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Uruks versus Uruk-hai (was Re: A dummy question for any Tolkienists out there)

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  • 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 1 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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