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There are several cases where the Orcs went on war against the other races (Elves, Humans, Dwarves) in Middle Earth, eg in the War of the Dwarves and Orcs, in the Battle of the Five Armies and in the War of the Ring.

However, there are also a few cases were the Orcs fight with each other, e.g. after Frodo encounters Shelob and is captured, the Orcs in the tower fight each other for the mithril shirt. There was also an incident during Merry and Pippin's capture, but both cases are just skirmishes or minor conflicts to say the least.

So, my question is: Are there any recorded cases of Orc/Goblin clans going to full-scale war with each other?

I'm only interested in canon, i.e. the books and any letters that Tolkien may have written.

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    That's what you do in Shadow of Mordor, but that game is not canon. – Gallifreyan May 28 '17 at 19:00
  • Indeed, I'm aware of the game and it's definitely not canon ;-) – Rebel-Scum May 28 '17 at 19:52
  • I'm not sure the Ware of the Dwarves and Orcs would count as the orcs going to war. The entire war seemed to consist of Dwarvish armies sacking known orc strongholds. – chepner May 29 '17 at 13:46
  • Indeed, but from a certain point of view, it was a major conflict between the Orcs and one the major races of Middle Earth, which is exactly what I wanted to stress. – Rebel-Scum May 29 '17 at 17:29
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No

This doesn't mean that it didn't happen though; while there's nothing to confirm it there's also nothing to deny it.

The closest to a definite statement is found in the Orcs material in History of Middle-earth 10 and reads as follows (taking up amendments):

They were capable of acting on their own, doing evil deeds unbidden for their own sport; or if Morgoth and his agents were far away, they might neglect his commands. They hated one another and often fought among themselves, to the detriment of Morgoth's plans.

This could of course be interpreted as meaning no more than the incidents already described in Lord of the Rings. It could certainly be reasonably imagined that Orcs without a dominant leader just didn't have sufficient organization for full-scale wars, but there we enter into speculation.

  • I also think this is the closest we know of the Orcs fighting amongst themselves. – Rebel-Scum May 29 '17 at 17:27

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