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Feb. 9, 2023

The Problem with Orcs

The Problem with Orcs

The best place to be an orc.

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We need to talk about...orcs. Where do they come from? Are they ruined elves, or something else? What is the history of Tolkien's own thoughts on the subject? Are they problematic, associated with a form of racism current in mid-20th century, or is CS Lewis' defence of Tolkien's shades of grey in his morality right? If you want to understand more about these key characters in Tolkien's world, or even put your own point of view across in (politely phrased) comments, have a listen to Julia Golding and Jacob Rennaker as they do a deep dive into the dark underworld of orcs.

Show Notes:

Episode Tweet: Discover the origins of orcs in Tolkien's world and explore the complexity of orc characters in fantasy literature and film with this special episode of the podcast! #Orcs #Tolkien #Fantasy #Literature #Film #OxfordCenter


(0:50:29) - Discover Fantasy With Oxford Center (0:00:04) - Exploring the Origins of Orcs (0:17:30) - Orcs in Tolkien's Writing (0:30:09) - Exploring the Complexity of Orc Characters (0:44:55) - Exploring the Problem of Orcs

Chapter Summaries:

(0:50:29) - Discover Fantasy With Oxford Center (0 Minutes) This podcast episode is brought to you by the Oxford Center for Fantasy. Learn more about what they offer, including online courses and in-person stays in Oxford, plus their shop for great gifts. Tell a friend and subscribe to the podcast to keep up with all the latest content'

(0:00:04) - Exploring the Origins of Orcs (17 Minutes) Myth Makers' examines the origins of the word 'orc' and explores the complexities of the creatures in Tolkien's world. Tolkien's earliest conceptions of orcs were that they were created from stone, granite, heat and slime. Later, Tolkien explored the idea that orcs were created by Melkor in mockery of the Elves and as a corruption of their existing life. The discussion also covered potential reproduction methods and lifespans of orcs. Finally, Tolkien's musings on the sentience of orcs were discussed.

(0:17:30) - Orcs in Tolkien's Writing (13 Minutes) Lord of the Rings' provides an interesting look into the politics of the world of Octom, with its divisions between the Urokai and original flavor Orks, and the tension between them. It is important to consider CS Lewis' view of the story, which acknowledges the complexity of the characters, rather than viewing them in a black and white way. The danger of associating Orcs with real world contexts is that it can lead to the dehumanization of people, which is what the Nazis did. It is important to check what we are doing with Orcs, to ensure that this does not happen.

(0:30:09) - Exploring the Complexity of Orc Characters (15 Minutes) Orcs' was discussed, looking at how they are portrayed in fantasy worlds and how they have been characterized in literature and film. The conversation touched on the racial and classist aspects of Tolkien's work, with orcs speaking in a 'working class commander's dialect'. In the Rings of Power version, there is a spoiled elf who stands up for the orcs and raises moral questions about the difference between orcs and elves. The discussion then moved to the Hobbit films and their structural problems, and the character Adar in the TV series.

(0:44:55) - Exploring the Problem of Orcs (5 Minutes) This conversation focused on the topic of Orcs, with a discussion of their presence in Middle Earth and the old English Ork. The importance of rationing the number of villains in a world was highlighted, and a tip was given on how to write villains in a modern vein. The conversation concluded with a special tip from the speaker on how to appreciate the musical setting of the Lord of the Rings series, with a link to Bear McCreery's podcast series and accompanying English translations of Kuania and the Black Speech.

[Music] Hello and welcome to MythMakers. MythMakers is the podcast for fantasy fans of fantasy creatives brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. My name is Julia Golding. I spend most of my time as an author and screenwriter and a very creative person all around, but I also direct the centre. So that's what I'm doing here. And joining me today is regular co-presenter Jacob Renica, who is sitting over in, I think it's Seattle, isn't it, Jacob? - It is. - Yeah. And Jacob is a Tolkien expert and also involved in the creation of ballgame. So having a sort of different creative expression of fantasy. Okay, so what are we talking about today? Well, I've been thinking about Orcs, as one does. And they are quite a problematic aspect of Tolkien's world in many ways. So I thought we would devote today's podcast to a deep dive into the world of Orcs. So just before we get into the Lord of the Rings version of Orcs, I just want to go back to the origin of the word because some people may not realise that the actual word comes from Old English. Of course it does. We're talking about talking. And if you go to the encyclopedia Britannica and look up Orc, you find there are two routes for the name and both are interesting. So the one which is the letter-elevence talking is that Orc is a reference to a c-monster, which is from the French Orc or the Italian Orca, which Orc comes from Latin, which is why one of the words for a killer whale is an orca. So there's an element of a like a sea monster somewhere floating around in that meaning. But Tolkien himself probably reached for the old English version of this, which means a demon or an ogre, and it appears in old English in compound words such as orcneas, which means monsters in the poem bear wolf, which we all know was one of Tolkien's favourite and one he spent much scholarly time pondering. Possibly there is some derivation from the Latin word orcas, a god of the underworld. So I think it's that side of the English language that Tolkien was drawing on, but it does mean that he was, as ever, finding a new meaning for a very old word. So Jacob, help us out. What are orcs when it comes to Tolkien's world? Yeah, that's a good question. I think Tolkien being very familiar with Norse myth as well, the the Yotun, the giants in Norse mythology, and we talked, we had a whole conversation. Yeah, I'm talking about giants. Yeah, yeah. So one of the terms that's used for giants, Theures, I believe, was translated in Old English using that term, the orc. So there's a tie between giants, you know, otherworldly creatures, creatures associated with darkness, underworld death, and orcs. So yeah, there's the natural connection there. Yeah, so Tolkien, it's interesting, because one of the things that we see in the Hobbit is that we don't have orc really there that you have goblins instead, right? And we're told in the Hobbit that goblin is used kind of synonymously with orc, and it's actually said to be a translation. and Goblin is used as a translation of Orc. And so, there doesn't seem to be kind of a clear distinction between these species, Goblin versus Orc. So it can get kind of confusing. - Yeah, can we pause there? Because actually, I think Goblin has a very different route. So if you look at Victorian fantasy, like the Pintes and the Goblin, those books, Goblin does see more of a folk story figure that's been around. And Ork seems to be coming a little bit from the outside, from the cold of bear wolf and you know way back in medieval time, middle English times. No, old English time, sorry, get this right. So I don't buy that as a thing. I feel as though that's not a great translation because the Goblins in the Hobbit Doe behave more like goblins than Orcs with their songs and their, you know, their bit more cheery. Yeah. Yeah. Well, in the two. So you have in two towers, you have like Goblin soldiers that are specifically referred to right. And but goblins, whereas I think traditionally in that broader like Victorian area that goblins are kind of smaller, but here in two towers, the goblin soldiers are said to be of greater stature. So they're like larger. So it's tough. I don't know. I would love to see a taxonomy of orcs in general and goblins and other fell beasts. Okay. So we'll just accept that even if there is a bit of a Victorian blend happening here, What we think of as goblins under the mountain in the Hobbit are in some way related to orcs. Yes, right, right. Okay, so we'll accept that and we'll move on to Lord the Rings. So let's talk about where they come from because I know this isn't an easy question. So our orcs, and we're not talking about Urkaya yet, our orcs ruined elves. Yeah, it depends on where you're dipping into Tolkien's writings, right? Like the earliest origins for orcs, book of lost tales is describing orcs or goblins, right? So sometimes Tolkien using those interchangeably are they're coming from a stone, right? coming from like subterranean heat and slime and it says their hearts were of granite in their bodies to form. So they almost seem to be like made out of clay, right? They're like, the wolves that went a bit wrong or something. Exactly. No, no, and there's the parallel there, and that's that that comes in a little bit later kind of like it's as Tolkien is teasing out the theological implications of orcs is comparing them to dwarves, right? Which are different types of creation and a sub creation who's creating them and who's allowed to create and who can give life in Tolkien's world. That's a big issue in Tolkien's mind and why I don't think he ever finally settles down on a specific origin for orcs in a big picture. But from the beginning, so possible origins, earliest conceptions that Tolkien has are they're just made from stone, kind of like from the earth, but from the, you know, eager places of the world, hotter, slimy places, whereas maybe, you know, Al-A is taking the nice, you know, prettier clay that has really nice tones, maybe some streaks of different colors in there, because he's a craftsman, so he's probably taking greater care of whereas Melkor is just kind of really just laughing. So slapping it all together, yeah. Right. Okay, so that's the possibility. And the underlying principle here is in Tolkien's theology and actually in Charlene R. Well, too, that the origin of life is very difficult to pinpoint. And within his theology, only Eru, Eluvitar should be creating life. So when the dwarves are created sort of, you know, on the side, everyone kind of steps in and kind of puts them to sleep for a bit, doesn't he, until the elves are awake, because they were going to be the first people. So there's a kind of ordering of who creates life, which is where the idea that the orcs can't be just, you know, snap my fingers and a new race comes to be. yokes in a way have to come from somewhere. And so that's why it's not clear. And one of the things that is said is that they, and I think it's mentioned again in some of the film versions, isn't it? That they were else once, possibly, who wandered off in the darkness and got bent and twisted. Right. There's definitely a relationship to elves and in some way, shape, performed. So after chronologically, if you start out with Tolkien, seeing Orcs as created from from Stone granite, he'd slime. Then in quite a similar alien of 1937, you have Orcs, specifically says that Morgoth is creating Orcs after Morgoth had seen the elves and was making them in mockery of the children of Eluvatar. So they're not in this version in 1937, they're not deformed elves, but he's kind of copying elves. He sees these elves and he's like making them not just as a copy, but again, like in mockery of the elves. So like he's doing, oh yeah, you can do this, yeah, I can do it, but worse. And so, but they're still made of stone in that version. They're still not kind of made out of the same flesh and blood. But then you have the annals of Amman in the 1950s, the Tolkien's putting together, and you see that that's where we start having the overtones of elves that have been corrupted and twisted. So that's kind of where you're first seeing that enter into Tolkien's, at least in writing. Oh, I didn't realize it was that late. Okay, that's really interesting. Yeah. So yeah, and there's, and so here's from a passage there. It says, you know, all those of the Quendi, the elves that came into the hands of Melkor, Er, Atom No was broken. We're put there in prison and by slow arts of cruelty and wickedness were corrupted and enslaved. Thus did Melkorbree, the hideous race of the Orcor, which is that we're called at that time, in envy and mockery of the Eldar of whom they were afterwards, the Bidris de Fos. And then this is actually what's then adapted, what follows here is adapted in the published Silmer-Eleon, the Christopher Tolkien publishes. So some of this other language that follows would be a little bit more familiar. Right, so there's in their deep dark hearts, the orcore loath, the master whom they served in fear and make her only of their misery. And then it talks about, yeah, this maybe was the violist deed of Melkor and the most hateful to arrow. So yeah, this was a bad scene as like being a very bad thing because he's taking existing life and then twisting it to these perverse ends. And so that scene is greater than him just creating something out of stone and being a mockery in the image of. This is actually dealing with life itself, living beings, and that's despicable in this particular, you know, kind of theological framework. So before we go and talk about the different kinds of orc under the umbrella, do we have any idea how they reproduce because none of the orcs that we meet seem female they may be, I don't know, gender fluid or whatever, but is there any sense of are they in a laboratory, are they spawned like, you know, lava? Do we? This is a good question. Well in that same, in the same passage it says, again from this early see the annals of Amman that then is adapted into the Silmarillion section that talks about Orix. It says the Orcora had life and multiplied after the manner of the children of Alupatar. So the suggestion that they're reproducing biologically there. Okay, so there's going to be some kind of ability to have Orc babies somewhere. Which is quite interesting to think about. Right. Okay, and within that, Do we have any sense how long they live, any of that kind of thing? So obviously, if they are after the children of Luvitar, they have a sense of they live an awful long time or other life's walls. And that's extended lifetimes, but do die. Do die. Yeah. And that again, it appears to be that's an issue that Tolkien's trying to work through because if they are derived from elves, then they're going to have, you know, this serial longevity, right? That they're essentially made of the same stuff. But are they, but because they have been twisted, do they have more limitations placed on them like dwarves where they can live longer lives? We do see, we have examples, and we talk, we can talk a later about some of the specific orcs that we have named in different works, but you know, one of them is referred to, right, Gore bag says that he lived longer than regular orcs did. So there's at least there we have, we see that orcs have a particular like lifespan and that this one had a longer lifespan than most. Yeah, though one suspects there isn't much of a retirement plan for an orc. So it could be that he's so that could be that he's a survivor and hasn't been killed off in some exactly. Yeah, so we don't know, I think, is it was an element that's probably... Yeah. And this, and this depends also on one of the other avenues that you have that Tolkien is playing with, even in that passage that I mentioned here that said that, you know, Orcs were kind of twisted from elves and then multiply after the manner of the children of Aluvatar is in the margins Tolkien wrote, alter this orcs are not L-Vish. Okay. So he had written, so he's written both. But that was the one afterwards. There's the idea, right? So are they sentient? They're clearly sentient, but you have this idea of a soul, of a rational soul, this they are. The living creatures have and animals and different types of animals have different degrees of, this kind of like sliding scale of sentience, right? So you have a huan, you have, you know, is this a dog, a, the talking dog is one of my favorite actors. A very good dog, right? Who has, right? So he's an animal, but he has speech and like, volition, and then you have this, similarly with the Eagles as well, right? So they seem to be set apart from the natural kind of regular beast of the field. - And the dragons, they also speak. - Right, yeah, yeah, yeah. So this is messy. And so to complicate things further, then you have in appendix to an essay on the Quendian L.D.R. that Tolkien's writing in 1959 and '60, he says here that there's a cogent point, the horrible to relate, it became clear in time that undoubted men could under the domination of more Gotheners agents and a few generations be reduced almost to the orc level of mind and habits. And then they would or could be made to mate with orcs producing new breeds often larger and more cunning. So you have interbreeding and between different species, not just Elvish or Elvish, but that there's like some sort of crossbreeding that's happening with different things. - But that would follow if there is some connection to the elves because of course elves and men can have children. So, okay, what, so we've got, we can live with them. - Yes, yes. - We can live with some uncertainty there, but we can see what he's reaching for. He's sort of thinking about these in some way as a spoiled creation. That seems to be a constant thing here. Okay, so going sort of the next level down is one of the things It's very interesting as you read Lord of the Rings is to get a sense of the politics within the world of Oktaum where you've got Saram and Perhaps breeding with men. I don't know but he's he's producing a super race, isn't he the the uric high who are able to travel under daylight and bigger and stronger and and they're the ones who run off with Mary and Pippin back to or tried to get back to Orsanq. And we've got the, I suppose, the original flavour orcs who come out of Mordor. So if we give them names, if you're referring to that passage, the original flavour orc is Grischnack and the Urachai is Ugluk. And there's clearly tension between those two groups. and they all look down on the orcs who are coming out of the misty mountains to avenge their captain. So there does seem to be a bit of politics within the orcs. Now we can see where the the Erochai are coming from because this you can imagine Saruman applying his magic to that problem and doing a bit of bioengineering. And we can see the model orcs, but then you go to the next level down when you get with Sam and Frodo into the borders of model, you find that the original flavor orcs are also hugely divided by their jobs and where they're stationed. So you've got the two orcs who are the ones carrying Frodo into the tower at Curith Ongel, who are, and then there's a big punch up and they kill each other, there are two sets of orcs. But also... So, Rotten Gorbag. Thank you, I was just... Yeah, and then there are two unnamed orcs, I think, a bit later on who, Sam and Frodo over here, who are tracking them and they are called the soldier and the tracker. ones snuffling along the ground and the other one is leading him in a way. It's like his kind of mind. It's almost like a dog, owner type thing, except they talk to each other. So, Tolkien really did think through. He's aux aren't all one kind of orc. There's a whole series of a sense of a community, if that's the right word, but there is a sense of a real politic of orcs that gives them a little bit more definition than just the you know the master armies in the UC on the screens when there's a battle sequence in any of the films or whatever. Are there any named orcs outside Lord of the Rings like in the Silmarillion? I couldn't think of one but that may be just my ignorance. I couldn't think of any. There is the one who from the Hobbit who kills the one who became a hero character, a hero character in the films. Sorry, I forget any of his name. He's the one who Thorin has the big set to battle with. So I think there is a couple there whose names are plucked from the history of the duolves, but there isn't really a lot of focus on Orcs in Silmarillion, is there? They seem to be, you know, less of a problem. I mean, they are the last ranks, but they're not, they tend to be more interested in fighting dragons and other sorts of things in the first stage. Yeah. Okay, right. So moving on, before we talk about the actual characterization of Orcs, let's deal with the problem of Orcs, which is the way Tolkien has written about the Orcs and the period in which he is writing, people have begun to relate it across to the whole sort of eugenics movement and sort of ideas of racism, the tarring of everybody of the same brush who's of one race, you know, the lack of differentiation is everybody really all bad in this race, you know, that stuff. Do you have any thoughts on that at all? Do you think that he's, I mean, he's a man of his era, of course. And it is. But should we be worried about accepting this great raft of characters as bad guys just because who they're born? Yeah, I think this is, and I think this is what one of the issues that talking you had, you know, especially later in life is he's thinking through the theological implications of orcs and their sentience again, are they living? So what happens when orcs die? Right, so if they have a rational soul, if they're derived from elves and their elves are rich, and that means that they're taken to mandos to the halls of waiting or like that they, and then they could be re-housed into another body, or they're not, is there some sort of, you know, judgment placed on them? That's what he's trying to figure out. And because if they are rational, if they do have will, and they're not inherently evil, then what does that mean? And so I think he seemed to be very uncomfortable with just having them all pure evil that because they were life, even though it was corrupted life, that it was still life nonetheless that came from ultimately the creation of Arrow Illuvitar, right? That there's something that can't be completely evil in them. And so I think, yeah, so he was wrestling with that question even till the end. So I think you see the depictions even in people, I think you referenced this before. Julia is Lewis's response to that. that. I don't know if you want to speak to Lewis, if you have two towers and how he dealt with people already, you know, fans already having kind of a backlash to talking, saying that he's too black and white. What were you, yeah, what were you thinking about there? No, I mean, yes, Lewis was a very sensitive reader to talking. I mean, admittedly, some of their language now, we would find use differently. So using worthy as a sort of negative term, for example. But putting that aside and allowing them to be men from the middle of the 20th century, and CS Lewis goes on to say, "I think some readers seeing and disliking this rigid demarcation of black and white, imagine they have seen a rigid demarcation between black and white people. Looking at the squares, they assume in defiance of the fact that all the pieces must be making bishops moves, which can find them to one colour. But even such readers will hardly brazen it out through the last two volumes. Motives even on the right side are mixed. He goes on to say, "Those who are now traitors usually began with comparatively innocent intentions. Heroic Rohan and Imperial Gondar are partly diseased. Even the wretched Smeagol, till quite late in the story, has good impulses and by a tragic paradox, but finally pushes him over the brink, is an unpremeditated speech by the most selfless character of them all, is referring to Sam sort of talking about him sneaking off that bit. So I think that he was aware, I think put it like this, if Tolkien was writing today, he would completely clear away any association that we have with a sort of black and white people aspect to make sure it's absolutely clear because he's not actually doing that. And he is, when you look at his people on the white squares in this context, they are veering around all over the chess set, chessboard. So you've got Denethor, for example, who's, you know, doing a night's move, really rather than a bishops move. So I think that's quite a good way of looking at it to say, to not spoil your enjoyment of reading by thinking it's not actually, it is more nuanced than you may think. And also I'm very pleased for any sort of visual versions of this that we've had in the 21st century have clearly chosen, let's not go down a skin tone route for these people. Let's make sure that they are neutral in that sense. So you get very chalk white orcs and you get ones who look like they need a bit of sun and you get some who are darker toned and leopard striped. That's the way to go is to think. It's, yeah, let's not make it into a racial eugenics. Let's not ruin orcs get further by doing that to them. - Yeah, I'm good. - But it's good to be sensitive to it because it's, - It absolutely is. And it has, and to be completely fair, it has been used by fantasy authors who have picked up on orcs idea of orcs in those sorts of ways that weren't nuanced. And I mean, before going to that, you know, the the film really is written from the Elves perspective, right? Yeah. And so of their concerns and what their, where their minds are, what they're most concerned with, you know, Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, talking to this very intentional about the frame narrative, right? who's writing it, where it's being translated from, right? Who's passing it on? So as a linguist and as a scholar, he was very concerned about sources and aware that who is writing and transmitting and translating any story that that's going to filter what the end product is. So I think Tolkien was self-aware enough, you're saying Julia, if it was written in these days, he would be very painstaking with the-- - He'd better be blue, like Avatar. - Maybe you're right. But some people I think have used Orcs as an excuse to perpetuate ideas of an entire race or essentially give you license for a lack of nuance in a character. So the author, N.K. Jemisin, who's written some really lovely fantasy and sci-fi works, somebody asked her why she didn't include creatures like orcs in her fantasy writings. And what she said was, and I think this gives a glimpse of how orcs can be used in that very negative sense. She says, "Orcs are fruit of the poison vine that is human fear of the other. in games like Dungeons & Dragons, Orcs are a fun way to bring faceless, savage dark hordes into a fantasy setting and then gleefully go genocidal on them. And that there, and then she goes on to say that they're in amalgamation of stereotypes, representing a kind of sort of people who aren't worthy of even the most basic moral considerations like the right to exist. - Yeah, and it does become problematic when it leaks into the real world because I have heard understandable from the point of view of the suffering involved, but some of the social media talk about the Ukraine-Russia context, the war there, refers to the Russian army's orcs and Russia is more or and you can see why they're reaching for that, but the danger is it misses out on the humanity of all the people involved in that conflict, even if they're in the wrong side of it. And that's why it's problematic because of course, that's what the Nazis did to the people they didn't like. You treat them as subhuman and therefore you don't have to worry about human rights. So I think you always check what you're doing with Orcs. That's why they're problematic. I think moving on from the racial aspect of this, because Tolkien's world is a world where sentient beings are more than one race. That's just the way he set up his fantasy. I think there is grounds for saying there is a classist aspect to the way he characterizes Orc. So you could actually look at it. If you're going to complain, you could say, why do they all speak like union reps who from sort of mining communities up north or something? There is an element of that. So when we do see the individual walks arguing, there's a lot of sort of, oh, go all that stuff. And when they do talk, it does sound like a union meeting that's gone wrong, where they're complaining to each other. So I'm just looking at in the two towers, when they're about to be struck down by Rohan, they're also arguing about you know what they should be doing in their strategy. But it's all sort of in what I recall it's quite a new one thing but in English, in English, it sounds like what you might do for a working class person. You look to get to others and stand guard over them. They're not to be killed unless the filthy white skins break through. Understand? As long as I'm alive, I want them, but they're not to cry out and they're not to be rescued. So it's kind of thug speak, yeah, it's thug speak. So they don't, whereas all the, you know, the refined Gondor people say Verily IDM that thou shalt do this and the other. He's gone that way. And again, in the return of of the king when we've got the really interesting insight to what the Orcs know about the war. That's one of my favorite passages when these unnamed Orcs are talking. The big Orcs are saying, "Not much you saw you, you little snufflers. I reckon your eyes are better than your snottie noses." Then what have you seen with them snarled the other? Gone. You don't even know what you're looking at. to blame for that said the soldier, not mine. That comes from higher up and he goes on to explain the rumors that the common soldier is getting from what's happening over in Baradur and elsewhere. So this is where it kind of humanizes the wrong way but you get a sense of their labour rumbles and their policies and it does seem to me taken from his like Garn, who's going for a working class, commoners dialect for the Orcs. So there you go, a little bit of issue there perhaps, but it's a translation, isn't it? Of course, it's a translation, so we can blame the translator. So do you have a favourite Orc? So we've got Goal back. Uh, look. Uh, we got my words. Yeah. Do you have a favorite? Yeah, so it's interesting. I think so. So, so snaga is sometimes used as like a derogatory term. By orokai for some of the other, you know, lower cast orcs. orcs, but it's also a proper name for one of the orcs who brings Pippin and Mary to Eisengard and the proper name of another orc who mistakes Samford, Elf Warrior and the Tower of Cyril Imgol. So it's like the name like Steve or John, like a common name, right? So like, where? Well, maybe it's like like, Titch or Magger or something. You know, it speaks, I think my favourite is I actually like Ugluck because he is basically arrogant of the Uric Eye. He has, you know, he's aware of his own greatness. We are the fighting Uric Eye, you know, he's got a real sense of his importance, which I rather like, you know, he sort of pontificates. get a real sense of this commander who really thinks is the bee's knees. So here's my favorite of all the orcs. My favorite, well yeah, I think it works. It's not, but it's not from the books. It's unique to the film as lirts, who's that Rukai, the nasty one that has the kind of one-on-one fight, the one who's, you know, peppering a boormir with arrows and who has that one-on-one fight with Eric Gorn at the end. - Yeah, he is very fine. I mean, we were doing the books, but because the other one in the Peter Jackson version is the commander figure who has the sort of very disformed head. - Yeah, yeah. - I forgot his name, someone not listening to his sister, no, his name. But he again has his own, you know, you can see the POV, their point of view of that awk looking at his job who's got to get down and how are these idiotic gondor cavalry are just riding into his guns. You can see the the world from his point of view which makes them rise up to more of a rounded character but those are inventions added in for the film, aren't they? I think. Yeah, that's got Gothamog, by the way. Gothamog, thank you. Yes. Okay, so moving on to the film version, as we've touched on how they've been characterised as trying to get away from a skin tone shorthand, which would be objectionable. On the whole, the orcs from Mordor are less handsome, if we're allowed to, or an all-cansomness scale, whereas the ones from all-sanct are quite, you know, they've got some fine actors to sort of fill out those suits, should we say, like lurchs and others. So they're their more handsome versions. And dipping back into the Hobbit, and this is where you need to Google again for me in the name of the one who fights Thorin. He and his son both have quite a sort of big part in those films, trying to give their point of view. Is it Lurts the Sun? They've Azog. That's it. Yeah. Yeah. And but there was quite a lot of criticism of that character as well. People didn't warm to it as I, I mean, there was some problems with the overextension of that that series anyway, but I don't know. I don't think they really worked as well as the Lord of the Ring's version of the the Orcs for some reason. And I can't work out why. Maybe it's because we don't I don't know. I think the problem about those films is the real enemy is Smaug for most of the film and then Smaug dies and then we get the battle of the five armies. That's one of the structural problems of the Hobbit which is seen as you go into a film that it was a bit broken back. So the drama with the orcs or the goblins or whatever recording them is a bit disconnected from the Smaug threat. I don't know. So I can see why it was difficult to film. What would you have done? I don't know. I don't know. I'd quite like to recap that film and just keep it to the Tolkien material and see what it looks like. And there's people that have done that that have done the Hobbit, the Bilbo cuts they've done. They've taken the all three films and cut it down to essentially the length of a single film where it's really I like that you closer. Yeah. Yeah. I thought it's like, you know, the acting and everything is and the look is fine. It's just somehow it doesn't quite mesh. Yeah. So moving from the Hobbit to the rings of power version of this. Yeah. I actually think this is some of my favorite orc material because the character who's like the spoiled elf who's trying to stand up for the orcs in that really interests me is one of the most interesting bad guys. Again, I'm going to have to Google his name. I don't know. Thank you. I don't know how strong my brain today. I do. I've had a long day. That's what's all we have. But that to me seems to be a kind of that's what you need to do with Orcs if you're doing a modern writing. So well done the screenwriters there. Rather than just sort of drop in Orcs as they were originally put into Lord the Rings, if you're going to talk about more of their origins from the second age, that is the interesting stuff to do is they are fighting for their survival. It's taking those seeds of the industrial discontent of the mortal orcs and looking at them earlier as they're founding their empire. So did you like Adar? Did you enjoy it? Yeah, I did and I like the whole conversation. There was a camera for his episode seven. when you have Adar, when he's tied up, Galadriel has captured him and he's kind of inside that barn being tied up and talking to her, telling her that, you know, like, well, orcs are really, you know, the just elves really were all the same. And then he gives a theological argument, right that they're, that we're all creations of the Louvatar. And so we put on equal footing and say why are you so much better than these living creatures? And so I think they do, you're right, the writers do raise some really interesting and I think significant moral questions there and the difference between how much of a difference is there really between orcs and elves. Is it nature? Is it nurture? Right? Is it the environment that they're raised in? But they clearly have a tendency towards worship, right? So they're kind of treating this ad-ar character as quasi-divine in a sense, right? They may be referencing something. Yeah, and they have these are like when the, in episode, I think it was two, I don't know, three. 'Cause that's the first thing. You see ad-ar at the end of two. You see Adder's blurry at the end of two and then three, or is it three and four? But when you first see Adder, and then they're at the Ork camp when Aaron Deer is captured with the other ones and that little kind of like slave camp where they're trying to hue down the trees. One of the Orcs dies, right? And so he almost have like a funerary ritual that he does on them. So you have this kind of, which is an oddly tender moment, right? where you see, or if he was dying, or the orc was dying, right? And then, at our like ends his life, but does so in a tender way. So it's kind of like a ritual death end of life where the orc wanted that to come from this character. So you have more of a sense of like a culture, right? - Yeah. - A sense of a worldview that they're fitting within and that they're living within that is different from yours. but for them you see that it is compelling and encompassing in a way that they find meaning in a sense. And that's something that we haven't really seen before. So like you, yeah, I did really appreciate seeing that from a kind of a cultural perspective. Yeah, and then so just moving on slightly from this sort of screen versions, just we need to recognize that there are some book extensions of this, like the Stan Nichols series called Orcs. I haven't read it actually. I don't know, I was just reading about it and I was aware of it and it seems to have to be like a fun satirical take with the Orcs being the sort of boisterous heroes and the humans being the the enemy. So and you were mentioning you also see Orcs in spin-offs in dungeons and dragons and of course in those kind of video games and so on. So people are asking those questions and finding out what they think an awk might be in other worlds, in other fantasy worlds, should we say? Well, and interestingly, the Dungeons & Dragons, it was 2020 Dungeons & Dragons, with wizards of the coast kind of revisited their race system, right, for characters. And in 2021, specifically, are talking about, seeing like races like Orcs, Goblins and Dark Elves. Usually they were identified as typically evil, right? It's just like the default is evil. But now it specifically says that any of those races, they may be good or evil as defined by how they're acting and according to the will of the player that's playing them. So they're being more sensitive to some of those possible abuses of taking those races and, you know, essentializing them as evil, as the other, or whatever. Yeah, exactly. The ones you don't have to worry about. Right, right. Yeah. Okay, so thank you. And I think we have done our deep dive into the problem of Orcs. And I certainly learned quite a few things. I hope that's helpful to people who are listening. And we always end with wearing all the fantasy worlds is the best place for something. And it's absolutely obvious that we have to decide where is the best place to be an orc. So, Jacob, have you had a chance to think about this? Where would you like to be an orc? - I'm sorry, and I think I just, I have to say Middle Earth because it's Middle Earth. And like, at least even if I was an orc, at least I would be in Middle Earth. It would be a rock line. It would be hard. It would be difficult. I'd talk with, you know, I'd sound like a Union leader. And I'd be working. You'd be organizing the labor to the strike. But at least like the landscape, at least how talking describes the landscape, like what I would be marching across and where I would be, if I was a snuffler, whatever, at least the landscape would be gorgeous. So I'd have to content myself with the environment. - The snuffling the landscape. - Yeah. - Yeah, exactly. That's where I came down. That's where I, I suppose I'd have to do. - Okay, sir. - Because it's the only way I can get there, it's as an orc so be it, I would go to middle orc, even if it was just as an orc. - Yeah, it's like the worst economy glass ticket you could get. I think, I've been thinking about this And I think that it's not much fun being an Orchid middle Earth because everyone hates you and they're trying to exterminate you. And so I thought I'd go back to the original world of Orc to the Old English Orc. And I would fancy being an Orkid some monstrous demon figure living in the forests of Europe, a bit like, you know, Grendel from Behrwolf, just going about my Orkidch business in that kind of world. might last a bit longer and I might even turn myself into something like the Loch Ness Monster eventually, you know, just kind of hide out in my monstrousness. So I'm going back to, you know, those forests of Europe to the origin of Orc. Thank you, Jacob, for talking about the problem of Orc's and I look forward to talking to you next time. Do you have a tip for us? Oh, thank you for reminding me. Yes, so I think the relevant tip here is about how to write villains. And one of the things that the Orcs present is the problem about having swathes of people who are villainous. One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is about dark lords and he says dark lords should be rationed. And I think Orcs are part of the same economy. You should ration the kind of number of orcs that you think up for your world. And if you want to write in a modern vein, think about the point of you of your characters who you've put as other to make sure you're not falling into the track of having a set of expendable people who are your canon fodder. I just don't think our modern time likes that once that and I don't I think we should be doing that if they're sentient and all those things. So that is my tip, is to learn from the Orcs that we'd have to write in differently today. How about you? We've got a tip you want to share with us. I do. I just stumbled across something earlier this week going back to Rings of Power and Orcs there and how they're portrayed there. I mentioned last time the podcast series, the Rings of Power, official podcast. So they had an episode with Baramakriri who does the composing for those various beautiful. He started doing a deep dive into his composition for each of the episodes on his blog. So and you go to that main page and you can select, he has Lord of the Rings. Right now he's just on episode one. But if you look at that, he talks through kind of the theory of coming up with those different themes. He has translations of the different, you know, the music, you know, people that you're hearing, seeing, they're seeing, you're singing in Quenya. He has English translation of the Quenya. He also has English translation of, you know, here at Orc's chanting in the black speech and you have the English translation of that here, along with the full musical accompaniment. So if you want to on your piano, so yeah, Julie, I see your piano behind you. You can turn around and just start playing the Orkish. Yeah, the Orkish chant, you can start tickling the ivories there and singing your own black speech. You can certainly do that courtesy of And it's fascinating. If you enjoy, it's really special seeing how much thought and care went into his crafting of the musical setting for the world. So just as much as you see, how much care was put into the physical setting, right? The environment, the clothing and everything there. You can see that spelled out wonderfully here in the music. and it really helped me taking a greater appreciation for what's being added there. So now as I'm re-listening to the soundtrack and as I see it, I'll certainly be doing so from a place that I'm enjoying appreciating and getting a lot more out of it. That's a very good tip. Thank you for showing that and I will certainly be going and having a look at that myself. Right. So thank you for talking about the problem of Orcs and for your special tip and I look forward speaking to you again next time. next time. 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