13. Endnotes to Orcs In Hobbiton
Endnotes to Orcs in Hobbiton
A response to Dwimordene's May 2008 birthday request for AU drabbles inadvertently kicked off a series. What if Sauron won the War of the Ring? What would that mean for the Shire? I've been writing these as I go and would love to get people's opinions on them. If they seem discontinuous it is probably because I have another drabble or drabbles to write that will help fill things in. Comments and suggestions very welcome.
In the meantime, these are notes on the individual drabbles (because when you are dealing with drabbles, notes at the bottom of each chapter can become obtrusive very quickly.)
"Arrival" (100 words)
Chapter 8 of Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire," depicts a Shire in which "ruffians" (Men, many of them intimated to have Orkish blood) have taken over. Their leader Sharkey is actually Saruman, who planned to ruin Frodo's homeland in revenge for the ruin of Orthanc.
After two years the Shire is solidly under the authority of "Sharkey" and his influence has spread to the immediate outlying communities. Two years into the consolidation of their Master's conquered lands, a force of Orcs have arrived in Eriador under the authority of Commander Norgush. In "Arrival" Norgush and his Orcs come to Bree's Prancing Pony to find it filled with Men and half-Orcs.
"The Standard Bearer" (200 words)
By the time "The Standard Bearer" takes place, the transfer of power between Saruman's meager lot and Norgush's superior forces has mostly happened. No attention is given to how much (or little) fighting took place to effectuate this. As Tolkien depicts them, Saruman's forces are thuggish and easily routed once the local hobbits are properly mobilized. It is unlikely that seasoned Orkish soldiers would have any difficulty.
"The Lockholes" (400 words)
The Lockholes are old storage tunnels at Michel Delving that the ruffians used as prisons for any hobbits who stood up to them. Mayor Will Whitfoot was the first hobbit taken. A later prisoner was Fredegar Bolger, better known to readers as Fatty.
Norgush's Orcs demonstrate extreme shortsightedness in this scene. Thinking it will ingratiate them with the local hobbits, they free all of the prisoners regardless of why they were imprisoned in the first place. Acting off the cuff and not taking time to ask Norgush first or advertise the event, they botch a good public relations opportunity and release a large group of sick and starving hobbits with no one on hand to assist them.
"His Master's Voice" (300 words)
Lotho Sackville-Baggins was an ambitious hobbit who took over the Shire with Saruman's help but was essentially his puppet. He couldn't prevent his own mother being sent to the Lockholes, and he was eventually murdered by Gríma Wormtongue.
"But did I hear someone ask where poor Lotho is hiding? You know, don't you, Worm? Will you tell them? … Then I will," said Saruman. "Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn't you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice." (Return of the King, Bk 6, Ch 8, "The Scouring of the Shire")
His Master's Voice is a painting of a dog listening to a gramophone, which became a famous logo in the recording industry.
"The Interview" (300 words)
"…poor Fredegar Bolger, Fatty no longer. He had been taken when the ruffians smoked out a band of rebels that he led from their hidings up in the Brockenbores by the hills of Scary." (Ch 9, "The Grey Havens")
"Sharkû" (300 words)
"He calls for you at Barad-dûr. He says, 'Like calls to like.'" Both Sauron and Saruman are Maiar: celestial beings of a degree below the Valar in Tolkien's cosmology. Sauron betrayed his office when he left Aulë's service and entered Arda as a servant of Melkor, a renegade Vala. When Melkor fell Sauron set himself up as a new Dark Lord. Saruman entered Arda as one of the Istari, or Wizards: Maiar sent to Middle-earth in embodied form as servants of the (good) Valar. Saruman betrayed his office when he sought to rule rather than to guide and vouchsafe the peoples of Middle-earth. Sauron and Saruman were great artificers and lore-masters, with remarkable abilities to compel and control others and a penchant for abusing those gifts.
My suspicion is that Saruman used digging up Lotho in "His Master's Voice" to get Gríma down in the cellar, and attacked him on his way up the stairs.
Sharkû is the Orkish word for "old man." During Saruman's time in the Shire he was known by the name "Sharkey." "So you have heard the name, have you? All my people used to call me that in Isengard, I believe. A sign of affection, possibly." (Ch 8, "The Scouring of the Shire")
"Our Lily" (200 words)
A stanchion is a device for holding animals in place by securing their heads. Executions are all well and good, but crops need to be picked and goats need to be milked.
"Law and Order" (200 words)
Melkor wanted to destroy Middle-earth. Sauron wants to own it. He wouldn't want to ruin the Shire but to maintain it as a productive and valuable asset. Norgush knows that this is easier with a cooperative local populace, which means dialogue: hence the back-and-forth on governance and a system for punishing his own Orcs when they get out of control. He is still an Orc, though, and his values are very different from a hobbit's.
This is information that will probably never find a way into these drabbles, but I believe Norgush began his career as a torturer at Barad-dûr: someone with good communication skills and an even temper who got results with minimal "unpleasantness" and impressed his higher-ups. He was subsequently given leadership responsibilities and impressed with those as well, moving up the ladder. A soldier who nonetheless understands and respects bureaucracy, he now commands a large occupying force of Orcs and Uruk-hai.
Orcs don't hold a monopoly on rape. Rape and sexual abuse is an ugly constant in instances of wartime and post-war occupation. I have never heard of any in which this hasn't been true.
"The Green Cap" (200 words)
A young hobbit has disguised herself as a boy during two occupations (first by Men, now by Orcs) to protect herself. It didn't work here. In case there is any confusion, no, the Orcs did not see through her disguise. They saw an unaccompanied hobbit and took advantage. While skewed toward women and children, nobody is safe from sexual assault.
If anything positive can be gleaned from this episode, Rega's bitter thought that she might have been "safer as a girl" indicates that some of Norgush's efforts have been paying off…with very limited results. These Orcs might feel safe in their actions because A) their victim was not a woman, and B) they did nothing to "him" below the belt. Whether Norgush would accept this reasoning is unknown. He might.
"Pig Doctor" (200 words)
Those Lockholes didn't go empty for long. Norgush's boys encounter rebellion from a surprising quarter as a hobbit doctor uses his office to murder Orkish patients. A qualified Halfling physician is too valuable to kill out of hand; in the meantime, an unassuming veterinarian is conscripted to replace him.
The Hippocratic Oath is an anachronism that you will have to forgive my indulging.
"Fregar" (200 words)
How consensual is sex if you feel you have no choice or that your family might be hurt? How much choice does Fredegar have? How might his time in the Lockholes have shaped him? Is Ashglob aware of his own power in the situation?
There probably isn't enough information provided to answer some of these questions, really.
"Apple Time" (300 words)
Orcs are not a monolithic group: in fact, division and discord is endemic to Orkish nature. (Not unlike humans.) Some small concordance between goblins and hobbits also seems possible to me in view of their shared height and the probability that both chafe beneath the arrogance of the Uruk-hai.
The trees in modern commercial orchards are cut down before they get very big. Trees are more fruitful when they are young, and easier to pick from when they are small. The hobbits of the Shire are less mercenary, allowing their trees to grow full stature, so this is a big apple tree capable of accommodating a number of small people. That's how I excuse it to myself, anyway. The truth is I just wanted to fit a bunch of goblins and hobbits in an apple tree.
I also imagine that sun-sensitive goblins, obliged to work in sunlight, would be wildly enthusiastic about straw hats and about brimmed hats in general.
The Chubbs are Shire hobbits who may have been wealthy (certainly they had relations with the Baggins family), whereas the Noakes hobbits are working class. I wondered how an occupation might affect the Shire's old class system.
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