Login | Register
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: Cannibal Orcs?

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > Characters > Cannibal Orcs?   
I think Tolkien was just using this symbolism to show that the Orcs were evil. I doubt if they actually ate their dead except in time of great famine. However, as I have no textual basis for this, it is just my humble opinion.
Why then, in the Two Towers movie, do they have the orcs eat eachother? I don't think they were in a famine, they just didn't have any meat. Did the movie wrongly portray the orcs?
It was problably just a book mis-interpretation. But who knows, if the Orc's got REALLY hungry, they could turn to Cannibalism.
Sure.....but who doesn´t like some tasty BBQ orc ribsTongue Smilie
Pardon the expression, but



Anyway...Could licking a sword be something they just did when they thought they were alone? And would an orc eat their own blood/flesh/bodily fluids? Question Smilie
I don´t think it would.....it would want to survive.....but ok...they might want to take a taste of their own flesh....
Since asking the Cannibal orc question, I have acquired a couple books on tolkien's world (don't you just love barnes and noble?)

In Guide to Tolkien's World: a bestiary (David Day, copyrighted '79) it says of orcs:

They were cannibals, ruthless and terrible, and often their rending claws and slavering fangs were gored with the bitter flesh and the foul black blood of their own kind.

And in the Tolkien Companion (J.E.A. Tyler, copyrighted '86) it says:

the creatures [Morgoth] made were evil, filled with his dark will, cannibalistic and cruel, and they abhorred the light of the Sun from their Beginnings...

How does this fit in with the fight over Merry and Pippin? Was Tolkien indecisive, or was it wrong for someone besides an orc to kill orcs to give it to other orcs?
Okay, but were David Day and J.E.A. Tyler putting words in Tolkien's mouth? I don't know the the answer to this; what did Tolkien himself actually write on the subject?
But still it wasn´t Tolkien who said this....it was J.E.A. Tyler and David Day.....so it might be incorrect!
They may be wrong...but would the postAuthorIDs put information in a reference book like these if Tolkien didn't mention something?? I know Tolkien wasn't really clear on somethings...oh, I don't know...

By my way of reckoning, neither Morgoth nor Sauron would have liked their troops to eat each other, reducing the size of their armies. So I don't think the race was naturally canaballistic; however, I wouldn't be surrprised if there were the ocassional occurance. Of course it might make for the survival of the fittest and if they bred like rabbits it might cut down on the food bill. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie
Soylent Green is people!
Well I just read in LoTR that they were cannibalistic but it doesn´t mean that they in fact WERE cannibals.....they wouldn´t pass on orc meat if there was no other way except starvation.....but they didn´t eat orcs first off!
I wouldn't trust Day, but Taylor is O.k, though remember it is there interpretation.
I'm not sure about Day either. He says that Morgoth took Ents and tortured them, and that's where cave-trolls came from. Is this right?
Just another one of his 'assumptions' like Tom Bombadil being a Maia, even though Tolkien states he is a intentional enigma. *Realises this is a perfect oppurtunity to knock his least favourite Scholar* Also Geographically his 'Tolkien Beasitry' is very poor. The halls of Mandos are far to southwards, as are Niennas, The Sea of Rhun is supposed to be the north-eastern rim of the Inland sea of Helcar, yet they are nowhere near each other, the map linking Beleriand and M-E is appalling, for some reason he includes Almaren in a map which seems to represent the Sun years, whne due to geographial changes of the landscape it is impossible to do so and he misses several other continents of Arda, plus the 'Inner sea' and the map of the south is poor.

Information wise-he seems to make a lot of his own false conclusions, he never mentions Maeglin, (In my version anyway) and I'm sure you'll find other mistakes.
Theyn don´t have to be vegans or vegetarians just because they do not eat their ownWink Smilie

Although I agree with you Anilorak....they just might be THAT evil that they eat their own kinds flesh and drink their blood(why stop at cannibalism Tongue Smilie )
Licking the blood off one's sword is just an uncouth action dedicated to lowering the morale of one's watching enemies. I expect that is why Tolkien used this devise to show the Orcs and Uruk-hai were both uncouth and evil. Orc Grinning Smilie
Yes, I could see that. I would be pretty intimidated if my enemy licked his sword... (shudders) Wary Smilie
Well well.....cannibal orcs.....Yrchs!! YUK!!!
I have found Robert Foster's Guide reasonably accurate, and it to quotes orcs as at least occasional cannibals.

Orcs liked blood and raw flesh and ate, among other things, Men, ponies, and their own kind.

I agree with Grondy. I would not be very practical for orcs to be routine cannibals.
Possibly the case of when needs must for them. Human survivors of plane crashes have been known to eat fellow passangers who have died rather than starve to death. The only difference is, orcs perhaps do it with more relish (or conversly, perhaps require less relish Smile Smilie )
Does orcflesh taste like chicken Question Smilie
Everything else does, unless it tastes of banana. I must admit though, I think I'd rather become a cannibal myself, and eat a fellow human, than try orc-flesh. Yuk!
I think they were only cannibals in times of great need or if say an orc was dying. They would most likely kill him and eat him anyway.

I don't think they were cannibals... why would they eat something so disgusting and un-appetitable ??

Because they are idiots ? OK good answer Tongue Smilie
I wouldn't trust Day, but Taylor is O.k, though remember it is there interpretation.

I wouldn't trust Day that much either. He's okay, and on the money with some things, but I've found a lot of mistakes in his work, and a lot of things that just don't have any factual basis whatsoever. He leaves many things out, and some of his information is very incomplete.

Licking the blood off one's sword is just an uncouth action dedicated to lowering the morale of one's watching enemies. I expect that is why Tolkien used this devise to show the Orcs and Uruk-hai were both uncouth and evil.

Grondy's right on the mark with this explanation, and just throwing in my two cents, I think Orcs only ate each other on occasion. For example, if some Orc was a traitor, or a deserter, or crossed, or challenged one of his superiors, that Orc might get eaten to show the ultimate form of disrespect, and to make an example of said Orc’s treason.
Orc Smiling Smilie

Does orcflesh taste like chicken Question Smilie

Naw, tastes remarkably like venison...er...not that I'd know anything about that at all...just heard it off a friend I had...round for dinner...yeah. *tries to look innocent whilst picking out her teeth with what looks suspiously like a shard of bone.*
I've always said that i'd eat anything except cockroaches and spiders. I think i have to include orcs in this list. Even if it does taste like chicken...
"Got you Gorbag!" he cried, "Not quite dead, eh? Well, I'll finish the job now." He sprang on to the fallen body, and stamped and trampled it in his fury, stooping now and again to stab and slash it with his knife. Satisfied at last, he threw back his head and let out a horrible gurgling yell of triumph. Then he licked his knife, and put it between his teeth, and catching up the bundle he came loping towards the near door of the stairs.

From "The Tower of Cirith Ungol- Chapter 1 Book 6, The Return of the King.

For all of you who think Peter Jackson invented the orc knife licking.
I've always said that i'd eat anything except cockroaches and spiders. I think i have to include orcs in this list. Even if it does taste like chicken...

Huh, personaly I don't see what the problem is. They go great with a bit of curry sauce...maybe some chips on the side...a bit of salad perhaps. *drools*
Why would they eat each other when there is hobbit, elf, man, fish, oliphaunt, cows and etc to eat???

I don´t they were STUPID....Tongue Smilie
Orcs are evil and gross in every single way. They probaly eat what ever they can get their hands on, including themselves! Where do you think they get their food in mordor?


Post moved.

-Amarië, Planet Tolkien Council Member

Wait, just remind me how did the topic cannibal orcs go to the theologic future of the orcs and the elves and all those people. but I do think that after mordor fell, there is still a lot of orcs creeping around the mountains if that is what you are talking about.

^^Celeborn likes to interpret Tolkien stories in his own, special way, then share it with everyone on PT. Just make sure you take everything he says with a grain of salt...

Just a couple of points in reply to some questions raised in this thread: AFAIK, the only time Tolkien refers specifically to the idea of orcs eating each other is in TT, 'The Uruk-hai'. There are three groups of orcs present: those from Isengard under Ugluk; those from barad-dur under Grishnak, and a bunch of smaller orcs from Moria. Ugluk tells the revolting members of the  other two warbands that he serves Saruman, who gives them man-flesh to eat. To which  Grishnak nastily replies 'It's orc-flesh they eat, I'll warrant', thus leading to a punch-up, in which several orcs lose their heads. But note: none of them get eaten. The movies are not a safe source for lore..

Later in the TT, Sam finds traces of 'a dreadful feast and slaughter' amid the loveliness of Ithilien ('Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit).  Burned and broken bones and skulls in a ring of scorched earth; but not an ancient site. Tolkien tells us there were other signs of despoilation by orcs and other servants of the Dark Lord. My guess is that orcs killed and ate Men in that place; most probably men of Gondor.

As to how Sauron fed the armies of Mordor: later still, we're told of the great slave-worked fields in the south of the country, around 'the sad inland Sea of Nurnen', and the roads going off south and east to tributary lands, which brought in food and booty and fresh slaves. 

Tolkien would have had some training in logistics as an officer in an infantry battalion during the Great War. He'd have known about this sort of thing, and indeed (as attentive readers have noted) all of his characters' movements are affected by several factors; food supplies being one.


i think that orcs were just happy getting meat no matter what meat ,

i mean you want to survive to even if you have to eat other humans ,elves,hobbits or dwarfs

dwarves. also i think that ors ware a little more happy at cannibalism than humans but still prefered other food.

"Meats back on the menu boys!"

Actually in the Two Towers movie one of the orcs in the pack that were taking Pipin and Merry to Isengard was killed and "LOOKS LIKE MEATS BACK ON OUR MENU BOYS" was yelled then all the orcs are seen ripping the orc carcass apart and eating it(: So they literally will eat each other if given the chance! Nasty

If I remember correctly, in the book the isengard orcs despised cannibalism. If you look at human history, there were instances where they resorted to cannibalism in desperation.

I can't [at the moment] remember any clear examples of cannibalism as a common practice among Orcs, but there are some suggestive passages, so to speak.

First I'll note Tolkien's description about eating captives...

'Few Orcs ever did so [surrendered and asked for mercy] in the Elder Days, and at no time would any Orc treat with an Elf. For one thing Morgoth had achieved was to convince Orcs beyond refutation that the Elves were crueler than themselves, taking captives only for 'amusement', or to eat them (as the Orcs would do at need.)'

JRRT, footnote to text X, Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring

We know that sometimes Orcs fought among themselves, and might have orc captives at these times, but to my mind, considering the context here, this more specifically suggests that the Orcs would eat Elves [or Men] at need.

And with respect to the passage geordie referred to above, I interpret that to mean something like: 'Ha, you believe [or say] you are eating man-flesh, but I'll bet it's really orc-flesh' -- and so to me it seems part of a derisive comment to suggest that the Uruk-hai are more likely eating 'themselves' in a sense, in that they are eating other orcs [including that I also think the Uruk-hai are great orcs rather than partly Mannish].

Anyway Robert Foster is generally reliable [keeping in mind his guide includes the 1977 Silmarillion but not The History of Middle-Earth volumes nor Unfinished Tales], and I think his statement is probably based on Shagrat's words to Snaga for example:

'You must go, or I'll eat you.'

Of course one could argue that maybe this is just an extreme threat, or that even if Shagrat meant it [noting that after Shagrat killed Gorbag he licked his knife in triumph in any event], this might not necessarily speak to a 'common practice' among the Orcs in general.

Still, if you are Robert Foster and trying to describe something about Orcs...

Guys, I  don't want to sound too weird, but many human cultures were cannibalistic until the last century. In WW2 people ate the dead because they were starving, my great-grandfather who fought near Stalingrad told my family these horrible stories from the war.

So, if humans can do those things , I see no reason why orcs wouldn't do something even more evil and eat their own for simple pleasure , if not necessity.


Sorry if this post was too weird.

maybe the orcs and uruks were of differant tribes,so they really didn't care what they ate

Well,it looks like meats back on the menu boys!