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Tilion
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Are the Orcs, similar to the Elves, immortal ?

Is there anything in Tolkien's writings that hint the lifespan of Orcs ?

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Mithrennaith
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‘Myths Transformed’, Morgoth’s Ring (HoMe X) — but no definite conclusion is arrived at.
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Galin
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Yes, I can't think of another instance at the moment. I recall Tolkien asked himself -- that is, he posed the question in a note (something like): are orcs immortal in the Elvish sense... but within that same text he 'concludes' that Orcs are beasts! and yet adds:

quote:
'It remains therefore terribly possible there was an Elvish strain in the Orcs. These may then have been mated with beasts (sterile!) -- and later Men. Their life-span would be diminished. And dying they would go the Mandos and be held in prison till the end.'
In another text, where Orcs are said to be corrupted Men rather, it is said that the Orcs were not immortal (not surprisingly) and: '... indeed they appear to have been by nature short-lived compared to the span of Men of higher race, such as the Edain.'

Tolkien had a bit of trouble deciding about the ultimate stock of 'regular' Orcs, but a fairly consistent idea in these various 'orc musings on paper' (published in Morgoth's Ring, as noted already) is that of the long lived Orc-formed Maiar -- Maiar who had taken on the visible forms of orcs.

So as Mithrennaith already hinted at, this is a difficult issue, and connected to the 'problem of orcs' in general.

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Tilion
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Ok, thank you. That is interesting. The question came to me after reading The Hobbit.

I have been reading older threads on this subject and I know this has been discussed before; but how did the Great Goblin and his Orc soldiers recognize Thorin's sword Orcrist, Goblin-cleaver. The Orcs seemed to get furious over something the sword had done over 6000 years ago at the fall of Gondolin.

I don't know if Tolkien was implying that the Orcs had actually been fighting at the battle of Gondolin, or if the sword had been in their possession more recently (possibly the Trolls had stolen it from them) and they somehow were able to read the name of the sword and learn its history (from a captive Elv perhaps?).

Maybe this Great Goblin was such a Orc-formed Maia who had been alive for a very long time ?

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Maybe this shows that the Goblins of the Misty Mountains were rather clever people. Especially as if you think about it later, Thranduil, The King of the Mirkwood Elves one of the good guys didn't have a clue who Thorin was! and perhaps he should have done! But I did mention this in a very old thread.
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The White Hand
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Also, the goblins were able to read the runes on Thorin's sword, while Gandalf wasn't.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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I suppose that was why he was known as the Great Goblin.
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The Flammifer
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quote:
Also, the goblins were able to read the runes on Thorin’s sword, while Gandalf wasn’t.
'The Hobbit' doesn’t say they could read the runes, only that they recognized Orcrist/Biter. []
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Alcuin
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To offer a rambling follow-up to Galin’s post, Tolkien was unable to reconcile his sense of the origins of Orcs. He began with “corrupted Elves”, but ended with “corrupted Men.”

In Silmarillion, “Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor”, Christopher Tolkien presents as his father’s words,
quote:
[W]hen … Oromë … came among them, some of the Quendi … fled and were lost. …

But of those unhappy ones ... ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. … Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressëa, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves… For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar; and naught that had life of its own … could ever Melkor make… And … the Orcs loathed the Master whom they served in fear, the maker only of their misery. This … was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Ilúvatar.

There may also have been boldogs, lesser fallen Maiar in the shape of Orcs. “Boldog” is a recurring name of Orc-chieftains – one of them raided Doriath, where he was killed by Thingol King of Doriath (wielding Aranrúth, his personal sword, afterwards the personal sword of the Kings of Númenor; I believe it was forged by Telchar of Nogrod: Narsil may have been its mate: real-world kings often had two swords forged so that they had a second like the first; Glamdring and Orcrist may have been a mated pair, too) in single combat. Tolkien briefly discusses these Úmaiar in Morgoth’s Ring.

Later in life, Tolkien seems to have grown more and more uncomfortable with the notion that Orcs could be corrupted Elves. If Men only awakened with the rising of the Sun after the Return of the Noldor, but the Sindar were at war with the Orcs of Beleriand long before the Return of the Noldor, then it’s hard to imagine how else the Orcs could come to be. All these Orcs weakened in sunlight.

In the Third Age, Saruman bred Orcs with Men. Treebeard told Merry and Pippin that Saruman’s Orcs did not flag in the sun, and suspected what Saruman had done. Perhaps Saruman had only strengthened Orcs already sprung long ago from ruined Men; but it’s pretty clear Treebeard, who admitted to being unknowledgeable in many subjects, thought Orcs came at least in part from some other stock than Men.

Thranduil of course knew who Thorin was. He wanted know what Thorin was doing, but when the Dwarf-lord answered him with contempt, the Elf-king locked him up. Though his people were Silvan Elves, Thranduil himself was Sindarin nobility: his family was from Doriath and akin to Celeborn’s. The Dwarves of Nogrod murdered Thingol for the Silmaril they mounted in the Nauglamír for him, and the Elves’ slaughter of the Dwarven smiths led to Nogrod’s sacking and ruining Doriath. Tolkien explicitly says in The Hobbit that Thranduil’s people remembered that “old quarrel” and considered Dwarves enemies, Thorin included. Thranduil and Celeborn share a distinct dislike and distrust of Dwarves, though both no doubt found them useful at times. Gimli had heated words Legolas, Thranduil’s son, before they became friends (and that following Gandalf’s behest and intervention): their friendship was remarkable precisely because Dwarves and Elves usually got along so infamously. (Excepting the Noldor: the Noldor, especially the House of Fëanor and its followers, made friends and alliances with the Dwarves of Nogrod, Belegost, and Khazad-dûm.)

No doubt a fair number of Orcs were sufficiently literate to read and issue orders: that serves a military purpose, and would be important to Morgoth and Sauron. But as far as their recognizing Turgon’s weapons, Glamdring and Orcrist had been lost since the Fall of Gondolin. Elrond surmises the “trolls had plundered other plunderers, or come on the remnants of old robberies in some hold in the mountains of the North.” But The Hobbit is first and foremost a story, and it makes a good (and amusing!) tale to say the Orcs recognized “Beater” and “Biter”, that “They hated [Biter] and hated worse any one that carried it,” and that “The goblins just called [Glamdring] Beater, and hated it worse than Biter if possible.” Perhaps because they glowed in their presence they recognized them; or maybe the blades’ light hurt their eyes, or they had some other peculiar mark or shape the Orcs remembered from their folktales. For me, a pair of glowing swords might be enough.

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Aiwrendel
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Sorry for the brief off topic question but can you state your source?
quote:
Thranduil of course knew who Thorin was.
I got no impression he knew that when he questioned Thorin in his dungeon.
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Alcuin
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If you mean a textual source, Tolkien wrote that…, I cannot provide that, as you have clearly guessed. However, unless Thranduil had lost his wits – and Tolkien makes quite clear he hadn’t – he must have guessed the Dwarves were headed to Erebor, though he did not know the reason. There can be little doubt that he knew Thrór and Thain II, Thorin’s grandfather and father: if he did not know them personally, on a face-to-face basis, he knew exactly who they were and what had happened to Erebor!

With their long lives, Thranduil and his courtiers might not bother to meet each and every Dwarf-lord of the Lonely Mountain; but they must have met some of them. They trafficked with the Dwarves while they remained in Erebor. Finding Dwarves passing through his kingdom could not be too unusual: the ancient Men-i-Naugrim, the Dwarf Road or Great East Road that ran from Lindon to the Iron Hills, originally passed through the middle of the kingdom of Greenwood when his father, Oropher, founded the kingdom in the Second Age; after Oropher withdrew from Amon Lanc (later Dol Guldur) to the northern half of the forest, it became his southern border. (That you can find in Unfinished Tales, “Disaster of the Gladden Fields”, endnote 14.) Dwarves continued to use the Great East Road into the Fourth Age: it was upon the western part of this road that Thorin and Gandalf met. Finding Dwarves lost on the Elves’ own road, further north, indicated something else was going on.

After Thorin & Co. presented themselves in Lake-town, when news arrived in Thranduil’s palace, “he strongly suspected attempted burglary or something like it – which shows he was a wise elf” (The Hobbit, “A Warm Welcome”). Although Smaug’s wrath was vented upon Esgaroth rather than the Elf-kingdom, that still disrupted his commerce, not to mention his supply of wine from Dorthonion; besides, Smaug had been quiet so long that only the oldest residents of Lake-town remembered seeing him, and while Thranduil could be under no illusion that the dragon was dead, he surely hoped it would remain quiet: Dwarves banging about the Mountain and pilfering treasure Smaug jealously guarded as his own would do the neighborhood no good.

The various tribes of Dwarves seem to have had features that distinguished them from one another. (“Longbeards” (Durin’s Folk), “Firebeards” (red-headed folk of Nogrod), “Broadbeams” (fat(?) or “broad” folk of Belegost), etc. Men and Hobbits likewise had features that told them apart: Dúnedain, Rhovanion-folk and their kin (Beornings, Woodmen, Éothéod/Rohirrim, and Men of the Long Lake); and Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides among Hobbits, though no one other than Gandalf seems to have taken an interest in them.) Surely after at least three thousand years, old Thranduil could tell one tribe of Dwarves apart from another, even if his more rustic Silvan Elven folk could not.

“Who are you? What is your name?” should have been Thranduil’s first questions to any prisoner, just as they are today and have been for millennia. Perhaps Thorin was stubborn enough to refuse to name himself before the Elf-king: that part of the conversation is not recorded; but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If he was, it could go a long way toward explaining Thranduil’s subsequent animosity: refusing to name himself before the Elf-king was not only a breach of protocol, it was downright rude; besides, when he asked Thorin what he was doing, nothing prevented Thorin from giving Thranduil the same reason for his journey that he gave the Great Goblin: that he was going to visit his kindred on the other side of Mirkwood; and besides, it should have inclined Thranduil to treat him with greater courtesy.

But my best argument (I hope) is that the Great Goblin of the Misty Mountains recognized Thorin immediately. Now maybe that was because they’d met in battle 140 years earlier; but if the Great Goblin recognized him, surely Thranduil had a chance, too?

In any case, when news arrived from Lake-town, Thranduil would have Thorin’s name and the names of all his companions, or at least the names they gave (which were accurate).

Maybe you’re right, Aiwrendel, and Thorin successfully kept the Elf-king in the dark about his identity, and not merely his quest; but I think Thranduil was both wise and clever. By the end of The Hobbit, he even seems to know or have guessed something of Bilbo’s ring:
quote:
May your shadow never grow less (or stealing would be too easy)!

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The Flammifer
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Ask a question of Alcuin and get a tome. (Oh, meant in kindness [] . I enjoy your posts very much.)

I too, as Aiwrendel took a second glance at
quote:
Thranduil of course knew who Thorin was.
as this does seem conjecture and not “of course” an absolute certainty. But you have made a most excellent multi-pointed argument in favor and I agree that there’s a good chance he knew who Thorin was although it’s not so stated in “The Hobbit” (which seems a rather strong point against). Of course the name “Thranduil” is not stated in “The Hobbit” either and we must wait for LotR for this. Hey, there is no Gandalf the Grey or Shire in “The Hobbit” either, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t “Grey” and “The Shire” didn’t exist – just not mentioned.
Ah, the trivia of it!
Cheers

Edited to say that it’s not pick-on-Alcuin-day – but . . .
quote:
But my best argument (I hope) is that the Great Goblin of the Misty Mountains recognized Thorin immediately. Now maybe that was because they’d met in battle 140 years earlier; but if the Great Goblin recognized him, surely Thranduil had a chance, too?
It’s clear in Over Hill and Under Hill that the Great Goblin had heard of Thorin Oakenshield (after Thorin introduced himself), but not that he recognized him immediately, or recognized him at all.
Also, if your “140 years earlier” is the Battle of Azanulbizar, do we know that this Great Goblin was present?
quote:
refusing to name himself before the Elf-king was not only a breach of protocol, it was downright rude;
I don’t see it as a breach of protocol for a prisoner to give no information to his captors. This is not the Geneva Convention –name, rank, serial no. – but a different time and place of long, long ago – different rules of protocol? Although “rudeness”, yes, bears the passage of time.

More cheers!

[ 05-04-2016, 03:26 PM: Message edited by: The Flammifer ]

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Alcuin
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Thorin did foolishly provide the Great Goblin his name: I had forgotten that.

But for one prince, especially one in need, to fail to name himself to another is a breach of protocol: It was protocol in our Dark Ages, and protocol among the most ancient Greeks, the Achaeans. Turin declared himself to Orodreth of Nargothrond, and Tuor to Turgon of Gondolin. Aragorn did not declare himself to Thengel of Rohan or Ecthelion of Gondor: he was on errantry: errantry is a different matter, I think, than that of Thorin’s quest: Errantry is questing for glory, but Thorin was in deadly earnest.

That Thorin would name himself before the Great Goblin, avowed enemy of Durin’s Folk, yet refuse to name himself before Thranduil, who had in Thorin’s own lifetime dealt honestly with his fathers, begs belief, IMO. I don’t know, though: perhaps he was indeed that hard-headed. Heaven knows I’ve known such people.

(added some days later…)
quote:
Ask a question of Alcuin and get a tome.
quote:
”Nothing or a double helping is your way!”
Many thanks: I appreciate it. I can be loquacious.

[ 05-08-2016, 12:55 PM: Message edited by: Alcuin ]

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Marhwini
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Orcs remain a touchy subject.

They are one I have given a great deal of thought to, and researched quite a bit of very esoteric Theology regarding the use of a word Tolkien is quite fond of, which has to do with why he seemed to be so squeamish at the Orcs being corrupted Elves. That word is:

Sub-Creation

The word has an actual Theological implication, and we see within Tolkien's works an example of Sub-creation:

Aulë creation of the Dwarves.

Sub-creation is essentially that a craftsman, artist, engineer... some "creative" type... Who produces a work out of the Love of God, and not for self-promotion, but to enrich the world will see that work Made Real (given Life, as were the Dwarves by Eru).

As a result... This meant that Tolkien was putting Elves to Torture, and even worse by his using them as the basis for the foundation of the existence of Orcs.

There are some few quotes within Letters and HoM-e that support that Tolkien may well have taken this concept that seriously. And if asked I will try to assemble as many as possible.

But... Absent that discussion, there still remains the problem of "What are Orcs?"

On p. x of Morgoth's Ring Christopher Tolkien discusses why his father failed to complete The Silmarillion:

quote:
It seems not to have been until the late 1950s that he turned again seriously to the Silmarillion narrative (for which there was now an insistent demand). But it was too late. As will be seen in the latter part of this book, much had changed since (and as I incline to think, in direct relation to) the publication of The Lord of the Rings and its immediate aftermath. Meditating long on the world that was now in part unveiled, he had become absorbed in analytic speculation concerning its underlying postulates. Before he could prepare a new and final Silmarillion he must satisfy the requirement for a coherent theological and metaphysical system, rendered now more complex in its presentation by the supposition of obscure and conflicting elements in its roots and traditions.
The meaning of this quote is something that will send most fans of Tolkien either flying into fits of rage, or defiantly denying that it means what it does.

It means that Middle-earth contained a knowable structure, and a set of coherent Scientific Laws that dictated how it operates.

Eru CANNOT intervene in the world for every little thing, and we have only Three instances in all of History where Eru intervened in the World - Eru Ilúvatar exists outside of Ëa, outside of the "Space and Time" of Ëa, and thus Arda.

Neither do the Valar or Ainur intervene in every occurrence of what we call "Magic" within Middle-earth.

To Tolkien, what the Elves, or the Ainur (or even some Humans and Dwarves), did in Middle-earth that we would call "Magic" was instead completely "Natural." It was something that was no different to how we might bake a cake, or paint a picture.

And, what the Evil Powers within Middle-earth did that we would call "Magic" was to corrupt this "Natural" ability they possessed to force a product within Middle-earth that otherwise would not exist (by means of the discord of the Music of the Ainur).

Now... What does this have to do with Orcs?

It means that whatever Orcs are, they need to fit within these "underlying postulates" and exist within a "coherent theological and metaphysical system." And to be something that would be considered a "corruption" of that system (here is where we run into problems, philosophically - but that would be a book unto itself).

I think I have a solution to the problem of the Origins of Orcs, which fits with what Tolkien has so far written about them, as well as what has been published regarding them.

But to detail that solution would take quite a bit longer than what I have already written.

The Short Version of it is: They are a combination of Incarnated Úmair/Ainur, Elves, and possibly even some that are simply "beasts." But the vast majority of them came about via a corruption of Elves (Tolkien did not understand genetic, which due to the above quote MUST be included in any solution to the problem of Orcs). But Orcs can be explained as a Genetic Modification, or Mutation of Elves. And a subsequent corruption of their Fëa as well, such that the children of Orcs are Orcs, and not Elves.

I am sure that this is bound to set some people's hair on fire, and cause the suggestion to be rejected out of hand.

But the complete explanation would show that they can't have been anything else.

And... There would also have been a line of what was suggested above: Boldog/Boldoeg. a Line of Orcs descended from Úmiar. These, like the Ainur, were likely unable to breed, or if they did, their children were simply "Orcs" like the regular Orcs (perhaps with some differences). This too is due to a Metaphysical property that Tolkien describes relating to the effect of the Fëa of the embodied Ainur upon their Hröa.

Anyway.... I'll leave it there for the time being, with people's hair on fire...

MB

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