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Old 12-09-2004, 10:31 AM   #41
Lalwendė
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Fordim says:

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there are no such things as orcs, so how can the question of free will even be relevant?
Yes, there are indeed no Orcs on earth, they are not one of our species, but they do exist within Middle Earth - so does this mean we then have to consider this in the context of morality in Arda, rather than our own world? And can we detach ourselves enough to achieve this? If I think about evil in our world, then I look at it from my moral relativist position, considering mitigating factors, but if I look at evil in Arda then should I suspend my own perspective? I know that if I do not, then the question of Orcs being by nature 'evil' can become difficult.

I don't believe in either inherent evil or inherent good, and from this perspective I've been troubled by some of the actions displayed by some of the characters, including the 'good' ones. I don't like to think that their actions, which in some cases I judged to be 'wrong', were condoned in any way. At first glance, Arda might appear to be a world divided along distinct good/bad lines, but it isn't. Elves do bad things, Gollum does good things, Gandalf offers his own peculiarly relativist advice, we are shown the Orcs behaving intelligently. This is uncomfortable, as we might expect a tale such as this should be clearly delineated along good/bad lines.

Sometimes I think Tolkien was playing with us a little in showing us Orcs who think the Rohirrim are evil 'brigands'. He was showing us how 'the enemy' view us. He was giving us a hint that Sauron's minions/slaves/victims (delete as appropriate, however you wish to apply your own moral position to the orcs' servitude) do have minds, feelings, desires, just as the 'good' characters do. And then he has them slaughtered. Of course, to have Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo and all those on the 'good' side who we are rooting for suddenly have a crisis of conscience in the middle of battle would turn this into a wholly different type of tale. So, maybe we have to accept that the Orcs are going to be slaughtered, but after Tolkien's 'playing' we can't help but question it a little, with our non-Arda minds.
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Old 12-09-2004, 11:40 AM   #42
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Good points Lalwende. A lot of conjecture would be eliminated if the author had more time to fill in the blank areas. It would have been nice to see an addtional appendix or two. "Relating to Orcish History" or "Of the orcs"... "Concerning Trolls"...
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Old 12-09-2004, 11:44 AM   #43
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Originally Posted by Fordim Hedgethistle
Why did Eru make orcs? I don't know, but why did he make the mountains?
Mountains aren't inherently evil sentient beings - although, if you count Caradhras as such, the same considerations apply. Similarly with the Watcher in the Water. Saruman, Balrogs and other such beings had a choice.


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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.
It depends what approach one wants to adopt to the story. It has been suggested on a number of occasions that Tolkien is, to a degree, setting out his 'moral manifesto' in the story. Even if that's not the case, it clearly concerns issues of Good and Evil and what these concepts involve. For me, the existence of inherently evil sentient beings (be they Orcs, Dragons or whatever) goes to the very heart of these issues. Of course, not everyone will find the nature of Orcs (and this is one of the few Chapters where we get a real glimpse of their nature) relevant to these issues, but that does not make the question a red herring. It is, I think, one worth raising and discussing, even though I don't think that there really is a satisfactory solution.


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Originally Posted by Lalwendė
I know that if I do not, then the question of Orcs being by nature 'evil' can become difficult.
For me, the issue is a difficult one within the context of the perspective presented to us by Tolkien - precisely because of that perspective (ie single God being the foundation of Good).

Edit: Incidentally, I don't believe that Tolkien was playing with his readers in this regard at the time that he wrote LotR. The Orcs simply presented an effective enemy that do not require us to consider the moral qualms that we might have if they were not inherently evil. Had he been playing, I don't think that he would have had the concerns about their nature that he clearly did have later in life.
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Old 12-09-2004, 02:14 PM   #44
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For me, the issue is a difficult one within the context of the perspective presented to us by Tolkien - precisely because of that perspective (ie single God being the foundation of Good).
Perhaps that concept has to be accepted, as we are in a different world here and applying our own perceptions might cause problems in that world. Maybe we have to accept that in Arda there is one God, whether we believe in Him or not. Or do we?

I might argue that much of what is 'good' in Middle Earth comes from the humblest people themselves, the Hobbits. Are they being guided by a greater force, or are they simply being 'good' because that is how they are, that is what they have learned? There is no belief system in Middle Earth, so how could they have learned that this was Eru's will? Who taught them this? What on Middle Earth does Tolkien mean by this?

Not only are the men with the white coats coming running, but now the theologists will be after me. These are difficult and dangerous questions, indeed, but I'm fascinated by exactly what the nature of Eru was intended to be. If I knew that, I might be able to decide if Orcs are inherently evil or not in the context of Arda.
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Old 12-09-2004, 02:20 PM   #45
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Perhaps that concept has to be accepted, as we are in a different world here and applying our own perceptions might cause problems in that world. Maybe we have to accept that in Arda there is one God, whether we believe in Him or not. Or do we?
For the answer to this question (and many many more) you can go have a look at the. . .oh no. . .no!. . .NO!! It can't be, not again, not the. . .the. . .

CANONICITY THREAD!!!

*DUM dum dummmmmm*
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Old 12-09-2004, 03:30 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by Fordim
For the answer to this question (and many many more) you can go have a look at the. . .oh no. . .no!. . .NO!! It can't be, not again, not the. . .the. . .

CANONICITY THREAD!!!

*DUM dum dummmmmm*
Well, i'm sure we're all grateful to Fordim for that.. Though I would like to take this opportunity to remind him of the possibility of getting negative rep on these boards.

I'd also like to ask for sympathy here from all my fellow downers, as I just spent nearly an hour writing a post on the symbolism of the Dragon as 'Death' & how the Orcs are different in the sense that they are potential victims of this cosmic 'fact' - hence the Dragon would not need to 'repent'. The Orcish question arises only if Evil is a corruption of Good, not if it is a fact in itself. If Evil is an equal & opposite force then Orcs would be a physical manifestation of it as elves & men are of Good. Hence the opportunity for repentance is only necessary if the Orcs need a chance to return to what they had been created to be, not if they are what they were intended to be.

So the question Tolkien confronts us with is about our own beliefs - whether we are Manichaeans or Boethians....

Or something like that - all I can say is that it was up to my usual standard, & if anyone wants to rep me on it out of sympathy I won't be too proud to accept. Aragorn's court is getting too crowded now with the usual riff-raff & I need my privacy to compose my beautiful posts....

Which then get lost forever!!!!!!

(wanders off into the night sulking & looking for spiders to stamp on.......)
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Old 12-11-2004, 12:13 AM   #47
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Pipe OK. Orcs.

Since it seems that all other things about this chapter fade into the background of this discussion, I have come to chip in my single share of Citybank stocks (which won't be worth 2 cents unless another Great Depression comes *knocks on wood*)

Nothing is evil from the beginning, yes, but after their moment of conception, the Orcs were conditioned for evil purposes. Their mindsets regarding the outside world were controlled (the two Orcs' conversation in The Land of Shadow reminds me too much of media suppression in totalitarian countries).

Of course, those who venture (or live) out in the outside world could be helped by their "enemies", but:
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Of course, to have Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo and all those on the 'good' side who we are rooting for suddenly have a crisis of conscience in the middle of battle would turn this into a wholly different type of tale. (Lalwendė)
Plus there's this tidbit from our real-world history. Did the Crusaders bother preaching Christianity to the Saracens they attacked? Do the Muslim fundamentalists of today try to convert instead those they blow up? No. Perhaps this Orcs against the Eruhķni thing is another vile echo of Morgoth's theme: the "good guys" do not even pause to consider the possibility that these enemies can be redeemed--their sufficiently muddled origins and their not-exactly-pretty looks don't help.

So, perhaps they could be redeemed, but Arda is marred oh-so much by Morgoth that nobody even wants to try. How could Eru allow this? I don't know. For that matter, how could God allow suffering in this world? Where does He put people who die before they ever hear of the Gospel? There are much things we do not know in this world, and in Middle-earth. Take Bombadil, for example. Doesn't he ever run out of words to fit in to that silly tune of his???
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Old 12-12-2004, 02:46 AM   #48
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Something about the idea that evil is 'merely' a perversion of Good strikes me - doesn't that make evil more dangerous than if it was an opposing force in its own right? Surely evil is more likely to seduce the unwary individual because of the 'Good' it originally was?

How can you tell the difference - at least at first sight? Isn't this why Eomer, for instance, had such a struggle over what his response to Aragorn & the others should be. If evil still contains the seeds of Good in it - which it must if those who have chosen it still retain the capacity to repent, then it is likely to attract some to it out of their own ignorance, or simplicity.

This idea of evil actaully makes things more difficult for the individual, as its not a matter of simply choosing the Good side & rejecting the evil one, because Good can be perverted into evil so easily. Boromir committed an evil act, but he wasn't deliberately choosing evil over Good - he was motivated by the desire to do Good.

So, the Orcs, & their capacity for repentance - do they actually think of themselves as 'evil'? Haven't they simply been seduced into evil without fully realising? Perhaps, like Boromir, they believe they are the 'good' guys.

It seems that the whole issue of Good & evil is not one of choosing a clearly defined option & simply sticking to it - one can 'fall' into evil at any time, by the making of an apparently simple, 'innocent' choice - & perhaps not even realise that one has 'switched' sides.

Perhaps we come back to Tolkien's Christian belief here - creatures cannot save themselves. Only an external force of ultimate Good can offer the chance of 'salvation'. Within the creation things can be so confusing that it may be impossible to know even where the line is, let alone when on has crossed it.
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Old 12-12-2004, 04:25 AM   #49
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One of the primary purposes of religion is to teach and guide, to show us what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. We are only simple humans with busy lives, and not having that guidance can be difficult because then we have to stop and think for ourselves. And in many cases, other beliefs can sometimes take us over, such as political beliefs; it is as though humans are empty vessels waiting to be filled with other people’s perceptions of good and evil.

We are sentient beings, all with the capacity to think for ourselves, but we are all also subject to the actions of other people thinking for themselves. I think that this one of the reasons ‘evil’ has been personified as an external force; it is easier for our minds to deal with the possibility that something ‘other’ has taken a good person and made them bad. And this is why I do not believe in such a concept as the devil - it seems to me to be an excuse, to shy away from considering the possibility of evil within ourselves and dealing with it.

The danger in this is that with guidance we can also be persuaded into believing that what is essentially wrong is in fact right; example in point might be being persuaded to kill someone of a different colour because your ‘guidance’ tells you they are evil. The Orcs clearly believe they are right to pursue and kill their enemies, and there is nobody to tell them otherwise. But can we blame them for following this faith so blindly?

The danger in not having any guidance is that we are vulnerable and must learn to think for ourselves, something a lot of people seem to disdain, and some are seemingly incapable of this and just ‘run with the pack’, as an example look at youths who are influenced by peer pressure into committing anti-social acts. Or even at people who have been swept up in consumerism; those designer clothes might look very nice, but do we know whether they have been made by exploited workers in the far east? This is a very modern example of something evil being hidden within something we might find attractive.

I don’t think we as humans necessarily have the capacity to think for ourselves and see what is good and evil, so for some, religion works; for others though, it does not work. Where religion goes wrong is when it influences people to commit acts of evil, but are those people themselves evil or is it the force which drove them that is evil?

I think if there is any message it is that we must all learn to think for ourselves and not blindly follow. Boromir is shown to have thought for himself at the end, and he sees what is right, what is in the common good. The figure of Gandalf is interesting because of his moral position; he has clearly been ‘sent’ to guide, but he is not didactic, he encourages others to think, to consider, to come up with the answer for themselves. And in a world where there is no organised religion to guide or teach. This is an essentially Christian way of thinking as I see it, yet is the church itself always like this? Very interesting thinking from a Catholic writer.
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Old 09-09-2014, 06:30 PM   #50
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I have been, very slowly, rereading The Lord of the Rings this summer (so much less free time than when I was half-employed...) and, having both pushed on into "Treebeard" and having found myself pining for meaty Barrow-discussion, I thought I'd dig up this old thread. Nor have I been disappointed.

There are nuggets aplenty in here, and a few that have me wondering/thinking.

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Originally Posted by Nilpaurion Felagund View Post
This thing troubles me in this chapter:


Why is the badge of Saruman white? Why not a rainbow? Or anything multi-coloured?
There's a bit of speculation here, but I wonder if there might have been more--this might have almost warranted a thread in itself! (Assuming such a thing did not exist back in the day--after all, this was before I even joined the Downs!)

The reason this comment struck me with particular reference to the chapter at hand, however, is this: the whole thread revolves around orks. They are the centrepiece of the chapter and thus of the discussion, and even taking into account "The Choices of Master Samwise" and "The Tower of Cirith Ungol," this is the most substantial account of them we have, encompassing the entire chapter and three different branches of their kind (Northern, Isengarder, and Mordorian--Grishnįkh has always seemed clearly distinct from the Northerners to me, a point that I think the movies have somewhat obscured.)

Anyway, this chapter is all about the orks, and the picture is vivid: orks are not pleasant. Yet, in connection with the comment of Master Felagund quoted above, I have to wonder if the Isengarders at least might not be clean. The white page, says Saruman, can be overwritten, and I say that the white car gets muddy easily, and I can't imagine the White Hand being much better. Yet the Uruk-hai, with their martial pride, seem likely to want to keep their emblems clear. Does this mean they're likely a rather clean people?

On a related note, perhaps it's only those who hold that "cleanliness is next to godliness" that would have a problem with this connection in the first place.

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...the symbolism of the Dragon as 'Death' & how the Orcs are different in the sense that they are potential victims of this cosmic 'fact' - hence the Dragon would not need to 'repent'. The Orcish question arises only if Evil is a corruption of Good, not if it is a fact in itself. If Evil is an equal & opposite force then Orcs would be a physical manifestation of it as elves & men are of Good. Hence the opportunity for repentance is only necessary if the Orcs need a chance to return to what they had been created to be, not if they are what they were intended to be.

So the question Tolkien confronts us with is about our own beliefs - whether we are Manichaeans or Boethians....
It's a pity davem lost the original draft of that post, because, ten years later, I would like to read it; the surviving redaction is intriguing. I like the comparison to dragons, and I agree that the reason free will crops up so much with orks and not so much with dragons may well have to do with the utterness of their evil. Tolkien himself, in all his post-LotR attempts to niggle an answer to the "Problem of Ork-Evil" does not seem to have minded that dragons, as sentient beings, ought on the face of it to have a similar free will problem.

(Mind you, there are other issues that bear on it, such as the fact that dragons could far more plausibly be bodies incarnated by evil Maiarin spirits, or the fact that Orks are meant to be a deliberate perversion of the Eruhini and thus fraught with extra complications dragons are free from, but I think the basic idea here still has merit to consider.)


Turning to the chapter itself, rather than this distilled brandy of a discussion, it struck me in reading just how creepy Grishnįkh is. More so than any other ork, and possibly more so than any other villain in The Lord of the Rings, Grishnįkh seems wicked. By contrast, Uglśk seems almost honest--Grishnįkh's contempt for him makes the Uruk-hai seem almost like noble warriors.

...but then I catch myself remembering, at the end of the chapter, how Merry and Pippin feel about the prospect of the Uruk-hai winning the battle against the Riders. To them, it is clear, Uglśk and his ilk are every bit as bad as Grishnįkh; it is only me, as the reader, that sees Uglśk as markedly better. A reminder, perhaps, that the lesser of two evils still looks pretty evil.
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:09 PM   #51
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Anyway, this chapter is all about the orks, and the picture is vivid: orks are not pleasant. Yet, in connection with the comment of Master Felagund quoted above, I have to wonder if the Isengarders at least might not be clean. The white page, says Saruman, can be overwritten, and I say that the white car gets muddy easily, and I can't imagine the White Hand being much better. Yet the Uruk-hai, with their martial pride, seem likely to want to keep their emblems clear. Does this mean they're likely a rather clean people?
To touch on this one point, I don't see the Isengarders as being particularly clean. When in their custody, Pippin noted the "filthy jowl and hairy ear" of one of them. Aside from being physically stronger, and maybe a bit more disciplined than usual, they seem like other Orcs pretty much.

As for the badges, when Aragorn finds the shields of the dead Isengarders slain by Boromir, it is seen that they have "a strange device: a small white hand in the center of a black field; on the front of their iron helms was set an S-rune, wrought of some white metal".

The white hand on black could have been a way for Saruman to show a dominance of the White (his own twisted version of it) over the Black, represented by Sauron. Or, maybe an alliance between the two.

That the "S" was white would merely be in keeping with the hand's color.
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Old 09-09-2018, 04:42 AM   #52
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White-Hand

I had to go looking to find this thread--turns out it was the most recently added to LotR thread, other than the ones I've gone through already--and I only have myself to blame!

The whole thread is almost exclusively about orks--and especially about the nature of orks. It's a near-inexhaustible topic, if only because Tolkien himself never settled on an answer, the matter itself presenting a few conundrums.

The question occurred to me: is there anything obvious to discuss for this chapter that is lost as a result of the focus on orkish nature? The answer is, at most, orkish details. The thread did cover Merry and Pippin, who become focal characters for the first time in a long time--Pippin has never been the main character onstage, and since "A Conspiracy Unmasked," he's rarely had much to do. Merry is arguably the secondary of the two in this chapter--he even lampshades that it is Pippin's chapter.

That brings us back to the orks, and I think that although we lookedbat a great deal of orkish nature, the individual orkish characters still have a lot of meat on the bone. Grishnakh, for instance, has a lot of fascinating things to say about life in Lugburz. Granted that he has clearly been given a special mission, he seems to know an awful lot: about Gollum, about the Ring, about Sauron's plans for the winged Nazgul. Is Grishnakh typical of Mordorian orks or an exceptional specimen?

It's easy enough to believe that Mordor would be full enough of treachery and gossip that it couldn't keep a secret, but does this mean there are orks listening a keyholes to Sauron's war councils? It's a lot harder to imagine if you take a movie-image and assume that Sauron is a giant eyeball. Of course, Grishnakh might be an exceptional specimen, a Mordorian James Bond (does that make his red-eye-bearing Mordorian companions who turn up late in the game something like Seal Team 6?) I mean, the Nazgul are oresumably not ferrying grunts across the River: this is the War's most critical operation!

And we don't really realise it as the readers, but the good guys pull a massive skein of wool over the enemies' eyes here: Merry and Pippin's capture is the distraction that draws Sauron's attention (and Saruman's) away from Rauros, the Emyn Muil--and Frodo and Sam. Without Merry and Pippin's presence, the whole "war as a feint to distract from Frodo's mission" ploy would have probably failed--certainly, Sauron might have noticed if there were no hobbits among the splintered members of the Fellowship he was tracking down.
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Old 09-09-2018, 04:57 AM   #53
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It's easy enough to believe that Mordor would be full enough of treachery and gossip that it couldn't keep a secret, but does this mean there are orks listening a keyholes to Sauron's war councils? It's a lot harder to imagine if you take a movie-image and assume that Sauron is a giant eyeball. Of course, Grishnakh might be an exceptional specimen, a Mordorian James Bond (does that make his red-eye-bearing Mordorian companions who turn up late in the game something like Seal Team 6?) I mean, the Nazgul are oresumably not ferrying grunts across the River: this is the War's most critical operation!
My personal opinion is that, yes, Grishnįkh had some kind of connection to Mordor's internal security: "That is a very interesting remark [...] I may have to report that." Perhaps less Bond and more something like the Gestapo or NKVD. He also mentions someone called "the Questioner" whom I could easily see being one of the Mouth of Sauron's cronies, if not the Mouth himself.

Quote:
And we don't really realise it as the readers, but the good guys pull a massive skein of wool over the enemies' eyes here: Merry and Pippin's capture is the distraction that draws Sauron's attention (and Saruman's) away from Rauros, the Emyn Muil--and Frodo and Sam. Without Merry and Pippin's presence, the whole "war as a feint to distract from Frodo's mission" ploy would have probably failed--certainly, Sauron might have noticed if there were no hobbits among the splintered members of the Fellowship he was tracking down.
It occurs to me in regards to this that a more cynical Elrond and Gandalf might have sent out multiple parties featuring hobbits to keep the Eye unfocused.
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