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The Thiniking Orc

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By TurnerMohan   |   
© 2013 - 2020 TurnerMohan
Do orcs ponder their lot in life? what do they think about when they're not fighting eachother or the free people? It's a question Tolkien left largely unanswered in his books, and the role of the orcs as the all purpose "others" who are patently evil and may therefore be slaughtered indiscriminately by our tall, grim, piercing-eyed heroes is about the only thing in tolkien's vast legendarium that leaves me with some reservations. I always wanted to know more about the orcs (beyond their perpetual role as cannon fodder for various dark lords) cirith ungol and the uruk hai were two of my favorite chapters in LOTR because atleast we get some glimpses of orcish society (same reason I always liked the goblin town part of the hobbit)

I imagined for this piece a scene of an orcish chieftain like Azog or the Great Goblin, now a few years past his prime, living in some conquered city built centuries earlier by more advanced people (like Tol Sirion, Minas Ithil, or Moria) laying aside his weapons and pouring curiously over old tomes deep in an abandoned study. Maybe he cant even read, just pondering the very act of writing itself.

It's definitely a theme I will revisit in the future.
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anonymous's avatar
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CapnDeek373's avatar
CapnDeek373Professional General Artist
Featured... orcs... :ahoy:
daaku-no-tenshi's avatar
daaku-no-tenshiHobbyist General Artist
I always felt this was covered. In both the books as well as the movies. Maybe not out rightly stated, but just common sense-wise.

When all of the creatures and living things of Middle Earth were created, the evil 'god(s)' felt life was there to serve them, that they were lessers rather than other beings. Certain 'gods' created Dwarves, or the Elves, etc. When the Orcs were created, I'm pretty sure that they were a perversion of Elf bloodline, bred to be barely human and only to serve.

Their role was never to think in the first place. Their role WAS to be cannon-fodder, as stipulated by not only the writing of the author, but the designs and machinations of the evil characters therein.

I always thought that was rather obvious. To see one sitting reading or acting peacefully is essentially a perversion of what they were intentionally designed for - aggression, bloodletting, warmongering, etc. An Orc would probably eat a book rather than read it, or even before contemplating what it could possibly be.
TurnerMohan's avatar
TurnerMohanProfessional General Artist
I'd recommend you re-read 'the choices of master samwise,' or even 'the uruk-hai' and see if you cant mine from their text likely evidence of a little more capacity for humor, camaraderie and intellectual curiosity than you're currently giving the orcs credit for.
daaku-no-tenshi's avatar
daaku-no-tenshiHobbyist General Artist
Be that as it may, and I will certainly look through those parts again, surely the exception doesn't disprove the rule?

Even if one were to have Orc 'intellectuals', I honestly don't see them surviving long in Orc society in a more generalised sense, you know?
TurnerMohan's avatar
TurnerMohanProfessional General Artist
A moment like this is nothing if not exceptional, but I dont know how rare such exceptions would be, one of atleast a few small moments in any orc's life, i would imagine, where their underlying humanity (or elf-manity) long surpressed both by genetics and culture, comes to the surface, quickly to be buried under the hate and fear that seems to rule their lives

tolkien remarked that the orcs would likely be redeemable by god, though not by elves or men, make of that whatever ratio of good to evil in an orcs life is pleasing to your sensibilities
WatchTheNetKillItsel's avatar
Im not exactly sure about the books, but in the movies its kinda obvious that at least some orcs know how to write. For example, the mere existance of the goblin scribe in AUJ tells us that some orcs are devoted to writing.
ZanarNaryon's avatar
ZanarNaryonHobbyist General Artist
It's an interesting idea, and I'm open for it, but there's a reason orcs are "others"; They were literally created for it.
Morgoth, the self-apointed God created orcs as foot soldiers. Thus They still have the society they adopted from the torture that was their creation.
cameosis's avatar
trollkien was a filthy bastard who twisted the history of middle earth. the valiant freedom forces of mordor fought the abominations called elves and hobbits and repelled them back to their western abyss, where they belonged.

great artwork, too!
AloiInTheSky's avatar
AloiInTheSkyHobbyist General Artist
Such an amazing concept I love it ^^
T-Brand's avatar
T-BrandHobbyist Traditional Artist
I like this. Everything you've said is very true, and it sucks that we don't get to see much of what they do outside of battle. This piece has got me thinking now lol
TheFieldAlchemist's avatar
TheFieldAlchemist Traditional Artist
I really like your line of thought there. and the art. It's lovely.

I can't watch LOTR without frowning when there's orcs being killed - I tend to strongly sympathize with the victims of villains and antagonists, even if they are treated as cannon fodder from some overlord. I mean, do they really want to be "evil"? Were they ever asked? And don't get me started on how cruel many humans are when it comes to revenge on clans of orcs who have never done anything bad but live their life somewhere in the wild.

That's basically why I really love the game "Of Orcs and Men", which puts you in the role of some orc warrior and his sneaky goblin companion seeking revenge on the human empire for putting his kin into slavery, or the book series "Orcs" by Stan Nicholls that explores just that "What if the orcs decide to part from their evil Master and do their own thing from now on?" kind of thought. I LOVE it.
ZanarNaryon's avatar
ZanarNaryonHobbyist General Artist
They weren't Asked, because They were created for it
Wasserwaldnymphe's avatar
WasserwaldnympheHobbyist Traditional Artist
I think that they must at least have some intelligence and discipline - otherwise they wouldn't be able to complex maneuvers on the battlefield or invent/use machineries of wars. Furthermore there must be some kind of meetings between the leading orcs (and their lord). I also enjoyed the chapters in which the orcs were actually talking about their lives. 
Wisdom-Thumbs's avatar
Wisdom-ThumbsHobbyist Traditional Artist
This is the best depiction of an orc I've ever seen, and all you had to do was take a standard orc and stick him in a library. But this is also one of my favorite poses. The shading on the floor looks like a black & white photo of an actual floor.
Puella-Januaria's avatar
Puella-JanuariaHobbyist Digital Artist
I like this art, so natural)
NinkSkoir's avatar
NinkSkoirHobbyist General Artist
Great work and thoughts, I agree very much! Thank you for drawing this! :thumbsup:
helena-markos's avatar
helena-markosHobbyist Digital Artist
I've devoted so much time and energy into orcish culture and sub creation and the differences between Silm orcs and LotR/Hobbit orcs in the Tolkien world, it is almost (i.e. definitely IS) embarrassing.  I have over a quarter million words (and counting) of fan fiction written on the subject.

Head canon and discomfort with assigning "evil" to whole races of people aside: this is a marvelously done, illustrative piece.  I love the depth of light you've created, and the way the silhouette of the chandelier cuts into the brightness of the upper half of the image, thus breaking all that light and giving the scene a closed-in feeling.  It is a very intimate, contemplative moment, and whoever this orc is (Azog or Bolg or what have you...), I love the expression on his face.  The added helmet and sword in the bottom left corner is a thoughtful touch, and really adds to the storytelling in this image.  Well done.  And great pencil technique.
TurnerMohan's avatar
TurnerMohanProfessional General Artist
I'm very glad you like it. I was quite pleased myself with this one, the whole concept of it, and it seems to be a favorite among people who visit my page. I think orcs are kind of fascinating to alot of people (they're the subject of a drawing I'm currently working on) and I've written, or attempted to do so, quite a bit about them in the past myself. do you post any of your writing? I'd be interested to read it.
helena-markos's avatar
helena-markosHobbyist Digital Artist
I do post my writing.  It is linked on my DA account.
zoop526's avatar
I love you, man. :) I ponder the same thing. There has to be more to them, and you get a glimpse in the few scenes of their interactions in Tolkien's works. There's a culture there, just waiting to be discovered. :)
Illvetti's avatar
IllvettiHobbyist Traditional Artist
I agree. The glimpses we get from Tolkien's work points towards a civilisation the reader never gets to discover, and its a tantalizing thought that Tolkien had a good idea - however shifting throughout the work process - of what that civilisation was like. I've always wanted to see the orcs being described as cultural and psychological beings rather than as "the other" (perhaps a naive thought, considering that was their intended role all along). How could creatures as angry and hateful as orcs form a society? How was that society kept in check? Tolkien does hint of alliances with "wicked dwarves" in The Hobbit, suggesting that orcs are in fact capable of diplomacy and politics, which in turn demands an organised society with social ranking, a system of communication and economy. 
What really sets the mind going is what happened to the orcs after the events in RotK - that takes Sauron out of the equation, basically leaving the orcs bereft of the power binding them as slaves to the forces of evil. How did they cope with that? Did their society dissolve completely, or did they somehow manage to stabilise after the fall of Mordor? Personally, I've pictured the orcs becoming even more cultural beings after losing their status as sword fodder for Sauron. They would probably retain their brutal and warlike mindset, but at the same time the loss of a common master would force them to rebuild their civilisation pretty much altogether. What do you guys think?
Archon89's avatar
You know, reading Tolkien or watching Peter Jackson's movies, I can honestly say that these are questions I made too. It's very interesting :)
And this is very good drawing, by the way!
ArtKosh's avatar
ArtKosh Traditional Artist
He said to himself like 'C'mon,c'mon... use your brains, old silly orc.!' %D good!
ErikGold's avatar
ErikGoldHobbyist Traditional Artist
Now there's a sight hehe.  Excellent pencil work!
anonymous's avatar
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