Forum: Here Be Orcs

Discussing: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?  I'm not just coming up with this one out of nowhere.  I have actually been asked several times.  And since people are wondering, I figured I would parse my logic here on a public thread at HASA, with the caveat that this is my personal opinion and I'm interested in what other people think on the subject.

I think that Orcs and Elves *could* have children because
- Orcs were bred from Elves
- Orcs can breed with Men
- Men can breed with Elves
In fact, going by this logic, Orcs, Elves and Men are technically all the same species. Hobbits too, since according to Tolkien they are just a subset of Men, even though they consider themselves to be separate. In fact, the only intelligent, incarnate two-leggers who aren't the same species are Dwarves and Ents, both being separate creations.

However, an Orc male could only sire children on a willing Elf female. Why?
- Elves die if they are raped*
- Elves can only become pregnant if they want to become pregnant**
This means that, probably, only a love match, or at least consensual sex, between an Orc male and an Elf female would produce offspring. That's where it becomes unlikely, because Orcs and Elves have a fairly mutual hatred for one another.

So that's a male Orc with a female Elf.  About a male Elf with a female Orc, we know even less, because Tolkien never saw fit to depict any (openly) female Orc characters.  Unless Gorbag and Grishnákh are keeping secrets from us...

-.-.-.-

*"...one so forced would have rejected bodily life and passed to Mandos." (from LACE, ie. "Laws and Customs of the Eldar," which can be found in "Morgoth's Ring")
**"For with regard to generation the power and the will are not among the Eldar distinguishable." (from LACE)

BOTH OF THESE FOOTNOTES ARE SUBJECT TO INTERPRETATION.   Did Tolkien, in writing either of these things, actually mean what I interpret him to mean?  They're fairly ubiquitous interpretations from what I've seen online, but there are still plenty who will say they are incorrect or will dispute them on other grounds.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Hi, thelauderdale -

I have some thoughts on the matter, but before I comment, can I entice you to click here? You mentioned on LJ a while back about looking forward to a new Fairy Tale. Don't know if you have seen it yet, but--there it is, and, uh, topical.

DrummerWench

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Read and reviewed - and thank you for telling me it was there!  I was going to be mad at myself for not finding this earlier, until I saw the posting date.  Anyway, should let you know that I have just added it to my delicious middleearthorcfic bookmarks...

It is rather topical, isn't it?  I found the presence of Gathnur's Orc children an understated and interesting, albeit rather sad, detail.  I hope for better things for them.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Thanks!
At first, I started thinking of how to comment, and immediately realized I'd be spoiling my tale, so hoped you'd read it before I commented.
In the 'Wench!verse, Orcs are corrupted Elves and their descendants, as opposed to corrupted Men, which JRRT apparently also considered.
I would agree with you that they could be interfertile, though my view of canon is a bit, ah, flexible.  That is, I see LACE as being an oral transmission of ideals, which may not always be fulfilled.
If, in fact, female Elves were willing themselves to death if raped, Morgoth would learn pretty quickly not to allow it until they'd been converted.  Then he culd basically tell them to will conceptions.  I'm not going to go into what I think about Tolkien's "fate worse than death" ideas, though.
In the untold backstory of "Fair and Foul", the "corruption" happens long before any subsequent children are born, the sex is consensual, the conception is willed.  (Though by that point, all parties are Orcs.)  The Orc children I consider to be suffering from severe PTSD; Gathnur herself has been recovering from it.  The ones living with her have a fair prognosis, the ones she's lost track of, not so much.
But.  What if a child were born to an Orc/Elf couple, and raised by the Elves?  Would Morgoth's corruption extend to the genetic inheritance of the child, and cause it to be more Orcish, or would the basic Elvish foundation of Orcs allow the nurture to counteract nature?

Thanks!

At first, I started thinking of how to comment, and immediately realized I'd be spoiling my tale, so hoped you'd read it before I commented.

In the 'Wench!verse, Orcs are corrupted Elves and their descendants, as opposed to corrupted Men, which JRRT apparently also considered.

I would agree with you that they could be interfertile, though my view of canon is a bit, ah, flexible.  That is, I see LACE as being an oral transmission of ideals, which may not always be fulfilled.

If, in fact, female Elves were willing themselves to death if raped, Morgoth would learn pretty quickly not to allow it until they'd been converted.  Then he culd basically tell them to will conceptions.  I'm not going to go into what I think about Tolkien's "fate worse than death" ideas, though.

In the untold backstory of "Fair and Foul", the "corruption" happens long before any subsequent children are born, the sex is consensual, the conception is willed.  (Though by that point, all parties are Orcs.)  The Orc children I consider to be suffering from severe PTSD; Gathnur herself has been recovering from it.  The ones living with her have a fair prognosis, the ones she's lost track of, not so much.

But.  What if a child were born to an Orc/Elf couple, and raised by the Elves?  Would Morgoth's corruption extend to the genetic inheritance of the child, and cause it to be more Orcish, or would the basic Elvish foundation of Orcs allow the nurture to counteract the Orc parent's nature?

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

What if a child were born to an Orc/Elf couple, and raised by the Elves?  Would Morgoth's corruption extend to the genetic inheritance of the child, and cause it to be more Orcish, or would the basic Elvish foundation of Orcs allow the nurture to counteract the Orc parent's nature?

That's an interesting question, and I am kicking myself right now because I am almost positive that Tolkien refers to, not this exact scenario, but something very similar: that of a hypothetical Orc raised from infancy by Elves.  I cannot find it in the Letters; it may be in one of the HoME volumes.  Interestingly, he said that such an Orc would appear virtually indistinguishable from Elves but that if it were then to encounter another Orc both would be overpowered by a terrific rage/loathing and would try to destroy each other.

The very notion of an Orc being indistinguishable from Elves is bizarre to me, since there are numerous references to the physical attributes of Orcs.  On the other hand, Marta describes a chilling scenario in her story Respite, which I will not spoiler here but is consonant with this notion.

I would agree with you that they could be interfertile, though my view of canon is a bit, ah, flexible.  That is, I see LACE as being an oral transmission of ideals, which may not always be fulfilled.

The fallibility of LACE and other texts within the corpus is an approach that I have seen and liked (biases of oral and written accounts described in the narrative, the Red Book as a product of successive narrators, transcribers and translators, etc.)  Another approach I've seen has been to take LACE absolutely literally, pointing out every qualifier, nebulous phrasing, room for exception, or peculiar specificity (as in, "The footnote about "one so forced" is specifically in reference to one Elf taking another Elf's spouse by force, so holding this to be true for all Elves who are raped is an assumption and a generalization.")  JunoMagic did an annotated LACE that I am unable to access, but she thoroughly skewered it with parenthetical commentary.

I'm not going to go into what I think about Tolkien's "fate worse than death" ideas, though.

This *is* a tangent, but I wonder if it is anything like my own.  Which is to say, when I first encountered this as a point of fanon and found the footnote being used to support it (which I consider a reasonable generalization, even though the specific context is adulterous rape by another Elf) I found it similar to certain historical and literary conventions about rape, and the "right and proper thing" for a good girl to do under such circumstances.  It has bothered me ever since.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

"About a male Elf with a female Orc, we know even less, because Tolkien never saw fit to depict any (openly) female Orc characters."

Hmm... but I only see one possible interpretation of the 3rd age Tale of Years entry for 2740 (see Elena Tiriel's" link here on HASA): "[In] the days of Arassuil, Orcs, multiplying again in the Misty Mountains, begin to ravage the lands." 

"Multiplying" implies female Orcs, unless they (as Gimli would say) "spring out of holes in the ground."

About * - isn't Celebrian a counterexample?  JRRT didn't use the specific word in his description of what happened in 2509, but his implication of what he did write is clear, no? 

**, along with the numerous descriptions of the extreme mutual hatred, seems a pretty solid reason why such offspring would be extremely unlikely - but not impossible.

Just my two cents..

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Hmm... but I only see one possible interpretation of the 3rd age Tale of Years entry for 2740 (see Elena Tiriel's" link here on HASA): "[In] the days of Arassuil, Orcs, multiplying again in the Misty Mountains, begin to ravage the lands."

Oh, agreed!  Tolkien doesn't provide us with any female Orc characters, but I have never doubted that there are female Orcs.  And there are other references to Orcs breeding, significantly in the Silmarillion, which says that they "multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar," which seems a fairly direct way of saying that they reproduced sexually, as Elves and Men did.  Also, in recent years, a (unpublished) letter has been referenced in which Tolkien commented on the existence of female Orcs:

"There must have been orc-women. But in stories that seldom if ever see the Orcs except as soldiers of armies in the service of the evil lords we naturally would not learn much about their lives. Not much was known."

Agree very much that the reference to Celebrian's torment is strongly suggestive of rape, but by cloaking it in euphemism ("Poisoned wound?") Tolkien gives those who don't want to imagine the prospect room dismiss it.  I have seen them do so.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Just a quick comment. I don't see anyone mentioning the Alkallabeth - this quote is from there...  (Of the Rings of Power).

and the Orcs were at his command (Sauron) and multiplied like flies.

Now flies are male and female - so we can stretch the above quote to say that Orcs come in male and female genders.

IMHO.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

Now flies are male and female - so we can stretch the above quote to say that Orcs come in male and female genders.

And lay eggs!  (Joking - although both Tolkien and his Orcs make a lot of maggot references.)

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

And lay eggs!

Ahahaha! Ahem! Though I have always thought (when I thought about it at all...) that Orcs were "ordinary" creatures, like Men, Elves, etc., with females and males and childbirth.  And it never occurred to me that they might be fabricated in some way, a la Peter Jackson, which is more immediately creepy, but ultimately less horrifying than Orcs being really rather like you and me.

 

 

Re: Could an Orc and an Elf have children together?

And it never occurred to me that they might be fabricated in some way, a la Peter Jackson, which is more immediately creepy, but ultimately less horrifying than Orcs being really rather like you and me.

I must admit, that horror of their essential sameness is a large part of my fascination with Orcs.  Not that I don't like their "monstrous Other" aspect, which is certainly present in the books and is amped up for the movies.  I loved Peter Jackson's Orcs and the work that went into them: the make-up, prosthetics, the weaponry and armor, etc.  And Lawrence Makoare and Stephen Ure put in great performances as four different Orc characters between them.  But Jackson's simplification of key Orkish interactions from the book - between Ugluk and Grishnakh, Shagrat and Gorbag - also made them come off as stupid brutes rather than as people.  Cruel and unpleasant people, certainly, but still individuals with their own personalities, desires and motivations.

 

 

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