The Orc Problem

Forodan

Member
I was always fascinated by Orcs since i saw the bakshi movies as a child... i still think his orcs are really frightening and nightmarish.

Tolkien once stated "we were all orcs in the war (WW1)". So i think of Orcs as the element in humans which is frightening, because they represent things humans are capable of doing but we usuually do not see or realize, and like to think of as not possible.
This is, of course, a fascinating quote if true, so I had to try to track it down. There doesn't seem to be any traceable source for those particular words, but it could be a paraphrase by someone else of some things he wrote in the Letters about the variegated nature of both sides of the real-world war:

In real (exterior) life men are on both sides: which means a motley alliance of orcs, beasts, demons, plain naturally honest men, and angels. But it does make some difference who are your captains and whether they are orc-like per se!
Letters, #71 (p. 82 in the hardback edition that I have)
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Yeah i was paraphrasing from my mind i didn't know the original words,,looking for it i found somebody who had a quote from letter 71 " ...we started out
with a great many Orcs on our side. ." So that might be the originalsource where it comes from.
 

Halstein

Active Member
As orcs are discussed here, I'll post my thoughts on the "Orc-problem", even if it is not based on LOTR.
Reading "Morgoths Ring", and listening to the Mythgard Academy series. In ep. 11 Prof. Olsen talks about fëar refusing Mandos' invitation. Can such fëar be used for orc-production? The refusing fëar are wanting new hröa, so if Melkor (or someone else) offer them "new and improved" hröa, might they enter these? Fëar refusing Mandos call are already tainted, so they might be tempted, and find that it was not really hröa v2.0.

If the fëa get trapped in orc-bodies as a form of purgatorial experience, the killing of these bodies, might release the trapped the fëa, who then can reconsider Mandos' invitation. This would make orc-killing less of a problem.

Hope my thoughts are discernible.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
That was my theory too, that already fallen spirits are kind of re-embodied in newly born formerly soulless orcs in some way.I proposed some sort of necromantic ritual...

But i like the idea of being an orc as a living purgatory and that every new death could in a way be seen as a chance to go to Mandos and receive "cleaning", though we know that is not fun at all and even elves are afraid of this process. While i like the idea... i guess Morgoth's propaganda should work well enough for every dead orcish soul to not wanting to go to Mandos willingly.After all we know they might even embrace that sort of undead immortality in a way... they like dark, destructive things and they are for some reason still afraid of ghosts.
 

Odola

Active Member
There is thus not really an Orc Problem. Orcs can remain soulless mechanisms and agents of evil who are nothing but evil. If Tolkien changed his mind about them and tried to make them corrupted Elves, this is another case of him overthinking himself like his misguided attempt to reconcile his mythic cosmology with modern astronomy. His usual gift for retcon failed him on these points. Myth is myth and should not be restricted to modern literal science any more than fantasy and its fantastic bestiary or novel species should. It must operate on an every day level of reality, but not be forced to live within modern non-fiction criteria. It is not non-fiction, after all!

And in the end, even if the Orcs are corrupted Elves, if they then basically cooperate with that corruption wholeheartedly and become stubbornly and unrepentantly evil, then there should be no qualms about ending their existence any more than Christian theology is rightly willing to consign fallen angels, who being eternal beings have made the eternal choice for evil, and thus need to be confined to Hell... or more accurately have chosen to confine themselves to the Hell they so desire. That is the world they have collectively created and they fully deserve to share it with those of like kind. Free will has it consequences. As some have perceptibly noted, Hell is not a punishment imposed from without, but rather the chosen fulfillment of what is within, the River of the Fire of God's love is a searing hellish heat to those who prefer to do evil and a warming light to those who seek to make themselves like unto it by cooperating with Grace. This goes for both Angels and men...
So perhaps the Orc Problem is a false one, albeit self-imposed by Tolkien himself.
1. As orcs can breed with humans, and we know they can, they have to be fallen elves!

I always considered that elves are more extrem form of humans, as Tolkien said they are basically the same race genetically, as they can interbred. The main diffrence between elves and humans are "timing" issues, as they have a completely different attitude towards time, and their relationship towards Eru, which is far more direct for humans. As all humans are fallen as a race due to a Middle Earth's version of original sin, which also is inherited by each next generation, humanity as a whole is fallen, and is by default mared to a grater degree than an idividual elf is. But if an elf falls, s/he falls more completely than a human, as a human's mortality limits the effect of the corruption. The marring of humans is so to speak "autocontaining" and "selfrestricting" due to the mortality it causes, so it never is as complete as that of an elf. The question: "is mortality a gift or a punishment" is insofar answered by "both, and neither" as it is a primarily "a remedy". As such, when an elf falls, his/her corruption is more extrem than that of a human, and much harder to remedy. Then it gets inherited by his/her offspring in a way "original sin" is for humans, but for his/her line only. And so you come to orcs. I think a pureblood orc could be "turned", but it would be very, very difficult to accomplish. Especially as elvish gardian spirits, the Valar and Maiar, are far off and not helping them. I would have more hope for a half-orc. Note that Morgoth and Sauron never crossed orcs with humans. Only Saruman dared to do so. This is as elves-human hybrids are dangerous, as they must be more capable to turn as they must inherit the human ability to escape their fate by their own choices. This is a specific human trait, as elves do acknowledge.
And that Legolas and Gimli are not concerned with orc dignity is not a suprise, as I do doubt that Mirkwood's elves theology is very developed. And Dwarves have a completely different version of theirs.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Orcs do not HAVE to be fallen elves, just like they do not HAVE to be soulless animals, mudgolems turned to flesh, fallen maiar or mutated humans.

Also being orc or half-orc is no big deal. It is about souls.having a soul or having no soul is the problem. If one has a soul it does not matter what kind of soul it is.Souls are good to begin with and may fall out of free will and because of free will.

The problem is about the possibility of redemption and being born evil and therefore not having free will, which causes huge theological trouble going as far as one has to wonder if Illuvatar himself is good after all ..
 

Odola

Active Member
Orcs do not HAVE to be fallen elves, just like they do not HAVE to be soulless animals, mudgolems turned to flesh, fallen maiar or mutated humans.

Also being orc or half-orc is no big deal. It is about souls.having a soul or having no soul is the problem. If one has a soul it does not matter what kind of soul it is.Souls are good to begin with and may fall out of free will and because of free will.

The problem is about the possibility of redemption and being born evil and therefore not having free will, which causes huge theological trouble going as far as one has to wonder if Illuvatar himself is good after all ..
Not necessary. If elves are extreme "humans" both their good and bad will be more extreme than in a "normal" human range. Also their spirits have more influence over their bodies, so both their fairness as elves and ugliness as orcs is far more extreme. There are also more stable and less prone to changes, just like Maiar. Corrupted Maiar turn aroud very rarely. It is the fickleness or flexibility of humans, which can turn bad and good again several times during their livetime, which is remarkable. And elf turning completely bad is rare. One turning back to good again is even rarer still. A human is never completely good, but also never completely bad. So a human can always fall and also turn back again relative easily in comparison.
 
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Halstein

Active Member
If the orcs have souls, I think they should be tainted beforehand. Whether they be elf, human or something else might be less important. Illuvatar should be able to give them a fitting period as orc.
Also, to increase the numbers of orcs, some evil power seems to have to be about. "Orcs are multiplying" looks like it is used in conjunction with evil powers rising. So some seduction to increase the number of tainted souls available, and some necromancy to bring them in, might be possible.
 

Odola

Active Member
If the orcs have souls, I think they should be tainted beforehand. Whether they be elf, human or something else might be less important. Illuvatar should be able to give them a fitting period as orc.
Also, to increase the numbers of orcs, some evil power seems to have to be about. "Orcs are multiplying" looks like it is used in conjunction with evil powers rising. So some seduction to increase the number of tainted souls available, and some necromancy to bring them in, might be possible.
This is pure speculation on my part, but as elves are limited to Arda, I think their spririts are not created anew at their conceptions, but are already created in a fixed numer at Arda's creation. This makes sense, as they are not mortal, so there is only a finite number which Arda can support. As orcs keep multiplying, elves tend to have less and less children. So orcs weaken elfdom by their very existence. This leads to the elven culture's aging and waning. They also never meet Eru in their existence nor communicate directly with Him. So they do not have direct access to the source of something elementary new which could also renew them. This direct access seems limited to humans only in Arda. Elves are about enchancement or later conservation of what already is. "Something new" is the domain of humans.
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
While there might be nothing concrete to support that in Tolkien’s work necessarily, I’ve got to say that the concept of a limited population count with the possibility a nations birth being displaced by an opposing faction is a great sci fi concept.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
@Odola

I don't know...

Yes, in some way you're right. If orcs are elvish, they are more like extreme humans, just like elves are, just polarized towards the evil side but still...

As far as i think, elves are like extreme humans, they still are not all THAT different from us. Feanor is pretty extreme even by elven standards...
And Extreme humans, Turin, Hurin, Tuor, Beren... they are not THAT far from Feanorians either.

I don't think it afflicts their souls and will that much, not as much as does immortality, a different fate after death and a more deep connection to the world.I mean elves talk to trees , stones and water...
I have troubles imagining orcs like that. On the other hand, maybe the orcs hate for things and words is just that... it is their version of this, turned into despise.
 

Odola

Active Member
@Odola

On the other hand, maybe the orcs hate for things and words is just that... it is their version of this, turned into Idespise.
I do think so, their hate for the world and living things is for itself, not merely an utilitarian disregard that humans shows. Humans cut trees to build ships, orcs because they hate them.

A human can never be completely quendicized nor can s/he be comletely orcisized as at all times both those elements are present and neither can be "beaten out" of a human being completely. So to speak, as men "know evil" they are never completely immune to but also never completely fooled by it.
 
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Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
I would love other writers to dabble in the mythology of Tolkien more about would love to read an anthology of tales by other authors, particularly any that included the day-to-day doings and grumblings of blue-collar orcs.
There is a large body of fan fiction, with every twist on The Nature of Orcs you can think of. A Russian novel-length work "The Last Ringbearer" turns things all around and makes Orcs the good guys. There are also professional works, though these are necessarily further removed from JRRT to avoid copyright issues. Mary Gentle's novel Grunts has an Orc-hero (warning: lots of very explicit violence and also cannibalism. Hobbit cannibalism.) Brandon Sanderson's "Stormlight" series is another that does the turn-around where you eventually find out that the protagonist humans are actually the bad guys in so many ways. It's all become rather common. Some of it is really interesting, though.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
I'm certainly aware of inversions of the trope and am slightly less interested in the 'the good guys are really the bad guys' trope. But anything that has interesting culture and worldbuilding I'd be up for picking through if written well. I'll check some of these titles out and see what I think
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Do they really value the vulgar - do they prefer what to us sounds ugly, or is it what they grow up with and learn so that other ways of talking sound uncouth to them, rather like Gollum spitting out the lembas?
"Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the
orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long
removed from good to retain even verbal vigour, save in the ears of
those to whom only the squalid sounds strong."
-- JRR Tolkien, _The Return of the King_, Appendix F.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I don't know...

Most such books really turn Orcs into a noble savage type and i am not interested in that.I liked the basic idea of last ringbearer, but it is honestly a very badly written text.

I think Ragnar Redbeard "might is right" and other "social darwinist Pop-literature" , maybe even some de Sade writings like "120 days of Sodom", are probably closer to the essence of orcishness.I do not want to read that nor do i enjoy such literature, but i guess orcs would.
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
Most such books really turn Orcs into a noble savage type and i am not interested in that.I liked the basic idea of last ringbearer, but it is honestly a very badly written text.
This is the thing I was worried about. I don't want to read another version of a problematic stereotype and I don't want to read poorly written prose just because it's in a certain genre. I honestly love anthologies so much, especially from top-notch writers. Hence my statements about wishing to see good writer's play in Tolkien's world. C'est la vie
 

Beech27

Active Member
Nominally, the closest thing we ever got was probably an anthology published 20 years ago called After the King: Stories In Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, which had many of the bigger names in fantasy at the time. But of course the Tolkien estate wouldn't then (and wouldn't now) sign off on other authors writing canonically in Middle-earth, and 'in honor of' could mean basically whatever you want it to. I think most readers ended up being a little confused that they'd purchased a collection of fantasy stories which could have been branded virtually any other way. The Amazon series' success might determine the viability of future projects giving others the chance to color in some of the blank spaces in Tolkien's mythology (for better or worse).
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
understandably, the estate want to preserve Tolkien’s legacy and his world. For them I think that means leaving aside contradiction and criticism of the world. Their job is retain what exists. The issue is that for any creative person that could potentially be interested in writing in Tolkien’s world, while they may desire to be reverential or not, their priorities would be different. For a writer I suspect the two reasons to write in Tolkien’s myth is would be to a.) have something interesting to say and b.) write good a good story. Inevitably those things are massively open to interpretation, hugely subjective and in clear contrast to the more concrete mandate to preserve an existing body of work. So one group likely would have to compromise either way. And since the estate hold all the cards, there’s no incentive for them to compromise. Nor should they, that’s totally their right. You can’t open the flood gates then try to control the flood. I just wish I could read a Nnedi Okorofor or Haruki Murakami or Ken Liu or Tea O’Breht or Neil Gaiman Tolkien tale. I think you only get more insight into cultures and peoples like orcs through narrative. Hence Tolkien telling stories, not writing fictionalised encyclopaedias. Of course, works from anyone else would only ever be possible answers not those of Tolkien himself. Which depends entirely on if you even consider an artist to be the gatekeeper and arbiter of their own art.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Yeah i mean if a proper redaction, like the Tolkien society for example, would do such a project, you know publish some of the best fanfic as an ongoing anthology project -properly edited and streamlined with the canon - then i would totally read that.

But the controversial nature of the orc obviously gives you some restriction.It would be hard not to write gore and snuff fic in a genre that was true to them.And i still wouldn't want to read such stuff...
 
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