Could there ever be a good orc?

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Welcome to our first ever listener question episode! Thanks to Deb for this intriguing idea.

1:00 Tom Shippey, sources

1:20 Hi Deb!

1:37 Orc clans – warlike

1:50 Sauron and Morgoth found ways to unite them.

2:00 Nature of evil

2:30 People asked Tolkien this very question! Specifically Peter Hastings, the manager of the Newman Catholic Bookshop.

2:50 Naturally bad, but not irredeemably bad.

3:20 Who is Tom Shippey?

4:20 Orcs made by Morgoth

4:30 Evil can’t create, can only corrupt.

5:00 Morgoth made orcs in mockery of the elves and Eru.

5:15 It’s an example of subverting God’s will.

5:30 Orcs in other literature are generally derived from Tolkien (discussion of Bright).

7:10 Orcs and loyalty. See Tom Shippey’s Orcs, Wraiths, and Wights. Orcs show knowledge of good and evil.

7:38 “Regular Elvish Trick”

8:00 Elvish = bad, orcs are the opposite of elves.

8:20 Dan thought orcs would have opposite morals but they don’t.

8:40 Elves can be bad too, just look at Fëanor (or Eöl).

8:50 Orcs are the infantry of the old war against the Vala and the elves in the first age.

9:18 Morgoth put his power into his works, the evil dilutes.

9:40 Erica’s amazing hand gestures.

9:50 Morgoth’s diluted evil – this idea has spread to other fantasy.

10:14 The dilution of evil is also dilution of control, so Sauron has a harder time controlling them than Morgoth did.

10:20 Tolkien tossed around the idea of a hive mind, but never really settled on it. They misbehave.

10:40 Ocrs that were elves vs. orcs that were men?

11:00 Orcs vs. goblins – idea for future research for Erica! Or, if you know, please tell us where Erica can look it up!

11:20 Goblins/elves = Moria, Orcs/men = Mordor? (upon further consideration, Erica doesn’t think this part is terribly likely because both of those places are extremely far East considering when orcs came into being)

12:10 We solved everything! Wait… not in any way…

12:27 Melkor corrupted orcs and they serve him out of fear.

12:47 The alternative is unpleasant

13:00 Born, not manufactured like the goo chamber in Orthanc in the movies.

14:00 Initial group created in the first age and the rest descended from them.

14:20 Is the goo chamber in Orthanc corruption? (Erica needs to watch the special features again)

14:54 Could there be a good orc? Yes. Not irredeemable.

15:00 It’s important to Tolkien to have redemption as an option.

15:24 Catholic background – post-fall beings with free will

15:50 Nothing can be created without Eru

Tokien’s letters p 195 – “by accepting or tolerating their making… orcs would become part of the World, which is God’s and ultimately good”.

16:28 Orcs know good and evil so they MUST be redeemable.

16:40 Only Eru could create things with independent thought

17:05 Eru wouldn’t sanction Melkor’s works like he did Aulë’s.

17:24 Corruption isn’t inheritable

17:50 Don’t know about socialization of orcs.

18:00 Children of a warlike, violent life.

References:

A lot of research went into this episode. Most of the information is from the following resources.

Erica’s reference librarian brain is annoyed that these citations are not in a style or alphabetized, but she’s in a bit of a hurry today.

The Silmarillion local library / local bookstore

The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Selected and edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Houghten Mifflin Boston, 1981.

Morgoth’s Ring, by Christopher Tolkien, Allen and Unwin UK, 1993.

“Orcs, Wraiths, Wights: Tolkien’s Images of Evil,” by Tom Shippey, in: JRR Tolkien and his Literary Resonances, ed by George Clark and Daniel Timmons, Greenwood Press, 2000

JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey, Harper Collins, 2000.

All music is by the amazing Doctor Turtle! Feel free to show him some love over on Bandcamp.

22 episodes available. A new episode about every 13 days averaging 16 mins duration .