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It certainly seems that the Orcs are always evil. So what happened when their master (Sauron) was defeated at the end of Lord of the Rings? I can't really imagine that either they would be entirely killed (genocide) or alternately that the men of Gondor, etc. would learn to live with them either (coexistence).

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The Last Ring-Bearer nicely pounds upon your genocide point... – leftaroundabout Jan 20 '14 at 20:05
Also Nick Perumov's Эльфийский Клинок (Elven Blade) state genocide. – S Vilcans Jul 9 '14 at 9:56
Peaceful coexistence is out of the question - Orcs and Men would never be able to get along. But there is an option between genocide and peaceful coexistence - however many Orcs survived the war probably returned to their old ways- lurking in the shadows, waylaying unsuspecting travelers on the roads, robbing and sometimes killing them. This would be unpleasant for the victims, but tolerable for society as a whole. We have such people today- we call them "criminals", not Orcs, but they mean the same thing, more or less. An individual Orc is basically a 4 foot tall thief. – Wad Cheber May 28 '15 at 22:19

The Orcs were actually creatures of Morgoth, not of Sauron, being corrupted by him during the years of the Trees.

Since Morgoth dissippated his power into Arda, and since he was removed from the world at the end of the First Age, the defeat of Sauron has no effect on them so long as general survivability is concerned.

Also, there have been extended periods of time between the defeat of Morgoth and the final defeat of Sauron when Sauron was not active and could not command them. These times were as recent as TA 2950 (i.e before Sauron declared himself openly again) and were what Shagrat and Gorbag refer to in their discussion in the Two Towers:

'They would,' grunted Gorbag. 'We'll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d'you say? – if we get a chance, you and me'll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there's good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses.'
'Ah!' said Shagrat. 'Like old times.'

There's no reason to suppose that post-Sauron times would be any different from these "old times". In other words, the Orcs would resort to independent banditry rather than being an organized force.

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IMHO, you should undelete your Entmoot answer. It's very good and includes info and sources that mine does not – DVK-in-exile Jan 20 '14 at 12:44
More on topic, I'm not sure I entirely agree with the first paragraph. Sun-resistant Orcs were the product of Sauron, as far as I recall. The conclusion makes sense though. – DVK-in-exile Jan 20 '14 at 12:45
@DVK - Morgoth's Orcs fought in daylight at Unnumbered Tears ("phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks of the Orcs ... and in that very time, at the third hour of morning") and the Fall of Gondolin (which began just before sunrise). – user8719 Jan 20 '14 at 12:55
"dissippated" -> "dissipated". "defeat of Sauron has no effect" - should be "had", I think. – Faheem Mitha Jan 20 '14 at 19:47

Some of the orcs in Mordor were bred by Sauron:

...a race of sentient beings bred by the evil Vala Melkor (Morgoth) during the time of the Great Darkness. The Dark Lord Sauron also bred them, and later the wizard Saruman

It is stated that:

After the ultimate defeat of Sauron, Mordor became mostly empty again as the orcs inside it fled or were killed. Crippled by thousands of years of abuse and neglect, but capable of sustaining life, the land of Mordor was given to the defeated foes of Gondor as a consolation

Assuming that they lived and bred as Elves and Men do, the rest that fled would have gone "home". Those that Sauron didn't create would have probably gone to Angmar and Ered Mithrin.

No female orcs are ever mentioned by Tolkien, but in The Silmarillion he wrote that "the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men)"

They were nearly destroyed in the War of Wrath, and those that survived fled eastwards into the Mountains of Angmar and the Grey Mountains (Ered Mithrin).

We may assume that the others (the ones Sauron created), along with some of the Melkor breeds, fled and hid anywhere they could. Inside deep caves, pits or chambers of fallen fortresses, and of course the Misty Mountains (Hithaeglir).

Although the entire force of Sauron was extinguished by the end of the War of the Ring, groups of orcs were thought to continue to dwell in the Misty Mountains, but posed no threat to the lands north, south, east and west after that point.

Almost all of the orc army force was destroyed, leaving them crippled as a race since we don't know anything about the dwellings of female orcs and child orcs.

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Without any sources to back me up, perhaps we can assume that Aragorn (as King Elessar) cleared out any remaining Orc dens during the Fourth Age. Otherwise the Orcs would continue to multiply without end. – RobertF Jan 20 '14 at 15:41
@RobertF We can speculate, but Aragorn only lead campains against Easterlings and Haradrim, restoring the lost borders of Gondor. However, Eldarion his son - had dealings with a cult of Melkor/Sauron, but to my knowledge no orcs were involved. We could assume that they both had dealings with the remaining orcs at the time, possibly even after their time as Tolkien planed a sequal for LOTR. – Secko Jan 20 '14 at 17:25
@RobertF That would be improper for Aragorn. He surely kills a lot of orcs, but he didn't like to do so, and he had compassion for even creatures as wicked as orcs. Compassion is probably the most important virtue of the LOTR books, and the ultimate hero of it must be a great example. So, no, Aragorn didn' commit genocide against orcs. – Flamma Jan 20 '14 at 18:08
Tolkien said that there was in fact female orcs. He said we didn't read of any of them, because we knew orcs primarily in war. – Flamma Jan 20 '14 at 18:10
@RobertF - it is implied that a large number of Orcs fled to the eastern wastes of Mordor after the Battle of the Morannon. Others seem to have escaped the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. We don't know anything about Orc reproduction, so we can't assume that they would multiply endlessly. The Orcs of Moria, who survived the War of the Ring for the most part, were always relatively few in number, and remained so until they were eventually killed off by the Dwarves who retook Moria. – Wad Cheber May 28 '15 at 22:11

Orcs continue to live, hiding, until our days. Since the fall of Sauron, they lacked the strong will that was driving them, and they scattered and their numbers decreased. Also, as while Sauron was in the Middle Earth there was a shadow on the heart of free people (that led them to fear, despair or corruption), after the Dark Lord demise, all the dark creatures began to have a similar weight.

If we take the Hobbit as accurate (it isn't in some matters that changed later), orcs did not only survive, but they are responsible for many of the harmful inventions (probably bombs and other weapons).

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I would love to see you explain (with references if possible) what you mean by "hiding, until our days" and "probably bombs and other weapons"? – Secko Jan 20 '14 at 18:33
@Secko Middle Earth was originally conceived by Tolkien as the mythological history of our own world. – SevenSidedDie Jan 20 '14 at 19:27
@SevenSidedDie Correction, not the entire world only the continent of Europe. It was meant to be a version of English mythology based in a version of our world and on earth for the continent of Europe. To narrow it down, Tolkien concentrated only on one region of Europe itself and mostly the western part of it. – Secko Jan 20 '14 at 19:36
@Secko On Hobbit chapter "Over Hill And Under Hill" is described that "It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, [...] but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far." – Flamma Jan 21 '14 at 0:44
@Secko I quoted you already a text saying how they invented those machines in my first comment in this answer. Previous to that: "Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones". Also, I wouldn't call a beverage that turns a nasty open wound in the head into an ugly scar instantly "minor medicine potion" (especially not in a low magic setting). Also, in LOTR they build many advanced war machines. – Flamma Jan 21 '14 at 21:51

I think the orcs made home in Dol Goldur or Angmar. But the silmalirion says that the orcs of Angband fled to the grey mountains.

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