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Old 12-28-2007, 06:24 AM   #1
Legate of Amon Lanc
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White-Hand That's not even one of Uglúk's faults

I got an idea of this thread some time ago and since I think the Books forum needs some sort of a kick, I decided to contribute to this kick. Whether it will interest you or not is another question which can be answered only if I post it. So, here is the idea:

We all know that the Orcs in Middle-Earth are bad and nasty. They serve Sauron, or Saruman, or Morgoth. Most of the time, the Orcs simply represent an obstacle for the heroes to overcome. But there are quite a few Orcs portrayed in Tolkien's works to such an extent that we learn something about their personalities and they are not just faces in the crowd. One can easily start to think about them more - at least I did when I read LotR for the first time. I was intrigued by the Orcs who had names, who had their own personalities. Who were these Orcs? What were they like in their "private life"?

It's hard to find the answers, and maybe they won't be even as pleasant: for example, I could quite well imagine, but don't want to, what they usually had for dinner. But what if we narrow the question a little bit?

What I would like to do is a little analysis of the Orcs' "moral flaws". But be careful what you imagine under it. Certain Mr. Grishnákh at one point says:

Quote:
"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 Uglúk's faults."
This makes one think that kindness could be considered as a moral flaw among the Orcs. We are not surprised: the Orcs were mischievous, cruel, merciless, brutal. But people are different, and even Orcs probably are so. This thread works with the concept of free-willed and "redeemable" Orcs. That means the Orcish society could support and hold certain "moral ideals" of their own, but nevertheless individuals could be born with or cultivate in themselves some inherent traits that the society was not able to rip off of them. What if some of the Orcs really had the "fault" of kindness? Or some other "faults": complaisance, compassion, (unforced) fidelity...

This thread is devoted to search for hints of such flaws in the behavior of the Orcs who are known to us. Everyone is welcome to take an Orc to study or post whatever he finds could be a "moral flaw".

NOTICE: This thread works with the concept of free-willed (based for example on the discussion of Gorbag and Shagrat) and "redeemable" Orcs. Anyone who posts at this thread is presumed to post with these prerequisites in mind. This thread's purpose is not to argue whether the Orcs were capable of being kind or so, but its purpose is to find examples or hints of such a behavior.

List of available Orcs: Uglúk, Grishnákh, Gorbag, Shagrat, Snaga, "Little Snuffler" from Mordor, the Uruk-hai who was with him, the Great Goblin of Goblin-Gate, Azog. Any other characters I either forgot or are minor characters without names, yet show some "moral flaw", are also welcome - this list is presented only for inspiration for what can be looked at.

Hope you are going to have fun and looking forward to your contributions!
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Old 12-28-2007, 11:48 PM   #2
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Interesting idea.
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Old 12-30-2007, 07:25 PM   #3
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Excellent idea for a thread.

Why do you consider this "kindness," to take one example, as a moral flaw? Your viewpoint is obviously anthropic. The orcs that we meet are the 'survivors' of a very cruel winnowing process. For all we know, the parents eat the young that they can catch. In this environment, altruism is suicide. Simply giving over a crust of bread or dried meat - regardless the source - could lead one to soon be dead, as the favor would most likely not be returned, be considered a sign of not being 'rightminded,' and so warrant penalty.

I'd like to think that we humans could easily become orcish via George Orwell's 1984, explored somewhat here.

I like to think further on this, and will need to do some research. Are we agreed that orcs reproduce sexually? If so, and if we're dealing with the 'selfish genes,' then it would make sense for certain behaviours to be exhibited; unless, that is, prowess on the battle field did not lead to increased number of children. On the other hand, if there's some type of - let's just say - gene that makes orcs particularly covetous, then maybe those in charge make use of this for their own ends.
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Old 12-31-2007, 03:56 AM   #4
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Why do you consider this "kindness," to take one example, as a moral flaw? Your viewpoint is obviously anthropic. The orcs that we meet are the 'survivors' of a very cruel winnowing process. For all we know, the parents eat the young that they can catch. In this environment, altruism is suicide. Simply giving over a crust of bread or dried meat - regardless the source - could lead one to soon be dead, as the favor would most likely not be returned, be considered a sign of not being 'rightminded,' and so warrant penalty.
And this is exactly it. I don't necessarily think the Orcish society was always and everywhere this way, because it's one thing to live under Morgoth and another thing to be free of the circumstances that bind them to lifetime slavery where the best thing they can hope for is to get the highest command rank and thus, have better state of living than the unlucky average Orcs. But at least for the separate tribes or for Gorbags and Shagrats eventually going out to wilderness, they can build up their own state of living and given the nature of the world of Middle-Earth, I highly doubt the Orcs would not be able to form a society with similar values as the human (or elvish or whatever) one. This thread counts with it and so it aimed to find individuals who showed signs of having close to some of these values, yet he was put back by the current society of the Orcs, by historically inherited values in the society that descended from the times in Angband where indeed, altruism was most probably suicide.

For example, Gorbag and Shagrat now. Before the Mithril-coat and greed and Eru knows what else got between them, it is clear that at least a long time ago in a land far, far away they were friends. They haven't been in close contact for some time now, obviously, yet they still remembered each other as friends. And this friendship of theirs looks like "normal" friendship, not anything based just on, let's say, the fact that it was advantageous for them to keep each other alive because of some "survival of the fittest" principle, or because their superiors forced them to co-operate.

Very interesting point to this is also the so-called Little Snuffler: he seems to hold some sort of "racial creed". Why, it's quite normal to stick to your own kin, yet obviously under the "big bosses" such a thing is not always favourable and (even our human past, and yes, even present knows that) sometimes one can advance his own individual carreer by cutting of the loyalties to his friends or those who are closer to him. I am speaking of this episode, boldening the concerned statement:
Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK; Chapter 2: The Land of Shadow
"I'll give your name and number to the Nazgûl," said the soldier lowering his voice to a hiss. "One of them's in charge at the Tower now."
The other halted, and his voice was full of fear and rage. "You cursed peaching sneakthief!" he yelled. "You can't do your job, and you can't even stick by your own folk. Go to your filthy Shriekers, and may they freeze the flesh off you!"
We are witnessing only a little episode, yet this is the best we have, and whatever the case, even though he spoke in rage, for one to say something he has to at least have thought of it, if possible, more deeply - I would dare to say that we can take the Little Snuffler as an example of an Orc who believes the bonds between people are stronger and more valuable than the individual benefit. The freedom of a human (resp. orc) being shows in that he can choose even something that is unfavourable for him among the choices he has. And that means absolutely unfavourable - for example, I could imagine the Little Snuffler, under certain conditions, in the very radical example, laying down his life for some of his kin. For example, being a father (shame he isn't a mother, that would be better example, but you can imagine if he was) he would not eat their children to survive himself. Now one could speak about wanting the genes to survive or whatever you come up with, yet the freedom is in that he could choose against his genes (to eat the children or not) - that is his difference from an animal (in general).

We know the Little Snuffler, in the end, shoots the other Orc from the example above. His fear and desire for own survival prevails - but under these circumstances one would maybe want too much from him to now selflessly sacrifice himself so the other Orc (whom he does not like at all, as he does not even "stick by his own folk") lives. It would take a Jesus of Nazareth type of Orc to let himself taken back to the execution by the Nazgul and to let the big Orc live. Even a revolutionary type of Orc would now act as Little Snuffler did: shoot the witness who does not support his cause anyway and be free so that he could help other Orcs around himself. Anyway, one has to see there is some latent inclination in the Little Snuffler towards keeping bonds with others even through unfavourable conditions, even at moments when it will be more advantageous for him to truckle to the Nazgul and whoever else.
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Old 12-31-2007, 08:41 AM   #5
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[FONT=&quot]D'you remember old Ufthak? We lost him for days. Then we found him in a corner; hanging up he was, but he was wide awake and glaring. How we laughed! She'd forgotten him, maybe, but we didn't touch him-no good interfering with Her. [/FONT]
This in a way proves that other Orcs were not ready to risk anything to save their kind and this probably goes for the majority of Orcs.

Although I must accept that there were some exceptions I doubt that a truly peaceful co-existence of Orcs was possible.

Look in our own world. In some countries democracy works out just fine due to our culture and our education and to the values we have learned from our parents. In others it simply doesn't.
Same goes for M-e in my opinion.
Hobbits due to their kind and peaceful nature are perfectly well off with their simple system.
Orcs on the other hand need a strong person to lead them, a military dictatorship like the rule of Azog or of the Great Goblin.
Of course there might be free thinkers within these societies but I doubt it would ever be possible for them to overthrow the existing rule and create a free orc state.
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Old 12-31-2007, 08:55 AM   #6
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This in a way proves that other Orcs were not ready to risk anything to save their kind and this probably goes for the majority of Orcs.
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Of course there might be free thinkers within these societies but I doubt it would ever be possible for them to overthrow the existing rule and create a free orc state.
You are absolutely right. Yet this is what this thread is about - not about society, but about the individuals. And overthrow? That's not the way it works. If in some Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh Age the Orcs were to change their ways globally in a way that it could be seen, it would have to come some other way, slowly, from the inside.

But yet, as I said, this is about individuals - and I am by no means implying that these individuals could have had some major impact on the society simply as they were, although even this can be considered. But my main interest was to find what was in the individuals we know, try to get a more "plastic" view of them, and then eventually come up with something more based on this - which is of course welcome as well.
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Old 01-01-2008, 06:45 AM   #7
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In case Tolkien didn't really make all up then that might be our source of vampire legends and other strange sightings.

They might be in the sewers of our great cities right now planning how to get back at us.

Actually, it is quite interesting to see how they are presented in different works.
In The Silmarillion as well as in The Hobbit they are presented as evil creatures with seemingly no possibility of becoming good.

Quote:
Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted.
Also there are no examples of them showing any sign of kindness in these books as far as I am aware.

Whereas in LotR there are these few examples. From the discussion between Shagrat and Gorbag one can see that they could be friends (at least until they fight over something) as they planned living somewhere away from any masters to command them.
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Old 01-01-2008, 12:50 PM   #8
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I wonder if things were any different for the Orcs under the Great Goblin, compared to the Orcs under the Dark Lords or White Wizard. The orcs seem to me, to be the kind of race that could easily wipe themselves out, so the Great Goblin most of been a strong leader to keep his people alive. The Orcs seem to settle disagreements by killing each other; they also don’t seem to be very loyal to each other.
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Old 01-01-2008, 01:29 PM   #9
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Well, I think we pretty much got a conclusion, or at least I have mine.

Orcs as a society are incapable of living together in peace, although there do indeed seem to be certain exceptions from this rule.
However, I am wondering if these exceptions were only moments of kindness or hints that there is more behind it.

If that was the case could it be that these Orcs were not understood by anyone, including the Valar? Because we see there would have been some hope for Gollum, but never anything is said of Orcs.

Probably only Eru knew if any of them were redeemable.
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Old 01-01-2008, 09:22 PM   #10
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I thought I might toss into the stewpot this exerpt from the Oddlots blog (nameless, unfortunately):

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Briefly, I will only say that by reducing [the Orcs], nothing is added to the film. Grishnákh is one of the scariest villains in all fantasy: someone who is perfectly rational, and perfectly selfish, and who has no compassionate feelings for anyone else — but is clever, and empathic, enough to understand what motivates others. He isn't crazy, he isn't a mad slasher or a mindless monster: he's the embodiment of the Secret Police, the door kicked down in the night, the soundproofed room, the hand on the electrode's switch… —Uglúk, on the other hand, has a kind of ruinous nobility about him, and it is fitting that he dies in heroic hand-to-hand combat with the prince of his foes. He does care, on some level of his violent, hate-shaped mind, about his followers; he is capable of a kind of brutal selflessness, and unlike Grishnákh, is not sadistic in the same way: he does not have time, in his harsh responsible soul, for savouring fear like a potent wine, as the more sophisticated torturer does. (When Grishnákh talks about coming back because he cares about the likely lads left behind under a bad commander, he instantly reveals himself as a phoney, and Uglúk the genuine, if hideous, article.) He is Grendel given a tough job and great lines, in the book, and he is a worthy antagonist for Éomer.
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Old 01-02-2008, 06:28 AM   #11
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Thumbs up

Wonderful contribution, William! Thanks a lot for this one. That is exactly what I hoped for.
Myself, I found this stuff about Uglúk absolutely fantastic - that he duels Éomer in the end. And Éomer himself dismounts to make a proper duel with him. That is something wonderful: the fact that Uglúk is worthy of such a thing in Éomer's eyes speaks a lot about him; there surely must have been some sort of "noble" spirit in him, recognizable. Éomer probably saw Uglúk for the first time in his life, and we are not told that Uglúk would distinct himself much from the "cannon fodder Orcs" in an apparent way - like that he was wearing a silver helmet or distinctions of a leader or being a meter taller than the others; so Éomer must have spotted something about him in other way - and that is probably on how Uglúk was acting. And yet Éomer, even upon realising "here is the leader of the filthy Orcs of Saruman" (who slew our dear brothers, fathers, friends etc.) does not simply chop his head off from ride-by attack, yet he dismounts and duels him, sword against sword (that also speaks something very positive about Éomer's personality). So, Éomer did not just recognize the leader in Uglúk, but also an Orc worth of the honour to fight him this way. And this must probably have been on Uglúk's actions. We know how Uglúk acts throughout the whole chapter - and he has something "noble" in him, indeed. He, as also the quote by William says very well, somehow cared about his sheep (*ahem*). He had this strong feeling of responsibility, if nothing else. So, it is quite probable - and that would be a wonderful scene - that the Riders attacked, and there was the first panic and the battle for some time, then sun rose and Uglúk (after "Mauhúr and his lads" were beaten back) organised some last stand as it was clear to him that the Rohirrim leave none alive, maybe even - and I will become very bold here and use the parallel with the disaster at Gladden Fields, not everyone has to agree, it is just my own idea - he could have tried to save some folks and like Isildur send someone to at least bring message to Orthanc. It would make a good stuff for these heart-touching war films, you know. "We make last stand here, and you, Lugdush, go and tell the White Wizard what happened. Go now! Run!" Beautiful, sad music, you know, camera cuts close to Uglúk's firm face and Lugdush with this wide-eyed stare, then the horses come closer and Lugdush at last turns and runs, yet two Riders part from the main group and chase him and stab him with their spears. So Uglúk turns to his followers and with the last effort he shouts orders on them, trying to maintain the spirit in them even though the end seems inevitable, and so Éomer spots him, and when the rest of the Riders scatter to chase the fleeing Orcs, he dismounts and faces Uglúk...
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Old 01-02-2008, 08:39 AM   #12
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Note also the trenchant observations 'Arthedain' makes about Grishnakh. No bestial Cockney mutant he! More like Orwell's O'brien. It astounds me thet PJ, with his head stuffed full of Hollywood popcorn flicks, missed at least the similarities between this intelligent, sinister Commissar and Indy Jones' Gestapo man: "Vat shall ve talk about?" We should also remember that Grishy, whether motivated by 'the Cause' or selfish ambition or just a good healthy fear of Nazgul, performs prodigies of hardihood and endurance in the effort to claim the Prisoners for his dark master.

BTW, at http://oddlots.digitalspace.net/arthedain/ this fellow, a real connoisseur of film, has put up some of the most devastating critiques I have seen of Jackson *as a director*, as well as an interpreter of Tolkien. When he lets off both barrels with
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This was a self-indulgent film by a director with not an ounce of romance or poetry in his soul, no experience in adaptation, no experience in high adventure, no subtlety, no sense of quiet personal interaction, no competense at suspense, no love of beauty — and a script adapted by people who missed the soul of the book entirely.
it's not random invective but a peroration, the epitome of a long discussion with examples of why this is so; he expresses many thing I have thought much better than I ever have, as well as additional points which escaped me (such as the fact that PJ devoted a full quarter of TT's running time to Helm's Deep).
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Old 01-02-2008, 09:43 AM   #13
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Why don't you think Grishnakh's comment regarding Ugluk was not sarcasm? He certainly was capable of it.

The orcs had a very clear sense of morality; they were just lousy at applying it to themselves. The planks in their own eyes just stayed where they were and they were always good at pointing out the slivers in other orcs' eyes - especially when it served their meagre ambitions. I'd give examples but I don't have the books with me.
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Old 01-02-2008, 10:33 AM   #14
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Why don't you think Grishnakh's comment regarding Ugluk was not sarcasm? He certainly was capable of it.
It might have been, however, even if it was, it implies Grishnákh thought about this and certainly he did not consider himself nor Uglúk of having this "fault". This would raise the question how did he see himself, and how did the Orcs as a society see themselves, and it seems that Grishnákh did not think kindness is an important value, rather a weakness or an useless thing. The Orcs as a society were, in contrary to Men, composed mostly of individuals who thought the same as Grishnákh - considering these qualities unimportant. In a human society today, you have people who think it's a good thing to help those who are less fortunate and there are people who don't care in the slightest. Orcish society is the same only there is the difference that in their society the second type of people are quite large. How large, we don't know, but let's say above 90% (it may as well be 99%). Anyway, the point of the thread is the conclusion that can be made on basis of this, if any Orcs we know had any of these qualities.

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Originally Posted by elempi
The orcs had a very clear sense of morality; they were just lousy at applying it to themselves. The planks in their own eyes just stayed where they were and they were always good at pointing out the slivers in other orcs' eyes - especially when it served their meagre ambitions. I'd give examples but I don't have the books with me.
I would like you to do so. I can't remember anything like that in this moment.
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:57 PM   #15
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Uglúk worthy? I never read that into that part of the story. Eomer, to me, fights him on the ground due to some other reason - terrain, horse wounded or could be wounded, etc. Eomer singles out Uglúk because he is the biggest orc in the bunch, surrounded by the almost biggest body guards. This group holds together while the other orcs flee pell-mell. Eomer surely realized that this group would take special consideration, and so decided to do his own mopping up. Plus, as a leader, it's his duty to take down the leader of the opposition.

And more about the orcs: In RotK, when Sauron falls, it is noted that the orcs, trolls and other evil creatures become suddenly leaderless and so try to escape by whatever means. The men, long in Sauron's evil service, hold together and ask for no quarter. So there's clearly a distinction between men and orcs.

Could the orcs be like other hive organisms - ants? Do they live to serve a leader, and are "steerless" when that leader dies? Could this mean that there are levels of consciousness in orcdom? At the bottom of the pyramid you could have drone-like orcs that simply follow orders and aren't really skilled. Above that you have some middle managers who can whip up the troops a bit but not plan large scale battles. And beyond that, you may have some orcs that lead missions, or are breed for specific purposes, and some of these, having to interact with humans, are the most cognizant.

It's these that we'd be discussing, and they may have noticed some idiosyncrasies regarding the human culture, and some may even have considered some of these traits.
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Old 01-02-2008, 02:57 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by alatar View Post
Uglúk worthy? I never read that into that part of the story. Eomer, to me, fights him on the ground due to some other reason - terrain, horse wounded or could be wounded, etc. Eomer singles out Uglúk because he is the biggest orc in the bunch, surrounded by the almost biggest body guards.
If it were only for the terrain, it would not make sense in the way it is mentioned. Why would Tolkien say it the way he says?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TT; Chapter 3: The Uruk-hai
So it was that they did not see the last stand, when Uglúk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn. There he was slain at last by Éomer, the Third Marshal of the Mark, who dismounted and fought him sword to sword. And over the wide fields the keen-eyed Riders hunted down the few Orcs that had escaped and still had strength to fly.
A) there was no need to dismount because of the terrain; B) no wounded horse or anything - first, Éomer's house is mentioned in the books by name and he is not mentioned to be wounded; second, Tolkien could slip in an input sentence to say that he was wounded or why Éomer dismounted - C) the fact Tolkien does not mention why Éomer dismounted can mean only one thing: that he explains it in the sentence. Follow my thoughts, please. If Tolkien did not care to explain to us why Éomer dismounted, why even mention that he dismounted? He could have ended the sentence by the words "Third Marshal of the Mark". Now, he does not say why Éomer dismounted - at least not explicitely. Yet what follows in the sentence after the information that Éomer dismounted? And fought him sword to sword. We could easily replace the "and" with "to": meaning of purpose, Éomer dismounted to fight Uglúk sword to sword. So this tells us why Éomer dismounted. Yet the "and" gives it sort of a different level - Tolkien did not say "to", therefore making the other sentence just a bonus information to the previously mentioned fact (he dismounted), but making it connected in the way that both the parts of the sentence have the same level. Uglúk was slain by Éomer. And what else do we learn about this? Éomer dismounted and fought him sword to sword. Both these actions are connected by the same origin, or purpose: the reason why he dismounted was the same to the one why he fought him sword to sword, yet we don't learn any third reason, it is still hidden inside these few words. And the words sword to sword imply only one thing: equality. Whatever the case, Éomer saw Uglúk as someone who has the same level as himself. And that's not, in my opinion, only about taking down enemy leader: or at least not in Éomer's case. He must have realised that who stands in front of him is not only a nasty Orc, a nameless face in the crowd, but someone who theoretically could switch place with him, the Third Marshal of the Mark, as the text itself says and therefore, emphasises. The message is clear, even shocking: Uglúk can be compared to Éomer. And if I go to the extreme, recently there appeared the thread about Anti-Dwarves: if you want me to be shocking and provocative, I could say that Uglúk is Anti-Éomer - and Éomer is Anti-Uglúk. Hm, looking at this I might even make a little study of this.
But for now, enough of the language analysis

Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
And more about the orcs: In RotK, when Sauron falls, it is noted that the orcs, trolls and other evil creatures become suddenly leaderless and so try to escape by whatever means. The men, long in Sauron's evil service, hold together and ask for no quarter. So there's clearly a distinction between men and orcs.
This was mentioned before and many times and discussed on many threads, you must remember that they were under the command of Sauron and more or less had no free will (warning: I mean because they were enslaved and usurped now, not that they will be beings without free will). At few sentences before, we read this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK; Chapter 4: Field of Cormallen
and even at that moment all the hosts of Mordor trembled, doubt clutched their hearts, their laughter failed, their hands shook and their limbs were loosed. The Power that drove them on and filled them with hate and fury was wavering, its will was removed from them; and now looking in the eyes of their enemies they saw a deadly light and were afraid.
The difference is in that the Men, Easterlings and Southrons, as they are named in the part you mentioned, had their own leaders, their own cause why they joined Sauron. They were only allies. The Orcs were slaves, and they obeyed their leaders who obeyed their superiors who obeyed Sauron, and Sauron was dead, the Nazgul gone, the leaders could hardly do anything more.

Anyway, this is not the point of this thread and I have to say, unfortunately, that not even the ant-thing is and I want to preventively step in before any debate could start. This thread focuses on individual Orcs known to us and counts with their free will. So however the ideas may be interesting, this thread was not built for that and for the clarity of topic I suggest either reviving an older thread for such debates or start a new one - I must say yesterday I also thought about starting a new thread about Orcs as society, so if anyone wants to discuss this, go ahead. But this one is about individual examples that can eventually be applied on others, so let's stay on topic, please.
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Old 01-03-2008, 08:49 AM   #17
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Yes, but what others individual Orcs? What true example of kindness is there? I doubt they were really anything else except cannon fodder in the books.
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Old 01-03-2008, 10:20 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
If it were only for the terrain, it would not make sense in the way it is mentioned. Why would Tolkien say it the way he says?
He wanted to give us something to talk about?

My comment regarding the terrain is that, by this time of the chase, Uglúk and his boys were near Fangorn, it was hilly (uphill) and there were trees. Maybe not the best place in which to fight from horseback.

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A) there was no need to dismount because of the terrain;
See above.

Quote:
B) no wounded horse or anything - first, Éomer's house is mentioned in the books by name and he is not mentioned to be wounded; second, Tolkien could slip in an input sentence to say that he was wounded or why Éomer dismounted
Agreed. But we do not know if Eomer chose to leave his horse behind, as maybe he thought that his horse was already overtired and so risked the chance of death due to the terrain.

Quote:
C) the fact Tolkien does not mention why Éomer dismounted can mean only one thing:
We'd have something on which to speculate?

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that he explains it in the sentence. Follow my thoughts, please. If Tolkien did not care to explain to us why Éomer dismounted, why even mention that he dismounted?
Heroes can rack up points dispatching numerous unnamed faceless bad guys, but really cool heroes have to take down the 'Boss' baddie as well. Didn't Aragorn slay a less-than-nameless orc in Moria? Though pleased to meet him, Aragorn didn't catch his name, but this particular orc was bigger and badder than the others. Also, by having a rider dismount, we add some texture to the story. Makes you remember (somewhat) Eomer's deeds more. As we'd spent all of that time running alongside Ugluk, surely we have to read of his spectacular end, and for the same price, learn that Eomer sans horse is tougher than this mean old head-lopping orc. It's, as we say, a two-fer.

Quote:
He could have ended the sentence by the words "Third Marshal of the Mark". Now, he does not say why Éomer dismounted - at least not explicitely. Yet what follows in the sentence after the information that Éomer dismounted? And fought him sword to sword. We could easily replace the "and" with "to": meaning of purpose, Éomer dismounted to fight Uglúk sword to sword. So this tells us why Éomer dismounted. Yet the "and" gives it sort of a different level - Tolkien did not say "to", therefore making the other sentence just a bonus information to the previously mentioned fact (he dismounted), but making it connected in the way that both the parts of the sentence have the same level. Uglúk was slain by Éomer. And what else do we learn about this? Éomer dismounted and fought him sword to sword. Both these actions are connected by the same origin, or purpose: the reason why he dismounted was the same to the one why he fought him sword to sword, yet we don't learn any third reason, it is still hidden inside these few words. And the words sword to sword imply only one thing: equality. Whatever the case, Éomer saw Uglúk as someone who has the same level as himself. And that's not, in my opinion, only about taking down enemy leader: or at least not in Éomer's case. He must have realised that who stands in front of him is not only a nasty Orc, a nameless face in the crowd, but someone who theoretically could switch place with him, the Third Marshal of the Mark, as the text itself says and therefore, emphasises. The message is clear, even shocking: Uglúk can be compared to Éomer. And if I go to the extreme, recently there appeared the thread about Anti-Dwarves: if you want me to be shocking and provocative, I could say that Uglúk is Anti-Éomer - and Éomer is Anti-Uglúk. Hm, looking at this I might even make a little study of this.
But for now, enough of the language analysis
That's a lot to read into so short a text - not that I can argue with it. Okay, let's say that Eomer sees this big orc with a name tag and says, "Hey, he's an important character just like me, and so the bylaws indicate that I can fight him man-to-orc instead of shooting him from a far and safe distance, if I so choose." Now, Eomer has fought orcs before, and seemingly has some sense about him. He rings them in to keep them from getting into the forest where his horses will be less effective (see above), and continually harries them until dawn, when he and his men will have yet another advantage. So, knowing this about him, how fey do we allow him to be? Will this future King willy-nilly decide to duel any big orc that looks important? Does need drive him, or does he simply enjoy the combat, regardless of the risk and implications of his possible loss? Is he that macho?

I see him as fighting Ugluk out of necessity, not honor, as orcs have none.

And just who is the anti-Eowyn then?

Quote:
But this one is about individual examples that can eventually be applied on others, so let's stay on topic, please.
Sorry. My point was that the number of orcs who may be individuals might be small; of these, the number that have the traits that you are considering may just be those that have had contact with humans.

Did Azog show a moral flaw when he let Nár live to tell of the humiliating death of Thrór? Instead of simply killing the two, Azog had to pridefully boast (easy to do when a Balrog has your back), and this led to his eventual downfall.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:01 AM   #19
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And just who is the anti-Eowyn then?
That's easy. Gríma. (And that's another thread.)

I could be wrong but it seems to me that the eaves of the forest are described as being a distance from the remains of the battle, so "there were trees" is not exactly true.

Legate, your language analysis holds up as far as it is analysis; but there's a point at which you switch to opinion. There's nothing in the text to support that Eomer saw Ugluk as an equal in any other way except that he was leader of the orcs.

I still haven't had a chance to dig out my books, but I promise to do so.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:26 AM   #20
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My comment regarding the terrain is that, by this time of the chase, Uglúk and his boys were near Fangorn, it was hilly (uphill) and there were trees. Maybe not the best place in which to fight from horseback.
At the edge of Fangorn, to be precise. But this does not mean still that the Riders would have to dismount, as long as they did not enter the forest itself (and maybe even then, to a certain distance... though Fangorn was a wild forest...). Anyway, there were Mauhúr and his lads coming out of the forest before, and we don't hear anything about the Riders dismounting, as far as I know.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
Agreed. But we do not know if Eomer chose to leave his horse behind, as maybe he thought that his horse was already overtired and so risked the chance of death due to the terrain.
A Rohir, leaving his horse behind just like that? Very, very improbable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
So, knowing this about him, how fey do we allow him to be? Will this future King willy-nilly decide to duel any big orc that looks important? Does need drive him, or does he simply enjoy the combat, regardless of the risk and implications of his possible loss? Is he that macho?
I already stated my opinion (see above in my post and below now):
Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
I see him as fighting Ugluk out of necessity, not honor, as orcs have none.
That's your opinion. However, that does not speak about Uglúk, but about Éomer - he, unlike you apparently, believes that Uglúk deserves the "honourable fight", whatever kind of nassty creature he is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
Did Azog show a moral flaw when he let Nár live to tell of the humiliating death of Thrór? Instead of simply killing the two, Azog had to pridefully boast (easy to do when a Balrog has your back), and this led to his eventual downfall.
That would be for the goblin historians to judge. The successive leader would probably say so ("Azog was an idiot, I will be a better leader. And we will have revenge for our defeat. Let's crush the Dwarves!!!" ...and so they went to Erebor...).

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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
Legate, your language analysis holds up as far as it is analysis; but there's a point at which you switch to opinion. There's nothing in the text to support that Eomer saw Ugluk as an equal in any other way except that he was leader of the orcs.
It is just an opinion and I said it. But that's what I encourage people to do. And I said it also because it better illustrates the way I see the Orcs, like Uglúk, so people can get clearer picture of what I have in mind when I am speaking more in general.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:30 AM   #21
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That's easy. Gríma. (And that's another thread.)
And opposites do attract...

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I could be wrong but it seems to me that the eaves of the forest are described as being a distance from the remains of the battle, so "there were trees" is not exactly true.
Though not exactly false. In another thread we established beyond all doubt that any dwarf could run from Parth Galen to Fangorn in 3.5 days, and so extrapolating from there, we have to assume that the hobbits - Merry and Pippin - were somewhat closer to trees as they had to crawl/walk to them before sunrise. Ugluk, having outraced said dwarf, surely would find 'some trees' in a few strides.

Don't have my books on me, but hope to back this up (or back out ) soon.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:39 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
At the edge of Fangorn, to be precise. But this does not mean still that the Riders would have to dismount, as long as they did not enter the forest itself (and maybe even then, to a certain distance... though Fangorn was a wild forest...). Anyway, there were Mauhúr and his lads coming out of the forest before, and we don't hear anything about the Riders dismounting, as far as I know.
The forest did not start all in a line; trees began to appear before reaching the 'edge.' But that has to be backed up, like I stated.

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A Rohir, leaving his horse behind just like that? Very, very improbable.
Did they slay the orcs at night from their horses - not known for crawling - or did they leave them then and give battle, as they will later at Helm's Deep? And Eomer gives horses to strangers, so improbable things do happen.

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That's your opinion. However, that does not speak about Uglúk, but about Éomer - he, unlike you apparently, believes that Uglúk deserves the "honourable fight", whatever kind of nassty creature he is.
That would be your opinion regarding Eomer. Why would he risk this? How did he know Ugluk was 'worthy,' while all of the other orcs that he shot from a distance or stabbed as they slept not worthy? Why do we not see this later? Was, in all of Middle Earth, only Ugluk worthy of such attentions?

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That would be for the goblin historians to judge. The successive leader would probably say so ("Azog was an idiot, I will be a better leader. And we will have revenge for our defeat. Let's crush the Dwarves!!!" ...and so they went to Erebor...).
"We need to assemble our troops to attack those thieving dwarfs. Send messages to all our kin - use the good dwarven stationary this time..."


Sorry for the double post.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:49 AM   #23
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An interesting subject, but also one where I fear that we will not find an answer that we can all agree upon.

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Originally Posted by The Might
Orcs as a society are incapable of living together in peace, although there do indeed seem to be certain exceptions from this rule.
However, I am wondering if these exceptions were only moments of kindness or hints that there is more behind it.

If that was the case could it be that these Orcs were not understood by anyone, including the Valar? Because we see there would have been some hope for Gollum, but never anything is said of Orcs.
I do belive that orcs are incabable of living together in peace the way hobbits do, but that is not saying that they could not have their own independant and relatively peaceful societies societies.

Surely there must also have been crime of sorts amongst hobbits and we know that both elfs and men can be both warmongering and wicked. So these things will of course also be pressent amongst orcs, but I do not think that it is a given that they will start slaughtering each other whenever they have the chance.

It is seldome that you see orcs fighting within there own ranks, it seems to me that as long as that it is clear who is in command then they are quite capable of working together. It is when they are confronted with another group of orcs, which they don't identify with that they start killing each other.

This subject is something that has pussled me ever since I read the books for the first time. At first I thought that orcs where just mindless beasts, but when I read that conversation between Shagrat and Gorbag. . . That was gave me the sence that there was more to the orcs than just being mindles brawlers.
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Old 01-04-2008, 01:16 PM   #24
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Regarding trees and Uglúk's last stand, here is the text that makes me think as I do (emphasis mine):

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTT:The Uruk Hai
The Isengarders began to run with a redoubled pace that astonished Pippin, a terrific spurt it seemed for the end of a race. Then he saw that the sun was sinking, falling behind the Misty Mountains; shadows reached over the land. The soldiers of Mordor lifted their heads and also began to put on speed. The forest was dark and close. Already they had passed a few outlying trees. The land was beginning to slope upwards, ever more steeply; but the orcs did not halt. Both Uglúk and Grishnákh shouted, spurring them to a last effort.
Before the orcs make their last camp upon the hillock, they already have encountered trees, and the ground in sloping upward in the direction that they wish to go (and later try to escape).

Quote:
The eaves of the forest were very near, probably no more than three furlongs away, but they could go no further. The horsemen had encircled them. A small band disobeyed Uglúk's command, and ran on towards the forest: only three returned.
The edge of the forest, even though we already have trees, is only ~660 yards or 603 meters away at most. And did I mention 'sloping?'

Quote:
Then with a great cry the Riders charged from the East; the red light gleamed on mail and spear. The Orcs yelled and shot all the arrows that remained to them. The hobbits saw several horsemen fall; but their line held on up the hill and over it, and wheeled round and charged again. Most of the raiders that were left alive then broke and fled, this way and that, pursued one by one to the death. But one band, holding together in a black wedge, drove resolutely in the direction of the forest. Straight up the slope they charged towards the watchers. Now they were drawing near, and it seemed certain that they would escape: they had already hewn down three Riders that barred their way.
We have Uglúk and his mates trying to escape to the forest, uphill with some tree cover. Three Riders - not Rohirrim, or men, but Riders were hewn down by the orcs. Doesn't Eomer lose a total of 15 men during the whole affair, and here in this brief moment he loses 20% of the total, and that because of a "band?" To me, this means that not only were these orcs the best of the bunch, but also that they had some advantage.
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Old 01-04-2008, 10:17 PM   #25
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Orc morals

Here's just the first instance I found.

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'So you've come back?' [Uglúk] said. 'Thought better of it, eh?'
'I've returned to see that Orders are carried out and the prisoners safe,' answered Grishnákh.
'Indeed!' said Uglúk. 'Waste of effort. I'll see that orders are carried out in my command. And what else did you come back for? You went in a hurry. Did you leave anything behind?'
'I left a fool,' snarled Grishnákh. 'But there were some stout fellows with him that are too good to lose. I knew you'd lead them into a mess. I've come to help them.'
Grishnákh twice makes sarcastic remarks regarding his motives: to see that prisoners are safe and to help stout fellows. Uglúk remarks upon better thought, which (1) denotes thought process and (2) value. These are statements of value, not in terms of money, but ability and character, which denotes moral standards.

Following this is Uglúk's taunt about the Nazgúl and then Grishnákh's retort, which serves to reveal that Grishnákh is more evil and more knowledgeable than Uglúk. Then Uglúk says,
Quote:
'You seem to know a lot ... More than is good for you, I guess.'
"Good for you". This again denotes moral sense.

And both exchanges show that each orc is pointing out blame in the other and virtue (of a sort) in himself.

There are other instances of this kind of exchange, both here between Uglúk and Grishnákh, as well as between Gorbag and Shagrat in the Tower of Cirith Ungol.
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Old 12-03-2017, 04:27 PM   #26
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Boots This might be reaching...

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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
It might have been, however, even if it was, it implies Grishnákh thought about this and certainly he did not consider himself nor Uglúk of having this "fault". This would raise the question how did he see himself, and how did the Orcs as a society see themselves, and it seems that Grishnákh did not think kindness is an important value, rather a weakness or an useless thing. The Orcs as a society were, in contrary to Men, composed mostly of individuals who thought the same as Grishnákh - considering these qualities unimportant. In a human society today, you have people who think it's a good thing to help those who are less fortunate and there are people who don't care in the slightest. Orcish society is the same only there is the difference that in their society the second type of people are quite large. How large, we don't know, but let's say above 90% (it may as well be 99%). Anyway, the point of the thread is the conclusion that can be made on basis of this, if any Orcs we know had any of these qualities.
Maybe a little context will go a long way.

Perhaps "kindness to enemies" was the fault.
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Old 12-04-2017, 04:22 AM   #27
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Sting

First off, I see a couple of references to Oddlots in the thread; I can confirm that Oddlots was written by Philosopher@Large, AKA Bellatrys (author of the famous Leithian Script). I don't think she has much of an online presence these days, but I happen to have archived a bunch of her stuff from Oddlots here, including the Arthedain Annex of LotR-M criticism.

Now, orcish morality. Before we can find their moral flaws, we need to know what their morals are. Legate has already mentioned the idea of them being anti-kindness:

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTT 3: The Uruk-Hai
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 Uglúk's faults.
What is 'kindness'? Kuruharan suggests it might be 'kindness to enemies', but that still doesn't answer my question. A working definition might be: to do something for someone weaker than you at your own expense. It would be 'kindness' not to eat Merry and Pip, because orcs enjoy the taste of man-flesh, and the Hobbits are captives; it's not 'kindness' to obey Orders, because both the Eye and the White Hand are stronger than the orcs.

In other words:

Orc Moral #1: Might Makes Right.
Orc Moral #2: Follow Orders.

Legate has also pointed out that, while not being altruistic, orcs are expected to show solidarity:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RotK 2: The Land of Shadow
‘I’ll give your name and number to the Nazgûl,’ said the soldier lowering his voice to a hiss. ‘One of them’s in charge at the Tower now.'

The other halted, and his voice was full of fear and rage. ‘You cursed peaching sneakthief!’ he yelled. ‘You can’t do your job, and you can’t even stick by your own folk. Go to your filthy Shriekers, and may they freeze the flesh off you! If the enemy doesn’t get them first. They’ve done in Number One, I’ve heard, and I hope it’s true!'
Interestingly, it's the physically weaker orc who gets outraged about this moral code being broken: the tracker is the second speaker. But, as The Might points out, the orcs wouldn't be willing to go up against Shelob for each other. There is a firm moral here, but also a flexible one:

Orc Moral #3: Stand by your Kin (when the Bosses aren't around).

Grishnákh seems to follow this on an intra-orc level, caring more about his own Mordor troops than Ugluk's Isengarders. Neither of them care much about the Northerners.

What else do we know? Something that, bizarrely, a lot of people on the Downs don't seem to have registered: orcs aren't cannibals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTT 3: The Uruk-Hai
'Aye, we must stick together,' growled Uglúk. 'I don't trust you little swine. You've no guts outside your own sties. But for us you'd all have run away. 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. We came out of Isengard, and led you here, and we shall lead you back by the way we choose. I am Uglúk. I have spoken.'

'You have spoken more than enough, Uglúk,' sneered the evil voice. 'I wonder how they would like it in Lugbúrz. They might think that Uglúk's shoulders needed relieving of a swollen head. They might ask where his strange ideas came from. Did they come from Saruman, perhaps? Who does he think he is, setting up on his own with his filthy white badges? They might agree with me, with Grishnákh their trusted messenger; and I Grishnákh say this: Saruman is a fool. and a dirty treacherous fool. But the Great Eye is on him.

'Swine is it? How do you folk like being called swine by the muck-rakers of a dirty little wizard? It's orc-flesh they eat, I'll warrant.'
(Oddly enough, it was Oddlots that first pointed this out to me.)

Look at that line from Grishnákh - those aren't the words of someone who could ever imagine eating orc. That's someone for whom 'they eat orc-flesh' is a dire insult. Man-flesh, they will eat and enjoy, but their own 'species' is off-limits.

Orc Moral #4: Orcs are not Food.

That's probably enough to be going on with. (To be honest, the first three were - I've just seen too many 'Orcs as cannibal' comments and wanted to counter them. ^_~) So do we ever see an 'immoral' orc?

As it happens, most of these morals are highlighted by their breaking. Ugluk acts 'kindly'; he claims to be following Orders, but he also heals Merry's head wound, which wasn't really necessary. (I tend to agree with Philosopher@Large that Tolkien deliberately gave him a certain tarnished nobility, and that his final duel is part of this.) Grishnákh is pretty terribly at obeying Orders, first leaving the prisoners, then trying to take the Ring himself. And the entirety of Book 6 is stuffed full of a complete lack of solidarity.

My conclusion? Though orcs have a moral code, they absolutely suck at sticking to it. Which... isn't really all that surprising, considering.

hS
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Old 12-04-2017, 11:31 AM   #28
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Orcs are quite reminiscent of members of a criminal gang or demoralized soldiers of a badly run military in their mannerisms and attitudes.

"Of course," you would say because that is exactly what they are.

Well, yes.

But I find myself wondering how much of Tolkien's own military experience crept into his conception of the orcs. I say this largely because of the 20th Century tone and milieu that overwhelms the story every time the narrative interacts with the orcs as individuals.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:30 PM   #29
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There's also the case that Shippey brings up: while Shagrat and Gorbag react with apparent scorn at the "great Elvish warrior" leaving Frodo lying there- a "regular Elvish trick"- not long afterwards they gleefully share a laugh over the fate of "old Uftak," left, alive, in Shelob's larder. Again, they do have some crippled sense of morality, but then completely fail to act on it.
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Old 12-04-2017, 09:34 PM   #30
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Can't believe I'm just finding this thread, but better late than never! Kudos Legate for starting and all the contributors here.

I'm just spit balling random things coming into my head after reading this discussion...

First, I think the fact we get individual orcs, named orcs, is important to the topic. Names were important to Tolkien. I would suggest the named orcs have more free will and individuality than the Nazgul. The nameless Nazgul, eternal slaves to the will of Sauron. As few as there are, the orcs that get names must have been important to Tolkien, for receiving names establishes some form of individuality that the Nazgul lost/no longer have.

In The Hobbit, the orcs get enraged by the death of their leader the Great Goblin. And isn't part of Bolg's motivation driven by the death of Azog? (I could be mistaken there).

Thinking on Ugluk, what possible effects does Saruman's cross-breeding have on his Man-orcs? Maybe the unintended side effect of these man-orcs having a sliver more of free will and 'nobility?' Even if it's brutish, the seed of free will is planted when Saruman crosses Men with Orcs. It's mostly suppressed and contained by orc society, but certainly intriguing to think about the differences between Grishnakh and Ugluk, and if there's a side-effect that happens with Saruman's cross-breeding.

And lastly, from Gorbag and Shagrat's fantastic conversation. A lot of emphasis gets put on the part where they discuss life "in the good ole days" with no big bosses, but there's another point by Gorbag that needs discussed:

Quote:
"But don't forget: the enemies don't love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we're done too."~The Choices of Master Samwise
So now we have an orc mentioned the emotion "love"...woah But here we also see not only the orcs being held in check by fear and war under Sauron, but the fear they have if "He" loses the war. Looking at things from Gorbag's eyes, the orcs are between a rock and a hard place, live under a tyrant to serve as bodies in his wars, but at least he provides protection (as limited as it might be) from their enemies. "if they get topsides on Him, we're done too." Let's face it...Elladan and Elrohir's sole purpose in life, as detailed in the appendices is going to a different part of Middle-earth and teaching the people there how best to kill an orc.
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