Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 1:49 amInteresting that they were able to use the origin story for the Orcs that is in the Silmarillion. I don't believe there is anything like that in LotR.
Like you, I don't think the idea of Orcs being bred from Elves is found in LOTR, but Jackson also made use of it in his version of Fellowship, and AFAIK the Estate didn't raise a stink about it at the time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 1:49 amWhere is Stranger Wings? I'd really be interested in hearing his take on all this.
I'd also enjoy hearing Stranger Wings' thoughts, if he cares to share them here. :)
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Somehow this scene seemed more Tolkienish then Saramun talking about how the Orcs were made in that film, at least to me.

I enjoyed Galadriel's interaction with Isildur, much as I haven't really liked the characterization of either character thus far.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Dave_LF »

They at least didn't dig themselves in any deeper with this one, though that may only be because we didn't spend any time with 3 ring gang.

Adar was the best part of this one for me. I don't know how canon his little manifesto was, but it was *interesting*. I just wish the rank-and-file orcs (uruks) would live up to his faith in them--I find Adar's affectless malevolence far more frightening than all the lion roars and pig squeals in the world.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Smaug's voice »

I'm conflicted about Orcs Rights being a thing.
I think it's best to leave Orcs as just a completely symbolic representation of evil, just like Balrogs or Ungoliant's spawn, because if you try to give the Orcs any kind of distinguished personhood and "humanity" then you're actually making them as representative of disenfranchised, destabilised cultures. And that's not gonna sit well unless they're completely retconning what the Orcs did in all the Three Ages and make them into tortured, misunderstood brethren of the Elves.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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I mean, Tolkien did not write Orcs as impersonal symbols of evil in LOTR. They are clearly individuals, with their own personalities and preferences. They have multiple distinct cultures, and given the clear resentment that some (not all) of them have for their non-Orkish bosses (to the point of openly discussing desertion), I think "disenfranchised" is a fair description. Aside, perhaps, from the "Northerners" in TTT, who aren't even concerned about the War of the Ring and just want revenge on the Fellowship for what they did in Moria.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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I far prefer the Orcs as people - with all the troubling implications that creates - but I also prefer Orcs as not corrupted Elves, which I believe even Tolkien backtracked on (or wanted to backtrack, but was stuck with a conundrum on his hands with what they actually were, then)

I don't think it requires any removal of their actions - driven by an evil will in terms of who their 'master' is, but they don't appear to be any more evil inherently than the Men who followed Morgoth or Sauron.

*shameless plug* - I wrote a fic humanizing Orcs that I think fits rather well: viewtopic.php?p=407237
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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In my syncretistic "personal Silmarillion," Orcs are an artificially created variant of Humans—I don't like saying "bred from" because it makes it sounds like we're discussing dogs or horses—which was one of the ideas Tolkien considered in the Myths Transformed texts, though of course it's only possible under the radically revised and expanded pre-First Age timeline he considered in that same period (and seems to have taken for granted in many of the late texts found in NoMe). I like this since the Orcs of LOTR are so strikingly human in many ways, and because it adds an extra layer of meaning to Saelon's observation The New Shadow that, "To trees all Men are Orcs."
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Eldy wrote: Mon Oct 03, 2022 3:30 amI like this since the Orcs of LOTR are so strikingly human in many ways
This reminded me that Tolkien made a point in one of the Myths Transformed texts about how Men (but not Elves or even Dwarves) could be reduced to a similar condition as Orcs, so I had to look for it:
Tolkien wrote:Those orks who dwell long under the immediate attention of his will - as garrisons of his strongholds or elements of armies trained for special purposes in his war-designs — would act like herds, obeying instantly, as if with one will, his commands even if ordered to sacrifice their lives in his service. And as was seen when Morgoth was at last overthrown and cast out, those orks that had been so absorbed scattered helplessly, without purpose either to flee or to fight, and soon died or slew themselves.

Other originally independent creatures, and Men among them (but neither Elves nor Dwarves), could also be reduced to a like condition.
I actually think that the show does a good job touching on this.

Eldy wrote:and because it adds an extra layer of meaning to Saelon's observation The New Shadow that, "To trees all Men are Orcs."
I recall discussing this quote with you not too long ago, but I'm not sure if it was, here, at TORN, or in my imagination. ;)
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Mon Oct 03, 2022 3:42 amI recall discussing this quote with you not too long ago, but I'm not sure if it was, here, at TORN, or in my imagination. ;)
It was on TORn, and I was very happy to be reminded of that quote in the context of our discussion then. :)
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Seen circulating on Discord:

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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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So funny.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Eldy wrote: Mon Oct 03, 2022 2:25 am I mean, Tolkien did not write Orcs as impersonal symbols of evil in LOTR. They are clearly individuals, with their own personalities and preferences. They have multiple distinct cultures, and given the clear resentment that some (not all) of them have for their non-Orkish bosses (to the point of openly discussing desertion), I think "disenfranchised" is a fair description.
I haven't read LotR in a long while so I'm just going off memory and admit that I might be very wrong here.
The Orcs may have individual personalities, but from what I can remember, when generally spoken of they're described as an inherently evil race made in the mockery of Elves and Men (although Tolkien always seemed to have reservations on this) that were consistently violent even when they're not slaves to a greater master and who took pleasure in all the cruel and wicked acts in the world. If this was indeed representative of disenfranchised groups of people, then it would be an ugly parallel attributed and would take away from LotR being a good old tale of Good vs Evil. If the ends of all the Ages in Middle Earth are arrived at through the decimation of Orcs, and if Orcs indeed are personable and misunderstood "humane" individuals, then that makes the underlying thematic notions of all of Tolkien's stories a very disturbing one.

I understand that Tolkien never really settled on the nature of Orcs and their origins and their ends so artists have a lot of legroom to interpret them. And I understand that making Orcs more complex and gray creatures genuinely helps the story be more interesting from a narrative standpoint. But does making Orcs be misunderstood, disenfranchised beings ease the controversies associated with them, given what we know of how all the stories end? I feel not.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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My belief is that we shouldn't shy away from the discomfort, or controversies as you put it. Tolkien spent a lot of time in the late 1950s (the Myths Transformed period) grappling with the issue you identify: that it's morally horrifying for his "good" characters to treat an entire race of people as inherently evil if they are sentient and have wills of their own, because that should imply the possibility of redemption. However, he never found a satisfactory solution that can account for the depiction of Orcs in LOTR while maintaining the idea that they could never be anything but evil minions. At the end of the day, Tolkien depicted Orcs as having individual wills and preferences, and the fact that they are violent and sadistic no more implies that they are inherently evil than the existence of violent and sadistic humans implies the same about us. It should be noted that we only ever see Orkish soldiers at war, most of them serving Dark Lords who routinely brutalize them, and fighting enemies who think nothing of slaughtering Orcs like animals. It shouldn't be a surprise that armies in such an environment do horrible things! While Tolkien's character's never considered the possibility of Orkish redemption, Tolkien did not write his characters as omniscient or always right about the world they lived in (see also: the Sindarin genocide of the Petty-dwarves). If we set aside our preconceptions, I don't think there's anything in the firsthand depictions of Orcs in LOTR to suggest that it would be impossible for an Orc child, if raised away from negative influences, to grow up to be a decent person.

If people want LOTR to be a morally unambiguous story of Good vs Evil, then of course Orkish personhood is something to be discarded, but I don't think that's consistent with what Tolkien actually wrote (as opposed to what he might have later wished he wrote), nor do I think it improves the story. But that's a subjective take. :)
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

As you no doubt recall, I have long held to a different position about the Orcs (though I have never considered LotR to be a morally unambiguous story of Good vs. Evil, as there is plenty of moral ambiguity in characters other than the Orcs). However, you (and elengil) do make a compelling argument. Before I say anything else, I wanted to ask this. You say that in LotR "Tolkien depicted Orcs as having individual wills and preferences." How do you square that with this passage:
As when death smites the swollen brooding thing that inhabits their crawling hill and holds them all in sway, ants will wander witless and purposeless and then feebly die, so the creatures of Sauron, orc or troll or beast spell-enslaved, ran hither and thither mindless; and some slew themselves, or cast themselves in pits, or fled wailing back to hide in holes and dark lightless places far from hope. But the Men of Rhûn and of Harad, Easterling and Southron, saw the ruin of their war and the great majesty and glory of the Captains of the West.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 1:27 amBefore I say anything else, I wanted to ask this. You say that in LotR "Tolkien depicted Orcs as having individual wills and preferences." How do you square that with this passage:
As I'm sure you know (meaning only that I don't wish to imply you haven't read the books closely), Tolkien considered the topic of Morgoth's and Sauron's mental domination of Orcs in Myths Transformed, principally in Text X, and concluded that it was not their natural state, but a condition imposed by the focused use of magical or psychic powers—or whatever term you prefer—and that only a small percentage of Orcs were ever subjected to this. He also specifically noted that humans could be subjected to the same type of control.
HoMe X, p. 421 wrote:Other originally independent creatures, and Men among them (but neither Elves nor Dwarves), could also be reduced to a like condition. But 'puppets', with no independent life or will, would simply cease to move or do anything at all when the will of their maker was brought to nothing. In any case the number of orks that were thus 'absorbed' was always only a small part of their total. To hold them in absolute servitude required a great expense of will.
It must be noted that Myths Transformed contains a lot of contradictory ideas, so one can find different quotes that point away from Orkish personhood. However, in light of what we see in The Lord of the Rings, I find the above conception much more convincing than, for example, Tolkien's claim in Text VIII that Orcs didn't really have speech, and their "talking was largely echoic (cf. parrots)" (p. 410). Also, I like the poetic justice of "Morgoth's overthrow bec[oming] possible" because he spent so much of his innate power psychically dominating Orcs and "other far more formidable creatures in his service" (p. 422). Of course, other parts of MT attribute Morgoth's diminishment to the power spent in his corruption of the physical matter of Arda (Text VII) and his hatred of light to the injuries inflicted upon him by Árië (Text II).
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Eldy wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 1:50 am
Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 1:27 amBefore I say anything else, I wanted to ask this. You say that in LotR "Tolkien depicted Orcs as having individual wills and preferences." How do you square that with this passage:
As I'm sure you know (meaning only that I don't wish to imply you haven't read the books closely), Tolkien considered the topic of Morgoth's and Sauron's mental domination of Orcs in Myths Transformed, principally in Text X, and concluded that it was not their natural state, but a condition imposed by the focused use of magical or psychic powers—or whatever term you prefer—and that only a small percentage of Orcs were ever subjected to this. He also specifically noted that humans could be subjected to the same type of control.
Understood, but just in terms of the text of LOTR, I think that passage is hard to square with the idea of the Orcs having a separate will, particularly since the passage implies that ALL the Orcs ran hither and tither mindless, etc., not just a few of them.
Eldy wrote:
HoMe X, p. 421 wrote:Other originally independent creatures, and Men among them (but neither Elves nor Dwarves), could also be reduced to a like condition. But 'puppets', with no independent life or will, would simply cease to move or do anything at all when the will of their maker was brought to nothing. In any case the number of orks that were thus 'absorbed' was always only a small part of their total. To hold them in absolute servitude required a great expense of will.
I can't help pointing out that I quoted this exact passage in this very thread 2 days ago: viewtopic.php?p=407241#p407241
Eldy wrote:It must be noted that Myths Transformed contains a lot of contradictory ideas, so one can find different quotes that point away from Orkish personhood. However, in light of what we see in The Lord of the Rings, I find the above conception much more convincing than, for example, Tolkien's claim in Text VIII that Orcs didn't really have speech, and their "talking was largely echoic (cf. parrots)" (p. 410). Also, I like the poetic justice of "Morgoth's overthrow bec[oming] possible" because he spent so much of his innate power psychically dominating Orcs and "other far more formidable creatures in his service" (p. 422). Of course, other parts of MT attribute Morgoth's diminishment to the power spent in his corruption of the physical matter of Arda (Text VII) and his hatred of light to the injuries inflicted upon him by Árië (Text II).
I agree with all of this, and I am continuing to refine my thoughts about the Orcs, thanks in large part to your sharing of your "subjective take"! I'll have more to say once I think it through more.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

I went back and looked at the discussion that we had at TORn back in May when I mentioned the quote from Saelon about all men being Orcs to trees, and I wanted to repeat here something that I said there.
I think that part of the problem is trying to find consistency of thought in Tolkien's work, which I think is impossible. I do believe that generally speaking, Tolkien did treat the Orcs as irredeemable beings with no real souls. But just as we struggle with that concept, I think that so too did Tolkien, and at certain points those doubts bleed through. As you say, "The line between humans and Orcs is blurrier than we'd like to admit." In his lifetime, Tolkien saw a lot of Orcish behavior by humans. Ultimately, just as Elves really were meant to represent a certain side of human nature, so too are Orcs ultimately meant to represent another side of human nature.
To me it is pretty clear, particularly if you disregard the "Orcs as beasts" comment in MT that we both don't like, that the Orcs were Elves, Men and/or Maiar that Morgoth has twisted to his evil purpose. The question is whether they are completely unredeemably evil -- as I have argued in the past -- or more victims of Morgoth's evil but still redeemable souls. I am moving towards the latter belief.
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

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Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 2:44 amUnderstood, but just in terms of the text of LOTR, I think that passage is hard to square with the idea of the Orcs having a separate will, particularly since the passage implies that ALL the Orcs ran hither and tither mindless, etc., not just a few of them.
Ah, I see what you mean! I agree that the passage you quoted does not, in itself, lead one to draw the conclusions Tolkien did in MT, but I think it can be reasonably read as describing only the response of the Orcs present at the Battle of the Morannon, if only because we've already seen Orcs display significant autonomy earlier in the book. Shagrat and Gorbag are the obvious example, but there's also the tracker and the soldier overheard by Frodo and Sam in ROTK, VI 2. The latter accuses the tracker of engaging in "cursed rebel-talk," which is clearly proscribed but does not appear to be unprecedented. And even the soldier deflects blame to those "Higher Up" for issuing contradictory statements about what happened in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. (One report blamed "a pack of rebel Uruk-hai"; the fact that some Mordorian intelligence officers assumed this "must be" the case suggests to me that rebel Uruk-hai are a known quantity, unlike Hobbit Ringbearers.) The tracker goes so far as to insult the Nazgûl ("Shriekers"), adding "[t]hey’ve done in Number One [the Witch-king], I’ve heard, and I hope it’s true!"

None of this paints a picture of Orcs as ant-like entities without wills of their own, and that's without any mention of those Orcs who don't serve Sauron at all, like the Isengarders and the "Northerners" from Moria in the Orc-band that captured Merry and Pippin. Surely they, at the very least, were not rendered mindless and suicidal by Sauron's defeat, even if we consider LOTR in isolation.
Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 2:44 amI can't help pointing out that I quoted this exact passage in this very thread 2 days ago: viewtopic.php?p=407241#p407241
I was going to include an aside acknowledging this, but then my anxiety kicked in and I fretted that it might come across as patronizing, so I took it out. Perhaps that was a mistake after all. :P
Voronwë the Faithful wrote: Wed Oct 05, 2022 2:44 amI agree with all of this, and I am continuing to refine my thoughts about the Orcs, thanks in large part to your sharing of your "subjective take"! I'll have more to say once I think it through more.
I look forward to hearing whatever you have to say!
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Re: Episode 6 (Spoilers)

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Hopefully you saw that I added a second post, rather than editing that one. Still have more to say, but that is probably close to the current bottom line.
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