Glamhoth, Goblins, Yrch, Uruk

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Orcs originated in the First Age, in the pits of Utumno, the fortress of Melkor. They are said to be a mockery of the Children of Iluvatar, and became the most basic and expendable servents of any Dark Lord, and the scourge of Middle Earth. Based on the writings of Tolkien, it can be inferred that the orcs were bred a from tortured and imprisoned race of the Firstborn. Tolkien states that the orcs were not created untill Melkor looked upon the elves. If you have read the Silmarillion, you know that after his corruption, Melkor had not the power to create anything from nothing, a power possesed by the other Vala. Thus, the orcs would have had to be a corruption of some other race, as Melkor could not have created them from scratch. The Silmarillion very strongly suggests that the orcs were bred from Quendi prisoners of Melkor, saying "But of those unhappy ones who were ensnared by Melkor little is known of a certainty. For who of the living has descended into the pits of Utumno, or has explored the darkness of the counsels of Melkor? Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressea, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by the slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of the orcs in envy and mockery of the elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes." Therefore, it is generally agreed upon that the orcs were a corruption of Quendi captives in Utumno.

Orcs are not green. Orcs are not green, they aren't green, they aren't green. I don't care what the people from Warcraft and Iron Crown Enterprises think. Tolkien imagined orcs as being black or brown in complexion, depending on thier type or division. They are generally shorter than men, while taller than dwarves or hobbits. It is hard to give any further physical description of the race, as there seem to be so many varying shapes and sizes of orcs. They are described as having red tongues, long arms, sharp teeth and claws, and black blood. As for military attire, the orcs probably wore black mail or some other kind of armor. The orcs of Isengard carried a shield with the badge of Saruman on it, and were armed with short, broad swords, stout bows, axes described by Treebeard, and perhaps spears. The orcs of Mordor wore the symbol of the flaming eye on their gear, but are also described as wearing the symbol of their induvidual tribes. Their weaponry included a curved blade, bows, and spears.

The Language used by orcs of the Dark Lords was The Black Speech. It is said to be somewhat influenced by Valian, as it's creater was Melkor. It was hideous and foul, and utterly unlike the languages of the Quendi. Each orkish tribe had it's own dialect, however. These were mostly made up of arbitrary variations of words from other languages. For example, "Uruk", in the black tongue, is a variation of the Sindarin "Orch". For ease of communication between tribes, orcs often use the common speech. Tolkien obviously did not have a very high opinion of the Black Speech, or any of the Tribal Dialects, based on his descriptions of them. He did not ever write any gramatical rules for the languages, and only a few words are known of.

Orcs, being so expendable, did not usually gain fame or rank. However, a few orcs are remembered for their deeds in the works of Tolkien. One of these is Azog, who was leader of the orcish horde occupying Moria during the battle of Azanulbizar in TA 2799. In TA 2790, he slew Thror, who had journed with his companion Nar to the reclaim Moria. Against the council of Nar, Thror entered the gate, and was decapitated by Azog. Azog then branded his name on Thror's head in dwarven runes. He sent Nar to report the deed his kin, giving him a pouch of small coins as an insult. Outraged, the dwarves mustered all of their forces for war. The orcs were driven down the Silverlode to the the Valley of Kheled-Zaram, and the battle of Azanulbizar was fought. Both sides suffered emense casualties, but in the end, the dwarves won the day. Azog was slain by Dain Ironfoot, who decapitated him, and stuck his head on a stake with the coins he had given to Nar in his mouth.

Another notable orc is Bolg, the son of Azog, lord of the orcs in the Misty Mountains who fought in the Battle of Five Armies in 2941. Bolg is described as being tremendous, with a very large head. He is slain in the Battle of Five Armies by Beorn.

A number of other orcs play brief but significant roles in The Lord of the Rings. Among them is Shagrat, the captain of the Tower of Cirith Ungol, in Ephel Duath, in Mordor. His orcs captured Frodo, and held him there untill Sam came to rescue him. The orcs in Shagrat's command quarreled with eachother and ended up fighting until all were dead, and Frodo escaped. Radbug was an orc in the command of Shagrat who was killed by Shagrat in for disobeying orders (he got his eyes squeezed out). Snaga is another orc of Shagrat who is inadvertently killed by Sam. Gorbag was an orc of Mordor who was killed by Shagrat in an argument over Frodo's possesions. Grishnakh is an orc of Mordor who believed that Merry or Pippin possesed the Ring, and attempted to seize it. He obviously did not succeed, as they did not have the Ring in the first place, and was slain by the Riders of Rohan. Ugluk was an Isengarder who travelled with Grishnakh. He stirred up a lot of trouble, but was killed by Eomer.

Orcs are not totally wiped out in the end of the Third Age, but Tolkien states that they never regain their previous power.