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A dummy question for any Tolkienists out there

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  • Avie
    I have a question about orcs if anyone out there will humour me a little. I have some people confusing Jackson version orcs with Tolkien orcs, but I cannot for
    Message 1 of 6 , Nov 27, 2002
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      I have a question about orcs if anyone out there will humour me a little.

      I have some people confusing Jackson version orcs with Tolkien orcs, but I
      cannot for the life of me find suitable page references that will solve the
      problem. Bascially, I'm trying to find a good 'definition' for the
      differences between orcs and goblins (if there is one) - and particularly
      the differences between Moria orcs and Saruman's Uruk Hai creations. I
      know in Appendix A (IV) that Tolkien talks about the uruks who "first
      appeared out of Mordor" at the end of Denethor I's reign. These orc
      versions were largish and strong from what I read, and I am wondering if it
      is these that Saruman blends with men to make up his Uruk Hai force. For
      that matter, does anyone know which men Saruman fiddles with? I have a
      vague recollection that they were Dunlendings or maybe the Wild Men from
      around the Druadan Forest, but again, I cannot find a reference so I may be
      mistaken here.

      On a final note, I have always thought that all orcs are descended from
      those first elves that were twisted and tortured by Morgoth(?) and that the
      versions we see in LOTR are their descendents - have I been wrong about this?

      Any help is appreciated (especially with page references!)

      Avie.
    • David S Bratman
      Avie - Alas, confusion between Tolkien s creation and Jackson s re-creation is inherent in your question. First, orc and goblin are essentially synonyms.
      Message 2 of 6 , Nov 27, 2002
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        Avie -

        Alas, confusion between Tolkien's creation and Jackson's re-creation is
        inherent in your question.

        First, "orc" and "goblin" are essentially synonyms. In the preface to _The
        Hobbit_, Tolkien writes "Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or
        two places [in _The Hobbit_] but is usually translated goblin ... Orc is
        the hobbits' form of the name given at that time to these
        creatures." Thus, the sword-name Orcrist is translated as
        Goblin-cleaver. In one spot, near the end of chapter 5, Tolkien defines
        orcs as big goblins, but in the preface he says the term for bigger goblins
        is hobgoblins. At the end of chapter 7, Gandalf refers to "goblins,
        hobgoblins, and orcs" as if they're three different things. But
        essentially they're synonyms. Tolkien used goblin in _The Hobbit_ but
        switched to orc in LOTR to try to get away from the George Macdonald/German
        fairy tale feel of the other word.

        Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing people
        terribly. They're the same thing. "Uruk-hai" means "the race (or people,
        or army) of the uruks." Uruks is the English plural. They first appeared
        from Mordor some centuries earlier (you found the reference in Appendix
        A). It does rather appear from Book 3 Chapter 3 that Saruman's orcs in
        this expedition are uruks while the other orcs are not, but Sauron had them
        first.

        The breeding of orcs and men is nothing but a vague speculation in
        Tolkien. Jackson, as is typical of him, takes an ominous rumor and makes
        it drearily concrete. The only evidence I can think of that the uruks have
        man-blood is based on the fact that they can tolerate sunlight (which the
        Moria orcs dislike), and is a speculation made by Treebeard in chapter 4
        (in the discussion of Saruman, not long before he sings the song of the Ent
        and Entwife). Treebeard says, "These Isengarders are more like wicked Men.
        It is a mark of evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they
        cannot abide the Sun; but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate
        it. I wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he
        blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!"

        Others may have further evidence or other ideas, but Foster's Guide clearly
        distinguishes the uruks from the half-orcs, which would make Treebeard's
        guess wrong. (One of the richnesses of Tolkien's creation is that not
        every rumor is true.) There is evidence elsewhere that there are
        half-orcs. But they're not super-orcs, they're men who look orc-like, and
        they're primarily found among the Chief's Men in "The Scouring of the
        Shire." When the hobbits return to Bywater, "they were disturbed to see
        half a dozen large ill-favoured Men lounging against the inn-wall; they
        were squint-eyed and sallow-faced. 'Like that friend of Bill Ferny's at
        Bree,' said Sam. 'Like many that I saw at Isengard,' muttered Merry." A
        couple pages later Pippin refers to "ruffians and half-orcs," but it's
        unclear if he means this literally. In the battle, Merry "slew the leader,
        a great squint-eyed brute like a huge orc," note the word "like." Bill
        Ferny's friend had been referred to at the time (Book 1, chapter 9) as "a
        squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow," but he's never compared to an orc.

        And that's it, I think. It's a rumor. It's never supposed to be clear
        exactly what Saruman did.

        As for the origin of Orcs, Treebeard says (end of Book 3 chapter 4) that
        they were bred by Morgoth in mockery of Elves, but he calls them
        "counterfeits" and the implication is strong that they're not bred _from_
        Elves. Yet it is said elsewhere that the Enemy cannot create, only debase,
        and _The Silmarillion_ is clear that elf-stock was used. But Tolkien was
        unhappy with that, and after LotR was published he reconsidered this, and
        changed the stock to Men, but this change never got into anything he
        published, and I would not consider it final.

        - David Bratman



        At 02:20 PM 11/28/2002 +1100, you wrote:
        >I have a question about orcs if anyone out there will humour me a little.
        >
        >I have some people confusing Jackson version orcs with Tolkien orcs, but I
        >cannot for the life of me find suitable page references that will solve the
        >problem. Bascially, I'm trying to find a good 'definition' for the
        >differences between orcs and goblins (if there is one) - and particularly
        >the differences between Moria orcs and Saruman's Uruk Hai creations. I
        >know in Appendix A (IV) that Tolkien talks about the uruks who "first
        >appeared out of Mordor" at the end of Denethor I's reign. These orc
        >versions were largish and strong from what I read, and I am wondering if it
        >is these that Saruman blends with men to make up his Uruk Hai force. For
        >that matter, does anyone know which men Saruman fiddles with? I have a
        >vague recollection that they were Dunlendings or maybe the Wild Men from
        >around the Druadan Forest, but again, I cannot find a reference so I may be
        >mistaken here.
        >
        >On a final note, I have always thought that all orcs are descended from
        >those first elves that were twisted and tortured by Morgoth(?) and that the
        >versions we see in LOTR are their descendents - have I been wrong about this?
        >
        >Any help is appreciated (especially with page references!)
        >
        >Avie.
        >
        >
        >
        >The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        >
        >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
      • JP Massar
        ... While some consider this a statement of fact, others consider it heresy. There is a raging, flaming, all-out war going on at this moment on this very topic
        Message 3 of 6 , Nov 27, 2002
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          >Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing people
          >terribly. They're the same thing.

          While some consider this a statement of fact, others consider it
          heresy.

          There is a raging, flaming, all-out war going on at this moment on
          this very topic (whether uruks == Uruk-Hai) on the Tolkien newsgroup.

          (I have no opinion on the issue; just want you to be aware that many
          people believe the opposite, or believe it to be ambiguous, or just like
          to argue, or whatever...)
        • JP Massar
          ... IIRC, Morgoth s Ring contains Tolkien s later musings on the origins of Orcs. Sorry, no page numbers handy.
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 27, 2002
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            >
            > >
            > >On a final note, I have always thought that all orcs are descended from
            > >those first elves that were twisted and tortured by Morgoth(?) and that the
            > >versions we see in LOTR are their descendents - have I been wrong about
            > this?
            > >
            > >Any help is appreciated (especially with page references!)
            > >

            IIRC, 'Morgoth's Ring' contains Tolkien's later musings on the origins
            of Orcs.

            Sorry, no page numbers handy.
          • David S Bratman
            ... They can argue that: they can be, and are, wrong. - David Bratman
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 28, 2002
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              At 11:31 PM 11/27/2002 -0800, JP Massar wrote:

              > >Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing people
              > >terribly. They're the same thing.
              >
              >While some consider this a statement of fact, others consider it
              >heresy.

              They can argue that: they can be, and are, wrong.

              - David Bratman
            • Michael Martinez
              ... Saruman s Uruks are the only Uruks identified as Uruk-hai in the book. This is a matter of great debate (and some flammage) right now, but there are no
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 29, 2002
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                --- In mythsoc@y..., David S Bratman <dbratman@s...> wrote:
                > Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing people
                > terribly. They're the same thing. "Uruk-hai" means "the race (or
                > people, or army) of the uruks." Uruks is the English plural. They
                > first appeared from Mordor some centuries earlier (you found the
                > reference in Appendix A). It does rather appear from Book 3
                > Chapter 3 that Saruman's orcs in this expedition are uruks while
                > the other orcs are not, but Sauron had them first.

                Saruman's Uruks are the only Uruks identified as "Uruk-hai" in the
                book. This is a matter of great debate (and some flammage) right
                now, but there are no passages where Tolkien uses "Uruk-hai" to refer
                to all Uruks.

                Two passages are currently being argued over elsewhere. The first is
                from Appendix F in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It is the first paragraph
                in "Orcs and the Black Speech", where Tolkien stipulates that
                though "Uruk" is the Black Speech word for "Orc" ("Related, no
                doubt, ..."). He goes on to say that (at the time of the story,
                i.e., the end of the Third Age) the word has become narrowed in
                usage, and refers only to "the great soldier-orcs that issued at this
                time from Mordor and Isengard".

                He concludes the paragraph by saying that lesser Orcs were
                called "snaga" (slave), ESPECIALLY BY THE URUK-HAI.

                The people who have been arguing that URUK-HAI = URUKS have been
                unable (so far) to show how the paragraph makes any sense, since
                Tolkien is clearly distinguishing the Uruk-hai from all other Uruks.

                The other passage being argued over is the index entry in UNFINISHED
                TALES for "Uruks", where (presumably Christopher Tolkien says) "Uruks
                is an anglicization of Black Speech Uruk-hai" (I am actually
                paraphrasing from memory -- I'm at work and have to limit how many
                sites I look at through the corporate proxy server). A secondary
                clause of "a race of orcs of great strength and size" (or something
                to that effect) follows the initial description.

                This passage has been erroneously cited as a "translation", but no
                translation is offered. That is, in all the index entries where
                translations are provided, the translated meaning either follows the
                word in quotation (such as, "AGARWAEN 'Bloodstained'") or a
                translation is offered in the text of the entry ("translated as ...").

                This particular index entry ONLY applies to the story "The Battles of
                the Fords of Isen", which Tolkien wrote after THE LORD OF THE RINGS
                had been published. It has been suggested that, since Christopher
                modelled the UNFINISHED TALES index upon an index his father had
                created for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, that the "URUKS" entry came from
                JRRT himself. However, there is no indication in UNFINISHED TALES
                that this is so. Furthermore, the only Uruks mentioned in "The
                Battles of the Fords of Isen" are Isengard's Uruk-hai.

                Hence, there is no textual basis for saying that all Uruks were
                called Uruk-hai at the end of the Third Age (or that the name was
                ever applied to them as a group). While linguists generally agree
                that "hai" probably means "folk" or "people" in Black Speech (also
                used in Olog-hai, Oghor-hai), that alone does not support the
                assertion that Uruk-hai MUST apply to all Uruks.

                For example, "Eldar" is a variation of Orome's original name for all
                Elves. And "Quendi", the Elves' original name for themselves,
                evolved into tribal names with the same literal meaning for various
                groups of Avari (as stipulated in Author's Note 9, attached
                to "Quendi and Eldar" in THE WAR OF THE JEWELS).

                What that leaves us with is clear evidence that Tolkien provided for
                evolution in word meanings; that is, he allowed some racial names to
                become tribal or national names (for lack of a better term) among the
                Elves. There is evidence that similar narrowing occurred among
                Edainic peoples ("Dunedain", for example, came to refer to only to
                those people of Numenorean descent who lived in Arnor and Gondor, but
                excluding the Black Numenoreans).

                Hence, if Tolkien did this for both Elves and Men, there is no basis
                for saying he did not, could not, or would not do it for Orcs.
                Therefore, in order to show that URUK-HAI = URUKS, it has to be shown
                that Tolkien used the terms interchangeably, or that such linguistic
                evolution would not occur among the Orcs. And yet, Tolkien
                stipulates that Orc languages evolved very rapidly (probably even
                more so than other races' languages).

                Finally, Tolkien used the terms "Uruk" or "Uruks" in various chapters
                to refer to non-Isengarder Uruks, and he only used "Uruk-hai" to
                refer to Isengarders (both through characters and the narrative
                voice). He also named an entire chapter for the Isengarders ("The
                Uruk-hai"). In Mordor, the only self-applying reference from an Uruk
                is Gorbag's "poor Uruks" sentence (when he is talking to Shagrat in
                the tunnel). Another Uruk, in the third book, speculates on what he
                and a tracker (Snaga) may be hunting, and mentions "rebel Uruk-hai".
                Some people insist that must refer to Gorbag's Orcs, but so far as
                the reader knows they are all dead except for one or two archers (who
                are no longer mentioned) AND there is no passage where they are
                explicitly identified as Uruk-hai.

                So, one must conclude that Tolkien did not intend URUK-HAI to be used
                interchangeably with URUKS. He certainly refrained from doing so.
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