Origin of the Orcs

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Origin of the Orcs

Post  Bad Juju on Tue Sep 02, 2008 6:29 pm

The origin of Orcs in Middle Earth is a contentious issue since Tolkien never clarified which version of the origin was the true one. He initially stated that they were originally Elves captured by Morgoth and twisted by his will into the monstrous forms we know as Orcs. In his notes, he revised their creation myth so that they were corrupted men or soulless husks animated by the dark will of Morgoth.

Which version of the origin of Orcs will we be using?
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Falconer on Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:05 pm

The origin of Orcs is an open question. In Tolkien's writings, evil is not capable of independent creation, making it unlikely that the Vala Melkor (later called Morgoth), who was obviously the first to produce them, could do that ex nihilo. According to the oldest "theory" proposed by Tolkien, Orcs were made of stone and slime through the sorcery of Morgoth. But, Tolkien later changed the legendarium so that Morgoth could no longer produce life on his own, and amended the origins to the "theory" that would eventually be published in The Silmarillion: that the Orcs were transformed from Elves — the purest form of life on Arda (the Earth) — by means of torture and mutilation; and this "theory" would then become the most popular.

While Tolkien originally saw all Orcs as descended from tortured Elves, later comments of his indicate, according to Christopher Tolkien in Morgoth's Ring ("Myths Transformed, text X"), that he began to feel uncomfortable with this theory. At about the same time he removed the references to the Thrall-Ñoldorin, he also began searching for a new origin for the Orcs. The Orc origin question may have been one of the problems Tolkien tried to solve by completely changing the cosmology and prehistory of Arda. By setting the origin of Men back to almost the same time as the Elves, he possibly allowed for Men to be the origin of Orcs all along. However, Tolkien died before he could complete this upheaval of the cosmology, and in the published version of The Silmarillion, the Elf origin of Orcs was adopted.

--from Tolkien Gateway.


The most widely held belief is that elves via corruption and torture became orcs.

But I'll wait for Kith and Bard to weigh in.

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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Bard on Wed Sep 03, 2008 3:27 am

Yes. Tolkien gave us more than a fair share of helpfully ambiguous and downright contradictory concepts. They have plagued Tolkien purists for years! Very Happy Muar! (and anyone who cares about details) Sad

IMO: we would go with the most popular theory, that Orcs are the corruption of Elves. By the same theory, Trolls are the corruption of Ents, Balrogs are the corruption of particular Maiar - same with werewolves and vampires, respectively. The rise of half-orcs or goblin-men would have come from Orcs breeding with humans, since the books on Middle-earth's history state they reproduced after the manner of Elves and Men (despite the contradictions with the other theories Falconer has noted above).

This theory is also stated in the movies which most people would have seen, even if they have never picked up the books - especially the Silmarillion or the Complete History of Middle-earth, like us geeks. Very Happy

One other thing:

Even going with the "Orcs were once Elves" notion (as Saruman says in the films), doesn't exactly tell us how an elf gets turned into an Orc - so much so that they no longer even resemble one another. On this point I think it is best we remain deliberately ambiguous - the horror and fear of "what the Dark Lord can do to you" would be so much greater if people didn't know every little detail of "how". Fear of the unknown would have more potency. In my opinion anyway.

Hopefully that answers everything there. Kith may have other things to add, but personally I believe we should go with whatever is simple, for the official record of what happened. There is nothing to stop characters having their own ideas as to how Orcs came about - but we do need to be clear on what the "right idea" is.
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Kithrater on Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:03 pm

Indeed, I can hardly see that elves are going to sit down and tell humans, "Now, you see those evil monsters that are trying to kill you? That one right there? He's my cousin. Black sheep of the family. Sorry about that".

I would imagine most elves would know, or guess, where orcs come from, but just like the Kinslaying, have their own reasons not to go around publicizing it.

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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Blackjack on Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:36 am

It's stated in the Lord of the Rings by Treebeard that "Trolls were made in mockery of the Ents, much like Orcs were of Elves."

I'm of the persuasion that Melkor created them rather than corrupting Elves. Much like Trolls were made in place of Ents, and the Balrogs in place of Maia. (Note that it doesn't state corrupted)

He chopped and changed so much that we'll probably never have a definitive answer, but I much prefer the thought that Melkor created such creatures outright than corrupted them. Certainly I find it harder to believe how he achieved the corruption of a creature like an Ent, or one of the Maia.

Do Balrogs have wings, though?
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Bad Juju on Tue Sep 09, 2008 9:12 am

Blackjack wrote:

Do Balrogs have wings, though?

The main problem with that is that only Eru can create because he has the Flame Imperishable. Melkor can only corrupt.

No clue. =3
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Grandpa on Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:47 pm

Blackjack wrote:Do Balrogs have wings, though?

They used to, but Fëanor was so awesome he ripped them all off and soundly spanked the Balrogs before sending them off to bed with no supper.

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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Lex on Tue Sep 09, 2008 5:27 pm

...and soundly spanked the Balrogs before sending them off to bed with no supper.

Spare the whip and spoil the wizard!


Is there a commonly held theory on the matter IC?
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Grandpa on Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:18 pm

Elvish belief is that orcs are elf-descended/corrupted elves/tortured elves. Very elfnocentric of them.

Human belief would put them as just evil(or at least hostile) beings, perhaps with souls, perhaps not.

Dwarvish belief would be similiar to humans, but again: depends upon the person. Commonly held belief, they're clearly -not- Man. Or Dwarf. Or Elf. They're orcs, and evil creatures.

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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Blackjack on Tue Sep 09, 2008 7:21 pm

Bad Juju wrote:
Blackjack wrote:

Do Balrogs have wings, though?

The main problem with that is that only Eru can create because he has the Flame Imperishable. Melkor can only corrupt.

No clue. =3

Aule created the Dwarves, no?

Tolkien changed his mind so much that you can never give a definitive answer. If his last amendments were that Melkor cannot create life and thusly must have corrupted the Elves, I am happy to subscribe to belief.

I suppose Melkor did corrupt Sauron, after all. Anything is possible.
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Bad Juju on Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:14 pm

Blackjack wrote:

Aule created the Dwarves, no?

Tolkien changed his mind so much that you can never give a definitive answer. If his last amendments were that Melkor cannot create life and thusly must have corrupted the Elves, I am happy to subscribe to belief.

I suppose Melkor did corrupt Sauron, after all. Anything is possible.

Aule, however, did not give them life. They were inanimate objects until Eru gave them life.
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Bard on Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:24 am

No one's been able to confirm one way or another (absolutely) whether or not balrogs had wings. Since the one most people know of (the movie balrog) did I would suggest yeah, maybe.

What we do know is that they were corrupted spirits of fire (Maiar), cloaked in shadow as well as flame, and that they wielded both swords and whips made of the same fire as themselves.

Since the two balrogs of which I know the most, both fell to their deaths over cliffs and didn't flap away to safety (referring to the Balrog that Glorfindel slew at the fall of Gondolin, and Gandalf's sparring buddy from the Mines of Moria), I would suggest that the wings are more for appearance and not strictly functional.

When Balrogs become a playable race (yes, this is intended down the track) for coding/building purposes we will have to decide on a general profile for them including abilities as well as appearance. Whether or not we let your balrogPC have wings in its desc, I doubt very much it will be able to fly.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Origin of the Orcs

Post  Blackjack on Wed Sep 10, 2008 2:27 am

I actually asked that question in jest, for much like the origin of the orcs, it's one of those academic questions that we'll never have an answer for one way or the other. It's open to interpretation, and for me, that's the beauty of Tolkien. He couldn't answer everything, and my mind is very happy to generate its own ideas on how to fill in the vast expanses.

But thank you, Bard, for that. I hadn't realized they'd be a playable race and that being so, perhaps having it answered for the benefit of the game is worth while after all.
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