Gorbag ~ Uruk Captain in the Tower of Black Sorcery

“What are you going to do with him? Don’t forget I spotted him first.
If there’s any game, me and my lads must be in it.”

LOTR: TTT B4 C10

 

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Gorbag was an Uruk of Mordor, who commanded a band of orcs out of Minas Morgul in the latter years of the Third Age. He is remembered primarily because of the account of Samwise Gamgee in the Red Book of Westmarch, when Frodo lay deathly pale upon the summit of the Spider’s Cleft and was taken by a group Orcs that converged upon the pass, one from the Tower of Cirith Ungol and the other from Minas Morgul below.

A regiment of Orcs from Minas Morgul had been sent up the endless stair to the summit after the Lord of the Nazgûl sensed something upon this rarely used path up the mountainside. Spies perhaps or something more.

Gorbag immediately took a patrol up the endless stair, to the winding stair and finally into the passage of the tunnels that led through Shelob’s Lair to the summit of the pass. There they found Frodo and evidence of a fight, where Shelob had evidently came off worse for her trouble.

A patrol had also been sent out from the Tower of Cirith Ungol and they met upon a flat area near the tunnel. It was there under the shadow of the tower that they discovered a halfling unconscious, stricken by the stinger of the great spider.

Samwise overheard the talk of the orc captains, as the other uruks carried Frodo through the dark tunnel that led to a side passage into the lower Tower. Gorbag was a captain of the Morgul Vale and Shagrat the chieftain of Cirith Ungol, who commanded the orcs guarding the pass into Mordor. They were likely of equal rank and had known each other in the past. It was through their conversations that Samwise learned Frodo had been taken to the very top of the tower for safe keeping and that he was not dead… but alive!

Sam heard the noise of their harsh voices, flat and hard in the dead air, and he could distinguish two voices from among all the rest: they were louder, and nearer to him. The captains of the two parties seemed to be bringing up the rear, debating as they went.
‘Can’t you stop your rabble making such a racket, Shagrat? ‘ grunted the one. `We don’t want Shelob on us.’
`Go on, Gorbag! Yours are making more than half the noise,’ said the other. `But let the lads play! No need to worry about Shelob for a bit, I reckon. She’s sat on a nail, it seems, and we shan’t cry about that. Didn’t you see: a nasty mess all the way back to that cursed crack of hers? If we’ve stopped it once, we’ve stopped it a hundred times. So let ’em laugh. And we’ve struck a bit of luck at last: got something that Lugbúrz wants.’
‘Lugbúrz wants it, eh? What is it, d’you think? Elvish it looked to me, but undersized. What’s the danger in a thing like that? ‘
‘Don’t know till we’ve had a look.’
‘Oho! So they haven’t told you what to expect? They don’t tell us all they know, do they? Not by half. But they can make mistakes, even the Top Ones can.’
`Sh, Gorbag!’ Shagrat’s voice was lowered, so that even with his strangely sharpened hearing Sam could only just catch what was said. ‘They may, but they’ve got eyes and ears everywhere; some among my lot, as like as not. But there’s no doubt about it, they’re troubled about something. The Nazgûl down below are, by your account; and Lugbúrz is too. Something nearly slipped.’
`Nearly, you say! ‘ said Gorbag.
`All right,’ said Shagrat, `but we’ll talk of that later: Wait till we get to the Under-way. There’s a place there where we can talk a bit, while the lads go on.’

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’

 

 

Shortly afterwards Sam saw the torches disappear. Then there was a rumbling noise, and just as he hurried up, a bump. As far as he could guess the Orcs had turned and gone into the very opening which Frodo and he had tried and found blocked. It was still blocked.
There seemed to be a great stone in the way, but the Orcs had got through somehow, for he could hear their voices on the other side. They were still running along, deeper and deeper into the mountain, back towards the tower. Sam felt desperate. They were carrying off his master’s body for some foul purpose and he could not follow. He thrust and pushed at the block, and he threw himself against it, but it did not yield. Then not far inside, or so he thought, he heard the two captains’ voices talking again. He stood still listening for a little hoping perhaps to learn something useful. Perhaps Gorbag, who seemed to belong to Minas Morgul, would come out, and he could then slip in.
`No, I don’t know,’ said Gorbag’s voice. `The messages go through quicker than anything could fly, as a rule. But I don’t enquire how it’s done. Safest not to. Grr! Those Nazgûl give me the creeps. And they skin the body off you as soon as look at you, and leave you all cold in the dark on the other side. But He likes ’em; they’re His favourites nowadays, so it’s no use grumbling. I tell you, it’s no game serving down in the city.’
`You should try being up here with Shelob for company,’ said Shagrat.
‘I’d like to try somewhere where there’s none of ’em. But the war’s on now, and when that’s over things may be easier.’
`It’s going well, they say.’
‘They would.’ grunted Gorbag. `We’ll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d’you say? – if we get a chance, you and me’ll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there’s good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses.’
‘Ah! ‘ said Shagrat. `Like old times.’
`Yes,’ said Gorbag. ‘But don’t count on it. I’m not easy in my mind. As I said, the Big Bosses, ay,’ his voice sank almost to a whisper, `ay, even the Biggest, can make mistakes. Something nearly slipped you say. I say, something has slipped. And we’ve got to look out. Always the poor Uruks to put slips right, and small thanks. But don’t forget: the enemies don’t love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we’re done too. But see here: when were you ordered out? ‘
`About an hour ago, just before you saw us.
A message came: Nazgûl uneasy. Spies feared on Stairs. Double vigilance. Patrol to head of Stairs. I came at once.’
‘Bad business,’ said Gorbag. `See here – our Silent Watchers were uneasy more than two days ago. that I know. But my patrol wasn’t ordered out for another day, nor any message sent to Lugbúrz either: owing to the Great Signal going up, and the High Nazgûl going off to the war, and all that. And then they couldn’t get Lugbúrz to pay attention for a good while, I’m told.’
`The Eye was busy elsewhere, I suppose,’ said Shagrat. `Big things going on away west, they say.’
‘I daresay,’ growled Gorbag. `But in the meantime enemies have got up the Stairs. And what were you up to? You’re supposed to keep watch, aren’t you, special orders or no? What are you for?’
`That’s enough! Don’t try and teach me my job. We were awake all right. We knew there were funny things going on.’

From The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the chapter ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’

 

The two orc-figures were still some way ahead.
He could see them now, black and squat against a red glare. Gorbag and Shagrat were drawing near the gate..

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 Posted by at 9:40 am