in any case. The great Werewolves were probably originally Wargs infused with evil spirits or Maiar.

The fell beasts of the Ring-wraiths seem to be descended from some remnant of the flying reptiles known as pterodactyls, reminding me of stories of pteranodon-like flyers spotted in Mexico and the south-western United States. Sauron probably corrupted them the same way that Morgoth created the Wargs.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Elthir
Gondor

Jan 16 2013, 4:21pm

Post #11 of 36 (556 views)
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immortal orks [In reply to] Can't Post

What we can say is that the 'immortality question' was one Tolkien posed to himself. And I think it shows that he found the matter somewhat problematic. Tolkien noted (text VIII):

'It also seems clear (...) that though Melkor could utterly corrupt and ruin individuals, it is not possible to contemplate his absolute perversion of a whole people, or group of peoples, and his making that state heritable. [added later: The latter must (if a fact) be an act of Eru.]'

'In that case Elves, as a source, are very unlikely. And are Orcs 'immortal' in the Elvish sense? Or Trolls? (...)'

JRRT, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring




So here we have two concerns: immortality, and the possibility of Morgoth not just corrupting beings, but making this corruption a heritable state -- in other words (as I read this), what will the children be if corrupted Elves [who have become Orcs] breed? Elves or Orcs? If Orcs, Morgoth has made his corruption a heritable state, and if this is true, Elves seem an unlikely source to JRRT himself (or at least this seems part of the reason anyway).



Men would solve the immortality question, at least. And there might be other concerns. Tolkien notes (Morgoth's Ring) that Morgoth could so dominate some Orcs that they seemed like 'puppets' with no will of their own, some even slaying themselves when the Dark Lord was defeated, for example. And in a late note Tolkien explained...

'Other originally independent creatures, and Men among them (but neither Elves nor Dwarves), could also be reduced to a like condition.'

JRRT, late note attached to text X 'Orcs from Men'




If Orcs could be so dominated, it makes sense (to me anyway) that the source for Orcs could be so dominated as well, but here it's said that neither Elves nor Dwarves could be reduced to such a notable condition. One could argue that once Elves became Orcs they could be 'absorbed' in this way, but I also think that Men were -- generally speaking now -- more easily swayed to the will of the Dark Lords.


Tolkien even notes, in text X [he had adjusted the chronology to allow for Men to be the source for Orcs, although admitted that it was still not without its difficulties]:

'This view of the origin of orcs thus meets with difficulties of chronology. But though Men may take comfort in this, the theory remains nonetheless the most probable. It accords with all that is known of Melkor, and of the nature and behaviour of Orcs -- and Men.'




In my opinion, in general Men were already 'closer' to Orcs than Elves were, and notably I think, Men could be found in Morgoth's forces as well as Sauron's.

Not all Men of course! But again, in general.


Eruonen
Tol Eressea


Jan 16 2013, 5:48pm

Post #12 of 36 (510 views)
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Add Orcs to the Bombadil and other origin mystery list. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 16 2013, 7:29pm

Post #13 of 36 (613 views)
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Treebeard said that trolls were made in mockery of Ents [In reply to] Can't Post

Not sure if that means that Ents were the starting point of the corruption process, or just the inspiration. From the context of his remarks, I assume the latter.


Aragalen the Green
Gondor


Jan 16 2013, 7:56pm

Post #14 of 36 (510 views)
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If Morgoth used Ents as a "template" for Trolls, [In reply to] Can't Post

then perhaps they were corrupted Ents, as I don't think Morgoth could make new creatures of his own without the blessing of Eru; similar to what happened to Aule and the Dwarves. Of course, that is a source of debate, and I read earlier on this thread that Tolkien did not entirely indicate that Orcs were simply corrupted Elves. However, I wonder, if Morgoth's creatures are corrupted versions of living creatures, then perhaps Stone-trolls were based off of Stone Giants? Just a thought.

There it is: dwarves are not heroes, but calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not, but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.


(This post was edited by Aragalen the Green on Jan 16 2013, 7:57pm)


Otaku-sempai
Half-elven


Jan 16 2013, 8:17pm

Post #15 of 36 (489 views)
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That doesn't mean that Ents were corrupted to become trolls... [In reply to] Can't Post

In fact, that doesn't make sense at all when you consider that trolls turn to stone when caught in sunlight. Stone-giants could have been the template from which the first trolls were formed. On the other hand, I always imagined the stone-giants as living, organic creatures, so stone figures animated with spirit seems to make more sense.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 16 2013, 9:23pm

Post #16 of 36 (526 views)
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Trolls and Ents and Orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

Elves and Men have no problem with sunlight, but Orcs do (if they are a corruption of either). So it's reasonable that sunlight affects Ents and trolls differently too if trolls came from Ents.


(This post was edited by CuriousG on Jan 16 2013, 9:24pm)


Fredeghar Wayfarer
Lorien


Jan 17 2013, 4:56am

Post #17 of 36 (514 views)
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Orcs from Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

I personally like the idea that Orcs were corrupted from Elves. It fits with earlier mythology. Goblins were often treated as the dark cousins of fairies and elves in folklore. Often, the races weren't even distinguished. They were all lumped together as mischievous trickster spirits. For example, Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream is described as a hobgoblin but serves the Fairy King.

Orcs coming from Elvish origin makes sense in this context. And there is evidence for them having a long life span. Bolg died over a hundred years after his father Azog. Several orcs in LOTR made comments that implied they remembered long-ago battles. The orcs of Goblin-town seemed to recognize Glamdring and Orcrist, which were First Age weapons (though this could be from descriptions in Orkish legends). I doubt they were immortal but they did seem to be long-lived.

As far as the condition being inheritable, torture alone would not turn an Elf into a deformed, bestial creature like an Orc. There may have been dark magic involved as well, some sort of induced mutation that changed their nature. Once they were transformed, Morgoth could then have them breed until the corrupted traits were dominant. It would take time but eventually, he'd end up with a new race.

Maybe Morgoth used both Elves and Men in his breeding experiments. Mannish blood might limit the life span but it would introduce the cruelties and corruption that Men are capable of. Orcs would then be the dark mirror of the Children of Iluvatar, a chilling warning of what Elves or Men could become if they give in to evil.


Roheryn
Grey Havens

Jan 17 2013, 8:44am

Post #18 of 36 (465 views)
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It may interest you to know [In reply to] Can't Post

that Tolkien changed his mind on the origin or Orcs. In Morgoth's Ring = HoME XII, Pp. 416sqq. Tolkien argues that Orcs were really derived from men. The one thing that remained constant in Tolkien's speculation on Orcs was his insistence that Morgoth could not "create" -- he could not make something truly new, but had to work with what Iluvater had already created.


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Jan 17 2013, 9:11am

Post #19 of 36 (460 views)
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Ooops! Channelling my better half! Sorry.\\ [In reply to] Can't Post

 


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 17 2013, 12:55pm

Post #20 of 36 (436 views)
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Great points// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Eowyn3
Rivendell

Jan 17 2013, 2:09pm

Post #21 of 36 (448 views)
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Origin of Orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

I am really enjoying reading everybody's point of view; there are a lot of interesting posts. Thanks! Keep it going.Smile


andwise
Rivendell

Jan 17 2013, 2:24pm

Post #22 of 36 (448 views)
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orcs from elves [In reply to] Can't Post

I love the fact that the orcs are likely from elves.as saruman says in the movie 'twisted by the dark powers,a ruined and terrible form of life' I just think it gives the whole thing a lovely dark edge that gives depth and gravitas to beings that previous to Tolkien were thought of as childish and whimsical.although before Tolkien called them orcs they were goblins in any other story form of course.I like it!Smile


Elthir
Gondor

Jan 17 2013, 4:08pm

Post #23 of 36 (484 views)
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made in mockery [In reply to] Can't Post

We know (or I think it's safe to say) from Tolkien's own drafts that made in mockery does not necessarily mean made 'from'. In an earlier phase of the Silmarillion the Orcs were made in mockery of the Elves but not made from Elves -- at this stage Morgoth did not need to corrupt something already living actually.

I would say Tolkien knew that this was still left open even after the big change -> that Morgoth could not create 'true living beings' and must pervert something already living. JRRT also conjectured (Morgoth's Ring) that Trolls were possibly corruptions of primitive human types, not Ents, despite that he had already published Treebeard's statement.*

Actually Treebeard's statement about Orcs made in mockery of Elves appears to have been written within the conception that the Orcs were not made from Elves.

I'm not sure if there is any evidence to correct that (please post it if so), but Frodo's statement about the Dark Lord and Orcs comes later in the book at least, and despite even that, in the early 1950s when JRRT returned to the Silmarillion, his first descriptions appear to suggest he still held to the notion that Morgoth could create Orcs from stone and hatred, for example.

Then came the Eressean idea that Morgoth could not create Orcs but must pervert something (following the words of Frodo I would say), and that something was thought to be Elves despite that even the Wise of Eressea were not first hand witnesses to this... then came Tolkien wondering if that was the best solution, and various texts considering other ideas, even beasts.


As for the immortality question, in the later texts Maiar-orcs are a relative constant. So if Tolkien desired Men to be the source for regular orcs, he had at least introduced long lived orcs into the scenario. Although that said, who knows how far Tolkien would have employed these immortal orcs as possible explanations for any long lived orcs in his tales; but again at least they had become a factor.

__________

*if he recalled Treeneard's statement at the time of the later 'Troll note' that is. But in any case, again, I think the drafts show that made in mockery does not necessarily = made from, in Tolkien's mind.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Jan 17 2013, 4:11pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 17 2013, 4:14pm

Post #24 of 36 (444 views)
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"The Kinslaying", over and over again [In reply to] Can't Post

Even if Tolkien changed his mind, or was never certain, about the origin of orcs, I personally like to think of them coming from Elves because it makes them more than a one-dimensional creature: these are ghouls, and they are bad because they are ghouls. Giving them a purer origin makes you hate the forces of evil all the more because of how it's corrupted good people and made them not only slaves, but fierce enemies of their former kin.

Which bring up Kinslayings, anathema to the Elves, and there were only three that were formally named. Yet every time Elves and Orcs fought, there was an underlying reality that it was another kinslaying, which makes the whole story more tragic.


CuriousG
Valinor


Jan 17 2013, 4:23pm

Post #25 of 36 (434 views)
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Back to dragons [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't want to be dogmatic in insisting on consistency in Tolkien, but this discussion brings up the origins of dragons. Were they made in mockery of garden lizards? That seems unlikely since it's such a huge stretch. Or Maiar? Possibly, but they seem more mortal than a Balrog, and more original. There's just something about them that seems to be created from scratch, though I readily admit I can't point to any evidence; it's a gut feeling on interpretation.

Other creatures like winged Nazgul beasts and Carcharoth are clearly taken from existing animals and grown into larger ones, but I think the difference in scale from the original state to the enhanced one is not that great, not when compared to a dragon and a garden lizard. I suppose there could have been giant lizards unknown to most Eldar that Morgoth enhanced to be his servants, and then he wouldn't have created them. This is all meandering speculation and hard to nail it down.

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