This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
in Second Life in Alqualonde the Swanhaven. Contact AelKennyr Rhiano in Second Life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Zakar Zamin           
Shawn Daysleeper 
Lihan Taifun           
AelKennyr Rhiano (briefly)

"Goblins" in Hobbit refer to the same creatures as "orc" in Lord of the Rings. Why two different names?
   ●  The books were written at different times, before The Hobbit was clearly associated with MiddleEarth.
   ●  Using "goblin" may reflect that the hobbit-dialect had a different word for these creatures. All the other languages of MiddleEarth use some variation of orc/uruk/yrch.

The Silmarillion tells that the Elves believe orcs originated from Elves captured by Melkor and tortured and corrupted beyond recognition. Later in his life, Tolkien became increasingly dissatisfied with this explanation. Corrupting an individual is one thing; permanently morally corrupting an entire race is another matter.

There are some indications that Tolkien did not regard orcs as inherently evil, merely as tools of an evil master.

There are speculations that Tolkien regarded the condition of the orcs as similar to the concept of "original sin" among humans: the orcs were theoretically free to choose any action, but because of their inherent makeup, they only choose hate and destruction.

We do see orcs having independent thoughts, and questioning their orders. So they certainly have "independent will" -- more independent life than Melkor would have been able to create. Melkor must have used some living beings as the raw material for the first orcs. Is it possible the first orcs were bred from animals?

We don't see enough of individual orcs to know how much individual personality they have.

It takes a strong leader to keep orcs in line, and keep them from fighting among themselves. So after Sauron was destroyed, the remaining orcs were probably only a minor problem. There were several times in Lord of the Rings when Our Heros were helped by the quarrels between different factions of orcs.

Zakar Zamin:            Interesting analysis/summary of Ainulindalëë
Lihan Taifun:            huh, yes, it is interesting; gives Ulmo a very prominent role

Lihan Taifun:            are we ready to talk about orcs?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I am
Zakar Zamin:            ready or not....
Lihan Taifun:            I think we left off last week deciding whether "goblins" are the same as "orcs"?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  There was some talk in the book club discussion
Lihan Taifun:            were we convinced that the two words refer to the same thing?
Zakar Zamin:            Well, to start, I had read that "goblin" was the Hobbit term for "orc"
Lihan Taifun:            ok
Lihan Taifun:            that would explain why it is used in a hobbit book
AelKennyr Rhiano: be precise, I believe Tolkien said he "used" goblin to mean "orc." I don't think that "goblin" was invented by Tolkien...
Lihan Taifun:            certainly not, it was an English word long before
AelKennyr Rhiano:  English goblin was borrowed from Old French gobelin, rendered as Medieval Latin gobelinus, of uncertain origin. It may be related to German kobold or to Medieval Latin cabalus, itself from Greek kobalos "rogue" or "knave". Alternatively, it may be a diminutive of the proper name Gobel. AelKennyr Rhiano blushes...
Zakar Zamin:            goblins and hobgoblins are part of European folklore and refer to two very different creatures.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  sorry...was probably nitpicking there
Lihan Taifun:            but nearly all the "hobbit" language in the book is rendered as English (or whatever language you are reading the book in)
Zakar Zamin:            This site I've started looking at talks about the goblin/orc history
AelKennyr Rhiano:  OUUU....thank you  :)
Zakar Zamin chuckles. it's near the bottom. Part of the change is from the decade between the writing of The Hobbit and The LOTR
AelKennyr Rhiano:  everyone...please pardon me...There is a matter I must attend that will not wait for the end of this discussion. Please continue and accept my apologies.
{Ael leaves. Farewells.}
Lihan Taifun:            and that, at the time he first wrote the Hobbit, it wasn't explicitly set in Middle Earth; so, "goblin" is representing the hobbits' term? that makes sense
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes it seems so
Lihan Taifun:            whereas all the other languages have a word relating to ork/uruk/yrch ... something similar
Shawn Daysleeper:  nods
Zakar Zamin:            Considering Hobbits keep themselves separate, despite speaking the common tongue, it makes sense that they would have their own terms for things.
Lihan Taifun:            it does

Lihan Taifun:            the other great question about orc is their origins  :)  the Elves, of course, believe that orcs are Elves corrupted by Melkor, but Tolkien was never clear whether that is actually true
Zakar Zamin:            Which is the story I was familiar with
Lihan Taifun:            and apparently, the more he though about it, the more he realized there are problems with that explanation
Zakar Zamin:            however, the article I referenced indicated that Tolkien became unsatisfied with that explanation... But he died before redoing his cosmology so that is the version that became cannon.
Lihan Taifun:            well, it is canon that the Elves tell the story that way. Tolkien was always very big on the importance of individual moral choice, so the idea of permenantly corrupting an entire race would be rather ... strange
Zakar Zamin:            Maybe. Look at this except:  It is interesting to note that to an extent, Tolkien did not regard Orcs as evil in their own right, but only as tools of Morgoth and Sauron. He wrote once that "we were all Orcs in the Great War", indicating perhaps that an Orc for him was not an inherent build-up of personality, but rather a state of mind bound upon destruction.
Lihan Taifun:            oh, now that is an interesting quote. what of the "goblins" Bilbo meets? They appeared to be independent, not under Sauron (or anyone else's) immediate control
Zakar Zamin:            I once listened to someone comparing the condition of orcs with the notion of original-sin. I just saw that, hang on
Lihan Taifun:            yes, please expand on that :)
Zakar Zamin:            which?
Lihan Taifun:            the orcs and original sin?
Zakar Zamin:            As I recall, as it has been a while, while orcs may be free to choose any action, because of their inherent makeup, they only choose hate and destruction. That makes them an analogy for humans suffering from 'original-sin'. More than that I cannot remember.
Shawn Daysleeper:  we do not see the orcs and goblins having much personalioty?
Lihan Taifun:            we see them having independent thoughts, and sometimes questioning their orders
Zakar Zamin:            Well, we don't get much exposure to orcs so not much room for personality development.
Lihan Taifun:            but if they have personalities different from one another -- I don't think we ever see them enough to tell, yes, what Zakar said
Zakar Zamin:            What we do see is nasty.
Shawn Daysleeper:  ok
Zakar Zamin:            It does seem orcs have an independent will as Melkor, nor any of the Ainur, could not create
Lihan Taifun:            yes, so Melkor must have had some raw material -- some kind of intelligent being -- to start from
Zakar Zamin:            but they were made to be subservient to Melkor's will. So they could question, but not have the strength to stand against their masters. or, one suggestion, is that he started with an animal.
Lihan Taifun:            I hadn't seen that suggestion before your website -- but it does seem possible
Zakar Zamin:            remember, even the Dwarves had to be given life by Eru
Lihan Taifun:            true
Zakar Zamin:            That was the first I saw it, too. It fits with the idea that evil corrupts, twists and destroys. and is unable to create. if orcs are corrupted animals?
Lihan Taifun:            oh, that Melkor could not create anything from scratch
Zakar Zamin:            either. That Melkor, Sauron and Saruman started with something and bent it to their own will. Rather than create it from scratch.
Lihan Taifun:            yes
Zakar Zamin:            If they were in the kitchen, they would be using a box and not a cookbook.
Lihan Taifun giggles
Lihan Taifun:            and it would still turn out inedible
Shawn Daysleeper:  hehe
Zakar Zamin mumbles something about burning water
Lihan Taifun:            hee
Lihan Taifun:            so we don't really know whether orcs have souls. that would depend on what Melkor used to create them
Zakar Zamin:            hard to say
Zakar Zamin:            human soul, elf soul or animal soul... probably some sort of soul to animate them.but even the most noble soul cannot function well joined to a corrupted hroa
Lihan Taifun:            and I'm sure all baby orcs are raised badly

Lihan Taifun:            hmm, what else do we not know about orcs?
Zakar Zamin:            Well, orcs don't seem to organize into groups without a strong leader. The larger the group the stronger the leader. hence, with the passing of Sauron, they are not much of a threat anymore
Lihan Taifun:            I could imagine a few setting up on their own, like the ones in the Misty Mountains that Bilbo met, but those wouldn't be a big threat, really
Zakar Zamin:            True, but how large was that group?
Zakar Zamin:            Big enough to take 13 dwarves and a hobbit (Gandalf hid).
Lihan Taifun:            and we see several examples of orcs fighting within their own group
Zakar Zamin:            'Meat's back on the menu, boys.'
Shawn Daysleeper:  ya like in the tower of cirith ungol
Lihan Taifun:            yes, where the orcs nearly killed off all their own allies
Zakar Zamin:            Wasn't that two groups? Orcs and Uruks?
Shawn Daysleeper:  the scene near fangorn was sauron's orcs and saruman's uruks. the tower were all orcs I thought
Lihan Taifun:            all orcs, but I think there may have been two different leaders
Zakar Zamin:            I'll have to look, but I thought there was the same split. That may be.
Lihan Taifun:            so, it gets back to : unless they have a single strong leader, they will fight within the group
Zakar Zamin:            Two wills seeking dominance over the other, only held in check by the greater will of Sauron (or a Nazgul).
Shawn Daysleeper:  that seens true
Zakar Zamin:            I wonder if that is why humans and elves can take on a greater number of orcs... a less damaged will.
Lihan Taifun:            and more likely to cooperate. maybe that is saying the same thing, really
Zakar Zamin:            well, evil seems to try and dominate so there is always competition (which is not to say all competition is evil)
Lihan Taifun:            not only competition, but evil might betray allies, and can't trust its own allies, and that hurts a side's efficiency
Zakar Zamin:            Yes, if it suits its own ends, evil can be most self serving. despite those who give themselves wholly to a cause, albeit an evil one.
Lihan Taifun:            I'm not picturing orcs being devoted to a cause,though
Zakar Zamin:            I'm thinking of humans, particularly in WWII. Orcs would be devoted to more basic desires.
Lihan Taifun:            humans do, yes

Lihan Taifun:            have we run out of things to say?
Zakar Zamin:            Nothing more is coming to mind
Shawn Daysleeper:  I am going to call it a night

Lihan Taifun:            May 15 we are back to Hobbit book discussion; June .... first Tuesday in June will be this Tolkien discussion again

Zakar Zamin:            Which reminds me, I had a thought about that
Lihan Taifun:            yes?
Zakar Zamin:            from last week, If I remember correctly, one of the differences between the Hobit and LOTR is that Bilbo wrote the Hobbit and Frodo LOTR... different authors, different perspectives
Lihan Taifun:            yes, ok
Zakar Zamin:            It may show why Elrond seems more knowledgeable that Gandalf in the Hobbit but not LOTR. Just a thought
Lihan Taifun:            because Bilbo was seeing a different perspective than Frodo?
Zakar Zamin:            Yes
Lihan Taifun:            hmm, that would be another possibility
Zakar Zamin:            Anyway, have a good night
Lihan Taifun:            you too!