So, in this question, I saw that it was mentioned that all the races of Middle-earth, save the Elves, fought both for and against Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance.

The Silmarillion states:

All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They alone were undivided and followed Gil-galad. Of the Dwarves few fought upon either side; but the kindred of Durin of Moria fought against Sauron.

Presumably, the race of Orcs would have been included within that category of "all living things". What, if anything, do we know about the Orcs who fought against Sauron? Do we know anything about what happened to them afterwards? Could they have been the ancestors of the unaffiliated goblins who appeared in The Hobbit?

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    This is fabulous. I wonder if Tolkien himself was aware that Orcs, Trolls, Dragons, (Mewlips?), etc. fit in that category?
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 15:14
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    Presumably there were evil eagles too, surprisingly. Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 16:00
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    @nick012000 well Saruman had birds working for him too
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 16:50
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    Well obviously this can't be read literally. I doubt there were good balrogs, spawns of Ungoliant and Sackville-Baggins fighting there.
    – Amarth
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 17:12
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    @T.E.D. Orcs definitely existed at this time - their origin was repeatedly revised by Tolkien, but even the latest possible origin was when Morgoth returned to Middle-Earth before the rising of the Sun (so two Ages before this battle). The published Silmarillion has them being created from Elves (as you say) in Utumno, before the Elves ever went to Valinor (vastly earlier). Tolkien's later notes suggest an origin from Men - likely corrupted by Sauron while Melkor was captive - but this requires an early Awakening of Men that never made it into the stories. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 6:12

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, there is no reference anywhere to Orcs fighting against Sauron in this battle, or any actual battle - but it is stated in one of the Myths Transformed essays (The History of Middle-earth vol. X: "Morgoth's Ring") that

Morgoth not Sauron is the source of Orc-wills. Sauron is just another (if greater) agent. Orcs can rebel against him without losing their own irremediable allegiance to evil (Morgoth).

However, this essay is one of many contradictory conceptions of the origin and nature of Orcs - and one that apparently was not "final" or ultimately accepted - and thus can't be treated as canon.

But at least at one point Tolkien considered it possible for Orcs to "rebel" against Sauron in some sense - but whether that just means escaping from his control (as Gorbag and Shagrat discuss the possibility of in The Lord of the Rings) or actually fighting against Sauron isn't clear.

"Every kind" is not clearly defined so may not need to be taken as a clear statement that Orcs did fight on the side of good in this battle. "Kinds" might be as broad as "Ainur/Spirits*, Elves, Men, Dwarves, Beasts, Birds".

*Sauron was a Maia, and the Ents and Eagles are apparently spirits of some sort per "Of Aulë and Yavanna" in The Silmarillion.

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    Orc battled Orc frequently for relatively trivial reasons, as when they fought one another over Frodo's gear in Minas Morgul. If one tribe of Orc battled another, let's say in the Misty Mountains, and only one of these tribes were allied with Sauron, that could count as fighting against Sauron without aiding Men or Elves directly. Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 19:02
  • Gil-Galad is associated with the War of the Last Alliance, so the quotation is presumably a reference to that event, in the Second Age. It's interesting that Elves were originally dwellers in the twilight, who dwelt in the starlight of the Elder Days, whilst Orcs were creatures of the Great Darkness, also in the Elder Days. Orcs were afraid of light, Elves were not: Morgoth created the Great Darkness to combat the new lights of the Elves, the Sun and Moon. And Elves and Orcs do seem to be two sides of the same coin, for they were the main protagonists of Morgoth's war, and on opposite sides.
    – Ed999
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 0:45
  • @Invisible Trihedron: Yes, fighting in the Misty Mountains seems very plausible (though I think in the context of the essay the reference may be to Gorbag/Shagrat's discussion about escape). But a battlefield with Sauron directly involved (as in the Last Alliance) seems much less likely - I doubt Orcs could oppose his will in that situation. The direct presence of Sauron was very daunting to all but the greatest, and Sauron had some kind of 'telepathic' control over Orcs given their helplessness at his final fall/the Ring's destruction. Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 6:04
  • @Ed999: The "Great Darkness" is I think somewhat ambiguous (and more so because Tolkien planned to revise the Silmarillion mythology to have the Sun and Moon pre-date the Trees, with the Darkness being Morgoth's volcanic smoke - but never put this into the actual stories, just notes for revision). But in the context of LOTR, which was written before that, it seems to mean the era when Melkor/Morgoth was present in Middle-Earth, and especially before the Sun was created (at the time of Utumno, and again between his return to Middle-Earth and the first Sunrise e.g. the First and Second Battles). Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 6:07
  • @cometaryorbit: I appreciate the information, because I've never fully understood all the twists and turns which the conflicting accounts of the Elder Days contain! I'm not sure that we can base very much on scattered notes about possible revisions that were never written. All I meant is that the Orcs were created - apparently - during the Great Darkness. Which was why they feared daylight. As a creature intended as an opposite to Elves, it is slightly odd that the Elves flourished in the twilight, when the darkness was fearless.
    – Ed999
    Commented Sep 11, 2021 at 7:50

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