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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Origin of Orcs
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Grey Havens

Jan 17 2013, 4:39pm

Post #26 of 36 (467 views)
Men... the' final' idea? [In reply to] Can't Post

I can certainly see that point of view, but a perversion of Men actually appears to be Tolkien's 'final' idea in my opinion... or let's say I think he was leaning that way at least.

Christopher Tolkien even writes that it would appear that Orcs from Men was his father's 'final' idea, although he sets two later notes (later than the Orcs from Men text) to raise possible doubt.

The first of these casts doubt on the chronology of the appearance of Orcs relative to Morgoth's capture and return (as it seems to be variant from the earlier text itself). I'm not sure that this should indicate a major rejection of the concept in general, although Christopher Tolkien does not say so in any case, but rather notes, as always it is not so simple.

The second later note merely has the spelling orks... which need hardly mean (again not that Christopher Tolkien said that it 'needed' to mean) that Tolkien was returning to his 'mixed origin' text, where he used this same spelling.

But even if so, that was a mixed origin and included Men and Elves.

Do both notes raise a little doubt? Maybe. I can see why they are noted of course...

... but also notable is the late note to The Druedain where we find Orcs from Men again. Admittedly here it's an opinion of characters within the story, but so is the Eressean notion of Orcs from Elves in my opinion. In other words, it was never a certainty even if we are inclined to believe the Wise of Eressea, and if we should take Elvish thought to represent the 'truth'... it was also the Elves who said that Morgoth bred Orcs from various kinds of Men in the Druedain note.

(This post was edited by Elthir on Jan 17 2013, 4:45pm)


Jan 17 2013, 4:45pm

Post #27 of 36 (465 views)
But then there is the problem of chronology.... [In reply to] Can't Post

Orcs appear in the history of Middle-earth before the awakening of Men, so that the first Orcs were almost certainly corrupted Elves or Maiar-infused creations. Men may have been captured and bred with the first Orcs later.

But, really, can anything that was published after Tolkien's death be taken as canon (unless it was already prepared for publication pre-mortum)? It is difficult to be certain what represents Tolkien's final word on a subject.

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

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Jan 17 2013, 4:48pm)


Jan 17 2013, 4:55pm

Post #28 of 36 (459 views)
There is something almost 'saurian' about dragons... [In reply to] Can't Post

I've often felt that, if dragons did exist, they would almost certainly be descended from some cousin of the dinosaurs. In that context, Morgoth could have used some late-surviving saurian from the southern jungles of Far Harad as the template for his first drakes.

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

Grey Havens

Jan 17 2013, 4:56pm

Post #29 of 36 (455 views)
Chronology [In reply to] Can't Post

In the Orcs from Men text Tolkien had tinkered with the internal chronology to make this origin possible. It still had its problems, but JRRT appears to have felt that it worked well enough.

As for 'final word' on the matter I think Christopher Tolkien employs this knowing that the reader is aware of the larger picture in any case.

But that said, in my opinion the matter of external chronology carries some weight. We can look at chronology to see where Tolkien was seemingly headed, when considering a work in progress but never completed, so perhaps 'final' in the sense of 'as best we can tell' from the evidence so far...

... or some sense that acknowledges we will never have Tolkien's own 'final' Silmarillion on bookshelves.

(This post was edited by Elthir on Jan 17 2013, 5:03pm)


Jan 17 2013, 5:20pm

Post #30 of 36 (455 views)
dogs from wolves [In reply to] Can't Post

I think of Melkor as a master breeder of sorts. If you have enough characteristics, or instill enough of the negativity into you genetic stock you can breed down what you have a desire for, the same way man has bred so many different breeds of domestic dogs from the wolf.

"clever hobbits to climb so high!"
Check out my writing www.jdstudios.wordpress.com


Jan 17 2013, 8:16pm

Post #31 of 36 (437 views)
If you as I take Orcs corrupted from Elves as canon [In reply to] Can't Post

and considers Tolkiens notions about not possible to corrupt an entire people, you get that every single Orc was born as an Elf and transformed by torture and magic. This is worse! I like 'worse' in storiesEvil

"Don't take life seriously, it ain't nohow permanent!" Pogo

The Shire

Jan 17 2013, 8:30pm

Post #32 of 36 (443 views)
On dragons [In reply to] Can't Post

I may be missing something obvious due to the lack of recency in my readings, but I never thought of dragons as inherently evil -- at least not in the same sense as Morgoth and his perversions. Is that clearly stated? (If so, my apologies! Please ignore this paragraph.) I viewed dragons as natural predators whose wicked ways are on a similar moral level to a cat that teases a mouse before eating it; it may not sound very nice to us, but the creature can't be blamed for being what it is. Tolkien doesn't seem to spend much time writing about non-corrupted predatory animals and, if he does (as in the case of the eagles), it is without sentimentalizing them (i.e. Bilbo worries, with good reason, that the eagles could eat him, but that doesn't make them evil, even if they do think he looks like a rabbit and they admit to eating human farmers' sheep sometimes). Dragons, like spiders and wolves, have natural tendencies that could be of value to evil people, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the whole species was bred as a corrupt life-form.

I suppose my question is: How do we tell the difference between the moral standards that do or should apply to "people" and "animals" in Tolkien's work? If a fairy story can have talking animals, it seems like a fair question.

NZ Strider

Jan 17 2013, 8:45pm

Post #33 of 36 (419 views)
Certainly; however, Tolkien was always obsessively [In reply to] Can't Post

revising and changing his mind. It was certainly not beyond him to rework the entire Silmarillion to make the idea of Orcs' descent from Men work. In any case, apart from the LotR and the Hobbit, Tolkien published very little ante mortem -- the Silmarillion was published posthumously as well.

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Jan 18 2013, 1:54am

Post #34 of 36 (437 views)
Dragons [In reply to] Can't Post

The impression I got from was that Morgoth had bred various types of existing reptiles and serpents together to produce the race of Dragons. Most likely black magic was used to enhance this process. Perhaps some Dragons were even inhabited by dark spirits under Morgoth's control, hence their cunning intelligence, mesmerizing powers (like Glaurung), and ability to speak. That would be consistent with other monsters of the First Age like the Vampires and Werewolves, who seemed to be fallen Maiar and/or spirits in animal form.

Ultimately this is all speculation. But since evil can't create life in Tolkien's universe, the main options seem to be either corrupt an existing species, do breeding experiments like Saruman with his half-orcs and Uruk-hai, or summon an evil spirit/fallen Maia to possess an otherwise benign creature.

(This post was edited by Fredeghar Wayfarer on Jan 18 2013, 2:02am)


Jan 18 2013, 3:31am

Post #35 of 36 (411 views)
You raise a good point... [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed, The Silmarillion was published post-humously after being completed for publication by Christopher Tolkien. I should probably remind myself of that fact more often.

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


Jan 18 2013, 7:15am

Post #36 of 36 (538 views)
Fast forward to "Of the Return of the Noldor" for dragon origins [In reply to] Can't Post

(But wasn't this thread about orc origins? haha)

Morgoth's orc armies keep losing in Beleriand, so there's peace for awhile. "...for Morgoth perceived now that the Orcs unaided were no match for the Noldor; and he sought in his heart for new counsel.
"Again after a hundred years Glaurung, the first of the Uruloki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband's gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown...[He's defeated.] But Morgoth was ill-pleased that Glaurung had disclosed himself oversoon..."

From all that I conclude:
1. Dragons are evil creatures devised somehow by Morgoth because Orcs (and Balrogs) weren't enough to beat the Elves.
2. Glaurung had a mind of his own and disobeyed orders to reveal that he was a secret weapon in the making.

We're left not knowing how Morgoth devised them, but they don't seem like a modified animal to me from the description. They feel like an invention, even if he wasn't supposed to be able to do that. Maybe it's the same explanation as Bombadil's origin--forever open to debate.

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