Orcs may be one of the prominent species in Lord of the Rings, but not everything about them makes total sense.
The word orc likely conjures the image of a great beast of a creature ripping itself from its slime-covered cocoon in front of Christopher Lee's Saruman in the Lord of the Rings films. Orcs were always the majority of foot soldiers for Sauron in his war against the rest of Middle Earth.
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They always served evil and were born of evil, and yet, despite the simplicity in their creation and motivation, there are a few things about orcs in The Lord of the Rings, and even in The Hobbit, that don't quite add up. A few questions remain about the ugliest creatures in all of Middle Earth.
According to Tolkien, at least some of the orcs used to be elves. That's right, some orcs have the same ancestors as the beautiful Legolas. Apparently they were tortured and that's how they changed both their appearance and their personalities to the gross and evil kind. They, like elves, can die in battle, but viewers never spend enough time with them to see if, at least some orcs, still possess the immortality of their elf ancestors. Despite the explanations, it's hard to believe that torture can create an entirely new species, bot just a new attitude or outlook.
Orcs, like elves, have been around for a long long time, and yet they were never a real issue until the rise of Sauron. Despite their strength, numbers, and dark nature, orcs seemed to only bother dwarfs. What else were they doing all that time? They weren't exactly building their own culture or cities. They were just sort of around waiting for something to do? It's very weird that they weren't a greater problem for the residents of Middle Earth until an independent leader took charge.
Orcs cause major problems for the dwarfs, rather than Middle Earth at large, because they lived underground. Yet, why they lived underground doesn't make much sense. Elves don't live underground, and many of the earliest orcs were descended from elves. Apparently, due to living underground, orcs were also excellent miners, like Gimli and the dwarfs. If they had skills, again, it makes little sense that they weren't a larger problem earlier on for residents across Middle Earth.
Originally Tolkien said that all orcs were descended from tortured elves. However, not all orcs come from elves. Beyond the birth of the Uruk Hai that is seen in the Lord of the Rings films, Tolkien's son later admitted that his father wasn't always comfortable with the idea that orcs came from elves.
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With their ever-changing backstory it's no wonder there is confusion over where orcs come from, what they can do, what their goals are, and what they do in their spare time.
Orcs were strong and talented (see their mining skills mentioned above). Yet, it wasn't until Sauron and Saruman that the orcs also started making a real mark on the different people of Middle Earth. Orcs were never depicted as peaceful so, again, it is strange that they weren't out marauding in the countryside earlier in the history of Middle Earth. They could have been a threat all their own, and been very destructive and powerful if they had taken initiative. It's never exactly clear why they didn't.
Uruk hai, unlike their elf descended brethren, are bred by Saruman at Isengard. They come from the dark arts and magical creation rather than torture or biological procreation. It is often said that uruk hai are actually a result of the crossbreeding of humans and orcs. Despite the difference in their backstory, uruk hai are not seen as their own species or creature, they are also known as orcs, even if they are a subset. Why uruk hai would be thrown in with the unsuccessful minions that came before them is a question that remains.
Despite how it appears in the films, with Treebeard being shocked at the destruction Saruman and Isengard have wrought on the forest, the fact that Treebeard didn't know in advance seems absurd. Orcs are not very smart, and yet the Ents are. The Ents claim they can communicate with the trees, and yet fans are supposed to believe no trees sent out the message that they were being destroyed. Orcs are not talented or secretive enough to have pulled off a move like this, even with Saruman's involvement.
In The Lord of the Rings,Peter Jackson makes it clear that orcs need to be constantly watched if they are going to be successful and organized as a fighting force. This means that orcs, despite their strength and numbers, can be very vulnerable to the well-organized men, elves, and dwarfs who they find themselves fighting against.
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While it's obvious that, before Saruman, orcs were not organized enough to do any real damage to Middle Earth, they still managed to survive. What helpful traits led them to this minor success is never revealed.
Elves live in Lindon, Lothlrien, and Rivendell and yet they are all just elves. Yet, orcs are categorized often by where they come from. There are Mordor Orcs, Isengard Orcs, Dol Guldur Orcs, and the Orcs of the Misty Mountains, along with the specific uruk hai. Why a disorganized species would have so many categories assigned to them doesn't make any sense at all.
Despite their numbers and their strength, even as unorganized as they are, it is very strange how well orcs seem to take orders. They march and so as their told when sent out by Saruman to end the age of men and begin the age of the orc. Again, why they never used their strength and numbers to do anything, including to sack towns and villages before they were pulled together by Saruman and Sauron seems like a lost opportunity.
NEXT: The Lord of the Rings: 5 Reasons Frodo Is an Underrated Character (& 5 Why He's Overrated)
Next Lord Of The Rings: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Minas Tirith
Jessie Atkin holds an MFA in creative writing. She is a storyteller, writer, and reader. She's a YA connoisseur, Star Wars enthusiast, Harry Potter fanatic, Mets devotee, and trivia aficionado.
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