Inspired by this question: Which languages was Gandalf proficient in?

Gandalf says the following:

"I once knew every spell in all the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs, that was ever used for such a purpose."

Do we ever see orcs use spells?

  • 1
    Going out on a limb, but the orcs speak the 'black tongue of mordor' correct? That language is also spoken by the Witch-King and Sauron. Thus the spells in the tongue of orcs were the spells used by those two
    – CBredlow
    Apr 25 '16 at 17:31
  • 1
    The "purpose" mentioned in the quote is opening the Doors of Durin, so a command word or a password was needed to open the doors and enter Moria. It may be that "orc-magic" is only limited to commands that would open and close doors, and this is why Gandalf mentioned orcs. It could be a hint of an abandoned concept in the story, of orcs as limited magic users. Apr 25 '16 at 17:37
  • 1
    I made a comment on b_jonas' answer below - I think the argument that Gandalf was referring to Black Speech when he mentioned the tongue of Orcs is a little weak, unless there are other examples of him referring to that language as the tongue of Orcs. I do like the idea that @maguirenumber6 brought up, which uses the specific situation surrounding the quote.
    – Jake
    Apr 25 '16 at 18:03
  • 1
    @anaranjada No, the Orcs had dialects of Orcish, the language invented for them by Morgoth. Sauron's Black Speech was intended as a lingua franca for all Orcs to use, but rather failed (think of it as Evil Esperanto) Apr 25 '16 at 18:16
  • There's not many Orc wizards because Orcs have racial stat bonuses +2 strength and +1 vitality and have no intelligence bonuses.
    – Zaenille
    Apr 26 '16 at 7:03

Leaving aside how you interpret Gandalf's words, off-hand I can think of at most two examples of Orcs using magic, though neither are without caveats:

  1. The Goblins of the Misty Mountains

    [Bilbo] could not go to sleep for a long while; and when he did sleep, he had very nasty dreams. He dreamed that a crack in the wall at the back of the cave got bigger and bigger, and opened wider and wider, and he was very afraid but could not call out or do anything but lie and look. Then he dreamed that the floor of the cave was giving way, and he was slipping-beginning to fall down, down, goodness knows where to.

    At that he woke up with a horrible start, and found that part of his dream was true. A crack had opened at the back of the cave, and was already a wide passage.

    The Hobbit Chapter 3: "Over Hill and Under Hill

    Is this magic? I don't know; it certainly seems magical.

  2. Grond (emphasis mine)

    The drums rolled louder. Fires leaped up. Great engines crawled across the field; and in the midst was a huge ram, great as a forest-tree a hundred feet in length, swinging on mighty chains. Long had it been forging in the dark smithies of Mordor, and its hideous head, founded of black steel, was shaped in the likeness of a ravening wolf; on it spells of ruin lay. Grond they named it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old.

    Return of the King Book V Chapter 4: "The Siege of Gondor"

    The sticking point here is that we don't know who lay those spells; it may have been the Orcs, or it may have been one of the Nine, or even Sauron himself.

However, in neither case do we actually see these spells being cast; we never see an Orc in the process of casting a spell.

  • I do quite like the second quote, which may refer to runes of some kind carved on to it - that's how I always interpreted it. In any case, it does point to some kind of magic system in use by the orcs, of which perhaps Gandalf was aware at some point.
    – Jake
    Apr 25 '16 at 18:00

Gandalf didn't say it was the orcs who use spells. He said spells (used by anyone) in the tongues of Elves or Men or Orcs (that is, those species use those languages for everyday use, not spells).

Some higher orcs speak the Black Speech.

We know one person who used a spell in the black speech: Sauron. He's used the spell to forge the One Ring.

I'm more surprised that there'd be anyone who used spells in the tongues of Men. I imagined most Men would use elvish languages for spells.

  • 1
    In order for me to accept this answer as "headcanon", I'd need some other example of Gandalf referring to Black Speech as "the tongue of Orcs" - I can see how he could be referring to the fact that some orcs speak it...but it's a little weak as an answer, since I'd sooner assume Gandalf would say "I know spells in the Black Speech"
    – Jake
    Apr 25 '16 at 18:02
  • You said the Men would have used elvish languages for spells. But the evil men, hating the elves, but not knowing Black Speech, had to use some language to try making spells. (Whether working or not working.)
    – b.Lorenz
    Jan 19 '17 at 15:39

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