Other Orc Problems: Amassing massive armies

Ennikan

Member
I was not able to consume the whole Orc Problem thread, so forgive me if this was covered, but it didn't seem to be the topic at hand. This sort of struck me in a recent watch of the movies, but it seems a problem in the book too, unless I am missing something obvious.

Let's assume we have female orcs and they procreate. Somehow Saruman amasses a huge army of orcs - tens of thousands - in what seems like a very short time. I think the movie gives a bit of a false impression here. Here's a good quote from a stack exchange thread:

Saruman had been building his army for possibly up to 30 years prior to Gandalf's capture, it wasn't the case that Gandalf was spectacularly unobservant, Saruman had actually kept this secret by breeding the Uruk-Hai in caverns underneath Isengard and not dispatching them outside of his territory. Saruman not only had the trust of everyone but the lush gardens of Isengard helped provide the perfect camouflage, concealing the army up until Gandalf's visit and imprisonment, it was only after Gandalf's capture that Saruman was open about his activities.

Let's agree it's 30 years. Is that really enough time to birth, train and keep fed and housed (hidden for most of the time) an army that likely exceeded 10,000?

There's always been a confusion in my mind even after 50+ readings (exacerbated by the movies) that Saruman is creating orcs, but also the term breeding is used (which seems to indicate a natural process). Even that there is some cross between human/orc (which I hate to imagine the origin).

The resources it would take to keep a growing army hidden would be massive. But it doesn't seem that he could just whip up such a large army in a short amount of years either - unless he was somehow using "magic" to create them full grown - but I don't see that in the text that I can recall.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
I was not able to consume the whole Orc Problem thread, so forgive me if this was covered, but it didn't seem to be the topic at hand. This sort of struck me in a recent watch of the movies, but it seems a problem in the book too, unless I am missing something obvious.

Let's assume we have female orcs and they procreate. Somehow Saruman amasses a huge army of orcs - tens of thousands - in what seems like a very short time. I think the movie gives a bit of a false impression here. Here's a good quote from a stack exchange thread:

Saruman had been building his army for possibly up to 30 years prior to Gandalf's capture, it wasn't the case that Gandalf was spectacularly unobservant, Saruman had actually kept this secret by breeding the Uruk-Hai in caverns underneath Isengard and not dispatching them outside of his territory. Saruman not only had the trust of everyone but the lush gardens of Isengard helped provide the perfect camouflage, concealing the army up until Gandalf's visit and imprisonment, it was only after Gandalf's capture that Saruman was open about his activities.

Let's agree it's 30 years. Is that really enough time to birth, train and keep fed and housed (hidden for most of the time) an army that likely exceeded 10,000?

There's always been a confusion in my mind even after 50+ readings (exacerbated by the movies) that Saruman is creating orcs, but also the term breeding is used (which seems to indicate a natural process). Even that there is some cross between human/orc (which I hate to imagine the origin).

The resources it would take to keep a growing army hidden would be massive. But it doesn't seem that he could just whip up such a large army in a short amount of years either - unless he was somehow using "magic" to create them full grown - but I don't see that in the text that I can recall.
I think he must have started the orc breeding project smal scale and not in Isengard. First as a pure research project to understand the underlying mechanism. But stil its ethical problems would make it unwise to have that made in Isengard itself. But the Misty Mountains - one of orcs'natural habitats - was right at his doorstep. I think he simply took control gradually of several orcs breeding caves in his region. Increasing their breeding success by providing slightly better nourishment, improving slightly the conditions therein and softening the the most common ailments by his magic. Imho he brough the orcs into Isengard as the last step after a long process and this was not his clear intention when he started the whole thing.
 
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Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I think (as Treebeard speculates) the Uruk-hai are a cross between orcs and men. A breeding program like that would take much longer - generations, perhaps a couple of hundred years. It seems that there were already men who had some orc in them. Why would anyone know? Does anyone besides Grima come to Isengard during that time? Perhaps others of his spies. But who would see what he was doing? It's not like there were many people living nearby, and he hasn't cultivated many friendships among the Wise. When Radagast came, he could just have human workers around.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
We know little about orcs.They are shortlived in comparison to men, similar to Druedain (i take orcish nobility such as Bolg as an exception).So i presume they have short generations, they have many children, maybe quadrupeds are quite common.

I think of the poor population of the industrial cities in the 18th and 19th century... or todays places like the infamous city of garbage in haithi.Basically slums. These places are poor, crowded, people live under terrible, inhumane conditions... but they are young, they are many, and their population is growing.

If now an entity with a strong will who can dominate and influence folk, like Saruman or Sauron has access to such a population he may take them and turn them into soldiers and workers quite easily.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I think (as Treebeard speculates) the Uruk-hai are a cross between orcs and men. A breeding program like that would take much longer - generations, perhaps a couple of hundred years. It seems that there were already men who had some orc in them. Why would anyone know? Does anyone besides Grima come to Isengard during that time? Perhaps others of his spies. But who would see what he was doing? It's not like there were many people living nearby, and he hasn't cultivated many friendships among the Wise. When Radagast came, he could just have human workers around.
A mix of man-blooded orcs, orc-blooded men, warped orcs, corrupted fallen men.We don't wanna think about how that looked in detail or how orc breeding pits worked... human history has them.

I don't think it would take an eternity.he just has to filter out the strong, tall individuals and make them warrior-elite, all others can still be lesser grunts, workers and slaves.A few more clever individuals become captains. It is a totalitarian society, very controlled, very social darwinist.Human history has those too...

Give them a few generations, maybe a cult or religion or political doctrine.works.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
We know little about orcs.They are shortlived in comparison to men, similar to Druedain (i take orcish nobility such as Bolg as an exception).So i presume they have short generations, they have many children, maybe quadrupeds are quite common.
Many children are necessary, but most probably don't live to adulthood, especially if there is a Spartan-type upbringing, so there are not that many to reproduce. I'd say at least 100 years, or 5 or 6 generations.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
They would let the weak die... probably WHILE slaving for the rest. What we forget is that Sauron already had bred the Uruk-hai, he had used them 100 years before.Saruman had only to breed a type of Uruk that could work under the full light of sun at days.

And we don't know how short orc generations are...
If they live just up to an age of 40-60, get pregnant as early as 12 or even younger generations are already much reduced in comparison to middle men or even high men who marry at an age of 40+ and live up to 100 years.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Let's agree it's 30 years. Is that really enough time to birth, train and keep fed and housed (hidden for most of the time) an army that likely exceeded 10,000?
In order to do the population-growth math and determine how many lady-Orcs he'd have to start out with to get 10,000 adults after 30 years we would have to know how frequently Orcs can bear children, how many Orclings per pregnancy, how many survive to adulthood, and the age at which they become adults and can start bearing more children and/or become soldiers.

If Saruman started out with just 100 breeding Orcs, and each breeder can produce 10 offspring, one per year, and 10-year-olds can start bearing children and soldiering, with no attrition (all orclings survive) then in 30 years you've got an army of 12,000 (and a total population over 100,000, mostly under-age).

Exponential growth is a scary thing.

I think it's a far bigger problem keeping them all fed. Tolkien is notoriously lax in his economics. We don't even know how the elves of Rivendell get the flour for their bannocks; it's even harder to imagine how the silvan elves of Mirkwood get anything much to eat, since they seem to have no farming at all.

This also raises the question of whether it is moral -- irrespective of whether you can slaughter the adults in the Orc army -- to kill baby Orcs in creche. Did Treebeard's flooding of Isengard kill tens of thousands of babies???
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
We don't even know how the elves of Rivendell get the flour for their bannocks; it's even harder to imagine how the silvan elves of Mirkwood get anything much to eat, since they seem to have no farming at all.
Mirkwood imports via Laketown. Rivendell has excellent smiths, they could trade even with the Shire via Bree without the hobbits being aware of it.
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
If Saruman started out with just 100 breeding Orcs, and each breeder can produce 10 offspring, one per year, and 10-year-olds can start bearing children and soldiering, with no attrition (all orclings survive) then in 30 years you've got an army of 12,000 (and a total population over 100,000, mostly under-age).
But Saruman is not just breeding orcs - he is breeding crosses between orcs and Men. That involves capturing enough human men and women to breed, experimenting with different combinations. He didn't start out with 100 couples, and not all of the first matings were successful. We also have to assume that in these pairings the gestation and maturation ages would be closer to the human, especially when the female was human - that also would have needed some experimentation.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
But Saruman is not just breeding orcs - he is breeding crosses between orcs and Men
Yes. I'm afraid it's the early bearing, more than the bearing many, that brings about such an increase in 30 years. I don't think it's biologically plausible, either. Good thing it doesn't have to be!
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
But Saruman is not just breeding orcs - he is breeding crosses between orcs and Men. That involves capturing enough human men and women to breed, experimenting with different combinations. He didn't start out with 100 couples, and not all of the first matings were successful. We also have to assume that in these pairings the gestation and maturation ages would be closer to the human, especially when the female was human - that also would have needed some experimentation.
The easiest way imho would be to get some depaved human men drunk enough... Other way much more problematic as I think the physical harm experienced by a woman would made successfull procreation far less probable.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
The more we get into possible details the more morrific and scary it gets... probably that is why Tolkien omitted most of it or went silently above it.

Middle-earth economics are great fun... the entire orc thing doesn't work economically at all.Not realistically. Even if they herded some goats innthe hills and mountains, even if they caught underground fish, they could only sustain relatively small populations... enough to raise a larger army now and then maybe... the Misty mountain and Grey Mountainmorcs would have enough territory i guess... but not to any such degree. We'd have to work with magical fairy elements now... like subterranean plantations for example, and of course the'd have to export products to trade... ore maybe. Like the dwarves did.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
The more we get into possible details the more morrific and scary it gets... probably that is why Tolkien omitted most of it or went silently above it.

Middle-earth economics are great fun... the entire orc thing doesn't work economically at all.Not realistically. Even if they herded some goats innthe hills and mountains, even if they caught underground fish, they could only sustain relatively small populations... enough to raise a larger army now and then maybe... the Misty mountain and Grey Mountainmorcs would have enough territory i guess... but not to any such degree. We'd have to work with magical fairy elements now... like subterranean plantations for example, and of course the'd have to export products to trade... ore maybe. Like the dwarves did.
How about cannibalism though? Or, if orignal of elvish descent, maybe much less food required? Cooking some minerals from stone and dirt?
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Even elves need basic nutrition, they also starve to death, maybe slower than men i don't know. Sure... orcs basically eating mud could be a thing... i don't know it it would work chemically though. We know orcs eat bread and flesh... cannibalism could work to a degree i think, like soilent green they could basically eat their corpses for example. Yet i believe bread requires grain, they must cultivate plants somewhere, they must keep herd animals somewhere too. We don't know if Saruman had huge cattle treks in Enedhwaith maybe... could be. Also modern mass meat production could have happened in isengard.yet he'd need food for those animals then from somewhere...
I guess it could be rationalised somehow.He'd need some agricultural land somewhere though...
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Even elves need basic nutrition, they also starve to death, maybe slower than men i don't know. Sure... orcs basically eating mud could be a thing... i don't know it it would work chemically though. We know orcs eat bread and flesh... cannibalism could work to a degree i think, like soilent green they could basically eat their corpses for example. Yet i believe bread requires grain, they must cultivate plants somewhere, they must keep herd animals somewhere too. We don't know if Saruman had huge cattle treks in Enedhwaith maybe... could be. Also modern mass meat production could have happened in isengard.yet he'd need food for those animals then from somewhere...
I guess it could be rationalised somehow.He'd need some agricultural land somewhere though...
Dunland?
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I think the physical harm experienced by a woman would made successfull procreation far less probable.
I can't help but think of Klingons now. I've seen only one Klingon mixed-marriage, in DS9, and the (not earth-human, but Trill) wife of Worf holds her own pretty well; he's just as likely to need a doctor afterwards as she is...
 

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
The easiest way imho would be to get some depaved human men drunk enough... Other way much more problematic as I think the physical harm experienced by a woman would made successfull procreation far less probable.
Presumably this also would have taken some experimentation. When I said there were unsuccessful matings in the first years, death of the female would have been one of the causes - as would miscarriage if the body rejected the foreign embryo - either in the mating or during the pregnancy. It is all rather horrific to think about.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Orcwives probably are used to a lot and quite tough, human women... i forbid myself to think about it.

@Odola
Sure but we are told Dunland is a little fertile country... though i think of the other portions of Enedhwaith and even cardolan.. can't just have been barren wilderness everywhere, even if a lot may have been contaminated after the war of the elves against sauron and the numenoreans and the wars against angmar (there seems to be a quasi arthurian "wasteland" thing going on... no king, no fertile land!) , even steppe or prairie can be used.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Presumably this also would have taken some experimentation. When I said there were unsuccessful matings in the first years, death of the female would have been one of the causes - as would miscarriage if the body rejected the foreign embryo - either in the mating or during the pregnancy. It is all rather horrific to think about.
In a interspecific mating not necessary foreign but a hybrid embryo. Which is easier to carry, but not unproblematic. But there is hybrid vigor to be expected - for the offspring in the F1 generation at least.
 
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