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Old 06-14-2003, 07:16 AM   #1
Balin999
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The Eye "Ugh?", "Ogh!", "???": The Different Cultures of the Orcs

We had a nice discussion goin' on in another thread and I want to hear your views about the subject: Do you think that the Orcs were all the same or did they have their own cultures?

We know that, for example, the Moria orcs were small and rather weak, but strong in number, while the Uruk-hai were more or less the opposite.
Further, the Uruk-hai didn't have the possibility to create their own culture, because they were not born in the usual way. As for religion, I think that for them their only master Saruman could have also been sth like a "god" figure. Though we never read that they worshipped him.

My guess for the Moria orcs is that they actually had the possibility to develop their own culture over the years. I mean, it's different living in dark caves for centuries or living in a vast dusty plain (Mordor orcs).
Their bodies must have been different, so I think that their views of the world were different, too. Maybe because Sauron wasn't living really near to them, the Moria orcs didn't worship him, but the Balrog instead, (That's quite debatable, actually)as well as they feared him.

We know for certain that the orcs had different languages and used the Westron when they were communicating with other tribes. A sure sign for a different developement of cultures.


And, after re-reading the scenes with Shagrat and Gorbag, I think that the orcs strongly identify with the company or regiment or army they belong too. I mean, that doesn't count as a different culture. But we don't know of any non-violent activities of the orcs, so maybe their lifes are 100% occupied by their activities in wars, guardings (tower of Cirith Ungol) or slaughtering themselves. So maybe the army they belonged to WAS their culture (or the only content of their lives).

And after thinking and reading and thinking again I really hope that this has not been discussed that often before, since I forgot to checkt the search option.

Edit: I have searched now, and I have not found anything similar. Sorry if this subject has been discusses before. Feel free to comment on my views, though.

[ June 14, 2003: Message edited by: Balin999 ]

[ June 14, 2003: Message edited by: Balin999 ]
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Old 06-14-2003, 11:32 AM   #2
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That sounds about right. I'm really not sure how to reply to this.
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Old 06-14-2003, 12:40 PM   #3
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I agree. Orcs most likely identified themselves with their regiments and the places that they came from, more than the fact that they were all servants of Sauron.
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Old 06-14-2003, 12:59 PM   #4
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Quote:
And, after re-reading the scenes with Shagrat and Gorbag, I think that the orcs strongly identify with the company or regiment or army they belong too. I mean, that doesn't count as a different culture. But we don't know of any non-violent activities of the orcs, so maybe their lifes are 100% occupied by their activities in wars, guardings (tower of Cirith Ungol) or slaughtering themselves. So maybe the army they belonged to WAS their culture (or the only content of their lives).
Coming from a heavily military family and town, I can say that a lot (not all, though) of men and women who've returned from fighting have been altered in their perceptions of "culture." When I think about this and put it beside the orcs, I see similarities. You said that there is the obvious possibly the orcs whole lives revolved around militarial work (wars, fighting, guarding, etc). War would become a lifestyle to them, the same way it does to some soldiers, which would also lead to a certain culture.

I'm not making much sense, let me rephrase.

If war is the center of the orcs' lives, then they would develop a certain "culture" towards or around it. In example, if you look at different aspects of the military (using the US military because it's what I'm familiar with), you'll see different attitudes. For instance, you'll see different attitudes and points of view as you go from Air Force to Coast Guard and so on. You get different jokes, different outlooks on life, different tastes in food, different favorite colors (okay, maybe not colors, but you get what I'm saying), everything. So, apply this to the orcs. Between orc regiment A and orc regiment B, you'd probably find different attitudes, orc jokes (or, whatever equivalent they might have), differences in fighting technique, maybe even differences in food tastes. If they had permanent guards and fighters (as in, group A is for guarding only and group B is for fighting in war only), then you might find differences there and probably larger ones than between two regiments of a fighting army.

I still don't think I'm making any sense. Heh. But I'll leave off there before I go off on a tangent and start really not making sense.
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Old 06-15-2003, 04:22 AM   #5
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You are really making sense to me. Another point: (I'm not sure about it) I also guess that each tribe/regiment had their own banner or flag to identify with. I mean, the Southrons had it, so why not the orcs? And the flag of a regiment is not necessarily something that it got from Sauron. I think they designed their own flags, as each regiment had different members with different tastes (meaning colours and so on).

Another question I have is do we know for certain that orcs can read and write? I mean there is this scene near Ithilien were Frodo and Sam discover the statue of old and it is full of writings of the Black speech. I mean, that does not mean that orcs made it. But, if orcs could write, that would be another sign of a culture. (And if they had letters, I'm sure there would be many different ones among the tribes, too)

[ June 15, 2003: Message edited by: Balin999 ]
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Old 06-15-2003, 03:04 PM   #6
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Writing would make sense. They are intelligent beings (not the most intelligent, but take what you can get), and considering their whole history of selective breeding, torture, mutilation, and whatever other pains Morgoth could inflict upon them to distort them from being Elves, I'd say they easily could have had a written language. Hold on, I just confused myself (which is not a good thing). What I mean to say is that if they are descended from the original Elvish distortions, it is reasonable to say that they reatained a suffient degree of the intelligence that the Elves obviously had (and have) to learn to read and write. Along these lines, it is also a very reasonable idea that if they're regiments were the base of their culture, they may have had different letters. Or, if not different letters, then different styles of writing. One regiment may do all its writing with a distinct slant to the left while another might do all its writing straight up and down, for instance.

Moria orcs would probably have had a different system of writing completely, since they were kind of cut off in those caves of theirs. Their writing and culture may have evolved in a different way because of the distance between them and other orcs. Also, since they were in an area originally created by Dwarves, it stands to reason that at least some parts of their culture was influenced by the remains of the Dwarves' culture(s). This might have included borrowing letters from (or even a whole alphabet) the Dwarves.

I have to go look up some more information on orcs. This whole discussion has really caught my mind. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 06-15-2003, 10:13 PM   #7
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Had this thread bookmarked, but now is the first I've had a chance to get into things.

Quote:
We had a nice discussion goin' on in another thread and I want to hear your views about the subject: Do you think that the Orcs were all the same or did they have their own cultures?
What was said in the other thread, though, was that their cultures were all extremely similar. They would all be war-based, they would all be violent. If you were an orc and not violent, you couldn't survive. So yes, they had their own cultures, they had their own armors, own languages (or at least accents), but I don't believe they were very diverse.

(Just thought of something else to reply to) The reading and writing with the orcs. I'd say that they couldn't *all* read and write, as it's easier to repress a group with the less they know. They don't need to know how to read or write, yis?

So, mayhaps some of the more important regiments could, and probably a few members (a.k.a the leaders) in the lower ones could. But that's just my idea.

[ June 16, 2003: Message edited by: QuickSlash ]
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Old 06-16-2003, 09:54 AM   #8
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Would they need to know how to read or write? I mean, if most of their orders were issued verbally, or through Sauron's mind, which controlled all the Orcs, they wouldn't need to learn how to read or write. Only Sauron's spies would need to.
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Old 06-17-2003, 06:11 AM   #9
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Hm, actually I think you are right. The orcs simply didn't need to write. Of course, there might have been some who could because they needed to due to their "jobs" like scout or spies. Hm there is this scene where Shagrat talks to Snaga (or was it Gorbag) about a "message" that has arrived. But I think that could also be a message brought by a messenger and was not written down. But it seems logical that only the leaders could write, because of the above mentioned reason.


By the way, this is my 500th post! Yippieeeee!
I know that this is off topic, I just wanted to let you all know [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 06-17-2003, 06:55 AM   #10
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There is at least one Orcish chieftain we know of that could write: Azog. When he captured and slew Thrór, he branded his hewn head with his own name, written in Dwarvish runes.

This might support the point that Cúdae mentioned earlier about the Moria Orcs possibly being influenced by the remnants of Dwarvish culture there.
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Old 06-17-2003, 02:10 PM   #11
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Alright, we know that Azog could write. That's one orc down and several thousand others to go. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

On a more serious note- Orcs aren't the most trustworthy creatures in Middle-Earth. Or at least they don't seem to be. Because of the ability to write may have been kept to a select few, probably the leaders. Important messages could have been written down and sent with a messanger who could not read or write in order to keep it a secret. This messanger could not have read the message and spread the word, nor would he have known what the message said if captured and/or asked about it. What you don't can hurt you, but it might spare your friends a little pain.
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Old 06-18-2003, 11:32 AM   #12
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Orcs seem to be the epitomy of disorder (not full-blown chaos, mind you). They exhibit the same sorts of distinctions from one group to another, probably moreso than humans or elves. So the idea that the Moria Orcs showed significant difference from the Mordor Orcs has a good premise, in that both groups have had a few hundred years to grow apart from other varieties of orcs, but there were black uruks of Mordor in Moria when the Fellowship passed through so who's to say just how much isolation there was. But to Pippin and Merry (obviously they aren't experts on Orc Culture) there were three obvious different clans of orcs in the group which held them captive, and they easily saw distinction between squat and broad Mordor orcs, massive Isengarder uruk-hai rebels and scrawny 'rat' Moria goblins. Armor and garb count as differences in culture too.

I really don't see orcs as capable of worshipping anything. They fear things with a lot more power than they have, Shelob, the Balrog, or especially Sauron. Even Saruman was capable, the fleeing orc in Cirith Ungol (who bolted down the stairs) was capable of perceiving superior power like the ring, and the Nazgul were especially feared. But not worshipped, the orcs actually found it more lucrative to stay out of the way of the 'higher-ups'.

On the topic of respect accompanying fear, there wouldn't be any. The orcs talked openly about Shelob and mocked her by calling her by royal sorts of titles, they called the Nazgul 'shriekers' and didn't even know enough about the Balrog of Khazad Dum to refer to it as anything but 'fire' (ghash). No worshipping, one has to respect something to worship it as a god.
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Old 09-21-2003, 09:22 AM   #13
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I just remembered that orcs aren't even very loyal to their chiefs.
I can remember the scene where Shagrat and Gorbag think of the "good old times", rummaging through the land with "a few trustfull lads" without a "chief".

So I guess they didn't have fixed hirachic (spelling ?) structures, meaning that a chief could easily be beheaded by another orc who is the heir of the "chief" immediately, until he gets beheaded or stabbed or whatever by the next one. (or a clan living on their own)

So, in a way orcs are more similar to animals, with the only difference that they can talk. I mean, there has always been treason, but no other race than the orcs is arguing and fighting themselves that often.
Maybe that's why they get along well with wolves. I mean, they also have an Alpha-male who can change rather often.
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