Orcs hated humans except when it was dinner time.

Humans hated orcs especially around dinner time.

Saruman, the creator of the Uruk-Hai, promises them they will taste manflesh.

And the regular orcs really like fresh meat.

Yet both orcs and humans (Haradrim and Easterling) fought for Sauron in the Battle of Pelennor Fields. And both Uruk-hai orcs and humans (Dunlendings) fought for Saruman.

I can't see orcs and humans fighting side-by-side one day and expecting to be friendly to each other when the fighting is done. Something like: "The war is over! We orcs won! It's feeding time! Spear the allies and roast them on a spit!" Nah, just don't see humans wanting to go along with that.

Did the orcs and humans get along during the War of the Ring when they fought on the same side?

As usual, I prefer answers with specific quotes from the books, but I will accept quotes from the movies. My policy is that "Quotes get Votes", meaning if you provide citations and exact quotes for your answers instead of unsupported speculation, I am more likely to vote for your answer.

  • 4
    "Because Sauron/Saruman said they should fight together, and he's the boss"
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 22, 2017 at 11:46
  • 8
    To be fair, it seems like most orcs don't even like other orcs. The fact that Sauron got so many of them to work together is probably just as unbelievable as him getting them to work with humans. Feb 22, 2017 at 17:29
  • If you prefer answers with quotes from the books, why include those film-specific quotes about meat and manflesh? It confuses the issue.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 23, 2017 at 2:13
  • @Randal'Thor I updated the post to say I will accept answers from the movies too. Even so, I still prefer answers from the books because the books are the original source.
    – RichS
    Feb 23, 2017 at 8:42
  • Because despite what most fantasy works makes us believe, no war is really between races. Wars are between factions. A good example is (to avoid spoilers) a well known sci-fi series from the beginning of this century, which starts one way and ends up the other.
    – xDaizu
    Dec 21, 2017 at 9:45

2 Answers 2


Short answer:

Because of many different factions among the orcs, they were held together by brutal commanders.
These commanders made sure the "cannon fodder" did not interfere with the more loyal evil men.
The men allied with Sauron had their own will, and while having only disgust for orcs, were a lot more disciplined and obeying.

Having the same goal and same supreme chief helps a lot in ignoring your "allied-but-hated" neighboor.

Truth is, orcs and men were not really "side by side", but rather batallions next to another, until the battle begun.

Long answer:

Sauron's army

It is true, orcs have a long history of internal fightings. They squabble over petty things, as can be remembered in Cirith Ungol's tower (two factions fighting over the mithril chainmail) or when the Uruk-hai Uglùk is "putting some sense" into those "little swine" of Red Eye orcs, as to which direction go with Merry and Pippin prisonners.

In time of no immediate threat, the orcs mostly stick together with brutal command and show of force.
We can read Tolkien's thoughts from Frodo's view, just after they narrowly escape a hunting party, mainly because the two orcs taunt each other and "the tracker" finally kills the other orc:

'Well, I call that neat as neat,' [Sam] said. 'If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over.'
'Quietly, Sam,' Frodo whispered. 'There may be others about. We have evidently had a very narrow escape, and the hunt was hotter on our tracks than we guessed. But that is the spirit of Mordor, Sam; and it has spread to every corner of it. Orcs have always behaved like that, or so all tales say, when they are on their own. But you can't get much hope out of it. They hate us far more, altogether and all the time. If those two had seen us, they would have dropped all their quarrel until we were dead.'
Return of the King, Book Six, The land of the Shadow (ch. 2)

In time of war, they are still directed by commanders, although their hate for "human rebels" and "humankind" in general is more than strong enough:

[...] new strength came now streaming to the field out of Osgiliath. There they had been mustered for the sack of the City and the rape of Gondor, waiting on the call of their Captain[, the Nazgûl King]. He now was destroyed; but Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul had flung them into the fray.
Return of the King, Book Six, The battle of the Pelennor fields (ch. 6)

Interestingly enough, in LotR, the term "rebel" is almost exclusively applied to orcs' behaviour, or when describing Sauron's minions view for their ennemies:

(Uglùk) 'No, we must stick together. These lands are dangerous: full of foul rebels and brigands.' The two towers, Book Three, The Uruk-hai (ch. 3)

'[...] small wonder there’s bad news from the battles.'
'Who says there’s bad news?' shouted the [orc] soldier.
'Ar! Who says there isn’t?'
'That’s cursed rebel-talk, and I’ll stick you, if you don’t shut it down, see?'
Return of the King, Book Six, The land of the Shadow (ch. 2)

So on the orc side, they "suffer" the presence of humans through harsh command and as long as they also are on their side.

As for the human side, I've found so far little to no evidence of the evil's men point of view on the orcs.
Seeing however the visceral contempt and disgust for orcs that the good humans have, it's a very safe bet to assume Haradrim, or any Easterlings or Southrons in general, would feel close to or the same for the orcs.

Saruman's army

The Uruk-hai seem to be the main bulk or Saruman's army: he had a few loyal humans, some coming from the Rohirrim, but not enough to make an army.
He mostly deceived and recruited mountain men, ancient and bitter ennemies of the Rohirrim:

'Yet there are many that cry in the Dunland tongue,' said Gamling.
'I know that tongue. It is an ancient speech of men, and once was spoken in many western valleys of the Mark. Hark! They hate us, and they are glad; for our doom seems certain to them. “The king, the king!” they cry. “We will take their king. Death to the Forgoil! Death to the Strawheads! Death to the robbers of the North!” Such names they have for us. Not in half a thousand years have they forgotten their grievance that the lords of Gondor gave the Mark to Eorl the Young and made alliance with him. That old hatred Saruman has inflamed. They are fierce folk when roused.'
The two towers, Book Three, Helm's Deep (ch. 7)

So how did both of them go together?

Mostly because they shared a common goal: destroy the Rohirrim. After that, Saruman being reckless, it can be assumed he didn't really intended on giving anything to the "Dunland people":

A great many of the hillmen had given themselves up; and they were afraid, and cried for mercy.
[...] 'Help now to repair the evil in which you have joined,' said Erkenbrand. '[...] Many of you have got death as the reward of your trust in him; but had you conquered, little better would your wages have been.'
[...] The men of Dunland were amazed; for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan were cruel and burned their captives alive.
The two towers, Book Four, The road to Isengard (ch. 8)

About human flesh

There's only one mention of human flesh eating, and it's done by Uglúk praising his master Saruman for this. However it is the only non-violent (or more precisely "not deadly") close encounter that the heroes experience. From all the other verbal encouters with orcs that are not Uruk-hai, they seem to be "only" sadistic and cruel killers.

For all we know, orcs are omnivorous, with certainly a fondness for meat, as Merry and Pippin were tossed dry bread and meat when being prisoner. Uruk-hai being a special breed of orcs, they could have received some "experimental" trainings by Saruman.

It is worth noting that cannibalism (orc meat) is either considered the lowest grade of meat when short of anything, or a sin, as we see Grishnákh, Sauron's minion, answer Uglúk's insult:

'Swine is it? How do you folk like being called swine by the muck-rakers of a dirty little wizard? It’s orc-flesh they eat, I’ll warrant.'
The two towers, Book Three, The Uruk-hai (ch. 3)

  • 4
    "canon fooder" ? O_o Would a "canon fooder" be somebody who makes food for authoritative sources?
    – RichS
    Feb 23, 2017 at 1:03
  • Corrected :) In french, the expression is literally "meat for canon", so I thought "yeah, canon fooder must make some sense !"
    – Tjafaas
    Feb 23, 2017 at 8:25
  • 3
    I think you meant to say "cannon fodder". There is a big difference between canon and cannon. One is an authoritative source. The other expels cannon balls at high speeds. They are both known to shoot off at the mouth. :-)
    – RichS
    Feb 23, 2017 at 8:28
  • 1
    I'll try to keep that in mind next time, and nice pun there ;)
    – Tjafaas
    Feb 24, 2017 at 22:56
  • I like the answer. Good analysis with lots of quotes from original sources to back it up. Well done!
    – RichS
    Feb 28, 2017 at 4:58

Some background

When the Fathers of Men awoke in Hildórien, in the east of Middle-earth, they were found by Melkor and many were corrupted. This is where it began. Melkor had hosts of men fight alongside his orcs before the end of the First Age. A few of the men liberated themselves and moved into the west, consisting of the House of Bëor, the Haladin and the House of Hador, and became the Edain. Tolkien Gateway seem to suggest that the majority of Men that first joined Morgoth came for around the sea of Rhûn and later became known as the Easterlings.

Some say the Disaster happened at the beginning of the history of our people, before any had yet died ... But we were in haste, and we desired to order things to our will ... Then one appeared among us, in our own form visible, but greater and more beautiful; and he said that he had come out of pity.
Morgoth's Ring - The Tale of Adanel

The reason for the Haradrim joining Sauron is described in Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

In the east and south well nigh all Men were under his dominion, and they grew strong in those days and built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and aimed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly, for he surrounded his abode with fire.
The Silmarillion

Why they fought together

Sauron and Morgoth's orcs were unable to truly do anything by free will. Their will was dominated by Sauron and Morgoth and they were effectively controlled. When the Haradrim and Easterlings gave their allegiance to Sauron, Sauron likely command his orcs to fight along side them. But Sauron could also have prevented them from having to interact too much by having them live separately and attack from different points. I don't think they got along, as the orcs supposed hatred for Men, and Men likely thought of Orcs as lesser beings.

Again, work in progress and will update ASAP

  • A good answer, but the question referenced Saruman. The Men who fought for him were the Dunlendings, who had a grudge against Rohan.
    – LAK
    Feb 22, 2017 at 21:39
  • @LAK let me get at it tomorrow, I'm aware of the Dunlendings grudge against Rohan, will fix my answer tomorrow including the history of their conflict and more on why they fought together
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 22, 2017 at 21:43
  • @Edlothiad Did you intend to update your answer? I am waiting to see if you make any further changes before I decide whether to declare either answer as winner.
    – RichS
    Feb 26, 2017 at 22:20
  • @RichS my answer could only supplement the above, tjafaas' answer is far more complete than mine
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 27, 2017 at 0:09
  • @Edlothiad I wanted to be fair to you by giving you more time to finish your answer, but if you think the other answer is better, I will just declare that one.
    – RichS
    Feb 27, 2017 at 0:11

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