so many interesting points…..i will not attempt to answer all points straight away, but give another point not yet raised…
the question is an old one in middle earth - where do orcs go on death? ….and hence, do orcs even have fae, or can they exist as mere puppets (and therefore are not evil at all…no more so than a robot is)
early on when tolkien favouried 'orcs from elves' method of creation, some wondered if it were the halls of mandos, but in the end with him swaying to the 'orcs from men' would they share the same fate as men…i.e. 'the gift of men'?
in other words, the question can be stated as anothero old one, are orcs immortal.? again i note my chapter 5 origins of orcs which attempts to deal with this, as it all depends on where orcs actually came from.
(sorry for long quote, though it does have a point (see bold near bottom of post) ….though feel free to skip to the quotes end, you dont need to have read it to get my final point, though it does add substance to it
WHERE DO ORCS COME FROM? ARE ORCS IMMORTAL?
If we take the (almost fully accepted, but certainly not final) theory that orcs are corrupted elves then this raises a bit of a question- are orcs immortal? What happens to them in death? The elves are immortal, and are neither affected by illness nor age, however are still vulnerable to forced death (ie mortal wounds). When this happens they go to Mandos’ halls where they await their time to return. So does the same happen to orcs?
The problem with all these breeding theories is that Tolkien constantly changed how orcs came in being. He already tended to change his mind a lot, which was a habit he had, so paired with this, we see many different changes that Tolkien makes, and he never really settles on one single theory. In later life, he became dissatisfied with the Silmarillion theory of orcs from elves, and began trying to come up with a better answer.
To find the answer to my question we must therefore determine whether orcs were in fact derived from elves, for if they are not, then that certainly helps us out a lot (and in typical Tolkien fashion opens up even more questions).
So I am going to discuss various notes Tolkien made, and will refer to them as note A B C etc. and give in the title the general theory he was putting forth. I have placed important areas in bold.
NOTE A- Orcs came from beasts/elves
Tolkien in this note stated these facts (at the time) about orcs-
1. Only Eru could create life with independent will- which orcs seem to have as they can both serve and rebel their masters
2. Therefore orcs must be made from some corruption of something else already living
3. Orcs were already present before the awakening of men. The newly awakened elves by the lake of Cuivienen were terrified of being taken by creatures that Melkor sent, however much of this was rumours sent by Melkor himself (though the Silmarillion does indeed say many were taken). Early Orcs couldn’t be men.
4. Eru as stated would not give independence to Melkor’s creations, unless…he though them ultimately redeemable and could be saved (finished with a ? beside it)
5. Melkor could not corrupt an entire race- the case of orcs had to be inheritable at some point, and this must have been the work of Eru (if indeed this last point is a fact, which Tolkien didn’t state either way). Therefore the orcs from elves theory is put into doubt.
6. Other species with free speech and will are not yet accounted for ie. beasts such as the eagles- some of which were Maiar in eagle form. Therefore could then some of the greater orcs be Maiar? Some of the lesser ones that Melkor is said to have turned to his service early on? If so then do they become earth bound as they become older and more corrupt? This would explain how some orcs seem to be immortal. (the great goblin is a strong contender for a lesser maiar…see NOTE C)
7. Speech however cannot be seen as proof of an independent spirit. Even though orcs spoke, much of it just rhymed off records set by Melkor, and even Sauron is later said to have devised a speech for his orcs. Therefore orc speech can be seen as the equivalent of a parrot speaking- it is merely copying. Even the orc’s treachery and hate for their masters still placed them as carrying out their master’s ultimate goal- evil. This points to orcs being no more than lifeless beasts made to mock the forms of elves.
Tolkien then ends the note with stating that saying Melkor could not wholly corrupt anything was going too far. Melkor could be seen as starting this off with ‘lifeless’ beasts, then mating the end results with the later elves to further create the true orcs. Therefore there is a strong possibility that there is elf blood in the early orcs. Thusly in death they go to the halls of Mandos and are held in prison to the end.
The problem here is that in a single note- Tolkien is contradicting himself, as stated by his son Christopher (editor of the histories). Tolkien states at the start that orcs can be no more than beasts, and in fact Christopher ends by stating his father had written at the bottom of the passage yet again orcs are beasts. However by the end he is starting to state they may be from elves, and have their blood in them. Therefore why conclude at the end, after stating the theory of crossing beasts with elves, that orcs are beasts. Was this a final word on the note? So that we may disregard all of it?
This is just the start of what becomes an ever more complicated set of notes. It is difficult to discern what Tolkien left, and what he later discarded as an old idea.
NOTE B- Mixed origins
In a separate note Tolkien explains how Melkor, though not having powers to create, did have great powers of distortion and corruption of those who came within him. He then concludes that orcs had mixed origins, and were mostly likely a mixture of corrupted elves, and later men, and most likely had in their ranks (leaders) who were fallen maiar. This would explain how some orcs had exceptionally long lives, and some did not. The ones that crop up again were leaders of the orcs and were likely maiar.
NOTE C-Early orcs maiar/spirits
Here again we have Tolkien writing a completely different note on orcs, dated later on from 1959/60.
In this text Tolkien explains how the orcs of later wars at least (after Melkor’s return from captivity) were capable of craft and speech- and concludes that these orcs were not the same orcs the elves had feared at their awakening in Cuivienen, which was very early on in the history of Arda. He therefore states that the ‘early’ orcs were in fact corrupted maiar, taking elf-like forms in mockery of them. Tolkien then goes on to write the following…
NOTE D- Orcs came from men
Tolkien starts with the same passage as note c- that orcs of later years were much different to the terror that the elves saw after their awakening. He then makes two very important (and related) notes, the first regarding the theory that orcs were corrupted men. The second on a point that arises from it.
1- Those who state orcs derived from men cannot be correct regarding these early orcs. Men had not awoke then, only elves had, so therefore it was not possible for men to be taken when they were alive in middle earth yet!
2. However soon after this, when Melkor returned from captivity he very quickly had a huge army of orcs to attack elves with. How? If they were not elves, and men had not awoken (because we must assume given the speed the army was raised the orcs had to already exist during Melkor’s captivity), then where did they suddenly come from? (for an answer to this see the chronology heading).
Tolkien then states
“the view of the origin of orcs thus meets with difficulties of chronology. But though men may take comfort in this, the theory remains nonetheless the most probable.”
He then goes on to explain many similarities between men and orcs- most notable the ability to become ill, and die of old age (for here Tolkien states that orcs had a lesser life span compared to the Edain).
This last point he goes on to explain, as we know of several orcs who are seen to have a longer lifespan than men. He thus says, as previously stated, that those orcs (usually great captains) who in the early days lived long lives and crop up several times were in fact fallen maiar, who having business to direct orcs, took their forms.
Note: there is an interesting footnote here that states Boldog comes up several times as an orc in the history of middle earth. It is theories that instead of Boldog being a name it is in fact a title for the orc-maiar beings, which were still maiar, just less formidable than balrogs for instance.
After this Tolkien states a point that the men could be corrupted to an ‘orc-like’ level of existence, and then be forced to mate with other orcs, creating a more formidable breed of orc (see half orcs/goblin men), and that Saruman likely found this lore many thousands of years later.
i think after re reading what i wrote over a year ago, that it is a very confusing subject with no clear answer. however i do think that in general, most tolkien lore fans would agree that tolkien was ever swaying more to orcs from men, and probably would have edited parts of his works to make it fit.
if this is true, this certainly means orcs are not immortal.
it also means that their fea are free to leave their bodies upon death like men….which brings me back to Ellareth's point on what exactly happens with their body and soul. i mean, are we even certain they have a soul within them? i cant remember (i will try and find it in the histories), but is it possibe for a middle earth being to be alive without one?
if so this would support the idea of orcs not being evil, as this would point directly to them being mere puppets to their master's (melkor or sauron) will….(and hence my rather lengthy quote on thier beginnings above).
however, werent the dwarves, when created without Eru's knowledge, denied existance until he declared them alive and accepted them into existance? this would counter the idea above the beings could exist without fae…and hence they must have at least some free will, instead of being mere puppets
i woud like to know if there are any passages anywhere where it is explictly stated orcs had fae….i am not sure if it was ever stated directly, i mean we cant even agree where they came from
i think evidence given in morgoths ring points that they did have fea, and were not mere puppets. the reason is similar as in the quote…they had the ability to rebel against their masters.
this adds weight to the fact that orcs were not mindless beings, and thier evil acts (at least some of them) can certainly be attributed to them