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Thread: Orcs or Elves?

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It's stated in the Silmarillion that Orcs were once Elves, tortured and corrupted by Melkor, and Orcs reproduce in the same fashion as Elves, i.e, sexually, yes? If so, how deeply did Melkor work on those Elves? Are Orcs in essence still Elves? Did Melkor have the power to alter even the DNA of those Elves whom he corrupted to Orcs, thus making such corruption heritable by offspring? If he didn't, shouldn't Orcs give birth to what is written on their DNA -- Elves? If Melkor changed only their hearts, minds and outer appearance, their DNA should still be as Eru made them -- Elven, right? If you deformed my beauty/body, made me feral, made me hate myself and every one and thing, does that change what I was made as - Human - especially when passing down that DNA to offsprings? No, it doesn't. So why are Orcs reproducing Orcs, not Elves. Help me out with this, please.

Tolkien himself had trouble deciding what Orcs should be...

... and one of the issues was the matter of heritability. Was even Melkor powerful enough to make the orkish state heritable?

'(...) though Melkor could utterly corrupt and ruin individuals, it is not possible to contemplate his absolute perversion of a whole people, or group of peoples, and his making that state heritable (...) In that case Elves, as a source, are very unlikely.'

JRRT, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring


But Tolkien appears to have accepted this later in any event, as the corrupted state was seemingly still heritable when Men were considered as the main stock.

So Melkor did have the power to corrupt a whole race, Elves, thus making such corruption heritable? So Orcs give birth to Orcs, because they are no longer Elves?

It's interesting that both before, and after, the writing of The Lord of the Rings, the idea in Tolkien's head was arguably the old version -- the notion held for many years by JRRT before he changed his mind about Evil and creation -- the notion that...

... Morgoth simply made Orcs, out of underground heats and slime for example [The Book of Lost Tales], or stone and hatred [early Quenta Silmarillion], in mockery of Elves...

... granted JRRT has Frodo give his opinion that Evil cannot make, only corrupt, but in any case when he returned to The Silmarillion in the early 1950s Tolkien initially upheld the idea that Morgoth 'simply' created Orcs, instead of corrupting already existing beings into Orcs.

Obviously that would change. And once Tolkien decided that Evil cannot make a true living being, he introduces the belief of the Wise of Eressea about Elves -- which idea Tolkien later questions however, and then he begins writing and musing about other sources for Orcs, or other options.

One relatively 'late' idea was that Orcs were the result of musical discord -- I'm not suggesting that that's the one JRRT would have surely picked for his potential, ultimate legendarium, but it's interesting.

That last idea would then suggest Orcs existed on Arda before the Powers descended upon it; also that they were there before The Children of Illuvatar. I'm not prepared to undertake that notion.

The thread, How do orcs Reproduce? had some interesting and somewhat related ideas.

Anyway, who said elves have DNA? Do Men even have DNA? A rather interesting letter written in 1954 in response to a Catholic priest who questioned Tolkien on a number of matters raises these questions.

From Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, letter number 153

Elves and Men are evidently in biological terms one race, or they could not breed and produce fertile offspring-even as a rare event: there are 2 cases only in my legends of such  unions, and they are merged in the descendants of Eärendil. But since some have held that the rate of longevity is a biological characteristic, within limits of variation, you could not have Elves in a sense 'immortal' - not eternal, but not dying by 'old age' - and Men mortal, more or less as they now seem to be in the Primary World - and yet sufficiently akin {to have offspring}...I should actually answer: I do not care: This is a biological dictum in my imaginary world. It is only (as yet) an incompletely imagined world, a rudimentary 'secondary'; but if it pleased the Creator to give it (in a corrected form) Reality on any plane, then you would just have to enter it and begin studying its different biology, that is all.

So my answer is that as a twisted elf (or whatever other source you think orcs came from) turned into an orc, your DNA would not dictate that your offspring would be elves, whatever does dictate offspring would be sufficiently corrupted to dictate that your offspring were orcs.

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but your response reads as really sarcastic.

Well, you can't be "wrong" in reading my response as sarcastic, weather or not it was my intention to be sarcastic. I didn't try to be sarcastic in writing it, I think sarcasm is not something to put in a post since it is nearly impossible for my true intentions to be conveyed with 100% accuracy as flat text.

Anyway, what specifically was sarcastic to you? I asked a few rhetorical questions, which is (in my opinion) rude, but in a different way. I believe all I did was point out the mistake in your argument, which was to assume that biology is the same in Middle-Earth (and therefore DNA isn't necessarily a thing), provided a quote from the author which supported my claim (that biology is different and DNA is not necessarily a thing), then stated how this would affect the conclusion in your argument. If you point out what specifically came of as sarcastic to you I can try not to do it again, but if you just tell me you found what I said to be sarcastic that doesn't help me very much.

One of the more consistent and relatively later Orc ideas from Tolkien concerns Orc-formed Maiar, and while not the stock for the great numbers of regular orcs that came later, these could provide 'some' number of early Orcs existing before Men or Elves awoke...

... as well as provide a certain number of great orcs who could be long-lived and whose business it was to direct 'regular' orcs.