A question was asked: Why is breeding men and orcs considered evil? Specifically it's described as Saruman's greatest evil, and since Saruman committed many appalling acts the questioner wondered why it was his "greatest evil".

My suggestion was that Tolkien was looking at this from a Christian point of view, and that because Man was created in the image of God this was a desecration and a blasphemy. I have no special knowledge of theology and I'm quite prepared to believe I'm talking rubbish, but I would be very interested to hear any views for and against my suggestion. I would be especially interested in any references that might illuminate this.

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    I should also note that while Tolkien was Catholic and there are some parallels between Christianity and the stories he told, Middle Earth has it's own cosmology, ethics and theology. It's entirely possible that Anglo-Saxon or Norse mythology were stronger influences on the Lord of the Rings and answers might be found there.
    – Jon Ericson
    Mar 11, 2012 at 22:39

2 Answers 2


There is only on way to get a definitive answer to Tolkien mythology questions and that is to find an answer in one of his letters. Thus this is only speculation.


  1. Creating new evil races is exactly what the devilish figure of Melkor did. The most offensive way to rebel against the Creator, Illúvatar.
  2. Men have got Fëa and hröa (approx "soul", "spirit") but Orcs do not.
  3. Men are not created "in the image of God" per se in Middle Earth. Their fate after death is "unknown", a mystery to all (a fact that Peter Jackson got woefully wrong).
  4. It is impossible to make a 1:1 mapping between Middle-earth mythology and the world view of the Bible. Shared values (mostly), but Tolkien protested vehemently when anyone tried to allegorise his writings.

Long version:

In Silmarillion Eru Illúvatar (the one, the Father of all) creates god-like beings, the Ainur. They are given a beautiful song to sing, but some, led by Melkor, are rebelling and try to distort the composition. Eru, however, takes their rebellious melody and incorporates it into the final work. Then he explains that what now unfolds is the re-enactment in physical form of this.

The Ainur are very much part of the creation. One of them creates the race of the dwarves and does so too early. He is mildly chastised by Eru, that wanted the elves to come first, and the dwarves must wait a bit before their creation is complete, but Eru bestows fëa and hröa to the dwarves. (Only he can do that.)

Melkor produced creatures of his own: trolls, orcs, etc. They are totally evil, beyond any chance of redemption. They do not have an independent will (no fëa and hröa), as is evidenced by their total passivity after the destruction of the ring.

Saruman follows in the footsteps of Melkor. He produces a new, soulless and evil race. He intends to use that race to kill, plunder and scourge.

It is often made clear that in Middle-earth everything that is good and beautiful is a gift from Eru as the supreme source and the Ainur as the intermediate source. Skills and art are leaned from them, during the very first ages and from then on it is a struggle between decay and restoration.

Tolkien was in real life very much anti-modernity and it shows in the books.

Nothing Saruman did enabled the forces of decay more powerfully than creating the half-breeds. No other act of his took Middle-earth farther away from the "beautiful melody".

Even though there is no 1:1 mapping between fëa and hröa and "soul" and "spirit", no 1:1 mapping between Melkor and satan, there are similarities. There is a rebellion, a persuading others to join in that rebellion, choosing of sides between good and evil. But I can't find a distinct similarity between cross breeding orcs and humans and the Bible.

  • A quick question about the edit. I am quite sure I wrote Melkor on christianity.SE. Is there a way too see older edits, pre-move?
    – itpastorn
    Mar 12, 2012 at 23:13
  • I think you'd have to ask a Christianity.SE moderator. Answers don't appear under the original question after it has been migrated. Mar 13, 2012 at 15:24
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    hröa is body, fëa is soul, and I'm afraid it's not obvious if orcs had fëa - probably yes, but it's even worse.
    – Mithoron
    Apr 9, 2015 at 16:22

While I don't believe Lord of the Rings is supposed to be any type of Christian story, and the cross-breeding thing is probably just something added in as a culture type thing, there is scripture that I think could back this.

"Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion." Leviticus 18:23

I know orcs aren't generally thought of as "animals" but the concept could apply. Most people consider bestiality disgusting and wrong, which could be why he called it evil, but it is possible it was rooted in this scripture.

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