67

I distinctly remember that when I read Lord of the Rings, there was a passage told from the point of view of an orc (although obviously still told in the third person).

I think the orc was complaining about how things would turn out if they lost the war, or thinking about how things changed since Sauron came back - something to do with acquiring food - but I am not quite sure.

I looked for it online for a while now, but couldn't find any mention of it. I looked through the books themselves but couldn't find it either.

Where in the Lord of the Rings was the passage told from the perspective of an orc?

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    In-universe, the Lord of the Rings was written by Frodo (possibly ended by Sam, and following up from Bilbo's account of his adventure) so it doesn't really fit to have any passage written from an orc's point of view. It's mostly an omniscient narrator, or from a hobbit's POV, as far as I can remember. The only exceptions that I can think of are Aragon, Gimli and Legolas' hunt, and a character relating events in dialogue (such as Gandalf at the Council, and Legolas recounting the Paths of the Dead). – Nicola Talbot Jul 2 '18 at 17:49
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    Although there is a first-person internal monologue from a fox! scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/35391/… – Davislor Jul 2 '18 at 18:34
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    @Wade I think Galastel's answer was what I was thinking of, a conversation between Shagrat and Gorbag. If that's not it either, then I'm afriad my suggestion wasn't quite right after all! – NathanS Jul 2 '18 at 18:48
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    Re: the fox: I've seen a theory that says that Bilbo was essentially the author in the Red Book of the content of Book I of LotR (so up to when Frodo et al get to Rivendell), and he had a more...flowery style (cf the Hobbit, which is definitely in-universe written by Bilbo). So the description of the long expected party etc is very much close to the Hobbit (with enraged spiders and all) in style. In our world, Tolkien was of course trying to write the sequel to the Hobbit, and his story and style started that way and changed over the time he wrote LotR. – David Roberts Jul 3 '18 at 8:21
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    @DavidRoberts Since Bilbo met Frodo at Rivendell and learned the whole story up to then, and had little to do afterward but write, that makes perfect sense in-universe. But yes, the parts where the author tells us what animals were thinking who obviously never could have told the author have to be read as a literary embellishment. – Davislor Jul 3 '18 at 12:17
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The internal thoughts of orcs are never described in the LotR. However, several dialogues between orcs are "overheard" by hobbits (Pippin when he and Merry are being carried to Isengard, Sam in Cirith Ungol). Those allow us a glimpse into the orcs' experience of the war.

In particular, Shagrat and Gorbag, two company leaders (one from Cirith Ungol, one from Minas Morgul) discuss the war, and make plans for the future, letting us see how they view the whole thing:

‘No, I don’t know,’ said Gorbag’s voice. ‘The messages go through quicker than anything could fly, as a rule. But I don’t enquire how it’s done. Safest not to. Grr! Those Nazgûl give me the creeps. And they skin the body off you as soon as look at you, and leave you all cold in the dark on the other side. But He likes ’em; they’re His favourites nowadays, so it’s no use grumbling. I tell you, it’s no game serving down in the city.’

‘You should try being up here with Shelob for company,’ said Shagrat.

‘I’d like to try somewhere where there’s none of ’em. But the war’s on now, and when that’s over things may be easier.’

‘It’s going well, they say.’

‘They would,’ grunted Gorbag. ‘We’ll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d’you say? – if we get a chance, you and me’ll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there’s good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses.’

‘Ah!’ said Shagrat. ‘Like old times.’

‘Yes,’ said Gorbag. ‘But don’t count on it. I’m not easy in my mind. As I said, the Big Bosses, ay,’ his voice sank almost to a whisper, ‘ay, even the Biggest, can make mistakes. Something nearly slipped, you say. I say, something has slipped. And we’ve got to look out. Always the poor Uruks to put slips right, and small thanks. But don’t forget: the enemies don’t love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we’re done too.’

This passage, and much more of the same dialogue, is from The Two Towers, book IV, chapter 10 - 'The Choices of Master Samwise.'

  • argh! beat me by 5 minutes! – Kevin Milner Jul 2 '18 at 18:18
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    Alas! Shagrat and Gorbag's camaraderie was short lived :( – Andres F. Jul 4 '18 at 14:50
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    @AndresF. well, what can you expect from orcs? :) – Galastel Jul 4 '18 at 14:55
  • Are you completely sure the internal thoughts of orcs are never described? If so, this is almost definitely what I was thinking about - must have misremembered... – Wade Jul 15 '18 at 8:16
  • @Galastel Please tell me if you fine more passages like this! (From other chapters). – Wade Jul 15 '18 at 8:17
84

I believe the passage you are talking about is from The Return of the King (book 6 specifically). Frodo and Sam have just gotten away from Cirith Ungol, and they run into a patrol and overhear the following conversation.

They went two or three miles further, and the orc-hold was hidden from sight behind them; but they had hardly begun to breathe more freely again when harsh and loud they heard orc-voices. Quickly they slunk out of sight behind a brown and stunted bush. The voices drew nearer. Presently two orcs came into view. One was clad in ragged brown and was armed with a bow of horn; it was of a small breed, black-skinned, with wide and snuffling nostrils: evidently a tracker of some kind. The other was a big fighting-orc, like those of Shagrat's company, bearing the token of the Eye.

He also had a bow at his back and carried a short broad-headed spear. As usual they were quarrelling, and being of different breeds they used the Common Speech after their fashion.

Hardly twenty paces from where the hobbits lurked the small orc stopped. 'Nar!' it snarled. 'I'm going home.' It pointed across the valley to the orc-hold. 'No good wearing my nose out on stones any more. There's not a trace left, I say. I've lost the scent through giving way to you. It went up into the hills, not along the valley, I tell you.'

'Not much use are you, you little snufflers?' said the big orc. 'I reckon eyes are better than your snotty noses.'

'Then what have you seen with them?' snarled the other. 'Garn! You don’t even know what you're looking for.'

'Whose blame's that?' said the soldier. 'Not mine. That comes from Higher Up. First they say it's a great Elf in bright armour, then it's a sort of small dwarf-man, then it must be a pack of rebel Uruk-hai; or maybe it's all the lot together.'

'Ar!' said the tracker. 'They've lost their heads, that's what it is. And some of the bosses are going to lose their skins too, I guess, if what I hear is true: Tower raided and all, and hundreds of your lads done in, and prisoner got away. If that's the way you fighters go on, small wonder there's bad news from the battles.'

'Who says there's bad news?' shouted the 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?'

'All right, all right!' said the tracker. 'I'll say no more and go on thinking. But what's the black sneak got to do with it all? That gobbler with the flapping hands?'

'I don't know. Nothing, maybe. But he's up to no good, nosing around, I'll wager. Curse him! No sooner had he slipped us and run off than word came he's wanted alive, wanted quick.'

'Well, I hope they get him and put him through it,' growled the tracker. 'He messed up the scent back there, pinching that cast-off mail-shirt that he found, and paddling all round the place before I could get there.'

'It saved his life anyhow,' said the soldier. 'Why, before I knew he was wanted I shot him, as neat as neat, at fifty paces right in the back; but he ran on.'

'Garn! You missed him,' said the tracker. 'First you shoot wild, then you run too slow, and then you send for the poor trackers. I've had enough of you.' He loped off.

'You come back,' shouted the soldier, 'or I'll report you!'

'Who to? Not to your precious Shagrat. He won't be captain any more.'

'I'll give your name and number to the Nazgûl,' said the soldier lowering his voice to a hiss. 'One of them 's in charge at the Tower now.'

The other halted, and his voice was full of fear and rage. 'You cursed peaching sneakthief!' he yelled. 'You can't do your job, and you can't even stick by your own folk. Go to your filthy Shriekers, and may they freeze the flesh off you! If the enemy doesn’t get them first. They've done in Number One, I've heard, and I hope it's true!'

The big orc, spear in hand, leapt after him. But the tracker, springing behind a stone, put an arrow in his eye as he ran up, and he fell with a crash. The other ran off across the valley and disappeared.

 

For a while the hobbits sat in silence. At length Sam stirred. 'Well I call that neat as neat,' he said. 'If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over.'
Return of the King - Chapter 2: Land of Shadow

(emphasis mine to highlight similarities to details in question)

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    I'll give your name and number to the Nazgyl. So Orcs have serial numbers? – Peter M Jul 2 '18 at 16:12
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    Maybe the number of the group he was in. Just like the Roman legions. – Mixxiphoid Jul 2 '18 at 16:21
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    There's a passage where the guards (I think its near Cirith Ungol, just outside Shelob's cave) are talking about going off on their own and raiding "like in the old days". I don't have my books atm so I can't post a proper answer, but I'm sure some one has it. – Kevin Milner Jul 2 '18 at 18:07
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    @PeterM Actually cellphone number so they can contact him. – pipe Jul 3 '18 at 8:49
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    @PeterM. Tolkien served in the British army during WW1. Even then, every soldier had a number for identification. This is where "name, rank and number" comes from. It is reasonable to suppose that Sauron had a similar system for the same reasons. (I wonder what it was like being the orc company clerk though). – Paul Johnson Jul 3 '18 at 16:43
32

The passage in question could be from The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter One, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol".

Sam had infiltrated the tower, which was full of dead orcs, to look for Frodo, when suddenly a live orc runs toward Sam, looking down.

It was no more than six paces from him when, lifting its head, it saw him; and Sam could hear its gasping breath and see the glare in its bloodshot eyes. It stopped short aghast. For what it saw was not a small frightened hobbit trying to hold a steady sword: it saw a great silent shape, cloaked in a grey shadow, looming against the wavering light behind; in one hand it held a sword, the very light of which was a bitter pain, the other was clutched at its breast, but held concealed some nameless menace of power and doom.

For a moment the orc crouched, and then with a hideous yelp of fear it turned and fled back as it had come.

In other passages, hobbits overhear orcs talking and describing their thoughts and feelings, but this is probably the only passage which directly states an orc's sensations and feelings.

25

I have not read it, so this is me speculating fairly wildly.

It is possibly you are misremembering, and the text is actually from The Last Ringbearer, by Kirill Eskov.

This book (an informal sequel to the LOTR trilogy), is based on the premise that the Tolkien account is a "history written by the victors". In Eskov's version of the story, Mordor is described as a peaceful country on the verge of an industrial revolution that is a threat to the war-mongering and imperialistic faction represented by Gandalf.

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    I have read it, it fits pretty well with the details in the question. – DonFusili Jul 3 '18 at 6:34
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    The whole of Last Ringbearer is written from basically viewpoint of an Orc. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 3 '18 at 13:44
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    Its a bit difficult to read the West led by Gandalf in The Last Ringbearer as the USA, because in TLR Gandalf wanted to preserve the traditional rustic feudal societies of Gondor, Rohan and the Shire against the industrialisation being pioneered in Mordor. Gandalf's vision in TLR is not the USA, rather it is a deconstruction of Tolkien's idealised English rural idyll. – Paul Johnson Jul 3 '18 at 16:50
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    I've read it. The original text, or the translation (or both), is just awful. – user23715 Jul 4 '18 at 4:09
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    The Last Ringbearer is wonderful, but it's not a comparison between the USSR and the USA, for the reasons @PaulJohnson explains. It's a conflict between a backwards theocracy backed by sorcery and a modern industrial & enlightened nation. (It was also written in 1999, which makes the USSR analogy even less likley). It's also a fantastic adventure! – Andres F. Jul 4 '18 at 14:53

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