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The history of Middle-Earth (chibi version): Part 50: Say hello to my little friends

18th July 2013 (22:53)

Here's #50. I can't quite believe I've done 50 of these... There may be a short break after this one since I don't have any more saved up; depends on if I get chance to do some over the weekend.

I remember when Mark Watches/Reads went through Lord of the Rings, there was a lot of controversy over the idea of an entire race - the Orcs - being inherently evil. It was interesting to discover, on reading HoME, that Tolkien himself agonised over the same question - though in his case, more from a Catholic perspective that nobody should be inherently beyond redemption and God's grace, rather than a modern 'social justice' point of view. The version of the story I've gone with here is the one that makes most sense to me personally - possibly because it's conceptually similar to why Buffyverse vampires are inherently evil.   There's a tiny sliver of Melkor's Ultimate Evil in each of them, constantly overriding any instinct they might have towards Good, and compelling them always to be Evil. Of course, the idea that buried somewhere deep inside each Orc is the original Elven soul, aware of what's been done to it and what it's become but powerless to fight it, makes this concept particularly horrible.

It's possible Sauron got the idea for the One Ring from helping Melkor make the Orcs.

Part 50: Say hello to my little friends

Next time: Part 51: ?

Chibis by tektek.org
Original story by and copyright to J R R Tolkien, ed. C Tolkien: Primarily based on the Silmarillion, but incorporating ideas from the 12-volume History of Middle Earth series.
Questions and comments welcome!


Posted by: curiouswombat (curiouswombat)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 07:47 (UTC)

Those are very cute orcs...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 12:30 (UTC)

I decided to go for the "Sallow skin" versions rather than making them green or black. Then I had to do research to discover what kind of colour 'sallow' actually is. :) (Yellowish or jaundiced.)

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 11:40 (UTC)

Now I'm picturing the orcs going "Help me, help me" like in The Fly...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 12:32 (UTC)

That's pretty much what I was going for with the "Help me!", "I'm a monster!" dialogue. :) Well, that and Angel in 'Becoming Part 1'.

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 13:53 (UTC)

Did Tolkien ever tackle the question of whether Orcs have souls, or go on to any kind of afterlife after they die?

Presumably given the nature of Orcs and the high turnover they must have... being killed by enemies, each other, or their own superiors... I would guess that there are few or no original "former Elf" Orcs left by the time of LotR. So, they wouldn't have any Elf soul buried somewhere within.

I've also wondered whether Orcs have the capacity to reject evil. As Melkor mentions a couple of strips ago, they'd need to have their free will taken from them before they could be useful minions for a Lawful Evil demigod-equivalent like him. And I don't think we have any examples in Tolkien of Orcs rebelling against their masters or refusing orders. (Though we did see rival groups fighting each other on a couple of occasions.)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 19th July 2013 16:14 (UTC)

It's a good question: and the answer is, Tolkien tried to tackle it, but never seems to have come up with an explanation he was entirely satisfied with.

In his earliest writings, when he was younger, Orcs were simply monsters. No moral complexity, and no capacity to reject evil.

He became unhappy with that simplistic idea later on, but he didn't want to just abandon the concept of Orcs as an unambiguously evil race, since it would undermine practically everything he'd ever written.

So he noted down several different ideas over the years - Orcs were created by Melkor from scratch to be soulless and evil; Orcs were so thoroughly corrupted by Melkor that they could never turn back to good; or Orcs were under Melkor's influence or control so thoroughly that they could never break free. At one point he even suggested that they were unintelligent animals, given speech and the appearance of rational thought solely by Melkor's evil power animating them. Unfortunately, he went to his grave still never having decided on an idea he was happy with.

(If you recall, in Lord of the Rings when Sauron is destroyed, the remaining Orcs become almost mindless, milling around like ants or jumping into pits, while the humans in Sauron's service behave rationally, and either surrender or fight to the death out of honour and despair.)

I would guess that there are few or no original "former Elf" Orcs left by the time of LotR. So, they wouldn't have any Elf soul buried somewhere within.

You're probably correct that there are none of the original Orcs created in Utumno left by the Third Age - though I suppose it's not entirely impossible. However, Elven souls can reincarnate into new bodies; it's not impossible that Orc souls are compelled to do so too. More likely, though, is that if Orcs are corrupted Elves (and Men too, perhaps), then new Orc souls are created the same way new Elven souls are.

a Lawful Evil demigod-equivalent like him.

Actually I think Melkor is Chaotic Evil. He went from pride in his own work to contempt for that of everybody else, leading to hatred of everything not his own, and ultimately into pure nihilism and a lust to corrupt and destroy everything.

Sauron, on the other hand, IS Lawful Evil. His aim was not to destroy, but to redesign and "improve" things and make a "better" world - but better according to his own concepts, and people who disagree would be forced to comply regardless of their wishes.

To quote Tolkien:

"When Melkor was confronted by the existence of other inhabitants of Arda, with other wills and intelligences, he was enraged by the mere fact of their existence, and his only notion of dealing with them was by physical force, or the fear of it. (...) Hence his endeavour always to break wills and subordinate them to or absorb them into his own will and being, before destroying their bodies. This was sheer nihilism, and negation its one ultimate object; Morgoth would, no doubt, if he had been victorious, have ultimately destroyed even his own 'creatures' such as the Orcs (...) he could only have gone raging on till all was levelled again into a formless chaos."

"Sauron had never reached this stage of nihilistic madness. He did not object to the existence of the world, so long as he could do what he liked with it. (...) He loved order and coordination, and disliked all confusion and wasteful friction. It was the apparent will and power of Melkor to effect his designs quickly and masterfully that had first attracted Sauron to him. (...) [Sauron] was often able to achieve things, first conceived by Melkor, which his master did not or could not complete in the furious haste of his malice."

I don't think we have any examples in Tolkien of Orcs rebelling against their masters or refusing orders.

Not on a huge scale, but all the time on a petty scale. It's made pretty clear that all Orcs hated Morgoth and Sauron, but they obeyed them out of a fear that surpassed even their own fear of death.

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