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Old 05-06-2014, 08:03 PM   #1
Ivriniel
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Of Orcs and Elves - Mirror Image Opposites or Not?

Orcs, we're told, were a species made by Melkor in Utumno where captured elves were 'ruined'. Lore also tells us that Elves and Orcs had a natural antipathy for the other. We know Elves are immortal, but we're never told anything about the span of Orcs in LotR or Silmarillion.

I want to know what is meant by 'ruined', which to Melkor might have meant something else, entirely. One Vala's corruption is another's purification. How did Melkor do the ruining? Was any trace of racial memory left to Orcs? Do they have normal emotional experiences other than what we've been told. They do fear, I believe, for example. Is there some prophesy or cultural practices amongst Orcs that ritualised worship of their Deity, and were they without an appreciation of beauty, truth and Spirit. Where are their Spirits gathered?

For example, we know that Orcs thought Lembas stank, that cooked meat ruined its flavour and that sunlight was to be hated. So, did Orcs think Elves were evil? We know nothing of Orcish procreation, though it is stated that they breed fast.

Taking a more psychoanalytic emphasis, it seems to me that the mutual hatred implied something, down deep, in each species that each was afraid to admit. Don't we say that hatred is love contaminated by fear? And in a more modern adaptation of inter-racial warring in sci fi (e.g. Gene Rodenberry) is there not some rapprochement between species needed in Eru's great plan, rather than mutually assured destruction.

I have wondered what Eru seeks for the Orcs as well as the Elves as well.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:52 AM   #2
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No,they dont think elves as evil.they know that themselves are evil.and if they were elves,then morgoth wont want the orcs to defect because they remember that they were elves right?the dark lord would have brainwash them so much that the wont remember they were elves.
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Old 05-07-2014, 02:12 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ivriniel View Post
So, did Orcs think Elves were evil?
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Originally Posted by tom the eldest View Post
No,they dont think elves as evil.they know that themselves are evil.
I think it's more complicated than this. As I stated in another recent thread, Gorbag describes Sam, who he thinks is an Elf, as "more dangerous than any other damned rebel" (emphasis mine). This implies to me that Orcs considered their enemies to be nothing more than "rebels" against the natural rule of their masters, in this case Sauron.
Did they think they were Evil? Did they think themselves Good? I don't believe Orcs had a well-defined concept of Good and Evil, if they thought of Elves as "rebels". I think this kind of moral clarity was denied them by Morgoth and later Sauron, and that their world view was more defined by their misery: who was to be feared, who hated, who had the power, etc.
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I want to know what is meant by 'ruined', which to Melkor might have meant something else, entirely.
The short essays on Orcs in the "Myths Transformed" section of Morgoth's Ring have the answers to this and indeed most of these questions. By this time Professor Tolkien was speculating that Orcs might not be corrupted Elves - but he seemingly never came to a decision in that regard.
He makes this remark: "It does however seem best to view Melkor's corrupting power as always starting, at least, in the moral or theological level. Any creature that took him for Lord (and especially those who blasphemously called him Father or Creator) became soon corrupted in all parts of its being, the fėa dragging down the hröa in its descent into Morgothism: hate and destruction." It seems that ruining began mostly with breaking creatures to Morgoth's will. The actual "ruination" followed: they became hateful and grotesque.
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were they without an appreciation of beauty, truth and Spirit
We know from The Hobbit that Orcs "make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones." This doesn't necessarily mean that they lacked a culture, however. Consider the design on Grishnįkh's knife, as discovered by Gimli: a "carved handle: it had been shaped like a hideous head with squinting eyes and leering mouth." Evidently Orcs did not produce purely functional things.
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We know Elves are immortal, but we're never told anything about the span of Orcs in LotR or Silmarillion.
Again from Morgoth's Ring: "As for Elves being 'immortal'; they in fact only had enormously long lives, and were themselves physically 'wearing out', and suffering a slow progressive weakening of their bodies... It remains therefore terribly possible there was an Elvish strain in the Orcs... Their life-span would be diminished."
So the ruination of Orcs' bodies explains their supposed mortality.
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Where are their Spirits gathered?
Professor Tolkien speculates of Orc-souls that: "dying they would go to Mandos and be held in prison till the End." It depends whether Orcs have souls, really. He never really made up his mind for sure.
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We know nothing of Orcish procreation
They "had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilśvatar."
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Old 05-07-2014, 08:31 AM   #4
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Here is a thread debating whether Orcs were immortal or corrupted Elves.

http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthr...ht=nature+orcs

And here is a thread addressing whether Orcs are inherently or irredeemably evil.

http://forum.barrowdowns.com/showthr...ht=nature+orcs

I provide these links to encourage discussion and provide ideas and insight, not to discourage further discussion.

I find the question of whether Orcs view themselves as evil to be intriguing. I would guess that Orcs are simply what their corruptted nature made them. Clearly, they enjoy cruelty; it is what they are.
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Old 05-07-2014, 11:38 AM   #5
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'It's my guess you won't find much in that little fellow,' said Gorbag. 'He may have had nothing to do with the real mischief. The big fellow with the sharp sword doesn't seem to have thought him worth much anyhow – just left him lying: regular elvish trick.'
So it seems that Orcs actually do have a sense of honour (of a kind), do see themselves as being on the right side, and do see Elves as, if not evil, then at least as not to be wholly trusted.
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Old 05-07-2014, 12:44 PM   #6
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I dont see that as a sign of honour.to me its just orcs asociating sam with common elvish traits:ambushing orcs when they not suspected it.
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Old 05-07-2014, 06:18 PM   #7
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We know from The Hobbit that Orcs "make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones." This doesn't necessarily mean that they lacked a culture, however. Consider the design on Grishnįkh's knife, as discovered by Gimli: a "carved handle: it had been shaped like a hideous head with squinting eyes and leering mouth." Evidently Orcs did not produce purely functional things.
Here, I wanted to begin the discussion-proper about beauty and truth. In the Tolkienian mythological universe, there is a tacit assumption made, I argue, about beauty. We are seduced into a singular appreciation of beauty, in a sense, (to borrow Tolkien's own use of the term 'seduced' as he so often attributes it to being deceived by the call to power, where another evil is disguised by things that 'seem' beautiful). I think like at least some of us, I did not see the obfuscation until much later in life, where--scratch the surface of Elven artifacts, and life--there are the same banes of humanity the reader projects into the idealisation of beauty in Elvish imperial life. Prejudice, stereotyping, egoism, collective racial narcissism, xenophobia, greed, objectification of the 'diminished other' and esteeming the 'self' - Elves do it best - Do They?

If you argue that Feanor, for example, seduced the Eldar into the Oath, but attribute the whole of the Darkening of Valinor to Morgoth, then does it not follow that Elvish 'beauty' in Middle Earth disguises Morgoth's Evil.

So--now look at Grishnįkh's knife (that's such a great quotation, but I didn't find it, I borrowed it from Zigur)

Quote:
...as discovered by Gimli: a "carved handle: it had been shaped like a hideous head with squinting eyes and leering mouth."...
This, to me, is so openly announcing a kind of capacity of Orc-dom to declare motivation in knife-carving, that is a very honest truth. A knife, is a vehicle to slay the adversary. The knife borne, in this way, by the Orc, is honestly expressing an orientation of being towards targets in battle. It slays Elves with the pleasure of removing, what to an Orc, is a Bane of Elvendom. Pleasure in deposing the oppressor is actually, arguably, also an expression of a moral code, but declared very honestly. How is honesty, then, suddenly an immorality?

By contrast, Elvish blades do seem so very beautiful on the surface, but they are deadly things. They do not show Elvish intention of the Blade, though, for example, the hotly blue glow of Sting perhaps certainly does. A Blade that, silently, instead, makes Elves pleasured for killing Orcs. Celebrations of victory. Eagerness in carving. This idea about Elvish blades having a semblance of Elvish ego/intention is a common theme in the major weapon artefacts (e.g. Gil Galad's spear. Sting. Orcrest and Glamdring).

I share two ideas, then, about Orcs, that do imply some kind of moral code for their existence.

1. They do have an appreciation of beauty--e.g. that certain kinds of hatred are beautiful. Elf slaying and honest weapon carvings declaring open intention.
2. The beauty of cleverness, where that cleverness may be appreciated in the subjective sense.

And - note, by absence, ideas in the mythology

1. The orcish perspective, as told from the orc about power, subordination, cruelty and their master's malice.
2. What would this race be like, or what potential do they have, when they do not have a Sauronic mind beating down upon them.

They reproduce "after the manner of the Children of Illuvatar". This is an act of creation, through Birth. I cannot see how the Orcish race have an incapacity to love, at least to some level. And I don't see we ever find out if that capacity can be enhanced.


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Old 05-07-2014, 06:19 PM   #8
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....so, in a sentence:

Nature-nurture ideas, on the one hand, and ideas about moral relativism on the other. I think, to simply be sentient enough to use the word "rebel" in attribution to Elvendom implies a moral code, quite clearly.

This also, for me, opens a discussion about compassion. Elvish slaying bears no compassion for the deposed, does it? The mirror image opposite, also true of Orcs. They like killing each other.

Where is the wisdom in this? And where, anywhere, does any Elf--the being attributed to the greater wisdom--ever consult with Eru/Illuvatar about the place of Elvish compassion in a bearing towards the slaying of Orc. I would have thought, that at the very least, a compassionate slaying of the Orc, would recognise that the Elf was slaying some facet or feature of the Elf (assuming Orcs were Elves, once).

Or else, the way I see it, the Elf is the greater liar than the Orc. For trying to dissemble motivations--you can't have it both ways, Mr Elf. Either you are, or you are not slaying a part of yourself by slaying the Orc, and if you are not acknowledging this, then how are you morally superior to the Orc?

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Old 05-07-2014, 06:57 PM   #9
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I agree that Orcs have an appreciation of their own cleverness and their own works of their hands. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Of course there is the question of objective versus subjective beauty. Tolkien attempts to apply "objective" standards of beauty to Orcs and their works and thus they are interpreted (and presented) as ugly.

With regards to your form follows function argument that Orcish adornment of their weapons is essentially more honest than the Elven practice of making their works, including their weapons, beautiful (Objectively? Subjectively?), there are two principles in play. First is Tolkien's admiration of the hero, even if the hero is flawed). The Elves, generally being "heroic" (and no I do not wish to debate the morality of Feanor, etc.) posess mighty and wonderous weapons. The Orcs, as "villians" (Objectively? Subjectively?) bear hideous weapons that only an Orc or one of their ilk could admire.

Second, the Elves, as part of their nature, imbue a degree of their essence and world view into everything they make. A sword need not be beautiful, but it can be so it should be.
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Old 05-10-2014, 08:50 PM   #10
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I agree that Orcs have an appreciation of their own cleverness and their own works of their hands. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. Of course there is the question of objective versus subjective beauty. Tolkien attempts to apply "objective" standards of beauty to Orcs and their works and thus they are interpreted (and presented) as ugly.

With regards to your form follows function argument that Orcish adornment of their weapons is essentially more honest than the Elven practice of making their works, including their weapons, beautiful (Objectively? Subjectively?), there are two principles in play. First is Tolkien's admiration of the hero, even if the hero is flawed). The Elves, generally being "heroic" (and no I do not wish to debate the morality of Feanor, etc.) posess mighty and wonderous weapons. The Orcs, as "villians" (Objectively? Subjectively?) bear hideous weapons that only an Orc or one of their ilk could admire.

Second, the Elves, as part of their nature, imbue a degree of their essence and world view into everything they make. A sword need not be beautiful, but it can be so it should be
.
What we don't see, though, are the annals of the Orcs, and those actions they considered heroic. Though I concede this is only within a framework of moral relativism: Tolkien binds Evil to something that can be made tangible, touched, seen and discerned. That's more about moral universalism or moral absolutism.

Orcs and valour are not used synonymously, though Azog, is a name that I'm sure was a folk hero for the Orcs in their songs under their own mountain. Gundabad is a great, long lasting stronghold that we know very little about. And Carn Dum, Tharbad and some other places, where acts of Orcish heroism would have been fashioned.

On the second idea--that's my core point. If you argue that Melkor was responsible for Feanor's fall (and on an aside--it's a spectacular fall from heroism--he gets a mention in the Second Prophesy where he bears the Silmarils to Yavanna, who breaks them to rebirth the Two Trees)--then Elven imperial living in Middle Earth disguises evil with Elvish beauty.
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Old 05-10-2014, 09:01 PM   #11
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...and no I do not wish to debate the morality of Feanor, etc...
Why not? Just curious to understand.

Speaking only for myself, I've always had mixed feelings about him. I wonder about Tolkien's positioning of him in the mythology, and don't doubt the flawed hero is an important part of the mystery of his works. Frodo--took me a long time to re-identify with him. I had no compassion for his 'failure' in my youth, but later grew to appreciate that his valour was not about being incorruptible. False beliefs in impervious and perfect heroes, I think, cuts to the heart of Tolkien's idea about 'the who' was most corruptible by The Ring. Frodo--as a true hero--is flawed and made it further than any of Mankind....just some thoughts
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