More LOTR questions

Orcs were created originally by Morgoth capturing and torturing elves in some way to change their nature permanently to evil, and their appearance to be horrible. Do elves know that? When fighing orcs, do elves ever have any ambiguity of feeling, since orcs might be related to them?

At the end of LOTR when Sauron is defeated, is he really completely eliminated from existence? Is there any remnant of soul remaining that would wander back to the Halls of Mandos? Does he join Morgoth on the other side of the Door of Night? He poured a lot of his power into the ring, but not all of it, so I wonder if destroying the ring really destroyed him or only made him small, and insignificant to future events.

Can’t help with the first question, but Gandalf has this to say:

Do elves have any ambiguity of feeling when fighting other elves? How about when humans fight other humans?

And yes, both have happened in the history of Middle Earth. In fact, the “High Elves” in the time of Lord of the Rings are entirely those who ruthlessly slaughtered their kin, and their descendants and enablers.

JRRT was quite torn over the origin and the fate of the orcs, trying to reconcile how a creation of Eru could be made irredeemable. It was inconsistent with his christian faith that they would be denied salvation somehow. He spent the last years of his life working on revising the origin of orcs, making them more mannish than elvish in origin, and trying to figure out if and how to redeem them. He died before he could accomplish that.

If orcs are corrupted elves, are they also immortal (if not killed by violence)?

And where are the orcwives? Baby goblins are mentioned as an occasional menu-item for Gollum, so they must reproduce somehow.

A reminder that statements from The Hobbit about creatures and magic and such should not be taken as having much value wrt Middle Earth as it exists in all of Tolkien’s other writings. He talks about giants throwing rocks around in the Misty Mountains, for example. :eek:

Some of them certainly live longer than normal humans - Azog was killed in TA 2799 at the Battle of Moria. His son Bolg led the Orcs in the Battle of the Five Armies in TA 2941, making him at least 142 years old.

It’s hard to do the science on that because orcs seem to exist solely to perform violence on everything they see, including other orcs. And every encounter that doesn’t kill them makes them wiser, but a little more maimed. I reckon that disfigured one in charge of the siege of Gondor was truly ancient. Like, 25 years old maybe?

And no, Sauron was only really, really screwed up when they melted him, but I don’t believe it actually killed him. In fact, I sometimes muse about a lava floe somewhere with a really emo vibe to it. So when you get near it you get this faint sense of malice, impotence, frustration, and the drive to try and get someone lese to do something. And you kind of don’t want anyone else to walk on the floe while you’re on it.

I’m guessing part of the corruption process was a reduced lifespan. Orcs were pretty much cannon fodder; much more economical to have them be short-lived but fast-breeding.

Remember after Gandalf was resurrected, he reminisced about “walking unclad”? That metaphor (the physical body as a suit of clothes for the soul) occurs a lot in the Silmarillion. To the Elves, the distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world was rather blurry, and the physical world was not really their primary concern.

In one scene, Samwise eavesdrops on a pair of orcs, and one of them mentions that if you anger a Ringwraith, he will “strip you and leave you standing naked on the other side.” The orc sounded as if he was speaking from firsthand experience.

My theory is that when an orc’s body was killed, his ghost would wander the world, until he came across a pair of orcs copulating. Then he would jump into the womb, and get himself reincarnated. That scenario would be a little too vulgar for the devoutly Catholic Tolkien. But it would explain why the orcs were unafraid of death, and account for their high death-rates and high birth-rates.

Battle of Moria? Don’t you mean the Battle of Azanulbizar?? :wink:

So does this mean that you think baby goblins/orcs don’t actually exist? (I don’t think we ever see or hear of them in LOTR.) LOTR refers to the Uruks and “half-orcs” being “bred” by Saruman, but it is unclear what this means. Of course, Jackson interpreted it as being hatched out of a pit.

Tolkien never achieved a theory of the origin of orcs that he was satisfactory to him. His writings (published and unpublished) propose at least seven different ideas (see the list in Wikipedia). His first idea was that they were simply created by Morgoth (“bred from the heats and slimes of the earth”). But then he came to be unhappy with the idea that Evil could create living sentient creatures, so tried the idea that they were corrupted Elves, or elsewhere, corrupted Men or even corrupted Maiar. LOTR does not present an entirely consistent view – at one point Frodo says “The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own.” But Treebeard says that orcs were made “in mockery of Elves” (and says explicitly that trolls were made by Morgoth). Treebeard’s statement about orcs doesn’t seem consistent with the idea that orcs actually are Elves, and the one about trolls doesn’t seem consistent with the idea that Evil cannot create life. Of course it’s possible that Treebeard was mistaken but that would be surprising.

IIRC, in one of Tolkien’s letters, he explicitly says that Treebeard is wise but not omniscient, and that on that particular point Frodo was actually more correct.

On the age of orcs, there are a couple that Sam overhears talking about the “good old days”, and it sure seems like they’re referring to the War of the Last Alliance.

Personally, I think that an orc can be redeemed, but that there can’t be such a thing as a redeemed orc. That is to say: If an orc were to be redeemed, it would thereby cease to be an orc, and henceforth be just another elf (albeit, perhaps, a rather ugly one).

Interesting, I had no idea that the origin of orcs was not a settled thing. I can see why Tolkien wasn’t satisfied with any of these.

Good point. The letter you’re referring to is probably #154 in Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, in reply to a reader who made an observation similar to mine. The relevant part is

And he goes on to argue that simply because trolls can speak does not mean they have souls.

I’m not sure I follow his distinction between “creating” and “making in counterfeit”, but I guess he’s saying that Morgoth could make creatures based on a pre-existing design, but can’t design things from scratch himself, or something like that.

We know that the Valar can create things that walk around and talk and so forth: Such was Aulë’s creation of the Dwarves. But as Aulë made them, they were mere automata: It wasn’t until Illuvatar Himself took pity and breathed souls into them that they were able, of their own volition, to cringe away from their own destruction. It might be that the Trolls were like Aulë’s dwarves.

Or, of course, it might also be that the Trolls are mere corruptions, too, and that there’s some other troll-like race created by Illuvatar. The giants mentioned in The Hobbit, perhaps (which were never actually shown in the book; we need not assume they were as large as shown in the movie)? They seem to be volitional creatures, given that Gandalf described some of them as being more or less decent.

Well, Treebeard says that trolls were created by Morgoth in counterfeit of Ents, but we now know we can’t trust what that blockhead says.

I think given the unsettled nature of Prof. Tolkien’s views on orcs, trolls, and other seemingly sentient creatures not included among those made by Iluvatar as narrated in The Silmarillion, it’s pretty much impossible to come up with a satisfying theory that meshes with everything said about them in the various writings on Middle Earth. Perhaps, given the evil nature of such creatures, it’s best not to know exactly how they come to be.

I’m borrowing this little idea from Donald F. Tovey, who was an English music expert:

If someone like Tolkien couldn’t make up his mind, we have no business making it up for him.