Lord Of The Rings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Orcs

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  • Posted on 14th May, 2022 13:15 PM
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From their dark origins to the curious nature of the half-Orcs, here are some details you might not know about the Orcs of The Lord of the Rings.

p>The Dark Lord Sauron enlisted a variety of minions to fight the War of the Ring, but none have impacted the fantasy genre as much as the Orc. J.R.R. Tolkien created an icon of evil when he invented the modern concept of the Orc, but fans of the formidable The Lord of the Rings franchise might not know everything about the history and lore surrounding Sauron’s feared foot soldiers.

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While director Peter Jackson brought Lord of the Rings into the 21st century, his adaptations of the original trilogy and The Hobbit either left out some fascinating details about the Orcs or, on occasion, drastically changed the lore Tolkien created. These are just some interesting details fans may have missed about them.

10 Orcs Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Fans of Lord of the Rings would be forgiven for thinking that Orcs, goblins, and the Uruk-hai are all different species, but they aren't. Jackson’s films tend to portray them as distinct entities that were bred for different purposes, but while it is true that both Sauron and Saruman created specialized sub-species like the Uruk-hai, all of these strains fall under the larger umbrella term “Orc.”

Some fans might think that the small, squat Orcs of Moria are “goblins” while the taller Mordor Orcs are their own variety. However, in Middle-Earth’s Orc kingdoms, the strong rule the weak, with the biggest and most powerful Orcs leading much smaller minions into battle. Terms like “goblin” are actually part of the hobbits’ regional dialect, and the word “Uruk” is derived from the Elvish word for Orc.

9 Saruman Might Not Have Created The Uruk-Hai

In Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman spawns a new sub-species of Orc, the Uruk-hai, in the pits of Isengard. However, Uruks served both Saruman and Sauron (those surprising allies) in the books, even occasionally catching a bit of screentime in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King during Sam’s infiltration of Cirith Ungol.

It’s true that Saruman raised an army of Uruk-hai to invade Rohan, but Sauron had been doing the same thing in Mordor. Saruman was definitely a skilled sorcerer to create his own Uruks, but as Gandalf once said, “there is only one Lord of the Ring,” and he was almost always ahead of the game.

8 There Were Many Orc Kingdoms, With Shifting Loyalties

Although Orcs can be seen cooperating to attack Gondor, Rohan, and Erebor in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, there have always been a variety of Orc tribes and kingdoms vying for regional power. This was especially true when Sauron was in hiding, in between his demise at the hands of Isildur and his return during the War of the Ring.

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Without a master as powerful as Sauron to control them, Orcs returned to their regional homes throughout the mountain ranges of Middle-Earth. When Sauron returned, they fought under the same banners, but while he was away, the Orcs became greedier, thinking only of their own tribes' success.

7 No-One Hates The Orcs Like The Dwarves

It’s hard to forget the Fellowship of the Ring’s battle with the Orcs of Moria inside Balin’s Tomb, where Gimli learns of his cousin’s demise at the hands of goblins. The wars between Orcs and Dwarves go back much further than that, though. It makes sense that the Dwarves would make a nemesis out of the Orcs: both groups burrow into the mountains and prefer the rocky subterranean world to a sunny day; it was only a matter of time until things got heated.

The struggle to control the mysterious Moria, Khazad-dum to the Dwarves, goes back centuries. Gimli's distant cousin, Thorin Oakenshield, has major history with Moria. His grandfather Thror attempted to reclaim the kingdom single-handedly. When the Orcs of Moria killed and desecrated Thror’s body, Thorin and his father Thrain led an army of Dwarves seeking vengeance. On both sides, an uncountable number were slain in the ensuing battles, cementing the animosity between Orcs and Dwarves forever.

6 Orcs Are Even Crueler Than The Films Let On

Audiences for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have seen the Orcs do some awful things to their enemies. Who could forget the decapitated heads that were catapulted over the walls of Minas Tirith, or the Uruk-hai’s assertion that “Meat’s back on the menu” during The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? Off-screen, however, they’ve done even worse.

Take Thror, Thorin’s grandfather, for example. When he tried to retake Moria on his own, the Orcs didn’t just kill him. Azog, ruler of the Moria Orcs, cut Thror’s head off and carved his name into his forehead before mocking Thror’s companion: in exchange for killing the king of the Longbeards (the rest of whom scarcely got a mention throughout the main narrative), Azog handed the only surviving Dwarf a small bag of worthless coins.

5 Orcs Are Weaker In Daylight, But Are Still Capable

Like many villainous fantasy creatures, most Orcs hate the sun, preferring to lurk inside their caves during the daytime before prowling and raiding at night. While they are definitely weaker in sunlight, they can still swing a sword and waylay lesser skilled adventurers in broad daylight.

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Sauron has even helped the Orcs overcome this weakness by sending stormclouds to block out the sun during battle, as he did at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields during The Return of the King. The overcast, cloudy battleground is Sauron’s way of leveling the playing field. The Uruk-hai, meanwhile, were made specifically to withstand the sun’s rays (and they're not the only creatures that can overcome this weakness).

4 Half-orcs Only Feature In The Books

Half-orcs aren’t really mentioned in the Jackson trilogies, but they had a big role to play in the books. Ever wonder how the Ringwraiths knew where Frodo and the hobbits were in Bree? Half-orc spies in the service of Saruman (and he had a great variety of spies) had infiltrated both Bree and the Shire, forming networks of outlaws that eventually helped Saruman (temporarily) overthrow the Shire at the end of the book. Crucially, Saruman does not die at Isengard in the books, as he does in the films.

The Half-orcs themselves were a mix between humans and Orcs, but unlike the Uruk-hai, Half-orcs looked more like men, allowing them to blend in amongst their enemies.

3 Orcs Had Their Own Languages

Fans of The Lord of the Rings might have heard Elvish or even the Black Speech of Mordor spoken on-screen, but they might not realize that Orcs have their own languages. While the books and films don’t disclose too much about the Orkish languages, Robert Foster (author of The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth) says Orcs invented pidgin languages to communicate with each other.

This usually meant mixing a bit of the Black Speech with their own languages, plus a simplified and corrupted version of the Common Speech (used by humans to communicate across language barriers).

2 According To Book Canon, Azog Was Already Dead During The Hobbit

Audiences of Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy are led to believe that Azog, the White Orc and chief villain of the Hobbit films, survived the Battle of Azanulbizar outside the Gates of Moria. However, according to the books, Azog (who killed Thorin’s grandfather Thror) was killed by Thorin’s cousin Dain.

The Orc’s head was put on a pike, and that bag of coins Azog had mockingly given away was stuffed inside his gaping mouth. However, Jackson’s adaptation did feature Azog’s son Bolg, who, as per the books, led the Orcs into combat at the Battle of Five Armies.

1 Sauron Didn’t Create The Orcs

Sauron is the archvillain of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but he’s not the first being in Tolkien’s universe to attempt total domination. During the First Age of Middle-Earth, before even Gandalf walked the earth, Sauron was a mere servant of the original and fearsome Dark Lord, Morgoth (or Melkor).

It was Morgoth who created the Orcs: he captured elves, and after torturing them in untold ways, corrupted them, transforming them into the hideous Orcs that fans of the series recognize today.

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