The New Notion Club Archives
The New Notion Club Archives


Utumno, Angband, Misty Mountains (including Mount Gundabad, Moria, Goblin-Town, Mount Gram, Ettenmoors,) Mordor, Isengard, numerous lesser tribes and strongholds spread throughout the North, East and South
Black Speech, Melkorin and Orcish; numerous tribal dialects, Westron; heavily accented
Height & weight of average adult
Between 3' to 6' & 97-190 lbs
Average lifespan
Accounts vary from immortal, long-lived to mortal and even shortlived in comparison to average men
Renowned individuals

The Orcs (B.S.: Uruki; Q.: Orcor; S.: Yrch) were a warlike tribal race which dwelt in the Westlands of Middle-earth and other territories of Arda. Tales of their origins varied, though most accounts agreed that the rebel Vala Morgoth had some hand in their creation and thus they were also known as the Children of Melkor.[1] However, it was not until his captivity that they grew to greater numbers under his lieutenant, the fallen Maia Sauron. The Orcs worshipped them as their deities and slavishly toiled for them, filled with both loyalty and loathing for their overlords.

Orc society was rigidly divided into two castes - a slave caste composed of common Orcs (or Snaga, pl. Snagai) and a warrior caste (or Uruk, pl. Uruki[2]) composed of the socially privileged and physically strong. The appearance of Orcs varied considerably depending on their region of habitation, culture and caste, though most had either dark or sallow skin and were between three and six foot in height.



The Vala Morgoth is said to have created the Orcs in the Great Darkness of the Elder Days.

It was speculated in the Quenta Silmarillion that the Orcs were created by the fallen Vala Morgoth (originally known as Melkor) in The Great Darkness of the Elder Days by capturing and corrupting wild Elven kindreds who had refused to make the Great Journey westward.[3] It is said that these Elves fled in terror at the sight of the Vala Oromë when he came to lead them from Cuiviénen, the birthplace of the Elven race, to the sanctuary of Valinor.

Orcs were widely believed to be the descendants of these corrupted Avari Elves, who became isolated from their kin and remained ignorant of the true deities of Arda, the Valar.[4] They were therefore easily ensnared by the the First Dark Lord, who made thralls of them.

It was also proposed in the Quenta Silmarillion that the Orcs were originally a kindred of Avari who had become hardened and savage due to long exposure to the inhospitable, untamed lands of Middle-earth.[5]

An older theory had it that the Orcs were bred by Morgoth and later by Sauron "from the heats and slimes of the earth" and imbued with life through his sorcery. This theory was later disregarded, as the deity Ilúvatar was thought to be the only being capable of independently creating life.[6][7]

Some regarded Orcs as being descended from Men who fell under the influence of Morgoth and his chief agents, in particular the tribal Drúedain or Drûgs. This theory, however, was most often propounded by those unfriendly to the Drúedain and those ignorant of their culture. The Elves, by contrast, affirmed the claim that Orcs were made from men, but not directly from the Drúedain, explaining that the Drúedain must have escaped the shadow of Morgoth, "for their laughter and the laughter of Orcs are as different as the light of Aman from the darkness of Angband". Further, the Orcs and the Drúedain each regarded the other as renegades,[8] which may imply distant kinship, perhaps sharing the same ancestors, and thus they viewed each other as straying from the ways they were supposed to adhere to, but the Drúedain themselves were by no means likely to be the ancestors of Orcs, simply perhaps their distant cousins.

Others held that Orcs were the result of interbreeding between corrupt Men and fallen Avari[9] or them being either the descendants of fallen lesser Maiar or only mere beasts without true souls, animated by the will of their evil master and parroting his words just like clever animals.

First Age

In the Quenta Silmarillion, it is said that the renegade deity Morgoth subsided in a great fortress in the northernmost reaches of Middle-earth, until it was sacked by the Powers of the Arda at the end of the First Age of the Stars. Morgoth was then imprisoned with a great chain, and in the violence of this battle his creations, the Orcs, were scattered across the world.[10]

The Wars of Beleriand

No mention is again made of the Orcs in Elven texts until the Fourth Age of the Stars, when the Elves of Beleriand were overwhelmed by them and forced to seek the aid of their Dwarven allies in forging weapons. Equipped with Dwarven steel, the Elves defeated the invading hosts of Orcs, but in the Last Age of the Stars legions upon legions would issue from the Gates of Angband to assault the allied Elves and Dwarves.

The Sindar and the Laiquendi, led by Thingol and Denethor, decimated the first of the three great Orc armies, the remnants being dispatched by the Dwarves. When the second army of Orcs failed to conquer the cities of the Falas, they joined forces with the third army in an attempt to ambush the Noldor, newly arrived in Mithrim. Led by Fëanor the Great, these powerful High Elves slaughtered their Orc assailants in great numbers and pursued them through Eredwethion into the plains of Bladorion. It is even said that the light of Valinor which shone in their eyes seared the flesh of the fleeing Orcs.

This battle is known as the Second Battle in the Wars of Beleriand, or the Battle Under the Stars (Dagor-os-Giliath), as it took place between the diminishing of the light of the Two Trees of Valinor and the first rising of the Sun and Moon. It was in this battle that Fëanor was slain by a host of Balrogs and met his end at the hand of their lord, Gothmog. A second army of Noldor, led by Fingolfin, arrived soon after the defeat of Fëanor. As their arrival was concurrent with the first rising on the Sun and Moon, they were greatly feared by the Orcs and many fled at their arrival into the depths of the earth.

Fëanor's son, Maedhros, then formed an uneasy alliance with Fingolfin, and soon the Orcs were driven into Bladorion, encircled and utterly decimated in the Glorious Battle (or Dagor Aglareb). The remaining Orcs were penned against the walls of Angband by the encircling Elves in a siege which lasted over 400 years. During this time, some Orcs did attempt the perilous journey through the snowy north. One such group arrived at the coast west of Eredlomin but were discovered by the vigilant Elves and driven into the sea near Drengist.

Within the walls of Angband, however, Morgoth began to secretly replenish his forces, breeding Dragons, Balrogs, Werewolves, Trolls and vast numbers of Orcs. In the Battle of Sudden Flame, the Dagor Bragollach, and the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, the strength of Elves and their allies, the Edain, was broken.[11]

The War of Wrath

Few tales survive of this era, though it is known that Morgoth succeeded in bringing both Elves and Men under his power and was on the brink of total victory in Arda.

Second Age

Third Age

The War of the Ring

Fourth Age

Later Ages

Dagor Dagorath

Culture and Society


The Orcs were a warrior race who respected strength of arms above all things.

Orcish Camp

Orcish earth-work Village

Orc society was divided into two large castes: the smaller, more numerous slave caste (or Snaga, pl. Snagai) and the larger, less numerous warrior caste (or Uruk, pl. Uruki).[12]

Although there was some regional variation in the culture of Orc tribes, this hierarchical pattern was consistent to them all. For example, a northern tribe, known as the Hiisiis, who were quite isolated from their southerly dwelling kin, were also divided into greater and lesser Orcs. Even the secretive Fel, who resided in the distant deserts of Far-Harad, divided themselves in this way.

Young Orcs, referred to as "imps", were raised jointly by older females who were no longer capable of bearing children. Orcs were divided into one of the two castes at birth. The young Snagai subsisted within large, overcrowded "breeding pits", where craftiness, cunning and brute force alone assured a young Orc's survival. The considerably stronger Uruki were raised apart from the Snagai, which they would undoubtedly have slaughtered had they been raised together.

The Uruki would then be educated in their superiority over the Snagai and trained to occupy the roles of officers, priests and healers or bodyguards (Hoirk) of their Orc lord.[13] A young Orc's upbringing emphasised the values of strength, aggressiveness, combat and heavy labour over and above more peaceful or nurturing values. The weakest of imps would be consumed by the stronger, which Orcs regarded as a way of relieving the community of "unnecessary burdens".[14]

When a young male Orc reached the age of full maturity at nine years old, he was assigned to a regiment, or lurg, composed of ten to fifteen Orcs. Though most were relegated to general purpose lurgs (responsible for hunting, foraging, mining, or raiding as required), those who displayed a special aptitude in certain fields at an early age were assigned to more specialized lurgs. Among some clans there were castes of hunters (Gayutari), herdsmen (Graugai), chanters (Kangtari) and miners (Garmogi). Some of the more civilized tribes even maintained a class of learned scribes and scholars, the Lamoshgongi. There also existed a small bloodline of Orcish sorcerers and sorceresses, the Dushi.[15] Some tribes included a small caste of masterful craftsmen, organised within the Nazg-artha. Of this caste, smiths (or Tûtûli) were especially prized, as were engineers (or Zongoti).[16]

The distinction between Uruk and Snaga should not, however, be confused with the distinction between Orcs in general and the Uruk-Hai of the late Third Age, which were bred and trained by the rulers of Mordor and Isengard with the purpose of conquering the Westlands. These Uruk-Hai, who first revealed themselves to the world with their assault on Ithilien in T.A. 2475, were believed to have all been destroyed by the time the War of the Ring had ended, while the common Orcs fled eastward or continued to dwell in secret beneath the Misty Mountains.[17]


A female Orc, or Gru, weaving.

Orcs lived in tribes, called Hai in Orcish. While some tribes had a strict militaristic hierarchy, others suffered from constant inner strife and chaos. Orcish tribes and clans were ruled by the strongest males and weaker members of the tribe were held as slaves.

From early childhood on, male Orcs were favored above female Orcs, who were reduced to the status of mere cattle. Gender roles were rigidly defined within Orcish society, with common female Orcs working exclusively within the confines of the tribe's territory, performing domestic and personal duties such as weaving, preparing meals, mushroom-harvesting and reproduction (as well as childcare, if it can be described as such). Female Orcs were generally not trained in the use of arms. Matriarchal tribes were also known to exist, however. In such tribes, the "breeding pits" associated with patriarchal tribes were replaced with slightly more humane "schools" for young orcs, and males participated in child-rearing. The females of these tribes occupied private chambers and engaged in public activities usually reserved to males in patriarchal tribes. In either arrangement, paternal or maternal feelings were almost non-existent. Females would only nurse young Orcs because the suckling of their toothy jaws relieved the pain associated with swollen mammaries, while male Orcs would perform parental duties only when compelled by higher-ups or when it was acknowledged to be in the collective interest of the Hai. Orc-children suffered painful and brutal lives, and were often treated lesser than animals. They were raised in large, crowded, almost hive-like groups, where they were given the scraps and remains of food and resources. Even slightly deviant or rebellious Imps were slain. They, as well as women in most tribes, were sheltered, or more accurately hidden, from the outside world and were kept in the very heart of Orc-settlements. Band of orcs in military or labor service, for example, never included females or children. Nonetheless, Snaga-orcs were often confused with Orc-children, and indeed it is possible that some orc-tribes subjected their local offspring to service in the slave-caste.

Snagai did not labour for pay or pleasure, but solely at the compulsion of their rulers, who would reward them with only the resources necessary to sustain them in their toil. In spite of this exploitative slave system, the Orcs were nonetheless capable of producing superior, though not especially beautiful, goods and weapons. Though not rewarded for good work, Snagai were severely punished for shoddy work.[18]

Within Orcish society, material well-being was a direct function of rank. Looting was the main source of Orcish currency and treasure, and was distributed based on status; the majority of the treasure going to upper caste and the leavings given to the lower caste. Every Orc was entitled to a ration of food, clothing, and in the case of males, weapons and armor, though quality and quantity varied with social status. With what resources or currency a common Orc had, he or she could barter for meager pleasures, such as liquor. The upper caste enjoyed a much more varied range of pleasures, including superior drink, fine garments and herbal drugs.[19]

Some tribes would gather large mushrooms, plants and fish in subterranean rivers and lakes, but most tribes herded animals such as pigs ("Bûbi"), Orcish Kine ("Dorût") and Black goats ("Dagri"). Orcs did not typically engage in agriculture, though a few tribes held plantations (Kuflagi) tilled by foreign slaves. These non-Orc slaves held the lowest social position within the tribe and were often abused by even the lowliest Orc. Typically these slaves were clad in rags and lived on a subsistence diet. Although both Uruk and common Orc were entitled to care if injured, these non-Orc slaves were usually abandoned.[20]

Orc lords or chieftains surrounded themselves with loyal captains, lieutenants and sergeants who led the lesser groups. Orcish chieftains, princes and lords used titles which varied from tribe to tribe, such as Afûkhaush, Durub, Durba, Dûrohtar, Fha-Korlash, Goth, Great Goblin, Shakh and Zot. Greater Kings or High Kings seldom emerged and were usually no more than warlords who ruled for a brief time, although some succeeded in preserving the power of their bloodline over several generations. Such High Kings were known as Ashdurbuk or Gothsnaga.[21] Lesser commanders, lieutenants, leaders, sergeants or small chiefs were variously called Drartul, Gottul, Hrizgthrakî, Krir, Kritar, Rroshatar, Slasher, Shirûk or Uyâk. Soldiers were known as Dogi, Daugi, Kragashi, Nadaki or Ushatari.[22]

Clothing and armour

While about female orcish clothing is not much known,the standard piece of clothing seems to have been a half-long leather dress ("Grugulu") or just a simple leather loin-cloth ("Palhur"), male orcs dressed very uniformally.They commonly wore iron-studded high leather boots ("kapuk"), short Leather Breeches ("Shali") and a Leather tunic ("balbush") fastened with a Broad leather belt ("Broz").Above their tunic they sometimes wore a Leather jerkin ("lakur") or vest ("usti") and covered their body from cold with a Woven Cape ("Bruk"), a cape of fur ("Kamog") or another outer robe ("Potak") of thick leather.On their heads they often wore Cowls ("Tlum") or caps ("Kasul"), also mostly made of skins. They also often wore a type of leather gauntlets ("Dorashak").

Their most common type of armour was a type of ringmail ("kalkan"), though more rarely they also wore types of Leather armour ("múr") or even splinter-amour ("stashyab"). The most common type of orc-helmet was the wide brimmed, beaked "Pakronar" while a less common variant was the "Hurgak".

Orcs and other Races

Orcs were virtually outlawed by any other culture, especially the Quendi and the Drûghu but also most Dwarves and Men of the West. However, many Haradrim and Easterlings and even some Western Men as the Dunlendings, Hillmen and Angmarrim fought and lived side by side with Orcs, so both races had long periods of times where they virtually coexisted and Orcs walked more or less freely in Mannish territory and settlements. But still most Men of Darkness either disdained or feared the Orcs and there was never much true friendship and real trust between both races, only the common goal of advancing the agenda of the Enemies.



For more information, see Orcish

Orcish was a collection of guttural tribal dialects spoken among the Orcs. There was great linguistic and grammatical variance between Orcish tongues and many of them were mutually unintelligible. Because of this, most Orc tribes used Westron as a lingua franca.[23] The origins of these tongues can be traced as far as back as the ancient Melkian, though later forms of Orcish were derived from the Black Speech.


For more information, see Westron

A heavily accented, guttural version of Westron was used by many Orcish tribes as a trade language. The Orcish inhabitants of Gundabad and the Misty Mountains adopted Westron as their native tongue,[24] with tongues such as the Black Speech and Orcish being reserved for ritualic purposes.

Black Speech

For more information, see Black Speech

The Black Speech was a tongue devised by Sauron during the Dark Years to be the sole language of all his servants, replacing the many different varieties of Orcish. Inspired by Melkian and Valarin, though not an offshoot but a proper organized language on its own, it had the greatest impact on the Orcs' communication and though it fell out of use outside Mordor it remained the core of most Orcish dialects that appeared since.


For more information, see Melkian

Melkian was an ancient tongue devised by Morgoth during the early First Age as the court language of his servants. Mostly a debased form of Valarin, it was a crucial influence for both the Black Speech and the Orkish dialects that the Orcs developed in later years, even though it fell out of use long ago.

Physiology and Biology


Orcish appearance could vary greatly between the different Castes, Tribes, Breeds and even one single clan however the typical Orc was always described as squat, stout, square and generally at least a bit shorter than the average man.They were depicted as dark, swarthy, swart ,sallow, black or grey-skinned, had slant, catlike eyes red, green or yellowish in color,braided dark hair, hairy ears, wide mouths, flat noses, claws and fangs like beasts of prey.Some of the Men of the Westlands felt that Orcs resembled degraded, degenerated and repulsive versions of the (to Men of the West) least lovely types of the Men of the East.The early orcs seem to have still been far more close in appearance to Elves as the Sindar of Beleriand mistook them for savaged and barbarous Avari on their first encounter (which probably was at least to some part true).


Orcs were said to have been clever and competent craftsmen, miners and engineers, though they turned this intelligence largely toward the production of machines of war. Some innovations in weaponry are attributed to Orcish designs, as "wheels and engines and explosions" were said to have "always delighted them". Their mining techniques were also said to rival all but the most competent of Dwarves.[25]

Yet there were some who regarded them as being no more than beasts of humanized shape, deliberately designed by the Vala Morgoth to mock the form of Men and Elves. Even their speech, it was claimed, was in imitation of intelligent peoples, much like a parrot speaks in imitation of its master and should not be taken as indicative of intelligence.[26] This theory, however, contradicts much of what is known of Orcish origins and should not be taken as fact or an accurate reflection on the intelligence of Orcs.



Orc height varied considerably depending on breed and tribe, with some particularly large Orcs being as tall as the average adult Man and others being below three foot.[27] The average Orc height was generally five to fife-and-a-half feet.Three foot shortness was a trait of only the smallest Snaga-breeds while a height of six feet was only achieved by the tallest Uruk-hai.The earliest Orcs in the first age had roughly the same body proportions as the Eldar, but their bowed walk and posture made them seem about 1'3 shorter than the tall Elves. [28]

Strengths and Weaknesses

Orcs were intolerant of sunlight and traveled by night so as to avoid it, some Orcs were only weakened and slowed down by the Sun, but others could pass out or even turn blind if suddenly exposed to sunlight. Only breeds which emerged in the late Third Age showed greater tolerance for the rays of the sun although they still despised it. Orcs otherwise showed tremendous endurance, needing to rest but once every three days if necessary. Orcs were also highly resistant to the extremes of heat and cold, and could function in nearly any climate, allowing them to make their habitations in even the most desolate of settings.

Orcs also possessed superior night-vision, capable of seeing in starlight what other races could only perceive during the light of day. Orcs were even capable of discerning shapes in absolute darkness. In daylight, by contrast, Orc eyesight was seriously impaired, leaving the Orcs confused and disoriented. An Orc could compensate for this disadvantage by using their heightened sense of smell. With proper training, an Orc could even track by scent alone.[29]


Orcs were said to have been constantly hungry.[30] They frequently consumed the flesh and blood of their enemies and that of traitors,[31][32] though it may have been taboo to consume the flesh of other orcs or at least that of allied fellow Orcs.[33]The Uruk-Hai especially praised human flesh as desirable food.


The average lifespan of Orcs is uncertain, though the chieftain Bolg, son of Azog, was approximately 150 years old, suggesting that, like Dwarves, Orcs may have been able to live extremely long lives. If Orcs were the descendants of Elves, as the Quenta Silmarillion suggested, it is also possible that they were immortal and may even have been capable of reincarnation.

However, due to the constant in-fighting which prevailed among Orcish tribes, the lifespan of the average Orc often proved to be considerably shorter than that of other peoples. Although it is certain that some Orcs led extremely long lives, most would meet their end in the rebellious, combative social structure of Orc tribes.It was also stated that common or lesser Orcs had short lifespans in comparison to common Men.[34]


It was stated in the Quenta Silmarillion that Orcs "multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar".[35] Unlike the other peoples of Middle-earth, Orcs did not marry, they simply bred. Orcish females of child-bearing age were kept together in a secluded area of the Orcish domain, guarded and accessible only to the stronger males. Foreigners were never permitted to see the female Orcs, explaining their general absence from historical accounts and even suspicion among other races as to whether or not female Orcs existed at all.[36]

Some Orc females were kept as part of harems and would procreate exclusively with the warrior caste. Others were kept as the personal possessions of Orc lords, as an emblem of their power. Although these practices were undoubtedly cruel and inhumane, it did allow Orcs to reproduce at a startlingly greater rate than the other peoples of Arda. Orc pregnancies lasted less than five months, quadruplets were common and male births were twice as common as female births. Orc females were also capable of twice as many conceptions as human females.[37] This meant that Orc tribes could replenish their numbers within a few generations, even if the majority of the tribe had been decimated in battle, provided the females remained unharmed. [38]

Throughout their history, Orcs interbred with competing groups and different Orc strains. Orcs who were the result of interbreeding between lesser Orcs and the Uruk-Hai were known as Gusmûras, while those who had Mannish blood were known simply as Half-Orcs. While in the service of Morgoth, Sauron and Saruman, Orcs were the subject of numerous breeding experiments. For example, although Orcs were not naturally adept at wielding sorcery, Sauron attempted to breed a race of Orc mages. These sorcerer Orcs were regarded as Uruk or Snaga on an individual basis, as they were not strictly born into either caste.[39]

Final destiny

It is unknown what eventually later happened to the Orcs after Sauron's Fall.This is for large parts due to their uncertain origin.Orcs of maiarin descent would likely continue to exist as lesser Demons, but not multiply again in large numbers, Orcs of elvish origin would eventually start to fade, just like the remaining avari and turn into spirit-like lesser Goblins like the goblins of actual folk-lore and again possibly not multiply again, Orcs of mannish descent might actually re-generate and turn into primitive, but not necessary evil or monstrous men and Orcs of bestial descent would degenerate into lesser and of course soulless beasts, nasty but not as dangerous as their earlier progenitors.Elf-Orcs and man-Orcs also would have,at last in theory, a free will and without being dominated by a greater evil power could eventually become harmless and perhaps would alternate to a state more similar to the early elves and men their ancestors had once been and then either fade like Avari (Indeed Tolkien discusses the possibility of dead Orcs becoming Poltergeists) or adapt again to common men and merge with them (There is the idea that all later men had some sort of orcish "strain", and Tolkien once stated allegorical "We were all Orcs in the War") .By the Lifetime of Berelach in the early Fourth Age, Orcs had already become largely the focus of fairy tales, indicating they were uncommon, at least to the civilized regions such as Gondor. However the mention of annoying acts performed by goblins in later Ages (as is hinted at in The Hobbit- or There and Back again) and the re-appearance of Orcs in the Dagor Dagorath at the end of days suggests that at least demonic or beast-like Orcs continued to exist in one way or another.


Faith and Worship

Religious feeling among Orcs took on a very different character than that found among the other peoples of Arda. Orcs universally feared and reviled the object of their worship, regarding them as a great tyrant to be placated with sacrifices and offerings. Orcs believed the godhead Ilúvatar (Orc."Dhgú") to be a malevolent entity and even just a fiction to keep them in chains devised by the Valar, whom in turn they named Armauki (meaning "the Enemies") and regarded as vile demons - beliefs that were also held by the Men of Númenor before the catastrophes recounted in the Akallabêth buried their island homeland beneath the sea.[40] Orc faiths made no claims of an afterlife. The bodies of common Orcs were typically disposed of without ceremony, while noble-born Uruki were entombed within ritually prepared crypts.[41]

Most Orcs - those that hailed from the North - initially held the Vala Morgoth in fear and reverence as their creator and ruler. Later, these black-blooded creatures took to worshipping the Maia Sauron as their deity. Their capacity to induce terror was considered a highly worshipful quality among the warlike Orcs. In Gundabad there existed an ancient priesthood whose duty it was to placate Sauron by conducting rituals, maintaining tribal records, chanting, human sacrifice and the burning of pyres.[42]

But there were also a few Orcs - mainly among those who inhabited far eastern lands - who paid no heed to either of the Dark Lords and felt they owed them no devotion. They deemed that the defeats of Morgoth and his lieutenant at the hands of their adversaries proved them weak and some perceived Sauron's assuming of a fair hue as demeaning or laughable. These reclusive tribes had instead embraced other superficial cults and faiths (which they had mainly inherited from neighboring Mannish peoples) as their religion, honoring other evil entities or made-up gods as their divine masters.

Breeds and Tribes

Orc breeds varied considerably in their physical traits.



Northern and Western tongues

  • Quenderin or Primitive Quendian: urku, uruku or urkô
  • Quenya: orco (pl. Orkor)
  • Exilic Quenya: urko (pl. orkor and orqui)
  • Sindarin: orch/Orch (pl. yrch/Yrch, class pl. Orchoth/orchoth; glamhoth)
  • Nandorin: ūriʃ
  • Adûnaic: urku, urkhu
  • Westron: orka
  • Black Speech: uruk
  • Khuzdul: Rukhs (pl. Rakhās), possibly derived from an unknown Avarin word of the same meaning.
  • Drúadan language: gorgûn ("orc-folk"; the form gorgûn is perhaps plural of an unknown singular form).
  • Dunlending: coblun
  • Labba: hiisis
  • Blarm:Trow(also refers to Trolls)
  • Danian: urc (pl. yrc)
  • Doriathrin: urch (pl. urchin)

Eastern and Southern tongues

Other tongues

Orcs were also known by the names Gongai, Kapûl, Khoblún, Orkhor, Orog, Rakhash, Rakhsha,Ruk, Rûkh, Rukhâs, Ruki, Rûku, Tanarukk, Urûk, among others.

Other Media


Rolemaster and Loremaster (ICE Series) have a race corresponding to Orcs, the Murlogi who are ruled by the greater and more dangerous Lugroki, who are more similar to Orc-Demons or Boldogs, as well as the race of the Karku, with it's two sub-breeds the Garks and Krals, who are similar to Orcs or primitive ape-men but are said to be more closely related to both Men and Trolls.

Orcs in The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game


The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game describes several breeds of Orcs.



Hall of Fire Magazine

The Hall of Fire Magazine proposed several additional sub-breeds of Orc for LotR RPG:

Orcs in The Lord of the Rings Online

Goblins as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Online.

Orcs as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Online.

Half-Orcs as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Online.

Uruk-Hai as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Online.

Some of the tribal names of Orcs in The Lord of the Rings Online are modeled after Orcish tribal names found in the Midde-Earth Roleplaying Game, for example Blogmal, Ghâsh-Hai and Ongbúrz.

It seems likely that a millennium after the fall of Angmar most of the old tribes have diminished or been decimated in internal feuds and new tribal alliances grew out of these struggles.

Another possibility is that agents of the Witch-King installed the great seven tribes of Angmar (Blogmal, Ghâsh-Hai, Kraiarn, Ongbúrz, Tarkrîp, Ghâshfra, Hontimurz) to establish a formal rule among the many disparate Orc clans of the north.

On the other hand, the three main tribes of Moria seem to have fallen apart and their realm turned to the anarchy of constantly emerging and fading small groups.

The existing tribes (Durub, Gazathrug, Highpeak, Largzurm, Pûlpum) are just small alliances that have shortly appeared, perhaps during the reigns of Durburz and Mazog, and will probably fall apart soon.

Finally the newer tribes of Mirkwood (Burzthrâng, Dushmau, Frûmhon, Hishtgropor, Maukglob) may be lesser known subdivisions of the Guldur Orcs or newer tribal alliances established after the second rise of Dol Guldur.


There are four main breeds of Orc in The Lord of the Rings Online:

  • Goblins - several breeds of different appearance, usually small and gaunt, but sometimes larger and even huge.
  • Orcs - several breeds of different appearance but usually stout warrior Orcs, sometimes large.
  • Uruk-Hai - large Orcs with a rather Mannish appearance.
  • Half-Orcs - several breeds with different appearances, sometimes ugly and sallow-faced Men, sometimes similar to Uruk-hai.


The Lord of the Rings Online features several Orc tribes, such as:

  • Orcs of Angmar
    • The Blogmal - a Tribe from the misty mountains, found also in Angmar and the North Downs.
    • The Drúolog
    • The Ghashfra - an Orc tribe located in Angmar.
    • The Gramsfoot Goblins - a tribe from Mount Gram, but groups are also found at evendim and near the borders of the Shire.
    • The Krahjarn - a large tribe from the Misty Mountains, found in Angmar, Eregion and the Ettenmoors.
    • The Ongbúrz - an Orc tribe from Angmar, also found in the North Downs, the Ettenmoors and Eregion.
    • The Shakatrog
    • The Snowreap Tribe - a Goblin tribe from the Misty Mountains, found also in the Ettenmooors.
    • The Tarkrîp - an Orc tribe of Angmar, also found in the Lone Lands, the North Downs and northern Breeland.
  • Orcs of Moria - various Orc groups are found in Moria at Nud-melek, Durin´s Way, The Silvertine, The Redhorn Loades, The Foundation of Stone and Great Delving, but also near the borders of Lórien.
    • The Dark Orcs - a tribe of Orcs found in Moria at The Silvertine Lodes.
    • The Durab - a tribe of Orcs found in Nud-melek at Moria.
    • The Durub - a tribe of Orcs found in Eregion and at Zerem-melek in Moria.
    • The Gazathrûg - a tribe found in Moria at The Grand Stair.
    • The Ghâsh-Hai - a tribe found in The Flaming Deeps in Moria, but also in Angmar.
    • Globsnaga - infected outcasts of The Waterworks of Moria
    • The Highpeak Goblins - a tribe found at The Grand Strait in Moria.
    • The Largzurm - a tribe of Orcs found at Nud-melek in Moria.
    • The Pûlpum - a tribe of Orcs found in Nud-melek in Moria.
  • Orcs of Mirkwood
    • The Bûrzthrâng - an Orc tribe of Gathburz in Mirkwood.
    • The Durbúrz-stazg - an Orc tribe of The Eaves of Mirkwood.
    • The Dushmau - an Orc tribe of Mirkwood.
    • The Frûmhon - an Orc tribe of Mirkwood.
    • The Guldur Orcs - Orcs and Uruks of Dol Guldur.
    • The Hîshtgropor - an Orc tribe of Mirkwood.
    • The Maukglob - an Orc tribe of Mirkwood.
    • The Mirk-eaves Orcs - Orc clans of The Eaves of Mirkwood.
    • The Taughâsh - an Orc tribe of Amon Anghed in Mirkwood.
  • Orcs of Eriador
    • The Blue-crag goblins - a tribe of smaller Orcs found in the Ered Luin.
    • The Boggarts - a tribe of Goblins that live near Lake Evendim.
    • The Bugans - a Goblin Tribe in Enedwaith and Dunland.
    • The Hontimurz - an Orcish tribe in the Lone Lands.
    • The Laenan Orcs - a tribe of Laenan in the Trollshaws.
    • The Midgewater Goblins - a small Goblin tribe in the Midgewater Marshes in Breeland.
    • The Stonehold Tribe - a small Orc tribe in the North Downs.
  • Orcs of the White Hand, Saruman´s tribe from Isengard, also slowly infiltrating Eregion, Moria, the Lone Lands, Breeland and Angmar.
    • The Balewood-Orcs
    • The Burg-shápol
    • The Byre-Tor Orcs
    • Fire- Orcs - a tribe within the deeps of Isengard
    • The Grishgúk - an Uruk-Hai tribe from Enedwaith
    • The High-Knoll Orcs
    • Isendale-Goblins - A Goblin tribe from the Gap of Rohan.
    • Nâkhmau - a Goblin tribe in Dunland.
    • Nink-Hai - an Orc tribe from the Wold.
    • Rashat-Hai - an Orc tribe of the River Isen.
    • Shak-Hai - An Uruk tribe of the Nan Curunir.
    • The Writendowns Orcs
  • Orcs and Uruks of Mordor
    • Bloodless
    • Ghâsh-Hai
    • Kala-gijak
    • Lugvarg
    • Mokh Shapat
    • Shakfut
    • Zhavár-Hai
  • Others

Orcs as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.

Orcs in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

Shadow of war features nine different tribes of Mordor-Orcs, each representing a different facet of orcish culture:

Orcs in The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game

In The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game there are several Orc breeds that also make appearances in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film series: the Moria Goblins, Mordor Orcs and the larger Morannon Orcs, as well as Isengard Uruk-Hai and Mordor Uruk-Hai.

However there are also several additional breeds, such as the Orc Trackers mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's novels, larger Goblins or Hobgoblins (Durburz, Golfimbul and Groblog) and the Morgûl Stalkers, assassin Orcs with wraith-like qualities.

Some special Orc characters were invented for the game, such as Ashrak, Druzhag, Durburz, Groblog, Kardush and Vrasku.

Orcs in The Battle for Middle-Earth

In The Battle for Middle-Earth series there are a number of Orc breeds, most of which also appear in the film trilogy: Orcish workers or slave Orcs of Mordor and Isengard, lesser Mordor Orcs and greater Black Orcs (or Morannon Orcs), Uruk-Hai and Moria Goblins.

In Rise of the Witch-King the Gundabad Orcs are shown as an archaic Orc breed similar or identical to the Orcs shown in the film trilogy's introduction. There are several Orc characters who were invented for the game: Gorkil, Krashnak and Thrugg.

Orcs as depicted in The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy.

Orcs in The Lord of the Rings Film Adaptations

The film adaptations depict several different Orc races and tribes, including the Uruk-Hai and Snaga of Mordor and Isengard, the Moria Goblins, Morannon Orcs, Orcish trackers of Mordor, the Goblins of Goblin-Gate, Hunter-Orcs and Gundabad Orcs.

Orcs in Fan-Fiction and Live-Action Roleplaying

Some Fan-Fiction and Live-Action Roleplaying backgrounds have given original names to the different Orc breeds:

However, this contradicts other sources. For example, The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game considers Orc Trackers and Forest-Orcs to be of the same race.


  • "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."
  • "Aye, we must stick together,I don’t trust you little swine. You’ve no guts outside your own :sties. But for us you’d all have run away. We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand the Hand that gives us man’s-flesh to eat. We came out of Isengard, and led you here, and we shall lead you back by the way we choose. I am Ugluk. I have spoken."
  • "Can’t take his medicine,Doesn’t know what’s good for him. Ai! We shall have some fun later."
  • "Curse the Isengarders! Ugluk u bagronk sha pushdug Saruman-glob bubhosh skai!"
  • "Curse you! You’re as bad as the other rabble the maggots and the apes ofLugburz."
  • "D’you remember old Ufthak? We lost him for days. Then we found him in a corner; hanging up he was, but he was wide awake and glaring. How we laughed!"
  • "Garn!"
  • "Ghâsh!"
  • "Go on running,What do you think? Sit on the grass and wait for the Whiteskins to join the picnic?"
  • "Hai! hai! yoi!"
  • "Hai! Hola!"
  • "He is a liar, O truly tremendous one!"
  • "ho, ho! my lad!"
  • "Hola! Gorbag! What are you doing up here? Had enough of war already?"
  • I Grishnakh say this Saruman is a fool, and a dirty treacherous fool. But the Great Eye is on him."
  • "If I had my way, you’d wish you were dead now,I’d make you squeak, you miserable rat."
  • "Let the fighting Uruk-hai do the work, as usual. If you’re afraid of the Whiteskins, run! Run! There’s the forest,"
  • "Maggots!You’re cooked. The Whiteskins will catch you and eat you. They’re coming!"
  • “Murderers and elf-friends!Slash them! Beat them! Bite them! Gnash them! Take them away to dark holes full of snakes, and never let them see the light again!"
  • "My dear tender little fools,everything you have, and everything you know, will be got out of you in due time everything! You’ll wish there was more that you could tell to satisfy :the Questioner, indeed you will quite soon. We shan’t hurry the enquiry. Oh dear no! What do you think you’ve been kept alive for?"
  • "Off you go! And quick, before I knock a few more heads off, to put some sense into the others."
  • "Run! Or you’ll never see your beloved holes again. By the White Hand! What’s the use of sending out mountain-maggots on a trip, only half trained. Run, curse you! Run while night lasts!"
  • "Stripped, eh?What, teeth, nails, hair, and all?"
  • "Swine is it? How do you folk like being called swine by the muck-rakers of a dirty little :wizard? It’s orc-flesh they eat, I’ll warrant."
  • "...that’s all your fault, Snaga. You and the other scouts ought to have your ears cut off. But we are the fighters. We’ll feast on horseflesh yet, or something better."
  • "There’s no time to kill them properly, No time for play on this trip."
  • "Thieves, I shouldn’t be surprised to learn! Murderers and friends of Elves, not unlikely! Come! What have you got to say?"
  • "Untie your legs? I’ll untie every string in your bodies. Do you think I can’t search you to the bones? Search you! I’ll cut you both to quivering shreds..."
  • "...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 Nazgul down below are, by your :account; and Lugburz is too."
  • "We have come all the way from the Mines to kill, and avenge our folk.I wish to kill, and then go back north."
  • "We have ways of paying for tricks that you won’t like, though they won’t spoil your usefulness for the Master."
  • "We’ll find a use for your legs before long. You’ll wish you had got none before we get home..."
  • "Who are these miserable persons?"
  • "Ya hoi! Ya harri hoi! Up!Up!"



To make them look more intimidating, many adaptions tend to make Orcs taller than they actually were according to the books. Canonically only the Uruk-Hai are described as "of nearly man-high", man high usually referring to the númenorean standard measurement of 2 Rangar , approx. 6'3". Only exceptionally tall Uruk-Hai would have been this tall, most would have been probably around 6' or smaller. The smallest Orcs, however, were not much taller than Hobbits. The Orc clothes Frodo and Sam wore however, were a bit too large for them, given that Hobbits were usually 3'-4' tall it can be assumed that even most smaller Snaga-Orcs were at last 4' high , possibly somewhat taller. These smallest and tallest breeds of Orcs were probably the two extremes of their race, so the average common Orc probably was only 4'6"-5'3" tall, the most likely average being about 5' in comparison to games like Shadow of Mordor or LOTRO where almost all larger Orcs are at last as tall or even by far taller than the average man (Talion usually being guessed as being about 6'6" tall, if the Orcs were as small as in the books he probably would be below 5'2"!). However there has to be taken into account that Orcs were also of lesser height due to their bowed or stooped posture, making them seem smaller than they should have been according to their bodymass. Even the smallest orc of only 3' height would have possibly been at last 14"-15" taller had he been "stretched" into a normal human's posture and probably had more muscle-mass and weight than a human of comparable size. Also the Orcs whose shape Finrod and his company took seemingly had similar proportions to the elves (who wore their clothes and armour), given that High elves were 6'-9' tall and the orcs bent posture even these first age orcs might have been up to 5'-5'7" in height.

Also there is no evidence at all for Orcs with green, red, yellow or blue skin-tones. They are generally taken to resemble all the pigmentations known from humans, from sickly, greyish or sallow, european or asian tones to darker tones between mediterranean, near-eastern or asian up to the darkest sub-saharan pigmentations. Given their unhealthy nocturnal and subterranean way of life and their usual dirtyness and filth it is hard to determine what their actual natural pigmentation was. They often seemed to look darker than they probably really were.


  1. Lords of Middle Earth, Vol. III, p. 85
  2. Lord of Middle Earth, Vol. III, p. 84
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor"
  4. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 191
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sindar", p.102
  6. Tolkien Gateway: Orcs: Other Versions of the Legendarium: Origin, "According to the oldest "theory" proposed by Tolkien, Orcs were made of stone and slime through the sorcery of Morgoth. But, Tolkien later changed the legendarium so that Morgoth could no longer produce life on his own."
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 2, p. 159
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Drúedain"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The History of Middle-earth, Morgoth's Ring, "Myths Transformed", Text IX
  10. Middle Earth Role Playing Game: Lords of Middle Earth Vol. III, p. 88
  11. Middle Earth Role Playing Game: Lords of Middle Earth Vol. III, p. 88
  12. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989)
  13. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.14
  14. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.14
  15. Middle Earth Role Playing: Empire of the Witch-King, ISBN-10: 1558060243, Publisher: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) (November 1989)
  16. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989)
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
  18. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.14
  19. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.14
  20. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.15
  21. Middle Earth Role Playing: Goblin Gate and Eagle's Eyrie, ISBN-10: 091579540X, Publisher: Iron Crown Enterprises (July 1985)
  22. Middle Earth Role Playing: Gorgoroth, ISBN-10: 1558061053, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (September 1990)
  23. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.15
  24. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.15
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-earth, 'Morgoth's Ring', "Myths transformed", Text VIII
  27. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
  28. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.13
  29. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.13
  30. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
  31. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise"
  32. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"
  33. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, "The Uruk-hai"
  34. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.13
  35. The Science of Middle-earth: Sex and the Single Orc. "There must have been orc-women. But in stories that seldom if ever see the Orcs except as soldiers of armies in the service of the evil lords we naturally would not learn much about their lives. Not much was known."
  36. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.13
  37. Middle Earth Role Playing Game: Lords of Middle Earth Vol. III, p. 88
  38. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.13
  39. Middle Earth Role Playing: Empire of the Witch-King, ISBN-10: 1558060243, Publisher: Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) (November 1989)
  40. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), "Akallabêth"
  41. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.15
  42. Middle Earth Role Playing: Mount Gundabad, ISBN-10: 1558060693, Publisher: Berkley Pub Group (Mm) (October 1989), p.15

See also

External links