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Old 12-06-2004, 02:50 AM   #1
Estelyn Telcontar
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White-Hand LotR -- Book 3 - Chapter 03 - The Uruk-Hai

We readers experience the events of this chapter through Pippin’s eyes, even beginning with his closed eyes! Dream and reality are almost one, and the situation brings on self-doubt comparable to Aragorn’s in the previous chapters. He feels useless, and the comparison to baggage makes me smile, with his hope that someone will come to claim them. He does wonder whether that would fit into the mission of the Fellowship, which indicates that he is thinking further than just his (and Merry’s) own good.

We get to know individual orcs in this chapter, both by their deeds and by their conversation. The theme of division among the foe shows up, something that will weaken both Saruman's and Sauron's forces throughout the story. Orc food and drink contrasts sharply with Elven lembas - and perhaps in advance with Ent draught.

Pippin is the active hobbit in this chapter, with seemingly small heroic actions that save them in the end, with the unbidden vision of Strider prompting him to drop his Elven brooch, and with the idea of hinting to Grishnákh about the Ring. Merry, who was the planner at the beginning of their journey, is fairly passive. Their humorous conversation upon entering the forest is not only typically hobbitish, I think it is a typically British attitude they display there, and it continues to show up later, especially at Orthanc.

The last two paragraphs are a narrative insertion, adding information that the two hobbits no longer saw.

There are many interesting themes to be discussed here – the orcs, of course, with their various characters and races; the obvious conflict in loyalty between the ones belonging to Saruman and to Sauron; the interaction between the hobbits and them, and between Pippin and Merry as well. Obviously, we see from Pippin’s point of view, as he is the active one, but why did Tolkien choose him, not Merry, for that role? What can we recognize about his development?
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Old 12-06-2004, 05:39 AM   #2
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I wonder if Tolkien met to create these parallels, or not, but I've thought of the connections between this chapter, and the previous chapter. Previous chapter, Aragorn and Eomer beging to form this long lasting friendship, and a long lasting friendship between their respected kingdoms, Gondor and Rohan. In the Uruk-hai chapter we get to see how good the two bad guys work together, Sauron and Saruman. Sauron's Northerners vs. Sarumans Uruk-hai, and it doesn't work out as well. I think this stresses the fact that the "evil" forces aren't united, the orc frays that break out between the Northerners and Isengarders, show that they don't trust one another, and are plotting to undermine eachother while trying to fight the "good" side. The "good" side unites in the previous chapter, and now Gondor has a willing ally in Rohan, and vice-versa.

We also get a sense that Eru is watching this struggle from above.
Quote:
No doubt he meant to kill his captives, rather than allow them to escape or to be rescued; but it was his undoing. The sword rang faintly, and glinted a little in the light of the fire away to his left. An arrow came whistling out of the gloom: it aimed with skill, or guided by fate, and pierced his right hand.
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So ended the raid, and no news of it came ever back either to Mordor or to Isengard; but the smoke of the burning rose high to heaven and was seen by many watchful eyes.
Estelyn already talked about Pippin's important, and we might as well just change the name of this chapter from Uruk-hai, to Pippin.

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"I wish Gandalf would have never persuaded Elrond to let us come," he thought. "What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage. And now I have been stolen and am just a piece of luggage for the orcs.
But then we see Pippin's cunning and thinking mind in the chapter. He cuts his bonds and reties this, only so they are looser and he can squirm out of them. He runs away from the path and leaves Aragorn his brooch. He is the one who outsmarts the most intellegent orc of the party, Grishnakh. Go Pippin!
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Old 12-06-2004, 08:59 AM   #3
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This chapter struck me on my first reading as a kind of ‘linking chapter’, simply a way of accounting for Merry & Pippin’s necessary appearance in Fangorn, but obviously there’s much more than that going on. This is the first (only?) time in the whole legendarium where we see Orcs as more than simple ‘monsters’. We see, for instance, that they aren’t simply stupid thugs (well, not all them).

Forgive this long quote from Brian Rosebury’s Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon:

Quote:
With the Orcs, whose speech is intended to suggest a closed militaristic culture of hatred & cruelty, Tolkien draws on a number of models. Indeed, there are at least three different dialogue-types for Orcs, corresponding to differences of rank and of tribe.. (None of them, incidentally, is ‘working-class’, except in the minds of critics who - themselves, it seems, unconsciously equating ‘degraded language’ with ‘working-class’ language - have convinced themselves that the Orcs’ malign utterances betray Tolkien’s disdain for ‘mere working people’.) The comparatively cerebral Grishnakh, for example, talks like a melodrama villain, or a public school bully.

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'My dear tender little fools," hissed Grishnakh, 'everything you have, and everything you know, will be got out of you in due time: everything! You'll wish there was more that you could tell to satisfy the Questioner, indeed you will: quite soon. We shan't hurry the enquiry. Oh dear no! What do you think you've been kept alive for? My dear little fellows, please believe me when I say that it was not out of kindness: that's not even one of Ugluk's faults."
The Uruk-hai, Grishnakh’s rivals, are an arrogant warrior horde, not without a certain esprit de corps, and are given to yelling war cries. (‘Bring out your King! We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We will fetch him from his hole, if he does not come. Bring out your skulking king!’) Lastly, the dialogue between individual Orcs at moments of animosity (which is most of the time) is brutal & squalid in a rather underpowered way.

Quote:
’The Black Pits take that filthy rebel Gorbag!' Shagrat's voice trailed off into a string of foul names and curses. 'I gave him better than I got, but he knifed me, the dung, before I throttled him...’

‘'I'm not going down those stairs again,' growled Snaga, 'be you captain or no. Nar! Keep your hands off your knife, or I'll put an arrow in your guts.
If Tolkien is reduced here to stylised snarls, & bowdlerised suggestions of excremental vituperation, one recognises his difficulty: more overt obscenity & violence would not so much have offended twentieth-century sensibilities as have evoked, incongruously, the world of the twentieth-century crime novel. Most readers, engrossed in the narrative, will absorb this functional, & sufficiently expressive, dialogue without being unduly detained by its artificiality or derivativeness.
We see they are clever, cunning, articulate (in a letter to the producer of a BBC radio adaptation Tolkien points out that they don’t ‘drop their aitches) & even bi-lingual:

Quote:
One of the Orcs sitting near laughed and said something to a companion in their abominable tongue. 'Rest while you can, little fool!" he said then to Pippin, in the Common Speech, which he made almost as hideous as his own language. ...

To Pippin's surprise he found that much of the talk was intelligible; many of the Orcs were using ordinary language. Apparently the members of two or three quite different tribes were present, and they could not understand one another's orc-speech.
This mention of ‘tribes’ of Orcs would seem to imply differnces in Orcish culture - even to the extent of having devloped seperate languages which are so different they cannot be understood by Orcs of other tribes. In short, these creatures are not simple stupid savages, but inteligent creatures. So, Tolkien is clearly wanting to disabuse us of any idea that they ‘don’t know any better’. They are vicious & cruel & take pleasure in the fear & suffering they inflict, & they know full well what they’re doing.

This shows how wrong critics like the ones mentioned by Rosebury are: ‘critics who have convinced themselves that the Orcs’ malign utterances betray Tolkien’s disdain for ‘mere working people’’ (ie John Carey in the Listener). These orcs are not members of the uneducated ‘working class’; they are educated thugs.

Why is it necessary for Tolkien to make this so clear - possibly because we are about to witness the wholesale slaughter of these creatures by our ‘heroes’, but more likely because Tolkien wants us to understand the real nature of ‘Evil’ - that Evil is not something that arises from ignorance, from not really knowing what you’re doing. Evil beings in Middle earth areaware of what they’re doing, & its that very awareness, that deliberate infliction of suffering on others in full consciousness, that makes it necessary for our ‘heroes’ to stand against them - its a moral necessity to oppose that evil.

This chapter brings that home - there can be no sympathy for the ‘bad guys’ from now on. This isn’t a battle between two groups, both of whom are ‘morally ‘equal’ but on opposite sides’. The ‘Evil’ side is not ‘Evil’ simply because its the side our ‘heroes’ are fighting - its not an ‘abusive’ label they’ve applied to their enemy. The Evil side is Evil, & there is a moral imperative in operation.
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Old 12-06-2004, 09:26 AM   #4
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Evil beings in Middle earth areaware of what they’re doing, & its that very awareness, that deliberate infliction of suffering on others in full consciousness, that makes it necessary for our ‘heroes’ to stand against them
True. And yet afterwards Tolkien painstakingly tried to reconcile things - to make orks automata, souless animals. And another yet, I suppose that consciousness in the case is not an indicator - Robot (minus 3 laws) may be conscious, yet may be capable of cruelty without remorse. What I'm driving at is, that, in fact, agreeing with what davem points at, I propose to state that there is more to orkish intelligence - they are model also of what mere Intelligence, driven by fear and not backed up by will+obedience (obedience=love here) may end up in.

With a proviso - some orks are not only intelligent, but have free will as well. I suppose that almost all named orks in the story fall under latter category - i.e. Grishnakh, Gorbag, Shagrat, Ugluk (the latter more so, as, allegedly, he's a 'man-ork' (or ork-man)).

And such a proviso brings a loadful of difficulties about. But about difficulties, later.
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Old 12-06-2004, 01:16 PM   #5
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This chapter tells us something of the nature of Hobbits. In dire circumstances, being abducted by a band of creatures straight out of a Hobbiton fireside horror story, Merry and Pippin still manage to show how brave they are. Boromir 88 has already noted how clever Hobbits can be, so I won't go over that again, but I also noticed what strength of character Hobbits can show.

Here Pippin is afraid and in pain, but he has the presence of mind instead to focus on what is going on about him and listen to what the orcs are saying:

Quote:
Terrified Pippin lay still, though the pain at his wrists and ankles was growing, and the stones beneath him were boring into his back. To take his mind off himself he listened intently to all that he could hear. There were many voices round about, and though orc-speech sounded at all times full of hate and anger, it seemed plain that something like a quarrel had begun, and was getting hotter.
We also see how quickly a Hobbit can recover from a bad experience such as this, and in quite a humorous way, by eating something tasty:

Quote:
He slipped the cords off his wrists, and fished out a packet. The cakes were broken, but good, still in their leaf-wrappings. The hobbits each ate two or three pieces. The taste brought back to them the memory of fair faces, and laughter, and wholesome food in quiet days now far away. For a while they ate thoughtfully, sitting in the dark, heedless of the cries and sounds of battle nearby. Pippin was the first to come back to the present.
Finally, we see how they are able to stay positive after their escape; instaed of dwelling on what has happened, they talk hopefully:

Quote:
They turned and walked side by side slowly along the line of the river. Behind them the light grew in the East. As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril; going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again.
I think such passages are important to underline just how brave Hobbits are, despite being very small people amongst strong Orcs, tall Men and cunning Elves and wizards. Tolkien does not leave Merry and Pippin out of the tale, as some writers may have done, choosing instead to focus on Frodo and Sam's bravery only; Tolkien makes sure we know just how all Hobbits have this strength within them. This is also important as we have been temporarily taken away from the adventures of Frodo, Sam and the ring; it ensures that in the midst of all these grand, high-born Men, we don't forget how important Hobbits are to this tale.
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Old 12-06-2004, 02:38 PM   #6
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1420!

I also wanted to note again Boromir's horn, we first got a description in Moria.
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Then Boromir raised his horn and blew. Loud the challenge range and bellowed, like the shout of many throats, under the cavernous roof. For a moment the orcs quailed and the fiery shadow halted. Then the echoes died as suddenly as a flame blown out by a dark win, and the enemy advanced again.
Now we get Pippin's account in this chapter.
Quote:
Then Boromir had come leaping through the trees. He had made them fight. He slew many of them and the rest fled. But they had not gone far on the way back when they were attacked again, by a hundred Orc at least, some of them very large, and they shot a rain of arrows: always at Boromir. Boromir had blown his great horn till the woods rang, and at first the ORcs had been dismayed and had drawn back; but when no answer but the echoes came, they had attacked more fiercely than ever.
Both times we see the strength behind this horn. It sends the orcs fleeing, it halts a Balrog. However, when the horn is done blowing the enemy comes back, and even "more fiercely." It's as if the horn is hurting more then helping. It stops them for a minute, but it also appears as if it's provoking the Enemies to strike back, even harder. Because, once the horn's done blowing they strike back, even more fierce then before.

Lastly I wanted to point out the power of the lembas. Reminds me a lot of what we discussed in the Lothlorien chapter.
Quote:
The cakes were broken, but good, still in their leaf-wrappings. The hobbits each ate two or three pieces. The taste brought back to them the memory of fair faces, and laughter, and wholesome food in quiet days now far away. For a while they ate thoughtfully, sitting in the dark, heedless of the cries and sounds nearby. Pippin was the first to come back to the present.
Eating the lembas the hobbits had slipped off into this dream, similar to Lorien, they weren't in "reality" anymore. They couldn't hear the battle going on, they just sat and remained in this dream, then Tolkien uses the line

Pippin was the first to come back to the present.
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Old 12-06-2004, 04:14 PM   #7
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My resounding memory of this chapter is racing out of the theatre to read it after seeing Fellowship for the first time! I'd not finished reading Fellowship yet, and was very distressed at seeing my favourite characters being carted off by a pack of Uruk-hai. Since then, this chapter has been a favourite of mine.

I whole-heartedly agree with Lalwendë on all counts. This chapter certainly shows the inate strength and tenacity possessed by all hobbits. (And proof to all the fangirls who don't appreciate Merry and Pippin! )

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I think such passages are important to underline just how brave Hobbits are, despite being very small people amongst strong Orcs, tall Men and cunning Elves and wizards.
Brings to mind a favourite quote of mine about the courage of hobbits:

Quote:
There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.

Fog on the Barrow-Downs, Book 1, Fellowship of the Ring
The situation with the Uruk-hai may not have qualified as a "final and desperate danger", but it certainly was a difficult challenge to overcome. And Merry and Pippin overcame it admirably. It was, really, their first big challenge when they didn't have someone to come rescue them; at the Barrow-Downs, it was Frodo and Bombadil; Weathertop was Strider; and then the entire Fellowship had been with them. They really did "prove their quality", so to speak.

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Old 12-06-2004, 07:17 PM   #8
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The situation with the Uruk-hai may not have qualified as a "final and desperate danger", but it certainly was a difficult challenge to overcome.
I think it was pretty final and desperate. This was the last moment that they could have had to escape. Once they reached Isengard they would have been tortured to death.

That is about as final and desperate as it gets.
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Old 12-06-2004, 08:34 PM   #9
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"please believe me when I say that it was not out of kindness: that's not even one of Ugluk's faults."

(rather reminds you of Mordred's song "The Seven Deadly Virtues" in
the musical Camelot).
---------------------------------

Tolkien does a rather effective job of making orcs both very bad guys
who have to be terminated with extreme prejudice, but also bits of
showing them as individuals with their own (however warped) hopes and
dreams, especially in a later chapter with Rosenkrantz and Gildenstern
(Captains Gorbag and Shagrat). Although, of course, Grishnakh is a
deliciously evil orc, with an echo or two of Smaug, the sort of character that
would have made a great bit role in a movie if played differently (say by
Dennis Hopper).
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Old 12-06-2004, 08:57 PM   #10
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Pipe Of Hobbitses and Orcses ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
This chapter tells us something of the nature of Hobbits.
Indeed it does. And Pippin's comparison of himself, at the beginning of the Chapter, to a piece of baggage waiting to be claimed puts us right back in a 'Hobbity' frame of mind. Where might one find baggage and the concept of baggage reclaim? Certainly not in a land of epic tales and 'Anglo-Saxon' horsemen! No, this takes us back to the charmingly 'anachronistic' feel of the Shire, with its mantle-clocks and postal service. The juxtaposition with the heroic atmosphere and language of the preceding Chapter is striking.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Tolkien does not leave Merry and Pippin out of the tale, as some writers may have done, choosing instead to focus on Frodo and Sam's bravery only; Tolkien makes sure we know just how all Hobbits have this strength within them.
Although I am biased (Pippin being my second favourite character - second only to Bilbo), it is nice to see Merry and Pippin getting some story. Apart from a few incidents (critical thought they are), Merry and Pippin have almost been like spare baggage since the Fellowship’s departure from Rivendell. It seems clear to me that, wary of the danger that they might have continued as such, Tolkien made a conscious decision to give them a central role in this part of the story. With Frodo and Sam absent (for now), Merry and Pippin were the obvious candidates for him to continue developing a theme that was important to him: the ennoblement of the humble. It is a theme that Tolkien touches on a number of times in his letters. For example:


Quote:
Anyway, I myself saw the value of Hobbits, in putting earth under the feet of 'romance', and in providing subjects for 'ennoblement' and heroes more praiseworthy than the professionals ... [Letter #163]
Quote:
There are of course certain things and themes that move me specially. The inter-relations between the 'noble' and the 'simple' (or common vulgar) for instance. The ennoblement of the ignoble I find specially moving. [Letter #165]
In similar vein, despite its importance to him, Tolkien placed the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in the Appendices ...


Quote:
... because it could not be worked into the main narrative without destroying its structure: which is planned to be 'hobbito-centric'. that is, primarily a study of the ennoblement (or sanctification) of the humble. [Letter #181]
Although Frodo was his primary subject for 'ennoblement', Merry and Pippin fill in admirably in the 'non-Frodo and Sam' sections of the book. Their development as the story progresses is one of the most appealing aspects of the book to me (but then, I'm a 'hobbito-centric' person ).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Estelyn Telcontar
Pippin is the active hobbit in this chapter, with seemingly small heroic actions that save them in the end, with the unbidden vision of Strider prompting him to drop his Elven brooch, and with the idea of hinting to Grishnákh about the Ring. Merry, who was the planner at the beginning of their journey, is fairly passive.
True, but the Chapter also highlights their different approach to situations. In some ways, Pippin is the more passive since his action is dictated by more by intuition than by rational thought. The Chapter opens with his dream. And, although he displays resourcefulness in first freeing his hands and then making a break for it to drop the brooch, the latter action seems, as Estelyn suggests, to have been inspired by his visions of Strider following their trail. Similarly, it is suggested that his ploy with Grishnákh is prompted by him having picked up on the Orc's thoughts.

This aspect of Pippin is explored in more depth in this wonderful thread started by Kalimac: Pippin's Sixth Sense. As suggested there, there seems to be a link here with Pippin's curious attraction to the well in Moria and his fascination with the Palantir of Orthanc. In any event, it seems clear to me that Pippin works far more on intuition, whereas Merry is the more practical of the two - as indicated by his studies in Rivendell.

And so on to the Orcs.

In this Chapter, we have some wonderful characterisations of them. We have the 'Isengarders', typified by Uglúk - a proud, arrogant and brutal leader. In Grishnákh, we have a sly, calculating and chilling individual. And the ‘Northeners’ display the more cowardly and less organised aspects of Orcish character. In these Orcs, and those at Cirith Ungol, we have our only real glimpse of the ‘character‘ of evil. Sauron remains a dark, remote and shadowy presence throughout, while we only really meet Saruman in one Chapter (prior to the destruction of the Ring). We are not privy to any discussions involving the Balrog, and we only see the Nazgul and the Mouth of Sauron interacting with those who seek to oppose them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by davem
In short, these creatures are not simple stupid savages, but intelligent creatures. So, Tolkien is clearly wanting to disabuse us of any idea that they ‘don’t know any better’. They are vicious & cruel & take pleasure in the fear & suffering they inflict, & they know full well what they’re doing.

Why is it necessary for Tolkien to make this so clear - possibly because we are about to witness the wholesale slaughter of these creatures by our ‘heroes’, but more likely because Tolkien wants us to understand the real nature of ‘Evil’ - that Evil is not something that arises from ignorance, from not really knowing what you’re doing. Evil beings in Middle earth are aware of what they’re doing, & its that very awareness, that deliberate infliction of suffering on others in full consciousness, that makes it necessary for our ‘heroes’ to stand against them - its a moral necessity to oppose that evil.
I agree. Apart from adding great 'flavour' to the story, the characterisation of the Orcs in this Chapter allows us to see exactly what it is that the good characters are up against. They are, as davem says not mere beasts, but rational beings.

But, that being the case, the question arises: Do Orcs have any choice in being evil?

Oops! There it is. Can opened and worms wriggling everywhere.

This is an issue that has been explored on may threads (Inherent Evil and Evil things to name but two), but it is one which still troubles me.

It seems to me that Orcs in Middle-earth are inherently evil. While they might delight in their evil deeds, they have no choice but to act evilly. Who ever heard of a good Orc? And while it is conceivable that such a being might exist, it would seem to fly in the face of the way that they are presented throughout Tolkien's (published) works.

Tolkien himself wrote:


Quote:
But if they 'fell', as the Diabolus Morgoth did, and started making things 'for himself, to be their Lord', these would then 'be', even if Morgoth broke the supreme ban against making other 'rational' creatures like Elves or Men. They would at least 'be' real physical realities in the physical world, however evil they might prove, even 'mocking' the Children of God. They would be Morgoth's greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad. (I nearly wrote 'irredeemably bad'; but that would be going too far. Because by accepting or tolerating their making – necessary to their actual existence – even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God's and ultimately good.) [Letter #153]
Tolkien held back from describing them as 'irredeemably bad', but saw them himself as 'naturally bad', which suggests that their only opportunity of repentance and redemption would occur following their deaths. And this still leaves, for me, the question of how a just and merciful God can allow the creation and perpetuation of a sentient race of beings who have no choice (during their lives at least) but to behave in an evil manner? It might be asserted that it is not for us to question Eru's plan, but it still seems dreadfully unjust to me (as a reader) that Orcs are doomed to live out such vicious and brutal lives through no choice (and therefore no real fault) of their own.

And it seems that this is an issue which troubled Tolkien too in subsequent years, since (as I understand it) he began to re-think his ideas on the nature of Orcs - suggesting, for example, that they were in fact 'mere beats' directed by a greater evil will. But this idea does not square at all with the characterisation of the Orcs here and in the Cirith Ungol Chapters which add great 'colour' to the story and which, for the reasons that davem states, are important elements in helping us to understand just what it is that our protagonists are up against.

Any ideas?

A few further thoughts before I go.

Do we see 'Orcish magic' in action here? While clearly not as wholesome or as pleasant, the Orc draught and Uglúk's medicine would appear to share some of the same properties as Elvish provisions. The draught revives the Hobbits and gives them a temporary burst of great stamina, while the medicine heals Merry's wound with unnatural speed. Are they perhaps the remnants of Elvish craft retained by the Orcs, albeit twisted versions (assuming that Orcs were, in their origins, corrupted Elves - wherein lies another can o' worms).

The observation that Merry carried a brown scar to the end of his days is an interesting one, as it suggests to the reader that Merry is going to survive for some time yet. Although I never picked up on it before seeing it pointed out on another thread, it might somewhat lessen the suspense for the perceptive first-time reader.

And, finally, I am impressed with Tolkien's description of the tactics used by the Rohirrim against the Orcs - the way that they drive them along the line of the river, surround them and then tempt them into wasting their arrows while minimising their own losses. He is similarly effective in describing ’medieval’ tactics elsewhere (the Battles of the Fords of Isen in Unfinished Tales, for example). I wonder how much he had studied tactics, since he seems well-versed in the subject. Possibly, despite the very different nature of the war, cavalry tactics remained part of the training regime during his service in WW1. Or perhaps he picked up his knowledge in this regard from his studies of epic literature.
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Old 12-06-2004, 10:53 PM   #11
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Pipe Can o' worms.

This thing troubles me in this chapter:


Why is the badge of Saruman white? Why not a rainbow? Or anything multi-coloured?
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Old 12-07-2004, 03:24 AM   #12
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I suppose it is white due to tradition - Saruman was white for so long, he grew accustomed to the title.

Besides, the white is more close to colourless, which is what Saruman, in fact, became, than any particular colour.

Orcs re:

Ahem. That's why, in a sense, difficulties are solved by supposition that Orkish leaders (as opposed to whole mass of 'beast-orcs') are, at least, not depraved of free will, but it does raise another difficulty – it is unmerciful to slaughter them, as they (assuming they have free will) are equals by rank of 'Good Chaps'

And Tolkien obviously tries to solve the problem by a side exit. See:

1. Grishnákh is killed by stray arrow, following his own evil actions (Chance. Maybe even a suicide?)
2. Uglúk is slain in fair fight, as equal, by [dismounted] Éomer.
3. Shagrat and Gorbag kill each other off

Beast-orcs, requiring direct control of Sauron’s will, disperse by themselves once there is no Sauron around to drive them, and ‘free-willed’ leaders are almost always given a chance – I can’t claim its truth, I can’t back myself up, but I always had a feeling that if only Uglúk prayed for mercy, he had a chance of being spared.

Some meditations on the subject can be found on the main site: All About Orcs
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Old 12-07-2004, 06:52 AM   #13
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The Hobbit Draft

This chapter also opens up the possibility for fascinating discourse on orcish draught.

As has been mentioned, this chapter is illuminative in several areas. Not only does it shed light on the true nature of the orcs – I agree, it also creates many further questions, but knowing more about something necessarily brings realisation that there is more to know – but it also expands and develops the character(s) of the hitherto subsidiary Hobbits.

--As an aside here, this is one piece of theatrical editing that the cinematic version failed on. The EE release shows M & P fighting alongside the doomed Boromir, with some skill and bravery, as the book suggests. The theatrical release, unfortunately, shows them practically jumping into the arms of their captors. --

So now we know, that not only can Hobbits fight a bit, which is a needed set-up for later acts of heroism (Pelennor et al), as previously it had seemed that a halfling would be redundant in a real battle, but that they can think practically at times of crisis. Pippin’s development is the greater here, which I think is indicative of JRRT’s intention in this chapter to develop these two – and he thought Merry had had the better build-up of the two already.

The dropped-brooch scenario has always been a favourite moment of mine, as it shows the Hobbits in a rather different light.
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Old 12-07-2004, 08:46 AM   #14
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White-Hand

Quote:
This thing troubles me in this chapter:
Why is the badge of Saruman white? Why not a rainbow? Or anything multi-coloured?
Pass me the tin opener, I've some more worms to let loose.

Why the White Hand? I’ve been trying to figure that one out for a while, and came across a few dead ends. I know it is a symbol in Islam, and it is also related to Moses as a prophet. Unfortunately I have never read the Koran nor do I have much knowledge of the symbolism surrounding Moses.

However, I have found that the symbol of the wide open hand was commonly used. In a text from 1898 entitled The Magic of the Horse-Shoe with other folk lore notes, I found the following interesting passages:

Quote:
It is worthy of note that the symbol of an open hand with extended fingers was a favorite talisman in former ages, and was to be seen, for example, at the entrances of dwellings in ancient Carthage. It is also found on Lybian and Phoenician tombs, as well as on Celtic monuments in French Brittany.

A white hand-print is commonly seen upon the doors and shutters of Jewish and Moslem houses in Beyrout and other Syrian towns; and even the Christian residents of these towns sometimes mark windows and flour-boxes with this emblem, after dipping the hand in whitewash, in order to “avert chilling February winds from old people and to bring luck to the bin.”

In Germany a rude amulet having the form of an open hand is fashioned out of the stems of coarse plants, and is deemed an ample safeguard against divers misfortunes and sorceries. It is called “the hand of Saint John,” or “the hand of Fortune.”
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Old 12-07-2004, 09:34 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Rimbaud
... it also expands and develops the character(s) of the hitherto subsidiary Hobbits....
Oh, I say! Some of the final passages here remind me of the idea that the Hobbits reflect some form of early English society. You know, stiff upper lip. Spit spot and I'm all right Jack.

Quote:
And as they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had sufferred cruelly, and been in dire peril, going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again.

"You seem to have been doing well, Master Took," said Merry. "You will get almost a chapter in old Bilbo's book, if ever I get a chance to report to him. Good work: especially guessing that hairy villain's little game, and playing up to him. But I wonder if anyone will ever pick up your trail and find that brooch. I should hate to lose mine, but I am afraid yours is gone for good."

"I shall have to brush up my toes, if I am to get level with you. Indeed Cousin Brandybuck is going in front now. This is where he comes in. I don't suppose you have much notion where we are; but I spent my time at Rivendell rather better. We are walking west along the Entwash. The butt-end of the Misty Mountains is in front, and Fangorn Forest."

"Lead on, Master Brandybuck!" said Pippin. "Or lead back! We have been warned against Fangorn...."
Shades of Boys Own and other empire reading material for the nation's youth. I find it interesting that Tolkien chooses the close the chapter with this bit of comic, light-hearted banter.


Quote:
posted by SpM:

Who ever heard of a good Orc? And while it is conceivable that such a being might exist, it would seem to fly in the face of the way that they are presented throughout Tolkien's (published) works.
I suspect that our venerable Mithadan was attempting such a resurrection with, among others, Grrralph in our very own REB.


But now I must borrow that can opener from Lalwendë.

Given Tolkien's great stature as a philologist and his knowledge of ancient myths, what are we to make of his choice of the name Uruk-hai?

The name Uruk, you see, belongs to a very ancient and venerable city of old Sumer and Babylonia. The site actually is not far from the current city of Baghdad and, in fact, the name Iraq is derived from Uruk.

There are some other interesting names in this link
link to Uruk in the Wikipedia See particularly Sargon, the "first person in recorded history to create an empire," in ancient Turkey. Or even Lugalzagesi.
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Old 12-07-2004, 11:23 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
That's why, in a sense, difficulties are solved by supposition that Orkish leaders (as opposed to whole mass of 'beast-orcs') are, at least, not depraved of free will, but it does raise another difficulty – it is unmerciful to slaughter them, as they (assuming they have free will) are equals by rank of 'Good Chaps'
An appealing theory, HI. But it still, for me, leaves the problem that we never encounter an Orcish leader who, exercising his free will, has chosen to be good. Neither do the examples that we meet give us any cause to believe that such an individual might exist. Whether they are leaders or not, Orcs are portrayed as a cruel, vicious and brutal race. Full stop.

Also, I am afraid that I find the suggestion that rank and file Orcs are 'mere beasts' unconvincing. Even the 'minor' Orcs that we meet in this Chapter have some character and, more importantly, express thoughts disobedient to the 'will' of their masters. While it is possible to see the Orcs of Mordor and Isengard as being, to some degree, under the control of a 'greater will' (and there is evidence to support this at the Black Gate, when the Ring is destroyed), the 'Northerners' seem to be far more independently minded (and, hence, disorganised). Their purpose in joinng with Uglúk was to avenge the death of their kin in Moria. Like the Goblins in The Hobbit, they seem to be far more 'out for themselves'.

Orcs are a great device. They provide a cruel and brutal enemy over whom we need not concern ourselves when they are slaughtered in great numbers (and Grishnákh was speared intentionally by one of the Riders as he fled) because they are inherently evil. Yet, in a world where morality and goodness are derived from a single, omnipotent Deity, they (for me at least) present more difficult problems when one analyses their nature in greater depth.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Oh, I say! Some of the final passages here remind me of the idea that the Hobbits reflect some form of early English society. You know, stiff upper lip. Spit spot and I'm all right Jack.
Early English society, Bęthberry old bean?

I can see what you mean. But the passage is rather delightful, and speaks highly of these two redoubtable little fellows when one considers all that they have gone through: kickings, whippings, rough handling, enforced running at high speed, death threats and worse, and (perhaps worst of all) long periods of close acquaintance with the backs of Orcish heads. And it thoroughly bears out the observation made in the Prologue concerning the innate toughness of Hobbits:


Quote:
Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough. They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or kill; and they were, perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces.
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Old 12-07-2004, 01:53 PM   #17
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From the beginning we see how Hobbits can be tough. In The Hobbit, Gandalf says of Bilbo:

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"Excitable little fellow,"said Gandalf, as they sat down again. "Gets funny queer fits, but he is one of the best, as fierce as a dragon in a pinch."

If you have ever seen a dragon in a pinch, you will realize that this was only poetical exaggeration applied to any hobbit, even to Old Took's great-granduncle Bullroarer, who was so huge (for a hobbit) that he could ride a horse. He charged the ranks of the goblins of Mount Gram in the Battle of the Green Fields, and knocked their king Golfimbul's head clean off with a wooden club. It sailed a hundred yards through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and in this way the battle was won and the game of Golf invented at the same moment.
But with so much mention of great Men and Elves, it could be very easy to 'overlook' such seemingly little people.

Quote:
Shades of Boys Own and other empire reading material for the nation's youth.
Oh yes, Bethberry, very true, but then I think Tolkien himself admired that kind of character; not the blustering kind, but the honest, everyday courage that Hobbits (and by extension, ordinary people) can display.

Now for the wriggling, wormy topic of Orcs. Davem says:

Quote:
Why is it necessary for Tolkien to make this so clear - possibly because we are about to witness the wholesale slaughter of these creatures by our ‘heroes’, but more likely because Tolkien wants us to understand the real nature of ‘Evil’ - that Evil is not something that arises from ignorance, from not really knowing what you’re doing. Evil beings in Middle earth areaware of what they’re doing, & its that very awareness, that deliberate infliction of suffering on others in full consciousness, that makes it necessary for our ‘heroes’ to stand against them - its a moral necessity to oppose that evil.
Some parallels could be drawn here to human conflict. In all wars there is an 'enemy', and yet wars are not fought by the leaders but by the ordinary people. Without getting into the subject of evil and morality - it is interesting that Tolkien has given his 'enemy' a voice, and real character, as a real life enemy would have. And yet they are shown to be thoroughly morally bad (I cannot think of a scene where an Orc 'repents'). Has Tolkien portrayed Orcs in a manner reminiscent of propaganda? By this I mean in the way that foreign troops were often portrayed in the world wars, as cunning and devious, and inherently bad? I think it is necessary to show such a mass of enemies, who are about to be slaughtered, in this light. To do otherwise would take the whole tale away from a good/evil conflict.

Finally, picking up on what Boromir 88 says, it makes you wonder exactly what was in Lembas, doesn't it :

Quote:
Eating the lembas the hobbits had slipped off into this dream, similar to Lorien, they weren't in "reality" anymore. They couldn't hear the battle going on, they just sat and remained in this dream, then Tolkien uses the line

Pippin was the first to come back to the present.
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Old 12-07-2004, 02:06 PM   #18
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Do we see 'Orcish magic' in action here? While clearly not as wholesome or as pleasant, the Orc draught and Uglúk's medicine would appear to share some of the same properties as Elvish provisions.
And who brewed the draught? And the 'antiseptic'? In other words, how 'advanced' is Orcish society? They do appear to have a moral value system - Gorbag's 'Regular Elvish trick' comment in response to finding Frodo lying in the pass. In other words, as far as he is concerned Elves are not moral beings in his eyes, as they behave in a contemptible way as regards their fallen comrades. It seems from Shagrat's response that he doesn't take this as being an ironic comment (Shippey goes into this in depth).

We also have comments in this chapter about orcs being 'good lads', which almost seems to imply that if they don't care about their own kind (in the sense of feeling compassion for them), they do value them in some way.

These don't seem to be the same Orcs we encounter in the Silmarillion. But do they have free will? And if they do, why don't they use it to behave in a more 'humane' way. The orcs in this chapter are not stupid, 'robotic' brutes (as in the movie), they are inteligent, reasoning thugs.

What interests me in this context is Tolkien' use of the term in relation to human beings - there's an example in George Sayer's essay 'Reflections of JRR Tolkien' (in the 1992 Centenary Collection:

Quote:
Though he was generally interested in birds & insects, his greatest love seemed to be for trees. He had loved trees since childhood. He would often place his hand on the trunks of ones that we passed. He felt their wanton or unnescessary felling almost as murder. the first time I heard him say 'ORCS' was when we heard not far off the savage sound of a petrol-driven chain saw...
Did he really believe that the man using that chain saw was an 'ORC'? Did he really believe that he was no better than Grishnakh?

Are we getting an insight into Tolkien's own moral value system here? Is he showing us that the Orcs do have the capacity for moral thought, but have consciously rejected the 'Good' - & more importantly, did he believe that some human beings do exactly the same thing?

Yet, not all human beings behave in an Orcish fashion, but [i]all/i] Orcs do. I suppose it coould be argued that Tolkien isn't presenting us here with a fully developed race of beings, good, bad & indifferent - as he is with Elves & Men - but with a 'type' of human being he had encountered in 'real' life. 'Orcs' are the 'enemy' for Tolkien, because in a sense they were his primary world enemy in a mythological setting. They were the 'chain saw wielding tree-murderers' he heard while walking that day with George Sayer.

And the more interesting, but more difficult, question is, did Tolkien believe those foresters were equally beyond redemption? Perhaps that's the real 'moral' question here: not how an entire race could be iredeemably evil & deserving of death, but what they symbolised for Tolkien, & whether he felt some people really were 'Orcs'.

Perhaps if we can answer that we can make a stab at the 'Orcish question'. Elves & Men are aspects of the 'Human' as Tolkien said - & we can accept that easily enough, but if Orcs aren't simply the 'bad guys', the necessary 'two dimensional' enemy for his heroes to slaughter without worrying about the morality of the act (as they certainly deserved what they got), but are also an aspect of the 'human' for Tolkien what does that tell us about him?
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Old 12-07-2004, 04:42 PM   #19
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Mainly about Orks with Fëar

Quote:
have some character and, more importantly, express thoughts disobedient to the 'will' of their masters.
Well, counter-argument may be made that their masters are not their Ultimate Master - i.e. Morgoth, so they may be disobedient to those 'lesser' evil lords whilst retaining loyalty to Morgoth. Very same argument being brought forth by Tolkien himself in his later writings, but such a theorem is incalculable by reading LoTR on its own, without drawing outer resources, so I'll drop it.

What is calculable, though*is that if theory be true, Grishnákh's still slain by chance - indeed even if Rohirrim knew about such fine distinctions between individual orks as to discern which were beasts and which 'human', the different action (i.e, taking Grishnákh captive, per instance) would not have been possible unless initiative were on Grishnákh's side, if only he surrendered (So your remark about not seeing such 'orks freely choosing to be good' around is to the ten point)

And again, (with provisos and desclaimers - its a personal theory (speculation), I have arguments pro and contra, but it can not become axiom (by me and now at least), it just seems plausible), I may dare to suppose that, as Elves, on one hand, may be seen as a reflection of Unfallend Humanity, so the Orcs, on another (apart from those of beast origin, i.e. majority) may be, from one angle, be seen of what ultimately Fallen Humanity may be like - not, finally, irredeemable, but utterly unable to repent on their own (at least unless released from their hroar. And as hroar affect fëar, the repentance is not possible unless fëar is let off)

Or, to dive into analogies (the vice I'm prone to) - Suppose there is a public pool near my premises where everybody has a right to swim. Another supposition would be that I'm legless and armless depraved invalid. Now, having a right to swim in a pool I lack capacity to do it, and though my rights are not infringed upon at all, nobody yet have seen me near aforementioned container of liquid, ever.

So, beast orks (majority of them all) lack right and capacity, 'human' orks have right but lack capacity

But I seem to be straying into things this chapter does, indeed, hint about, but in so an obscure way, you won't guess it unless told So hush now

___
* this paragraph being 'Spear re:' entry at the same time (and yes, o'course - first arrow just made him drop the scimitar. And yes, I know Shagrat and Gorbag did not literally kill each other off, Shagrat surviving Slips of the tongue, my precous-s-s, it was-s-sn't we, it's-s-ss all Baggins-sses fault, yes-s-ss. my precious-ss) . But if seriously, my apologies - Fey (haste) mood was upon me, but now it passed...
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Old 12-07-2004, 05:27 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Bęthberry
Given Tolkien's great stature as a philologist and his knowledge of ancient myths, what are we to make of his choice of the name Uruk-hai?
I mentioned this info in an old, old post, and dug it up to repost here:

I came across this interesting bit [while reading Joseph Campbell] about an ogre figure in South African mythology called the Hai-uri (very close to Uruk-hai, inverted, eh?). “This monster is a hunter of men, whom it tears to shreds with cruel teeth as long as fingers. The creature is said to hunt in packs.” Compare with, “We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man's-flesh to eat.”
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Old 12-07-2004, 07:12 PM   #21
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HerenIstarion wrote:
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That's why, in a sense, difficulties are solved by supposition that Orkish leaders (as opposed to whole mass of 'beast-orcs') are, at least, not depraved of free will, but it does raise another difficulty – it is unmerciful to slaughter them, as they (assuming they have free will) are equals by rank of 'Good Chaps'
But there is no real evidence of this (at least I don't think so) in LotR. We do not see some Orcs behaving as though they have free will and others as though they are 'mere beasts'. And later on we do have at least one Orc that is clearly not a leader and yet has a speaking part not much different from Ugluk or Grishnakh - that is the Snaga in Mordor.

The Saucepan Man wrote:
Quote:
But it still, for me, leaves the problem that we never encounter an Orcish leader who, exercising his free will, has chosen to be good.
We also see very few Elves that, exercising their free will, choose to be evil. Maeglin does go rather bad. Eol and the sons of Feanor both do some evil things, though I wouldn't classify them as simply evil. And presumably there is a lot more external pressure on the Orcs to remain evil than there was on those Elves to remain good.

I think that the fictional "truth" of the matter must simply be that Orcs do have free will but due to the strength of the external influences upon them none (or at least none that we hear of) choose to be good. It is an unfortunate fact that this kind of thing does happen - there have been situations where large populations of people have committed or allowed clearly immoral acts (like the Holocaust). The case of the Orcs is certainly an exaggeration of this, but after all this is a fantasy world.

I do admit, though, that that answer is not entirely satisfactory, and I think that the nature of Orcs is one of the few real foundational problems in the legendarium.

Davem wrote:
Quote:
We also have comments in this chapter about orcs being 'good lads', which almost seems to imply that if they don't care about their own kind (in the sense of feeling compassion for them), they do value them in some way.

These don't seem to be the same Orcs we encounter in the Silmarillion.
What makes you say this? We have few glimpses in the Silmarillion material of Orcs in anything like the kind of detail afforded by this chapter; but I have always felt that the glimpses we do have do match up rather well with the depiction in LotR. For example, consider the Orc-captain in the "Lay of Leithien" who boasts about killing Barahir and decides to keep the Ring of Felagund for himself, since Sauron, in his view, has enough trinkets already. This is exactly the sort of thing one can imagine a LotR Orc doing; even the manner of the Orc's speech (aside from the octosyllabic couplets) is very similar to that of the Orcs here.
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Old 12-07-2004, 09:03 PM   #22
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White-Hand

Just a quick post to highlight some more passages from the Letters relevant to the current discussion of Orcs.


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... the Orcs - who are fundamentally a race of 'rational incarnate' creatures, though horribly corrupted, if no more so than many Men to be met today. [Letter #153]
The letter is a draft (to Peter Hastings) dated September 1954. So at this stage Tolkien regarded Orcs as rational beings. And, as davem has noted, he also regarded them as representing a certain aspect of human behaviour. There are similar references earlier on, in his letters to his son, Christopher:


Quote:
There seem no bowels of mercy or compassion, no imagination, left in this dark diabolic hour. By which I do not mean that it may not all, in this present situation, mainly (not solely) created by Germany, be necessary or inevitable. But why gloat! We were supposed to have reached a stage of civilization in which it might still be necessary to execute a criminal, but not to gloat, or to hang his wife and child by him while the orc-crowd hooted. [Letter #96: January 1945]
Quote:
Not that in real life things are as clear cut as in a story, and we started out with a great many Orcs on our side .... Well, there you are: a hobbit amongst the Urukhai [Letter #66: May 1944]
Although the comparison of Orcs and Men was by reference to their nature rather than its origin:


Quote:
Urukhai is only a figure of speech. There are no genuine Uruks, that is folks made bad by the intention of their maker; and not many who are so corrupted as to be irredeemable (though I fear that it must be admitted that there are human creatures that seem irredeemably bad short of a special miracle, and there are probably abnormally many of such creatures in Deutschland and Nippon - but certainly these unhappy countries have no monopoly: I have met them, or thought so, in England's green and pleasant land).[Letter #78: August 1944]
Must dash now. It's late ...
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Old 12-08-2004, 03:06 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I think that the fictional "truth" of the matter must simply be that Orcs do have free will but due to the strength of the external influences upon them none (or at least none that we hear of) choose to be good
But basically that's what I've tried to say, but obviously failed (right but no ability, blah-blah-blah)

Minus the main bulk of orcs (and I make such a proviso on the ground of Tolkien's later opinion (i.e. "Orcs are beasts and Balrogs Maiar"). Assumption that orkish leaders were exeption is, well, an assumption - but based on their obvious independence, and on 'historical precedent" - Boldog. Carven knife-handle of later chapters, which Aragorn 'held with disgust" adding up to an assumption (indeed, are beasts capable of Art?)

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Old 12-08-2004, 03:19 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
What makes you say this? We have few glimpses in the Silmarillion material of Orcs in anything like the kind of detail afforded by this chapter; but I have always felt that the glimpses we do have do match up rather well with the depiction in LotR.
But was this episode written pre- or post LotR - don't have my books to hand?

Did the writing of episodes like this one in LotR change the Orcs of the Sil - was this change written back into the Silmarillion?
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Old 12-08-2004, 06:33 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I think that the fictional "truth" of the matter must simply be that Orcs do have free will but due to the strength of the external influences upon them none (or at least none that we hear of) choose to be good.
Which really equates to no choice and therefore severely limited free will - through (as I have said) no (original) fault of their own. As you say, the position is not entirely satisfactory.
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Old 12-08-2004, 07:58 AM   #26
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If one were really to take the argument of repenting orcs seriously, you would then have to think about what would happen to such an orc. It seems unlikely that their immediate society would tolerate such reckless good behaviour and such a person would doubtless, and probably literally, be out on an ear in no time.

The same is roughly applicable in reverse to the Elves.

Thus, it is unlikely that such characters would turn up at any major events, being dead, or in hiding/exile. This may be glib, but it is less awkward than writing in the doubting orc who was somehow embraced by his bloodthirsty brethren.
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Old 12-08-2004, 08:03 AM   #27
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...their masters are not their Ultimate Master - i.e. Morgoth, so they may be disobedient to those 'lesser' evil lords whilst retaining loyalty to Morgoth.
Heren -

you were leading to the point I was going to make - that, free will or no, orcs did represent an aspect of mankind through their actions externally. To me they also represented a legacy of unfulfilled destiny. The players in LOTR being the inheritors of a failed struggle that they must resolve. The failure of elves, men, and Vala.
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Old 12-08-2004, 08:40 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Mister Underhill
I mentioned this info in an old, old post, and dug it up to repost here:

I came across this interesting bit [while reading Joseph Campbell] about an ogre figure in South African mythology called the Hai-uri (very close to Uruk-hai, inverted, eh?). ?This monster is a hunter of men, whom it tears to shreds with cruel teeth as long as fingers. The creature is said to hunt in packs.? Compare with, ?We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man's-flesh to eat.?
Yes indeed, Mr. Underhill, I know that passage from Campbell. I have always thought it a great pity that the Letters we have are incomplete, for there is no mention, that I recall or that a quick review can find, of either South African myths or Gilgamesh in any of the discussions of the orcs. I am half-tempted to write to Christopher Tolkien or to John Carpenter to inquire.

I would find it incredible if Tolkien was not familiar with Gilgamesh even if he did not like it or was uninterested in its particular world vision of creation myths. (Which personal taste he is of course allowed.) After all, it contains a Flood narrative that is probably one of the literary precursors for the Noah story and we know the significance of flood narratives for Tolkien. The clay tablets and the deciphering of the cuneiform alphabet were an English find, part of the great hoard of the British Museum's artefacts. The deciphering led to greater knowledge of ancient languages. More specifically, the final quest of Gilgamesh is a quest for an elixir of immortality, in order to escape the doom of death which took his dearest and greatest friend. And besides the name "Uruk", here are some of the gods of Gilgamesh: Anu, the sky god and father of the gods; Ea, who Stephen Mitchell (the latest translator of the text) calls "The cleverest of the gods, god of intellect, creation, wisdom, magic, and medicine"; and Lugalbanda, said to be either the father of Gilgamesh or the guardian deity of Uruk.

Are these names coincidental? Who knows for sure? Still, I think that even if Tolkien took "Uruk-hai" from the South African tale, it suggests a certain degree of insensitivity to the Uruk of the Gilgamesh quest (if he knew it).

Quote:
posted by davem:
Perhaps if we can answer that we can make a stab at the 'Orcish question'. Elves & Men are aspects of the 'Human' as Tolkien said - & we can accept that easily enough, but if Orcs aren't simply the 'bad guys', the necessary 'two dimensional' enemy for his heroes to slaughter without worrying about the morality of the act (as they certainly deserved what they got), but are also an aspect of the 'human' for Tolkien what does that tell us about him?
This question really pits our different approaches I think, for davem's perspective is to search always for the Author's mind. Mine is to consider textual and cultural issues. For instance, I would not say that Tolkien was consciously and deliberately placing the precursors of Moorish culture in a 'bad light'. But I would consider the effect of his working within a cultural system of values which made it easier to ascribe evilness to an eastern empire. And I suspect Tolkien's constant reworking and re-explaining of the nature of orcs represents his own, maybe even unconscious, unease with this cultural factor.
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Old 12-08-2004, 09:08 AM   #29
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Perhaps there is some 'echo' of the episode in the epic where Gilgamesh & Enkidu fight & slay the monster Humbaba in the Last Alliance union of Gil-galad & Elendil & their defeat of Sauron..
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Old 12-08-2004, 01:02 PM   #30
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Orc Society

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Originally Posted by davem
And who brewed the draught? And the 'antiseptic'? In other words, how 'advanced' is Orcish society? They do appear to have a moral value system - Gorbag's 'Regular Elvish trick' comment in response to finding Frodo lying in the pass. In other words, as far as he is concerned Elves are not moral beings in his eyes, as they behave in a contemptible way as regards their fallen comrades...

We also have comments in this chapter about orcs being 'good lads', which almost seems to imply that if they don't care about their own kind (in the sense of feeling compassion for them), they do value them in some way.
I don't think that it's that hard to imagine Orcish society. I see shamans capable of putting together potions and "draughts". They would have learned some lore from their masters and stolen some from other sources. Remember that while the orcs are an extremely warlike race, there have to be other functions taking place - gathering of food, reproduction, just to name two. We also have examples of Orcish art:

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Carven knife-handle of later chapters, which Aragorn 'held with disgust" adding up to an assumption (indeed, are beasts capable of Art?)
As for Orcs being intellegent (multilingual, for example), there were many intellectuals that took part in the holocaust.

But enough of that. I was fascinated, especially in the chapters in book 6, where Tolkein seems to "humainze" the orcs. They complain about their lot and how the higher-ups are screwing things up and they're likely to pay the price. Definitely a picture of normal people at wars. At the same time, he always balances this almost sympathetic image with their unbeliveably cruel side, always wanting to have "sport" with the prisoners, meaning, I can only assume, cruel torture for the sake of influcting pain, rather than punishment or extracting information.

So, anyone have the Silm handy? I think that a quick look into the brief passage about the origins of Orcs might shed some small light on this. I don't remember of Orcs are "mutated" elves, or what. Obviously they have to be some sort of perversion of existing creation since it was forbidden for Melkor to create anything himself.

Great discussion - I always wonder what topics the next chapter might hold, thinking that we've run the gamit, and I'm never disappointed.
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Old 12-08-2004, 02:26 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aldarion
Remember that while the orcs are an extremely warlike race, there have to be other functions taking place - gathering of food, reproduction, just to name two. We also have examples of Orcish art:

As for Orcs being intellegent (multilingual, for example), there were many intellectuals that took part in the holocaust.
I think this is the point Tolkien is making. These Orcs are not simple brutes. They have plans & desires:

Quote:
For a moment Pippin was silent. Then suddenly in the darkness he made a noise in his throat: gollum, gollum. 'Nothing, my precious," he added. The hobbits felt Grishnakh's fingers twitch. 'O ho!" hissed the goblin softly. "That's what he means, is it? Oho! Very ve-ry dangerous, my little ones." 'Perhaps," said Merry, now alert and aware of Pippin's guess. 'Perhaps; and not only for us. Still you know your own business best, Do you want it, or not? And what would you give for it?" 'Do I want it? Do I want it?" said Grishnakh, as if puzzled; but his arms were trembling. "What would I give for it? What do you mean?"
'Do I want it? This is not a souless 'robot' but a fully sentient being who can imagine himself with the Ring in his possession, a ruler. And perhaps this is the moment he awakes to that realisation. The Ring can work on his precisely because he is a self-conscious individual.

But for some reason this self-consciousness doesn't bring with it a capacity for empathy & compassion - which is what we're taught should happen. So, the Orcs are 'closed off' from that aspect of 'humanity'.

If these Orcs are slaves they are willing slaves - but then why would Gandalf say he pities even Sauron's slaves? Or isn't he including Orcs in this? But then the question arises: aren't there any Men who are slaves of Sauron who are as bad as Orcs? Who have sacrificed their humanity & enjoy the suffering they inflict?

This just leaves us with SpM's question - What is the difference between 'bad' Orcs & equally 'bad' men?

Perhaps its not that Tolkien messed up & couldn't work out a viable explanation for Orcs; perhaps it goes deeper, into issues of metaphysics, into the mystery of Good & Evil, & so, cannot be explained away. Good is & so is Evil - even if it is a 'corruption' it isn't nothing. After all, one could say that Orcs are a 'corruption' of Elves in the same way - yet they are not 'nothing'.

Perhaps its not a 'question' after all, perhaps its a 'statement'. Orcs are all evil, & that's simply a Mystery beyond us (& beyond Tolkien). Tolkien won't offer us any easy answers because there aren't any.
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Old 12-08-2004, 03:39 PM   #32
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Anti-Wisdom?

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Perhaps its not a 'question' after all, perhaps its a 'statement'. Orcs are all evil, & that's simply a Mystery beyond us (& beyond Tolkien). Tolkien won't offer us any easy answers because there aren't any.
Sins of Morgoth...Facinating! I see the primary difficulty in understanding, as referenced earlier in this thread (Letter 153), orcs are "born bad", while we are not. We become bad.

It is interesting to consider that, if these creatures are as long lived (or close to) as elves, yet they seemingly do not have the "wisdom" that one assumes would accumulate in such a long lived entity. Some of these creatures were fighting elves before mankind even awoke - many thousands of years prior...This, to me is the nature of orcish behavior: eternally enthralled. Ever fixated on the maintainence and domination of an order that is not theirs, but their masters.
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Old 12-08-2004, 05:54 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by davem
If these Orcs are slaves they are willing slaves - but then why would Gandalf say he pities even Sauron's slaves? Or isn't he including Orcs in this?
I wouldn't say that they are willing, since that implies that they have a choice. Rather, they act in the way that they do (and delight in doing so) because they know know no other way - and, more worryingly perhaps, have no capacity to know any other way. On that basis, I can see how Gandalf might pity them.


Quote:
This just leaves us with SpM's question - What is the difference between 'bad' Orcs & equally 'bad' men?
Since I do not believe that anyone, in our world, is born evil, and assuming that Orcs are, in Middle-earth, inherently evil, there is a world of difference. But, if we are to say that Orcs are evil as a result of environmental pressures (nurture rather than nature), then an analogy might be drawn with those whose abusive behaviour is a product of having been abused in childhood (the cycle of abuse) or fear of the consequences of disobedience (as in the holocaust). But, even then, the analogy breaks down when one considers that there are examples of those who have undergone the same pressures and yet not committed the same attrocities. There are few in this world who I would class as being, like Orcs, devoid of any vestige of 'humanity', and then we are getting into the realms of psychotic behaviour.


Quote:
Perhaps its not that Tolkien messed up & couldn't work out a viable explanation for Orcs; perhaps it goes deeper, into issues of metaphysics, into the mystery of Good & Evil, & so, cannot be explained away. Good is & so is Evil - even if it is a 'corruption' it isn't nothing.
Yet the question remains: how can Good be good if it allows Evil to manifest itself in sentient beings which have no choice in the matter? I think that this troubled Tolkien.

But there are, as you say, no easy answers.
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Old 12-08-2004, 09:51 PM   #34
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But basically that's what I've tried to say, but obviously failed (right but no ability, blah-blah-blah)

Minus the main bulk of orcs (and I make such a proviso on the ground of Tolkien's later opinion (i.e. "Orcs are beasts and Balrogs Maiar").
Ah, but this exactly what I was referring to. Your supposition is that there are two quite distinct kinds of Orcs: those with free will and those that are mere beasts. My point was that such a distinction does not appear to be at all present in LotR. Tolkien's late thoughts on Orc-nature are by no means clear, but even if one reads the Myths Transformed texts as indicating such a dichotomy (which is I think a valid reading) such a view seems to me to contradict their depiction in LotR.

Davem wrote:
Quote:
But was this episode written pre- or post LotR - don't have my books to hand?
It was present in the original late 1920s version of the poem, and was heavily revised in the 1950s.

Quote:
Did the writing of episodes like this one in LotR change the Orcs of the Sil - was this change written back into the Silmarillion?
An interesting question - did the writing of LotR alter the depiction of Orcs? We might compare the two passages from the Lay. The unrevised:

Quote:
'This ring in far Beleriand
now mark ye, mates' he said, 'was wrought.
Its like with gold could not be bought,
for this same Barahir I slew,
this robber fool, they say, did do
a deed of service long ago
for Felagund. It may be so;
for Morgoth bade me bring it back,
and yet, methinks, he has no lack
of weightier treasure in his hoard.
Such greed befits not such a lord,
and I am minded to declare
the hand of Barahir was bare!'
And the revised:
Quote:
. . . 'Now, mates' he cried
'here's mine! And I'll not be denied,
though few be like it in the land.
For I 'twas wrenched it from the hand
of that same Barahir I slew,
the robber-knave. If tales be true,
he had it of some elvish lord,
for the rogue-service of his sword.
No help it gave to him - he's dead.
They're parlous, elvish rings, 'tis said:
still for the gold I'll keep it, yea
and so eke out my niggard pay.
Old Sauron bade me bring it back,
and yet, methinks, he has no lack
of weightier treasures in his hoard:
the greater the greedier the lord!
So mark ye, mates, ye all shall swear
the hand of Barahir was bare!
Now the impression I get from the unrevised version is not much different from the impression I get of the Orcs in this chapter. Indeed, there are several touches in both versions that very strongly call to mind the Orcs of LotR. Note the Orc's description of Barahir: a 'robber fool' in the unrevised, 'robber-knave' in the revised version, who offered his 'rogue-service' to Felagund. It's exactly the same sentiment as the 'regular Elvish trick' comment.

So perhaps there is a change in the depiction of Orcs from pre-LotR to post-LotR, but if so it's rather a subtle one. We ought not to confuse the necessary difference in the depth of depiction between most of the Silmarillion material and LotR with a difference in the nature of that depiction.
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Old 12-09-2004, 12:03 AM   #35
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Pipe Verse-less Chapters.

This the third chapter in The Lord of the Rings without poetry. The first one was The Bridge of Khazad-dűm (q.v.), and the second was The Breaking of the Fellowship. At first glance, I saw that the chapters all involved the loss of a member of the Fellowship (although Boromir’s death was just referred to in the current chapter). It seems also that these “action” chapters involve single combat of some form:

In The Bridge of Khazad-dűm, it was Gandalf vs. the Balrog.
In The Breaking of the Fellowship, it was Frodo vs. the Ring.
In The Uruk-Hai, it was Pippin vs. the Uruk-Hai.

Let’s look at each confrontation, one by one:

~The first one was a classic single combat of two powerful beings. This form of battle Gandalf will experience again throughout the rest of the War of the Ring (against the Nazgűl, and, in cases where it was not really combat but a confrontation nonetheless, against Saruman and the Mouth of Sauron).

~The second one was a battle of wills, an internal struggle Frodo would carry on to Mordor.

~The last battle is also of will, with Pippin unwilling to give up hope, a battle which would ultimately save Faramir’s life.

It appears that all combatants (on the side of Good) would keep on fighting with the same way in which they first battled.

So much for the nature of the confrontation. Let’s move on to its results:

~Gandalf killed the Balrog, but he died because of it.

~Frodo will destroy the Ring, but he, too, will “die” because of it.

~Pippin “defeats” the Uruk-Hai, and (with Merry) he would carry on to destroy Saruman’s military might, even in the Shire. Sure, he will die, but not because of it.
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Old 12-09-2004, 04:26 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
My point was that such a distinction does not appear to be at all present in LotR. Tolkien's late thoughts on Orc-nature are by no means clear, but even if one reads the Myths Transformed texts as indicating such a dichotomy (which is I think a valid reading) such a view seems to me to contradict their depiction in LotR.
Yup. I have to ground myself on far-fetched suppositions again, but, assuming label 'history' for LoTR, it may be argued that what impression Pippin and Merry brought out of their communication with orks, would not be indicative of orks as a whole. If my supposition be true (i.e. some distinct orks have free will, main bulk are beasts), than it may be said that most of the Free Peoples (but their wise) would not know the difference. They would not say, per instance:

1. Uglúk is a 'human' ork, with a free will, he's dangerous, but he’s a sinner, and as he’s a sinner, he may repent
2. Snaga is a beast, it's dangerous, but innocent, as a tiger is dangerous.

What impression there would be, would be expressed rather in something similar to what follows:

1. Uglúk is a larger one, wittier, stronger and more dangerous, but they both are orks
2. Snaga is a smaller one, dumber, weaker and less dangerous, but they both are orks

Or, to evaluate the whole affair from another angle:

The orks may be studied in two ways. If we rely on the Hobbit and LoTR only, it would be impossible to guess at their origin and nature – i.e., when I first read Hobbit and LoTR, if anyone asked me, ‘what are orks?’ my answer would be:

‘orks just are’, or ‘they are race of very wicked creatures, which are like humans – they have two hands, two legs and head, they have culture and rituals (High Goblin), machinery (for killing lot of people in one go), language (hence the need to use the common speech), history-memory (good old days, Orcrist, Glamdring ), sense of Good and Evil (regular elvish trick) but they are cruel (we left him hanging there) and have no sense of beauty or kindness’.

[I may have felt that their state of cruelty is work of some Evil Power (if I were of religious disposition), or I may have thougt that they are like this due to evolutionary development of their race hard conditions of Northern mountains, and their alliance with Sauron is just a coincidence]

If we rely on the whole bulk of Tolkien’s works, the answer may be answered thus:

‘the origin of orks is dubious, some hold they are ‘mutant’ elves, others they are ‘mutant’ men, some – ‘mutant’ beasts, with occasional incorporated maiar embedded. The very term ‘ork’ spoils the game, for originally it merely referred to something ‘terrible’ so almost any enemy of elves may have been labeled thus. What is that all sources agree upon is that whatever their origin may be, ‘mutation’ is ascribed to Morgoth, who spoiled something originally good. Besides, it may be that all of the sources are right to an extent, and orks are a mix up of all those trends.’

I indeed hold that ‘all the sources are right’. But having such a belief, I inevitably come to conclusion that we must have different species under the same name and guise of Ork. Just like Men and Apes are all Primates, and supposing there are aliens, those aliens may be confused as to what is the difference (and some men were confused as well, believing Orangutans to be Men of the Woods), but if you ask us, we know we are men and apes are apes.

Again, I know all of that can not be worked out of LoTR alone, but again, LoTR is, to a point, account hobbits left us. Or, following you, it is my point also that such a distinction does not appear to be at all present in LotR. But I wonder what would be said about orks if Gandalf were to write the ‘History of the War of the Ring’, not Frodo?
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Old 12-09-2004, 07:53 AM   #37
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Orcs in the Appendix

Here's another data point for our discussion of the nature of orcs, albeit a small one. I finally finished reading the appendices of LotR last night, and came across an interesting sentance - one I would have totally overlooked if not for our discussion here.

Quote:
But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy that I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering, though models are easy to find. Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigor, save in the ear of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong. Appendix F II, On Translation (Emphasis mine)
This is another indication, I think, that we need to look at orcs not just from a cosmological/evolutionary perspective, but from a literary/functional perspective. The cruelty of war was fresh on Tolkien's mind when this book was written, and I am sure that in his life he witnessed more of man's inhumanity to man than any one person should (true of just about anyone who has lived through one war, much less two).

This is, I think, the only place in the main work that Tolkien equates orc-behavior with man-behavior (the letter mention the cutting of trees, or course). I think that when Tolkien created the orcs as opponents of the elves and men and servants of the enemy, he wasn't considering their origins, which is one of the reasons they troubled him so in his later years.

Finally, I'm sure that we have all had the experience of hearing someone who uses the f-word in every sentance, and the "dreary and repetitive" is an apt description.
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Old 12-09-2004, 08:24 AM   #38
Fordim Hedgethistle
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I must admit that I have always found the discussion about orcs and free will to be a bit of a red herring – I mean, really, there are no such things as orcs, so how can the question of free will even be relevant? They are orcs/monsters, so they are bad, just as Elves are good. These are figures from fairy-tale and ancient legend, not historical figures or even characters from a religious tract (like the Bible) being used as the basis of a new belief system. In Beowulf Grendel, Grendel’s Dam and the Dragon are the monsters, they are evil, and thus to be destroyed by good. I really see the same thing with the orcs – I don’t know if it’s ever come up in the Downs, but I don’t recall seeing anyone wonder about the free will or ‘redeemability’ of Smaug: he’s a sentient being, and one who, unlike the orcs, isn’t even a servant or slave of Sauron (nor even made/marred by him). If anything, dragons would apparently be more likely to have the possibility of redemption, but we don’t put ourselves into contortions about whether there is a chance for a good dragon. Dragons are bad, dragons need to die – and not because they have freely chosen evil after some metaphysical/moralizing struggle, but because they are monsters.

The fairy-tale monstrous quality of the orcs is evident in this chapter: they are disgusting and cruel, they are monstrous-imitations of the worse aspects of human nature, and they are – in the end – self-defeating. The orcs kill more of each other than they ever do of the Men they encounter (by my count, about a dozen orcs are killed by other orcs in this chapter, while only three men go down). Like all fairy-tale monsters they are a device: they represent in their cruelty an aspect of humanity (not human beings), and even serve, in an unconscious way, the forces of good, by bringing Merry and Pippin to Fangorn.

I think the only reason we get bogged down in the debates over the orcs is that they are so much more human-appearing than dragons. They look more like us than dragons, they speak more like us: they are more clearly, perhaps, reflections of us and thus we want to think of them in terms that we apply to ourselves. But this is where I think the red herring comes in, as Tolkien was not writing a story in which his fairy-tale creatures are meant to be seen as individuals, but as part of a whole. That is, orcs are not little versions of humans, but are part of a fabric that explores aspects of humanity.

In this chapter, a small piece of that fabric is revealed in the comparison of hobbits and orcs. The previous chapter presented Aragorn as a Man emerging from the mists of legend and stepping into history. He claimed his role as King and advanced his war against Sauron. In this chapter, we get a look at the ‘foot soldiers’ of that War. In the conflict between good and evil in Middle-earth, the primary opponents are Sauron/Saruman and Aragorn/Gandalf. But the beings who do the actual fighting and combat in this war are the orcs on one side and the lesser men, and hobbits, on the other. We’ve already been introduced to the Rohirrim, but in this chapter we see the hobbits (who will bring the Ents into the war with Saruman, and the Ring to destruction). It’s interesting that the only other time we see orcs, up close and personal, is in relation to Sam and Frodo: the orcs never appear on their own but beside and in relation to the hobbits. The point is, I don’t think that the role of the orcs in LotR is to be considered in isolation, but as foils and in relation to the hobbits.

It’s a natural pairing: just as you will never see a good orc who deserves to be allowed to live his life, you will never see an evil hobbit who deserves to be destroyed. Their cultures, their way of speaking, their attitudes toward nature and other peoples are all directly opposite to one another.

The previous chapter is the first in the book not to include a hobbit, and that is significant I think, for without their perspective, things tend to get somewhat stilted and even a bit over the top – very High and not very close to the lived reality and earthiness that we find in Hobbits. I’m not decrying this, for it is this heightened tone that allows Aragorn to move into his heroic identity, but I find this chapter and the return to hobbitishness a welcome relief. It’s already been noted how Merry and Pippin talk about hobbity things in this chapter, but one of these things is their fondness for stories. Bethberry has already quoted this bit, but I shall do so again:

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"You seem to have been doing well, Master Took," said Merry. "You will get almost a chapter in old Bilbo's book, if ever I get a chance to report to him. Good work: especially guessing that hairy villain's little game, and playing up to him. But I wonder if anyone will ever pick up your trail and find that brooch. I should hate to lose mine, but I am afraid yours is gone for good."

"I shall have to brush up my toes, if I am to get level with you. Indeed Cousin Brandybuck is going in front now. This is where he comes in.”
In the previous chapter we see Aragorn stepping from legend into history, the myth made flesh. With the hobbits, we see them already anticipating their transition from lived experience to story; this is a perspective that is unique to hobbits in LotR (Sam and Frodo will develop this idea most fully in the Stairs of Cirith Ungol). It’s almost as though they realize in some way that they are fairy-tale figures in a story that will be told to young hobbits in the future: their aspirations are not Aragorn’s, to become figures of vast historical importance by stepping from legend, but to earn a small part in the story of the past. In this sense, their adventure with the orcs ‘fits’ perfectly; it’s the one adventure in the whole of LotR that is most like the adventures of Bilbo in The Hobbit. The chapter itself concludes with a brief, and odd, paragraph that seems to anticipate the hobbits’ transition to fairy-tale:

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Out of the shadows the hobbits peeped, gazing back down the slope: little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn.
I think the most significant function of this chapter is to demonstrate how hobbits are having and will continue to have an effect not so much on the events of the War (which they will have) but how they will affect the stories of the War. In addition to the epic tale of Aragorn’s Return and the Defeat of Sauron, there is the fairy-tale of two little hobbits who were kidnapped by the monstrous orcs, and borne to the edges of an enchanted wood where they met a tree and led the forest to victory over the evil wizard in his tower of stone. The story of Aragorn and Sauron is the tale that engages the heady and important themes of free-will and repentance, the relation between evil and good, providence and fate. The story of the hobbits, and of Merry and Pippin in particular, is a tale that looks at the much simpler ideas of monsters and heroes, surviving a harrowing adventure, escape and using your wits, and living to tell the story afterward. The previous chapter is part of an epic tale; this chapter is itself a little fairy-tale.
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Old 12-09-2004, 08:40 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
I must admit that I have always found the discussion about orcs and free will to be a bit of a red herring – I mean, really, there are no such things as orcs, so how can the question of free will even be relevant?
It becomes relevant when one considers that Middle-earth is said to be presided over by a single and fundamentally good God. Beore I came across Eru, I never gave it a moment's thought. But, armed with knowledge of His existence in the tale, the incapability of Orcs to repent (during their lives at least) presents for me an essential inconsitency in the portrayal of Good.


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I don’t know if it’s ever come up in the Downs, but I don’t recall seeing anyone wonder about the free will or ‘redeemability’ of Smaug ...
It applies with regard to any sentient beings who have no choice but to serve evil. It is possible (if one posits that they were in origin Maian spirits, for example) that Dragons did have a choice. But if they didn't then, as far as I'm concerned, the same considerations (and problems) apply.
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Old 12-09-2004, 08:56 AM   #40
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It becomes relevant when one considers that Middle-earth is said to be presided over by a single and fundamentally good God. Beore I came across Eru, I never gave it a moment's thought. But, armed with knowledge of His existence in the tale, the incapability of Orcs to repent (during their lives at least) presents for me an essential inconsitency in the portrayal of Good.
I really don't see why it needs to. To cite Beowulf again, it's a poem that can be Christian, and there are sentient monsters; we can even go to something like Spenser's Faerie Queene which is as Christian as things get, and it has reasoning monsters that need destroying. What I mean when I say that orcs are a device is that they are, as monsters, no different from the other obstacles that the heroes encounter: the Watcher in the Water, Caradhras, Saruman, etc etc etc. All of these have been created ultimately be Eru, so all of them are either as problematic -- or not -- to the grand scheme of things. Why did Eru make orcs? I don't know, but why did he make the mountains?

This is the kind of red-herring that I'm talking about, for I'm sure that someone is going to address these sorts of questions -- in effect, to attempt to probe the mind of Eru/God, when what I think we need to be focusing on is the relation enacted in the story between the various elements: in this case, orcs/monsters and hobbits/heroes in their fairy-tale adventure.
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