Coming from this question: Are Tolkien's orcs immortal?

But then if Orcs are not immortal, does that mean that they are not the result of breeding corrupted elves?

Or does becoming corrupted rob you of your immortality? I really do not think that Melkor has the ability to remove immortality. So would that imply that Orcs are not just a subspecies of Elf?

Half elves are apparently allowed to give up their immortality, full blooded ones are stuck with it.

Not that the converse makes any sense. There is no ways millions of Orcs reincarnate into the Undying Lands.

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    The implication is the progenitors of the orc race are elves, not that each individual orc is a former elf
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 6:33
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    I'm sorely tempted to close as a dupe of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/26725/…. The short version is that we don't actually know where the Orcs came from, so the best answer for "why are they mortal?" is "because they are" Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 10:51
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    "There is no ways millions of Orcs reincarnate into the Undying Lands." What if they arrive in the Halls of Mandos in uncorrupted form?
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 14:58
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    It's unanswerable as Tolkien himself had problem with nature of Orcs and hadn't really reconciled it.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 21:54
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    @JonathonWisnoski Yes. But my "what if" assumes either (1) that something that can be corrupted can be uncorrupted, or (2) souls are created before they are born (which is right in line with "The Music of the Ainur" being Eru's 'plan' for all creation).
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 0:50

4 Answers 4


There is no clear answer, because the origins of Orcs are murky. Assuming, that, corresponding with the published explanation of the origin of Orcs, they came from Elves, I propose two possibilities:

They may have in origin been Elves, but Morgoth quickly interbred them with Men when they awoke and began worshipping him. All the immortal Orcs were killed in the wars of the First Age and only Orcs mixed with Men survive. These technical half-Elves may get long life, but not immortality. The immortal Orcs never come back because if Feanor is too evil to be reincarnated before the End, then the average Orc most definitely is. That said, some of the evil spirits at Sauron and Morgoth's command are, perhaps, the spirits of killed immortal (or mortal) Orcs.

But as an alternative, I would say that from Elves or not, their fates may have been changed by Eru and Morgoth. Consider what Finrod and Andreth claimed about Men:

'Yet among my people, from Wise unto Wise out of the darkness, comes the voice saying that Men are not now as they were, nor as their true nature was in their beginning. And clearer still is this said by the Wise of the People of Marach, who have preserved in memory a name for Him that ye call Eru, though in my folk He was almost forgotten. So I learn from Adanel. They say plainly that Men are not by nature short-lived, but have become so through the malice of the Lord of the Darkness whom they do not name.

'That I can well believe,' said Finrod: 'that your bodies suffer in some measure the malice of Melkor. For you live in Arda Marred, as do we, and all the matter of Arda was tainted by him, before ye or we came forth and drew our hroar and their sustenance therefrom: all save only maybe Aman before he came there.1 For know, it is not otherwise with the Quendi2 themselves: their health and stature is diminished. Already those of us who dwell in Middle-earth, and even we who have returned to it, find that the change3 of their bodies is swifter than in the beginning. And that, I judge, must forebode that they will prove less strong to last than they were designed to be, though this may not be clearly revealed for many long years.

'And likewise with the hroar of Men, they are weaker than they should be. Thus it comes to pass that here in the West, to which of old his power scarcely extended, they have more health, as you say.'

(HoME X)

So until the Fall, Men lived longer and and in greater health. The 'malice of Melkor' affects even the Elven bodies, which don't last as long as they should - thousands of years instead of to the End.

Andreth even believed that Men were not supposed to 'die' at all, but rather ascend to heaven bodily.

So I would propose this: the 'malice of Melkor' quite naturally afflicts the Orcs most severely. Even if they were intended to be immortal (by their potentially Elven nature) their bodies simply fall apart. So they look mortal to us, and we have no way of determining whether their spirits linger in Middle-Earth (like the Elves) or go on beyond the world (like Men.)

It must be added, however, that some Orcs were 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.


Tolkien described a number of origins for Orcs: corrupted elves, born from mud and slime, fallen Maiar. But Tolkien wrote that Orcs are not immortal: in History of Middle Earth 10.

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    Please could you add the relevant quote for this?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 10:57

Like many questions about aspects of Middle-earth this question is unanswerable.

Nobody knows if orcs are mortal.

A lot of orcs get killed in battle, but nobody ever mentions whether orcs die of old age.

If an orc's body gets killed, the fate of its spirit, if it has one, is unknown.

1) If orcs are "immortal" like elves, the original question suggests that their spirits will go the halls of Mandos and then they will eventually be given new bodies, like elves - though considering how evil most orcs are considered to be, they might have to wait until the end of the world or longer to be re-embodied.

2) If orcs are "mortal" like men, the original question suggests that their spirits will leave the world forever and have the same unknown fate as the spirits of men, and their spirits will never be re-embodied in the world.

3) If orcs have spirits, the fate of those spirits could be different from those of elves an men, having an unknown different and third type of fate.

4) If orcs don't have spirits, then they are really, really mortal and they totally and completely end when their bodies die.

And nobody knows what the average lifespan of an orc body his. A few orcs are believed to have lived for over a century, and it is possible that some orcs lived for much longer.

But none of the heroes ever overheard orcs saying that at least Lurtrot lived to a good old age, being killed aged 10, or that Gashblurg was too young to die at only 457.

So we know too little about orcish biology and longevity to have any idea of how much Mannish, or Dwarvish, or Elvish, or primate, etc. ancestry orcs have.

As far as I know Tolkien never finally made up his mind about which of the various theories of Orc ancestry he came up with was correct, of if several of them were correct with different groups of orcs having different ancestries. So Tolkien could never make up his mind about the fates of orcish spirits, if any, after death.


In the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings there are brief references to Orcs and their lives and history. Sauron claims his creations are born of Elfs I believe. But in the Hobbit there are references to large numbers of Goblins living in the underground caves and in the Lord of the Rings Frodo comments that the Orcs he and the others refer to were called Goblins by Bilbo a century earlier. An Elf is described as ALMOST immortal, unless they are killed. And based on these books it appears an Elf can live as long as they want unless they are dealt a deadly blow of some kind. But, many choose after a long life to leave the world of their own volition. Orcs it would seem, if born of Elfs, have the same conditions. Unless their body is dealt a fatal blow they will live on as they are growing older until they choose to pass on or more likely they slow down and are done away with.

  • Hmmm, seriously, this answer doesn't make any sense at all, I'm afraid.
    – Mithoron
    Commented Sep 7, 2015 at 23:18

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