Orcs of Middle-earth ~ Origin of the Orc ~ Orc Races ~ Orc Breeding ~ Hero Orcs ~ Discover Your Orc Name
The Many Races of Orcs in Middle-earth
“Apparently the members of two or three quite different tribes were present,
and they could not understand one another’s orc-speech. .”
LOTR: TTT B3 C3
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The Orcs of Middle-earth had many names. Goblins, Hob-goblins, Orcs, Uruks, Black Uruks and the Uruk-hai. They are basically of the same lineage, which comes down out of the depths of time from the original creatures created by Morgoth. The fast rate at which Orcs were able to procreate and their inherent ability to adapt to any environment, led to many breeds of orcs that were changed physically by the places in which they settled and thrived.
The First Orcs of Middle-earth
The first orcs came into being during Year of the Trees 1330, when the Sindar observed a variety of “evil creatures” roaming Beleriand that included Orcs, Wolves, and “other fell beings of shadow.” They would prove to be the primary force of Morgoth’s armies in his assaults upon the Valar in the First Age. These Orcs were shorter than Men or Elves, being long-armed and crook-legged, but were imbued with a savage lust for war and domination, that made them fearsome in battle. The first orcs were bred in Utumno, but it’s unclear if they were used in battle at this time. When Morgoth’s fortress was destroyed, the few orcs that survived fled to his lesser fortress of Angband, which at that time was ruled by Sauron.
It wasn’t until Morgoth’s return, that the orcs were first bred in earnest to create vast armies. Angband was re-fortified and became the primary fortress of Morgoth. The Orcs fought in nearly all of the major Battles of the First Age, but like all his Servants of Shadow were nearly extinguished during the final War of Wrath. Those that survived the defeat of Morgoth, fled eastwards and hid in the Mountains of Angmar and the Ered Mithrin. For many generations the Orcs of Morgoth slowly spread throughout Middle-earth, mainly through tunnels in the Misty and Grey Mountains.
Through dark sorcery, Morgoth designed his Orcs to breed quickly, which in later years served Sauron well. They were bred to be pliable and adaptable to the regions in which they lived. Wherever, Orcs carved out a life, they thrived and through many successive generations, adapted to the landscapes and climates in which they lived. After the fall of Morgoth the surviving Orcs who fled the destruction of Beleriand hid in the northern wastes. Slowly over time, they worked their way south through the Misty Mountains or East into uncharted lands forming small clans, who raided the lands to the east and west.
In the first thousand years of the Second Age the Orcs of Middle-earth developed in to two major groupings. The Orcs of the North who inhabited the Forodwaith, Angmar and the Misty Mountains and the Orcs of the East who inhabited the Grey Mountains and the lands surrounding the Sea of Rhûn.
The Orcs of Mordor
The first great gathering of Orcs after the War of Wrath took place in the land of Mordor, which Sauron took as his own. Fearful of the growing might of Númenor, Sauron in secret began building Barad-dûr at the beginning of the second millennium of the Second Age. The Orcs of the North came to the call of Sauron and filled the Land of Mordor. The Orcs in the East however did not trust Sauron in the guise of Annatar and for the most part refused his call. Using knowledge gained in the pits of Angband, Sauron bred a vast army fortify the Land of Shadow and built the first Dark Tower of Mordor. He discovered that Mount Doom would provide a great source of elemental power and that by forging great Rings, he could transfer his own power into them and extend his dominion over all living things.
So began his plan to deceive the Elves of Eregion and forge the great Rings of power to corrupt Elves, Men and Dwarves. In the year 1600 of the Second Age Sauron forged in secret the One Ring of Power. After placing it upon his hand, the Elves perceived his treachery and removed their own Rings, unsullied by his designs. Enraged, the Dark Lord invaded Eriador with a vast army of Orcs long prepared and laid waste to the lands west of the Misty Mountains. The Elves were driven back into the north and the Gate of Moria was shut. Númenor sent an army to the shores of Middle-earth and Sauron’s forces were eventually defeated. To save Mordor and all that he had built he allowed himself to be captured. For nearly two and a half thousand years the Orcs of Middle-earth played little or no part in Sauron’s plans, who used deceit and treachery to destroy the power of Númenor, which eventually fell in the year 3319 of the Second Age.
Sauron returned to Middle-earth and once more gathered a vast army of Orcs in Mordor capturing the city Minas Ithil. Then a Last Alliance of Men and Elves invaded Mordor and defeated Sauron on the slopes of Mount Doom. The Ring was cut from Sauron’s hand by Isildur and the fallen spirit of the Dark Lord fled into the East. Most of the Orcs of Mordor were destroyed and those that remained went into hiding.
Fir most of the Third Age Sauron remind a hidden force. Settling first in Dol Guldur and buildings back his strength. he sent the Witch-king to the north to conquered the weakened Kingdom of Arnor. To the south he enlist the Southrons of Harad and Khand to make constant war upon Gondor. From the East he enlisted the Wainriders to attack Gondor. A terrible plague ravaged the world of men and some believe this was also the work of Sauron that did much to weaken Númenor in exile. The White Council drove Sauron from Dol Guldur, but his plans had already been laid. He returned in secret to Mordor where the Nazgûl had prepared the way. He openly declared himself and Mount Doom one more burst into flame.
After Sauron’s return, the Dark Lord would gather perhaps the largest force of Orcs and Men ever assembled in Middle-earth. There were countless breeds of Orcs in the Land of Shadow, each bred for the many tasks needed by the Dark Lord. There were small Snaga or ‘slave orcs’ of countless varieties used as grist in the vast machine of war. There were tunnelers, builders, and the craft-orcs, that fortified the defenses of Mordor. Orcs skilled in the craft of ironmongery to work the smithies that burned night and day in all parts of Mordor. There were the hunter Orcs, bred for their sense of smell, hearing and their bright night eyes, that could see in the deep shadows of Gorgoroth. The basic soldier Orc that filled the ranks of the Dark Lords vast armies, were crook-legged creatures, very broad, with long arms that hung almost to the ground and they were strong, sinewy and could march without rest for days on end.
Legions of soldier orcs were stationed in four main locations in the land of Shadow. The Orcs of Udûn to the north, the Orcs of Gorgoroth upon the central plain, the Orcs of Morgul to the West and the Orcs of Barad-dûr in the East. In look and appearance their physical differences were minor, but each were trained in unique forms of combat and given distinctive weaponry, crafting their own armor, all emblazoned with the great Eye, but each with their own clan symbols.
In the later years of the Third Age, large Uruks of a new kind began to appear in Mordor. They were Sauron’s greatest achievement in his orc breeding program. They were his mighty Black Uruks, who marched out from the Dark Tower under the shadow of Mount Doom in the land of terror. In the breeding pits of Barad-dûr, Sauron is said to have perfected the craft of breeding Orcs, likely using dark magic in the form of Morgul Spells, along with knowledge gained in Angband to produced the large Black Uruks unleashed during the War of the Ring. They were often employed as Orc Overseers, because of their large size and they carried with them a many thonged whips, used to keep the slaves and rank & file in line.
The largest and greatest of these Black Uruks where hand picked to become members of the rumored Black Legion of Barad-dûr, which protected the Iron Gate of the Dark Tower. They were the pride of Sauron, the pinnacle of his millennium of breeding. None of these Uruks were ever seen outside of Mordor and they likely perished in it’s ruin after the Ring went into the fire.
The Orcs of Mount Gundabad
In 1695 of the Second Age when Sauron invaded Eriador, he nearly overwhelmed the Eldar commanded at that time by Elrond. Sauron’s forces hunted them, as the remaining refugees fled northward to the valley of Imladris. However, the Dark Lords armies were attacked from the rear by forces sent from Khazad-dûm. Sauron was forced to let the elves go and turn and fight the attacking dwarves. Sauron’s forces drove them back to the West Gate of Moria, but could not breach the Doors of Durin. Frustrated, he commanded the Orcs to harry the Dwarves wherever they could be found throughout Middle-earth. Soon after the Orcs attacked Mount Gundabad, pushed the dwarves out of their sacred mountain home, occupying it for many years. Over millennium the Dwarves and Orcs fought over this holy and strategic mountain in the north.
Around the year 1300 of the Third Age, the realm of Angmar arose up at the bidding of Sauron, with the intention of destroying Arnor. The Witch-king spent 500 years building a massive force of Orcs in both Carn Dûm and Mount Gundabad. Through successive attacks, the already weakened North Kingdom was decimated and although Angmar itself was destroyed in the year 1975, it was too late to save Arnor. The last remnants of Angmar were eventually driven out of the North, but Mount Gundabad remained under the control of the Orcs.
After the death of King Thrór in 2790 the Dwarves gathered for vengeance. The War of the Dwarves and Orcs began in 2793 and Gundabad was once more taken by the Dwarves. It’s likely the Dwarves cleared the mountain of Orcs, but afterwards the Orcs returned ten fold and Mount Gundabad once more served as their capital in the North.
In 2941 Gandalf the Grey along with Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves, entered the Misty Mountains. They were captured along the High Pass and during their escape the Great Goblin was killed. Furious, the Orcs gathered at Mount Gundabad under the command of Bolg to seek vengeance and hearing of the death of Smaug, they marched on the Lonely Mountain, where most of the Orcs and Goblins of the North were killed in the Battle of the Five Armies.
However, when Sauron rose once more to power and declared himself in Mordor, the orcs gathered in great numbers in Gundabad and throughout the Misty Mountains.
The Orcs of Gundabad were a mix of many orcs breeds, however those that ruled them, could trace their bloodline back to the first Orcs bred in the pits of Angband. By the last Millennium of the Third Age, the Gundabad Orcs were a mix of the Goblins of the Misty Mountains, the Uruks of Mirkwood and the Orcs bred in the land of Mordor. It is said that many of the large Uruks of Gundabad had pale white skin, having survived in the cold snows of the north. Azog and his son Bolg, were said to be of this breed of overlarge pale orcs.
The Orcs of the Misty Mountains
The Orcs of the Misty Mountains were often called Goblins or Hob-goblins by those who lived west of the Mountains in the Third Age of Middle-earth. Though their bloodline was definitely that of the common orc, they were said to have been a smaller breed, that thrived in the dark tunnels beneath the mountains. They were scavengers and thieves who prayed upon the unwary travelers along the mountainous passes. They took the stolen booty back to Goblin Town and made slaves out of those they took prisoner, eventually feeding upon the ones who perished in the darkness, for they wasted nothing.
The Goblins also made raids upon the woodsmen, who lived in Rhovanion between the Great River and the shadow of Mirkwood. At times they would forge alliances with the Orcs of Moria or the Orcs of Gundabad to form large raiding parties, where they rode upon the backs of Wargs, who served as their steeds in battle. Often a large and powerful Orc would emerge out the rank and file, to become a leader and draw the many clans of Goblins together. Such was the case in the years before the Battle of the Five Armies when one such orc, the Great Goblin a creature of immense size, who gathered the Orcs of the Misty Mountain into a formidable force in Goblin Town beneath the mountains.
When the Great Goblin was slain by Gandalf in the year 2941 of the Third Age, it set in motion a series of events that led to the Battle of the Five Armies and the death of the majority of Orcs in the Misty Mountains. The Goblins had set out to avenge their fallen chieftain, but had been thwarted by the Eagles. So they called upon the Orcs of Mount Gundabad after hearing of Smaug’s death, to seek vengeance and plunder the treasure hoard of the Dwarves. For many years after this deadly battle, the Goblins who survived lay hidden in the mountains until Sauron once more declared himself in the land of Mordor.
The Goblins, perhaps more than any other breed of Orc, where said to reproduce with great fervor and so replenished their numbers quickly after a large defeat. This also meant they adapted to their surroundings through successive generations and so were molded and changed by the places in which they thrived, such as the dark tunnels beneath the mountains. This gave them a singular look and shape among Orcs.
The Orcs of Dol Guldur and Mirkwood
Dol Guldur was originally known as Amon Lanc or ‘Bald Hill’ in the southern reaches of Greenwood the Great. It had been the capital of Oropher’s Silvan Elves, who had departed north to what would later be called the Mountains of Mirkwood. Some time around the year 1000 of the Third Age, an evil presence took over Amon Lanc. It became known a Dol Guldur, the Hill of Sorcery in Sindarin, also known as “the dungeons of the Necromancer” and was a stronghold of Sauron, who in secret located in what would later be called Mirkwood.
The Orcs of Dol Guldur came mostly from Mordor, sent north across the Dagorlad and Dead Marshes. They were also a mix of Goblins from the Misty Mountains and Orcs of Mount Gundabad, with a sprinkling of Orcs out of the far East. The Uruks of Dol Guldur were in most way liken to the Uruks of Mordor. They were larger in size and fierce in battle.
The Orcs of Mirkwood came mostly from the breed of Orcs out of the Far East, who had migrated eastward from the the Grey Mountains after the War of Wrath in the First Age. When Greenwood the Great fell into Shadow and was called ever after Mirkwood, the Orcs out of the East along the Sea of Rhûn, began to populate the dark forest. Those who thrived under the trees of Mirkwood were said to be clever hunters and trackers, good with bow and knife.
After the Battle of the Five Armies, most of the Orcs in Mirkwood and Dol Guldur fled south to Mordor, while some crossed the Great River and entered the darkness of Moria and the dark tunnels of the Misty Mountains. When Mount Doom burst in to flame once again and Sauron declared himself openly in the year 2954 of the Third Age, the deserted ruins of Dol Guldur were inhabited by Orcs and the woods of Mirkwood became a place of fear and danger once more.
The Orcs of Moria
The great dwarven Kingdom of Khazad-dûm fell into shadow in the year 1980 of the Third Age. For many thousands of years, it was a thriving Dwarven city, perhaps the greatest city ever known in Middle-earth. But the Dwarves dug too greedily and too deep in search of the coveted Mithril, known as Moria Silver. They awoke in the deep the last of the Balrogs, a demon of the ancient world, who fled the ruin of Angband after the fall of Morgoth in the First Age. It lay hidden in dark places beneath the Misty Mountains until it was awoken from sleep.
The Dwarves fled the Shadow and Flame that now took hold of Khazad-dûm, it was called ever after Moria, the Black Pit. As evil began to multiply in Middle-earth, Orcs of all kinds filled the dark passageways of Moria. Its treasures were plundered by the Orcs for millennium and most was hauled off to Mordor, especially Mithril, which Sauron coveted.
The Orcs of Moria were a mix of many breeds from throughout Middle-earth, Orcs of Mordor, Mirkwood and Mount Gundabad entered it’s dark byways, but more than any other orc, it was the Goblins of the Misty Mountains, who thrived in its eternal darkness. They traveled south through dark tunnels in the mountain rock to reach Moria. Its dark passageways were familiar to the Goblins, who had long tunneled deep withing the rock of the mountains.
The Orcs of Moria through successive generations developed their on breed which stood out among the Orcs of Middle-earth. Short and squat, they were great climbers, able to ascend the vast halls of the Dwarves and their armor and weaponry was singular in shape and design.
They were said to be rat-like in appearance with long ears developed for hearing in the dark and night-eyes that were likely the keenest among the Orcs of Middle-earth.
It is not clear exactly whom the Orcs of Moria served. Was it the ancient being of Shadow and Flame, who they certainly worshiped in the darkness of Khazad-dûm? Or was it the ever growing power and influence of Sauron to the east? Likely both, but it remains unclear if the Balrog of Moria was in league with Sauron or simply ruled the Black Pit in it’s own fashion. We do know that Moria was controlled by the larger Orcs of Gundabad during the War of the Dwarves and Orcs. Azog the Orc-chieftain of Moria captured and mutilated Thrór, which sparked the war and culminated in the Battle of Azanulbizar at the East Gate of Moria.
Although the Dwarves suffered heavy casualties, the battle would have lasting effects for the Orcs of the Misty Mountains. Their numbers were severely reduced after the battle and never fully recovered. It is likely that the Battle of Five Armies was won, mainly because the Orcs of the North had been so depleted during the Battle of Azanulbizar.
Moria was emptied of Orcs and only a few remained there in the years after. When the Fellowship of the Ring entered Moria, the Orcs had once more gained a foothold in Khazad-dûm, with reinforcements sent from Dol Guldur and Mordor. They lived mainly in the region of the East Gate and had driven the Watcher in the Water out of deep places to guard the West Gate.
The Orcs of Isengard
The Orcs of Orthanc would have come primarily from the Misty Mountains, some likely from Moria, but most would have been the smaller Orc breeds of the North. Saruman must have realized that in order to stand against Mordor, which was of course was his ultimate plan, then he would need to create a new breed of Orc to rival the large Black Uruks spawned in the dark pits of Barad-dûr. They would need to multiply quickly and be of exceptional size and power. It is likely that Saruman acquired some of the larger solider Orcs of Mordor or Dol Guldur and mixed them through foul craft with his own Orcs and the Wild Men of Dunland. There were many failed attempts, that resulted in countless Half-orcs and Goblin-men. Many of these were used as spies throughout the lands, including those sent north to Bree and the Shire.
Saruman eventually succeeded in creating his mighty Uruk-hai, a hereto unknown breed of Uruk in Middle-earth. They were of exceptional size and bulk, certainly rivaling the stature of the Black Uruks of Mordor. They were bred for fierceness in battle and intelligence, with the ability to wield weapons the average Orc could not. In one particular way they stood out above all the orcs of Middle-earth, they could endure the light of the Sun, as no other Orcs could. This gave them a distinct advantage over not only other Orcs, but also Men and Elves. The Uruk-hai of the White Hand were brutal and savage in battle and fiercely loyal to Saruman.
Unfortunately time was against Saruman. Sauron had been gathering orcs and evil men in Mordor for centuries. The Dark Lord had been breeding new orcs for countless years. His armies numbered in the millions all told, where as Saruman’s armies only numbered in the scant thousands.
Sauron had hosts of Orcs at his command in Mount Gundabad, Moria, Mirkwood and Dol Guldur. Within Mordor itself Sauron had vast legions camped and ready for battle upon the plain of Gorgoroth, in the Vale of Udûn, Cirith Ungol, Durthang, Minas Morgul and Barad-dûr. If Saruman had acquired the One Ring, he might have had a chance, but without it he could not stand against Mordor. He played a dangerous game and lost at Helms Deep, defeated even before he had a chance to face the forces of Mordor.
However, in Isengard a new form of Orc was born. It is rumored that in the breeding dens of Nan Curunír, Saruman bent the natural laws of Ilúvatar with dark sorcery, creating terrible birthing pits in the fertile muds beneath Orthanc, spawning Uruk broods encased in placenta sacks, that emerged whole and ready to fight, often dismembering, killing and eating the orc overseers that tended them. In this way Saruman raised an army in secret with great speed to rival the hosts of the Rohirrim.
Nothing like this had ever been seen in Middle-earth before. In this way Saruman did indeed rival the power of Mordor and if given enough time and if he had indeed captured the Ring at Parth Galen, then the War of the Ring might have turned out very differently. With the One Ring upon his finger, Saruman would have been able to call all evil things to come to him in the Wizard’s Vale of Orthanc. He would have perhaps been able with the power of the Ring to sway the Orcs under the will of Sauron to join him instead. However, Sauron would not have been idle. Once Saruman placed the Ring upon his finger, his treachery would have been immediately known to Sauron and all other strategies of war would have been forgotten. Minas Tirith, Lothlorien, Rivendell, Erebor all would have been abandoned. The Dark Lord of Mordor would have bent all his power against Isengard. Including the Nine Nazgûl in all their terrible wrath. Then we would have seen the Black Uruks of the Eye, set against the Uruk-hai of the White Hand. That would have been a sight to see.
Orcs of the Far East
Little is known about the Orcs that traveled in the far reaches of the East. They likely took a route through the Grey Mountains and the Withered Heath, migrating further east into the lands of Rhûn. Many would have settled there, while others continued to travel Southeast in search of fresh lands to raid. Some likely wandered through uncharted lands along the western shores of the Sea of Rhûn and beyond. How far they trekked into the East is unknown, but as long as there was plunder and slaves to be had, they would have made of it a home.
Sauron fled into the far East after the War of the Last Alliance and it’s believe he may have gathered there men and orcs, who would later follow him back to Mordor upon his return. The Orcs of the East would have contained the bloodline of the first Orcs of Middle-earth, which would have been desirable to Sauron to enhance his breeding programs. During the War of the Ring, many of the Orcs of the East were brought under the will of the Dark Lord and used to attack the men of the Long Lake, the Elves of Mirkwood and the Dwarves of Erebor.
The Eastern Orcs of Middle-earth were large and fierce, and would prove to be great solider orcs of Mordor. They were different then the Orcs found in the Western regions of Middle-earth, having lived apart in uncharted lands for so long.
Dark Histories of the Orc
After the fall of Mordor at the conclusion of the Third Age, King Elessar sent scouts into Mordor to seek out what remained. In a dark defile east of the fallen tower of Barad-dûr was found a secret vale. Within was discovered a hidden place, a Library of Shadow that held many of the secrets of Mordor. Inside its walls was found this scroll, which traces the genealogy of the Orcs of Middle-earth.
The Genealogy of the Orc in Middle-earth
“A new order will rise. We will drive the machine of war with the sword and the spear and the iron fist of the orc.”
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