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Friday, April 8, 2011

Origins of Orcs (Reading Material)

various fragments, published in History of Middle Earth, volume 10, Morgoth's Ring, showing that Tolkien never found a completely satisfactory explanation for the origins of Orcs, or of talking animals

from an undated note
“...The Elves from their earliest times invented and used a word ... orok to denote anything that caused fear and/or horror. It would originally have been applied to 'phantoms' (spirits assuming visible forms) as well as to any independently existing creatures. Its application (in all Elvish tongues) specifically to the creatures called Orks...was later.”


Annals of Aman, possibly 1958:
“Melkor dwelt in Utumno, and he slept not, but watched, and laboured; and the evil things that he had perverted walked abroad, and the dark and slumbering woods were haunted by monsters and shapes of dread. And in Utumno he wrought the race of demons whom the Elves after named the Balrogs. But these came not yet from the gates of Utumno, because of the watchfulness of Oromë.”

“This is held true by the wise of Eressëa: that all those of the Quendi that came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty and wickedness were corrupted and enslaved. Thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orkor in envy and mockery of the Eldar, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest of foes. For the Orkor had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that has life of its own, nor the semblance thereof, could ever Melkor make since his rebellion in the Ainulandalë before the Beginning.”


from a note titled Melkor/Morgoth, later than 1959
“Evil is fissiparous. But itself barren. Melkor could not 'beget', nor have any spouse (though he attempted to ravish Arien, this was to destsroy and 'distain' her, not to beget fiery offspring). Out of the discords of the Music – sc. not directly out of either of the themes, Eru's or Melkor's, but of their dissonance with regard one to another – evil things appeared in Arda, which did not descend fromany direct plan or vision of Melkor: they were not 'his children'; and therefore, since all evil hates, hated him too. The progeniture of things was corrupted. hence Orcs? Part of the Elf-Man idea gone wrong. Though as for Orcs, the Eldar believed Morgoth had actually 'bred' them by capturing Men (and Elves) early and increasing to the utmost any corrupt tendencies they possessed."


from a thinking-on-paper text, entitled “Orcs”, probably shortly after 1959
“Their nature and origin require more thought. They are not easy to work into the theory and system.

“(1) As the case of Aulë and the Dwarves shows, only Eru could make creatures with independent wills, and with reasoning powers. But Orcs seem to have both: they can try to cheat Morgoth/Sauron, rebel against him, or criticize him.

“(2) ? Therefore they must be corruptions of something pre-existing.

“(3) But Men had not yet appeared, when the Orcs already existed. Aulë constructed the Dwarves out of his memory of the Music, but Eru would not sanction the work of Melkor so as to allow the independence of Orcs. (Not unless Orcs were ultimately remediable, or could be amended and 'saved'?)

“It also seems clear (see 'Finrod and Andreth') 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 heritible.

“In that case Elves, as a source, are very unlikely. And are Orcs 'immortal', in the Elvish sense? Or trolls? It seems clearly implied in The Lord of the Rings that trolls existed in their own right, but were 'tinkered' with by Morgoth.

“(4) What of talking beasts and birds with reasoning and speech? These have been rather lightly adopted from less 'serious' mythologies, but play a part which cannot now be excised. ...

“...Huan and Sorontar could be Maiar – emissaries of Manwë. But unfortunately in The Lord of the Rings Gwaehir and Landroval are said to be descendants of Sorontar.

“In any case is it likely or possible that even the least of the Maiar would become Orcs? Yes: ... Melkor had corrupted many spirits – some great, as Sauron, or less so, as Balrogs. The least could have been primitive (and much more powerful and perilous) Orcs; but by practicing when embodied procreation (cf. Melian) [become] more and more earthbound, unable to return to spirit-state (even demon-form), until released by death (killing), and they would dwindle in force. When released they would, of course, like Sauron, be 'damned': ie reduced to impotence ... still hating but unable more and more to make it effective physically (or would not a very dwindled dead Orc-state be a poltergeist?)

“But again – would Eru provide feär for such creatures? For the Eagles etc. perhaps. But not for Orcs.
“In summary: I think it must be assumed that 'talking' is not necessarily the sign of the possession of a 'rational soul' or feä. The Orcs were beasts of humanized shape (to mock Men and Elves) .... Their 'talking' was really reeling off 'records set in them by Melkor. Even their rebellious critical words – he knew about them. ... They had just as much independence as have, say, dogs or horses of their human masters....

“The same sort of thing may be said of Húan and the Eagles: they were taught language by the Valar, and raised to a higher level – but they still had no feär.
“It remains therefore terribly possible there was an Elvish strain in the Orcs. These may even been mated with beasts (sterile!) -- and later Men. Their lifespan would be diminished. And dying they would go to Mandos and be held in prison till the end.
a later addition to this page
“See 'Melkor'. It will there be seen that the wills of Orcs and Balrogs etc. are part of Melkor's power 'dispersed'. Their spirit is one of hate. But hate is non-coöperative (except under direct fear). Hence the rebellions, mutinies, etc. when Morgoth seems far off. Orcs are beasts and Balrogs are corrupted Maiar....”


from Quendi and Eldar, probably 1959-1960
“The origin of the Orcs is a matter of debate....Nonetheless, it was by the malice of Melkor that the Orcs arose, and plainly they were meant by him to be a mockery of the Children of Eru, being bred to be wholly subservient to his will and filled with unappeasable hatred of Elves and Men.

“Now the Orcs of the later wars, after the escape of Melkor-Morgoth and his return to Middle-earth, were not 'spirits”, nor phantoms, but living creatures, capable of speech and some crafts and organization; or at least capable of learning these things from higher creatures and their Master. They bred and multiplied rapidly, whenever left undisturbed....

{Loremasters have difficulty matching the timing of the appearance of Orcs with an origin of corrupted Elves or Humans. Repeating the point that Melkor could not create independent creatures.}

“But the Orcs were not [mindless puppets]. They were certainly dominated by their Master, but his dominion was by fear, and they were aware of this fear and hated him. They were indeed so corrupted that they were pitiless, and there was no cruelty nor wickedness that they would not commit; but this was the corruption of independent wills, and they took pleasure in their deeds. They were capable of acting on their own, doing evil deeds unbidden for their own sport; or if Morgoth and his agents were far away, they might neglect his commands. They hated one another and often fought among themselves, to the detriment of Morgoth's plans.

“Moreover, the Orcs continued to live and breed and to carry on their business of ravaging and plundering after Morgoth was overthrown. They had other characteristics of the Incarnates also. {language and regional variations of language, the need for food, drink, and rest, and naturally short lifespans}

“Those [evil spirits] whose business it was to direct the Orcs often took Orkish shapes, though they were greater and more terrible. Thus it was that the histories speak of Great Orcs or Orc-captains who were not slain, and who reappeared in battle through years far longer than the span of the lives of Men.

“Finally... It became clear in time that undoubted Men could under the domination of Morgoth or his agents in a few generations be reduced almost to the Orc level of mind and habits; and they they would or could be made to mate with Orcs, producing new breeds, often larger and more cunning.

“The Wise in the Elder Days taught always that Orcs were not 'made by Melkor, and therefore were not in their origin evil. They might have been irredeemable (at least by Elves and Men), but they remained within the Law. That is, that though of necessity, being fingers of the hand of Morgoth, they must be fought with the utmost severity, they must not be dealt with on their own terms of cruelty and treachery. Captives must not be tormented, not even to discover information for the defence of the homes of Elves and Men. If any Orcs surrendered and asked for mercy, they must be granted it, even at cost. [footnote mark] This was the teaching of the Wise, though in the horror of the War it was not always heeded.

[Footnote: Few Orcs ever did so in the Elder Days, and at no time would any Orc treat with any Elf. For one thing Morgoth had achieved was to convince the Orcs beyond refutation that the Elves were crueler than themselves, taking captives only for 'amusement', or to eat them (as the Orcs would do at need).]

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