A dummy question for any Tolkienists out there
- 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
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 -
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
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
>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!)
>The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
>Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
>Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing peopleWhile some consider this a statement of fact, others consider it
>terribly. They're the same thing.
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...)
>IIRC, 'Morgoth's Ring' contains Tolkien's later musings on the origins
> >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
> >Any help is appreciated (especially with page references!)
Sorry, no page numbers handy.
- At 11:31 PM 11/27/2002 -0800, JP Massar wrote:
> >Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing peopleThey can argue that: they can be, and are, wrong.
> >terribly. They're the same thing.
>While some consider this a statement of fact, others consider it
- David Bratman
- --- In mythsoc@y..., David S Bratman <dbratman@s...> wrote:
> Now, uruks and the Uruk-hai. This seems to be confusing peopleSaruman's Uruks are the only Uruks identified as "Uruk-hai" in the
> 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.
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.