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Orcs were the most commonplace villains serving the Dark Powers in all of Tolkien's Mythology, a race of sentient beings bred by the evil Vala Melkor (Morgoth) during the time of the Great Darkness.

If Orcs were created by Melkor (by breeding Elves he had captured and corrupted) then are they immortal?

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Nice Question, by the very least they seem to have an extended life span. –  Simon Jul 2 '14 at 9:32
@Simon - A review of the HoME texts would suggest their lifespan is slightly shorter than that of the First Men. –  Richard Jul 2 '14 at 19:58
@richard yeah I left that in regards to our average span. Meaning extended to be 130 years but that seems uncommon although we know Bolg reached that age –  Simon Jul 2 '14 at 20:00
@Simon - I thought it was fairly clear that Bolg was a maiar, hence immortal. He was still in his prime at the age of 150+. That strongly suggests that he wasn't simply a normal orc. –  Richard Jul 2 '14 at 20:03
Possible duplicate: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/33986/… –  rand al'thor Dec 29 '14 at 14:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 61 down vote accepted

There's a couple of nice quotes from text 10 of the "History of Middle Earth" (Morgoth's Ring) that directly address the issue of orc immortality and orc lifespans:

"They needed food and drink, and rest, though many were by training as tough as Dwarves in enduring hardship. They could be slain, and they were subject to disease; but apart from these ills they died and were not immortal, even according to the manner of the Quendi; indeed they appear to have been by nature short-lived compared with the span of Men of higher race, such as the Edain"

Robert Foster's "Complete Guide to Middle Earth" notes that the average Edain lifespan is between 70-90 years, which suggests that average Orc longevity (barring illness and injury) is somewhere around 60 years of age.

It seems that the fact that certain (immortal) maiar were posing as Orcs gave rise to the myth that the orc race was immortal...

This last point was not well understood in the Elder Days. For Morgoth had many servants, the oldest and most potent of whom were immortal, belonging indeed in their beginning to the Maiar; and these evil spirits like their Master could take on visible forms. Those whose business it was to direct the Orcs often took Orkish shapes, though they were greater and more terrible. Thus it was that the histories speak of Great Orcs or Orc-captains who were not slain, and who reappeared in battle through years far longer than the span of the lives of Men.

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Bingo - that's the very quote I'm referring to in my answer, from Morgoth's Ring –  ElendilTheTall Jul 2 '14 at 10:02
The second Quote is what I made reference to couldn't find it, brilliant finds! –  Simon Jul 2 '14 at 12:25
Certainly at least some Orcs could survive on far less food and drink than other races, otherwise the many Orcs inhabiting the Mines of Moria and the Misty Mountains would have starved. –  RobertF Jul 2 '14 at 15:03
@Richard: But aren't Orcs and Goblins the same thing? –  einpoklum Dec 28 '14 at 19:56
Maiar took the shape of orcs? That could explain why Tomator (supreme ruler of Crouton, evil space alien from the Lost Vikings video game) looks like a giant-sized orc. –  b_jonas Dec 29 '14 at 12:39

In his essay Myths Transformed, which can be found in The History Of Middle Earth vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring, Tolkien explicitly states that the Orcs have a lesser lifespan than the Numenoreans. This would suggest that they are long-lived, but not immortal.

The main evidence for Orcs being long-lived is the well documented dates of death of the Azog and Bolg. Azog was succeeded by Bolg after his death in the war with the Dwarves some 150 years before the Battle of Five Armies. Bolg then leads an army in that battle, so he is at least 150 (and presumably somewhat older).

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To add onto @JimmyShelter Comment, It is believed Tolkien set the origin of Orcs to be corrupted Elves but soon grew a distaste for this origin. I also seem to remember that some Orc leaders may have spirits in them i.e maiar like spirits leading to an immortal lifespan. –  Simon Jul 2 '14 at 9:56
Not so much spirits 'in them' as actual spirits (Maia) who had taken Orc form, much like Melian took the form of an Elf. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 2 '14 at 10:00
+1 and it's by no means certain that Orcs actually are corrupted Elves. That's just a theory offered by the feigned authors of the Silmarillion in the imagined world, rather than a statement of canonical fact, and Tolkien had in fact experimented with many different origins for Orcs. –  Darth Melkor Jul 2 '14 at 10:01
Just to allay possible confusion: @Simon doesn't have time-travel powers. I'd originally added the above comment first, but due to a browser crash while editing to fix a typo, ended up deleting the original and re-adding it here. –  Darth Melkor Jul 2 '14 at 19:55
Nope I'm a wizard –  Simon Jul 2 '14 at 19:57

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