Forum: Here Be Orcs

Discussing: A question of breeding

A question of breeding

I love Peter Jackson's movies, but there is no doubt they've - heh - "muddied" the waters with regard to how Orcs reproduce.  Which isn't to say that it isn't possible that Saruman's breeding program entailed popping some of his Uruk-hai out of the mud for whatever strange wizardly reason.  But I don't think that's what Tolkien envisioned for those regular snaga Orcs that we so know and love.

Agree?  Vehemently disagree?  Or qualify?

Also, AFriedman was commenting on AnnaWing's well-argued and provocative "On the Origins and Natures of Orcs," and referred to a quote from "Morgoth's Ring":

The quote from Morgoth's Ring, Myths transformed 419 says "There is no doubt [not "maybe"] that Saruman committed...the interbreeding of orcs and men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."

At which point Gwynnyd responded,

Why do I have this vision of orc breeding that looks like how you get mules and hinnies?

Mule: The hybrid animal produced when a male ass (Jack) is crossed with a female horse, and often looks more donkey-like than horse- like

 Hinny: This is the term used for the hybrid animal produced when the female ass (jennet) is mated to the male horse (stallion) to produce a foal, and often looks more horse-like

Male orc to female human get an Orc-man.

Female orc to male human gets a Man-orc. 

or would that be vice versa?

I'd guess that there are a lot more Orc-men than Man-orcs.  Of course, they say that some men are always willing... and all women are the same lying down.

This perked my interest because I had a similar discussion with my father once about the Orc-men and Men-orcs, and the comparison of mules and hinnies.  Of course the follow-up to that is usually that mules and hinnies are would the Uruk-hai be firing blanks?

Big sprawling opening post on the question of Orkish breeding.



Re: A question of breeding

Dear thelauderdale,

Would you prefer it if I reposted my other post on orc-breeding here?

Anna Wing



Re: A question of breeding

If you'd like, that would be grand! I found your ideas interesting and would love to explore them further.



Re: A question of breeding

Tolkien did say in a letter that Orcs reproduced sexually (rather than asexually, by parthenogenesis or other methods ). But sexual reproduction covers a lot of possibilities. If I were an evil and paranoid deity who wanted to conquer the universe and was looking to create vast numbers of minions on the cheap, how would I do it?

1  Accelerated growth rates, so that they reach physical maturity and sexual maturity together and as quickly as possible. Say, by 5 or 6. Average life-span maybe 20-30 years.

2  Ability to produce multiple offspring at each birth ie litters, and multiple litters per year.  If the offspring are all animated by  My will, they should not need much in the way of care, training and socialisation, so the females could have multiple litters per year. The weaklings will be weeded out automatically and gastronomically recycled.

3 Omnivorous with no social taboos about cannibalism, so they could eat each other when they die of old age, illness or violence, or if they are born deformed or dead. This would reduce the resources needed to feed them.

4  Physically tough,  with efficient immune systems (NB, get that from Elves), and varying in size, conformation and intelligence level, so that they can be used for different tasks (get that from Men, nice adaptable creatures). I'd also look for useful traits to splice in from the animal kingdom - night vision? superior hearing and sense of smell? claws and fangs? echolocation ?(OK, there's no evidence in text, but multiple Ages is a long time, and there could have been) I'd probably want to keep a few lines breeding true for specialised purposes, and have the rest general-purpose and interbreeding freely, to allow possibly useful mutations to show up. Useless ones would be recycled.

5  Since I would be immortal and have Ages in which to tinker, I would probably vary the basic pattern a lot, depending on which would be most useful at any particular time. For instance, sexual dimorphism or not? What kind of social structure? I would be limited by the lack of imagination that comes with evilness, so all of them would probably end up being highly aggressive in occasionally self-defeating ways. However, I would assume that sheer numbers would render this problem trivial, and I would usually be right.

6  Unfortunately my lab notes would all be lost during the War of Wrath, so my unworthy successor and usurper, that jumped-up minion Sauron would have to rediscover most of the above in his own bumbling and incompetent fashion, as would the even more unworthy and pathetic wannabe Saruman.

There, those are my preliminary suggestions. What do you think?



Re: A question of breeding

There, those are my preliminary suggestions. What do you think?

 I love your suggestions and I think they may all have been tried by one dark force or another.

 One point I've wondered about is the conjunction of 'evil growing' and 'orcs multiplying', which always seem to go together.  Is this a cause and effect relationship?  Do orcs not multiply when evil is quiescent?  And if not, why not?

My personal idea is that orcs are self-absorbed to to the point where it impacts species survival.  They spend too much time competing for individual dominance to construct a viable society in the long-term.   Although individual orcs may be powerful and wield an army, such as the "Great Goblin"of the Hobbit or "Azog" who gave the dwarves so much trouble in Moria, those leaders also had their heyday at  times when 'evil was stirring' and may have had outside assistance in forging such orc-ish alliances.

The orc society we see most closely are Saruman's Uruks and the orcs of Minas Morgul and Mordor that Frodo encounters.  Both groups seem hierarchically organized by fear, and cooperation only seems possible when fear induced, and the lower-eschelons take every opportunity to attack the leaders.

In my opinion, in a 'natural' state orcs have a hard time cooperating, even for things basic to survival, such as food production, or successful rearing of children.  Without some outside influence that forces cooperation, orcs would tend to self-destruct and die out within, say, an Age. However, when 'evil is strong', it can superimpose its will on orc-minds and get them working together for its own purposes.  Therefore, during times when 'evil is active', more orc-children survive to adulthood and orc-society is more organized and able to conduct raids into man- or elf- dominated territory.

Gwynnyd (thinking oddly slanted, sixty-seven degress off normal, as usual)



Re: A question of breeding

That sounds very plausible. I was thinking along those lines myself. Orcish societies would collapse in the absence of an immediate master force holding them together and would survive only because their high birthrate and quick maturity would just about outweigh the internecine aggression, until another force arises to point them all in one direction again. It would be entirely canonical too, since Tolkien makes several references to Orcs scattering leaderless when their masters fall.

It's a real pity that asexual reproduction has to be ruled out, though. One could have cloned orcs being hatched from eggs like ants, and as Henry Gee suggested, the Great Goblin in "The Hobbit" would have been a Queen, not a King (from Tolkien's descriptions there's no way that one could tell, short of dissection), which I find a rather charming idea.



Re: A question of breeding

Want to see a rather non-canonical, highly crossover take on Saruman's Uruk-hai and the humans that were used to breed them? (Helps if you're familiar with the book by L. Frank Baum, and the movie about it.)

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