How do orcs reproduce?

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#51 » Sat Dec 29, 2012 4:11 am

Galin, thank you for taking the time to consider my musings and answer many of the questions I raised. It is really interesting being able to learn from someone as knowledgeable as yourself on the subject. I have read quite a few of the HoME books, albeit a long time ago, but just have scattered memories. It is good to have someone around who seems to have an intimate knowledge of those texts and who can pull the various threads together into a coherent chronological form. You are not Christopher Tolkien by any chance are you?

I am a little rushed for time at present so unfortunately cannot delve deeper into this subject right now. Hopefully, though, in the coming weeks I will find time to come back and continue with some of the points you have raised.

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#52 » Sat Dec 29, 2012 7:16 am

Nice research Galin.

Thanks Val!

As Tolkien wrote the books the stories and ideas evolved over time. It is difficult to determine the precise origins of orcs from these texts due to this evolution. However, surely logic should prevail? (...) Surely then, using that argument alone, Melkor could not have created orcs and trolls from lifeless material if they were not to be just mindless puppets under his direct control.

External chronology reveals the early 'phase' in which Morgoth can seemingly make creatures like Orcs and Balrogs without needing to corrupt some other living beings -- and also reveals a time when Tolkien surely revises this. The older phase lasts up until... let's say the early 1950s for ease of reference.

This date ignores Frodo's statement in The Lord of the Rings for example, and not just because I can't seem to date it very easily, but because after The Lord of the Rings was written, Tolkien appears to have revisited his Silmarillion writings by initially restating that Morgoth simply 'made' Orcs in the same general way as he had in the 1930s.

So generally speaking, for decades, and up until the early 1950s, Tolkien believed Morgoth could create orcs out of things like stone and hatred, and create Balrogs too. But what about Dwarves?

In the 1930s we find the emergence (in The Annals of Beleriand) of the legend of Aule making the Dwarves, but interestingly, at this point the Dwarves have 'no spirit indwelling' and they have skill but not art.

No spirit indwelling? Hmm. In any case Tolkien would change this so that the Noldor believed the Dwarves had no indwelling spirit, and thus they had skill but not art, adding that they believed the Dwarves go back into the stone of the mountains of which they were made.

And jumping over to the Silmarillion of the mid to later 1930s, there is it noted:

'Wherefore the Dwarfs are like the Orcs in this: that they come from the wilfulness of one of the Valar; but they were not made out of malice and mockery, and were not begotten of evil purpose. Yet they derive their thought and being after their measure from only one of the Powers, whereas Elves and Men, to whomsoever among the Valar they chiefly turn, have kinship with all in some degree.'

So however this works in more detail, this was the notion 'paired' (in a sense) with Morgoth creating Orcs out of stone and hatred. And it was once again not until the 1950s that we find the text in which Aule now creates 'puppets' and Eru gives the Dwarves independent life and wills (as chosen for the 1977 Silmarillion by Christopher Tolkien of course).

And yes Tolkien wrote 'Dwarfs' there

The ultimate point here is that the pre-1950s idea had been revised by JRRT, but Christopher Tolkien still had a number of choices before him once the revision had been made (and 'puppets' may have lingered as an alternate kind of making for some things, again in the early 1950s at least).

So Orcs must now be corruptions of something. But what?

It could be argued that orcs and trolls only functioned when controlled by a greater power, but in my opinion the orcish armies falling into disarray when Melkor/Sauron were defeated was more a matter of having lost their leadership they no longer followed their orders and sank into unorganised squabbling and infighting. This is different to becoming mindless puppets as Aule's dwarves would have been.

There is also a distinction Tolkien makes about servitude and domination. JRRT agrees that Orcs were not puppets but some were so dominated by Morgoth's will that they seemed to be puppet like. This was more along the lines of (as Tolkien described): '... servitude to a central will that reduced the Orcs almost to an ant-like life...'.

To me, this logic implies, whether it is written or not, that Melkor must have corrupted something already living to make the orcs rather than just creating them himself.

You are correct, and it is written, but again it's not simply logic but also following the external chronology to the point when JRRT certainly changes his mind about 'making', and the old concept gives way to the new. And I don't think there was any question in Christopher Tolkien's mind that he [Christopher Tolkien] would reject the old idea for the 1977 Silmarillion.

The question then becomes, what did he corrupt to make the orcs? I had always thought Elves. There is the argument, however, that if he created them from Elves, wouldn't orcs be immortal? Not necessarily. When he spread his essence through Middle Earth as Morgoth's Ring, the effect was corrosive over time on the Elves. They grew weary, tired and began to fade. If his diffused essence had that power, surely he had the power to corrupt the immortal bodies of his orcs into mortal ones. Maybe all that twisting and corruption of their flesh made their bodies mortal, leaving their fea to go to the Halls of Mandos once they died?

What we can say is that the 'immortality question' was one Tolkien posed to himself. And I think it shows that he found the matter somewhat problematic. Tolkien noted (text VIII):

'It also seems clear (...) that 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. [added later: The latter must (if a fact) be an act of Eru.]'

'In that case Elves, as a source, are very unlikely. And are Orcs 'immortal' in the Elvish sense? Or Trolls? (...)'

JRRT, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring

So here we have two concerns: immortality, and the possibility of Morgoth not just corrupting beings, but making this corruption a heritable state -- in other words (as I read this), what will the children be if corrupted Elves [who have become Orcs] breed? Elves or Orcs? If Orcs, Morgoth has made his corruption a heritable state, and if this is true, Elves seem an unlikely source to JRRT himself (or at least this seems part of the reason anyway).

Men would solve the immortality question, at least. And there might be other concerns. As noted above, Morgoth could so dominate some Orcs that they seemed like 'puppets' with no will of their own, some even slaying themselves when the Dark Lord was defeated, for example. And in a late note Tolkien explained...

'Other originally independent creatures, and Men among them (but neither Elves nor Dwarves), could also be reduced to a like condition.'

JRRT, late note attached to text X 'Orcs from Men' 

If Orcs could be so dominated, it makes sense (to me anyway) that the source for Orcs could be so dominated as well, but here it's said that neither Elves nor Dwarves could be reduced to such a notable condition. One could argue that once Elves became Orcs they could be 'absorbed' in this way, but I also think that Men were -- generally speaking now -- more easily swayed to the will of the Dark Lords.

Tolkien even notes, in text X [he had adjusted the chronology to allow for Men to be the source for Orcs, although admitted that it was still not without its difficulties]:

'This view of the origin of orcs thus meets with difficulties of chronology. But though Men may take comfort in this, the theory remains nonetheless the most probable. It accords with all that is known of Melkor, and of the nature and behaviour of Orcs -- and Men.'

In my opinion, in general Men were already 'closer' to Orcs than Elves were, and notably I think, Men could be found in Morgoth's forces as well as Sauron's. Not all Men of course! But again, in general.

Someone posted above that orcs were possibly made from corrupted Men. My memory's failing me, but weren't orcs around before Men awoke? If Melkor had stumbled upon them before they awoke and corrupted them, wouldn't he have corrupted them all? In that case there would have been no Men. I personally don't think Men were involved until Saruman possibly crossed orcs with Men to create Uruk-hai.

I appreciate your 'possibly' here, concerning the Uruk-hai indecision

And as I say, Tolkien adjusted the chronology to make Men a possible source for Orcs, even though this new chronology was not wholly without its difficulties. And there would be some even earlier Orcs as well, considering the corrupted Maiar.

I won't go into the 'beast section' of your post here, as that alone raises a number of questions and this post is probably quite long by now!

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#53 » Sat Dec 29, 2012 11:20 am

Thanks again Val. And I'm not trying to undermine me here (LOL)...

... but The History of Middle-Earth can be a tangled business at times, and so when I post pieces of it, sometimes I wonder if I haven't forgotten something important, or just mixed something up, or in any case, another reader might bring something else to the discussion of course, based on the same texts.

I've posted about orc origins many times now (well, it seems like many times), but I still feel like I learn new things, or often enough consider things that I hadn't before. Anyway I try to do my 'homework' (fun homework), but thanks again for the too kind words there. 

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#54 » Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:50 am

On to the beastly questions... but just some of them for now!

So could orcs have just been beasts?

I suppose they could have been, especially as Tolkien himself delves into this possibility. In my opinion I don't think the idea fits that well with some of the passages in The Lord of the Rings.

I always believed Balrogs, Ents, Eagles and possibly Huan were Maian spirits.

Balrogs are corrupted Maiar, but the question with respect to some eagles and Huan might require a post of its own. So far I have only looked into the 'eagle question' in any real depth, and unless I have forgotten something there seems to be a measure of doubt regarding an ultimate answer here.

Did Tolkien's beasts have intelligence enough for speech, or was that limited to the Valar, Maiar and the Children?

Tolkien was concerned with the question of speaking beasts in general, asking himself in a note:

(4) What of talking beasts and birds with reasoning and speech? (...)

And without quoting all his subsequent musing about that, in the text that considers orcs as perverted beasts, he ended up writing (here edited a bit by me):

'In summary: I think it must be assumed that 'talking' is not necessarily the sign of the possession of a 'rational soul' of fea. The Orcs were beasts of humanized shape (to mock Men and Elves) (...) their talking was really reeling off 'records' set in them by Melkor (...) Melkor taught them speech and as they bred they inherited this; and they had just as much independence as have, say, dogs or horses of their human masters. This talking was largely echoic (cf. parrots).'

I note here the statement 'to mock Men and Elves', another clue that Treebeard need not mean made from Elves when he notes made in mockery of Elves.

I read somewhere that the early orcs were Maian spirits, but that would surely restrict their number.

Yes, and among the late ideas the notion of the Orc-formed Maiar seems relatively stable. In one text Tolkien notes that always among the regular orcs, as special spies and servants and leaders, there must have been numerous minor spirits who assumed similar shapes.

And despite 'numerous' I would still guess relatively less compared to regular Orcs, at least after these latter had time to breed and fill up the ranks of Morgoth's armies. Possibly the Maiar-orcs were diminished in number after the fall of Utumno as well, which is quite early. 

In any case in text X (Orcs from Men) Tolkien notes:

'For Morgoth had many servants, the oldest and most potent of whom were immortal, belonging indeed in their beginning to the Maiar; and these evil spirits like heir Master could take on visible forms. Those whose business it was to direct the Orcs often took Orkish shapes, though they were greater and more terrible. Thus it was that the histories speak of Great Orcs or Orc-captains who were not slain, and who reappeared in battle through years far longer than the span of the lives of Men.'

JRRT, Myths Transformed

The Maiar-orcs appear in at least three different texts about Orcs, texts in which the origin of the regular Orcs varies.

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#55 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 1:24 am

To my knowledge, not all hybrids/crossbreeds can actually breed between themselves.

This can be due to the level of chromosomes in the resulting hybrid creature, which handicaps them in the breeding aspect. For example, Mules cannot breed, nor can Ligers or anything of the sort.

Perhaps the Uruk-hai cannot actually breed, but must rely on the two separate species to give them life.


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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#56 » Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:56 am

Perhaps the Uruk-hai cannot actually breed, but must rely on the two separate species to give them life.

Do you mean, if they are half man half orc ;)

But this is actually grounds for a 'great debate' (as I have seen at various other forums), as there are citations for both sides of the issue here. Somewhat recently however, a new linguistic text was published in which the mix of man and orc argument took a bit of a hit...

... as it was finally published that the term Uruk-hai basically means 'Orc-folk'.

Before this the mixed side of the debate had included the suggestion that perhaps '-hai' meant 'Man' or something to indicate mixed blood. Not the full extent of their argument of course, but this much is no longer in question.

I agree with the Uruk-hai being great soldier orcs, with Saruman's breeding program producing the Half-orcs rather, also described in the books. So far anyway.

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#57 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:35 pm

Very well written Val. I'm with you on this one.
In my mind the earliest Orcs were created by Melkor from captured Elves very early on. These unfortunate Elves, via Melkor's dark art and power, became the original breeding stock of the Orcs as we now know them. Obviously Melkor and for that matter Sauron enabled very successful breeding programmes as the Orc numbers became huge. It's probable that the Trolls were made in a similar way. I apologise gentle folk for the awful thought.

One thing I've always wondered is what would Illuvatar have been saying to Melkor during and after the hideous events of the early Ages. I imagine that as with Aule, Illuvatar would have been able to commune with Melkor any time he wanted too. I imagine that the conversations would have been full of deep hurt, angst and feeling.

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#58 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:00 am

I suppose we should also think about Trolls. Are there females? Can they breed or was there only ever a certain number created by Melkor who lived through the Ages until ultimately they were destroyed maybe except for one or two who managed to survive the final battle to live out their sad existence hiding under bridges in Europe.

Thinking about it perhaps the Urukhai were a combination of Orc, Man and Troll. Frightening I know, but I suppose it would solve the problem of size, intelligence, life span and strength. So many possibilities and outcomes. Why do the older Stone Trolls return to stone in sunlight, yet the Ogal Hai seem to tolerate the day star? Could it be the addition of the DNA of Men or even Dwarves or Elves which did the trick!

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#59 » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:44 pm

Appendix F reveals that unlike the older race of the Twilight, the Olog-hai could endure the Sun so long as the will of Sauron held sway over them.

Also I don't think Tolkien's Uruk-hai were that large compared to Men, in any event.

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How do orcs reproduce?

Post#60 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:32 am

You know, if orcs do reproduce sexually, I shudder to think what would take place in some dark pit in the depths of Moria. I'm beggining to think that Tolkien had his reasons for being a bit vague on the subject....

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