From the Lord of the Rings Fandom wiki article on Orcs:

Before Oromë first found the Elves at Cuiviénen, Melkor kidnapped some of them and cruelly tortured them, twisting them into the first Orcs.

From the Lord of the Rings Fandom article on Elves:

Elves are (generally) unusually beautiful in face and body. There is little physical difference between males and females except that which is required for reproduction. They have far better vision and hearing than Men. They also have skills and abilities beyond what is possible for Men, and many can craft seemingly magical objects. In The Silmarillion, it is mentioned that the Elves are indeed closest in kin to the Ainur, given that Elves possess ethereal grace and various powers. Elves are light of foot, can travel long distances without leaving tracks, and often can walk lightly across snow where the boots of Men would sink. They do not require sleep, but are able to enter a waking meditative state to regain their strength which means they can be exhausted and tire. Although the Elves are more resistant to adverse environments and lack of food than Men, they can succumb to them thus Elves do require sustenance.

This answer states that Orcs did not retain the elves immortality. But as Orcs were (or at least some) created from elves, have they retained any of the other features of the elves?

  • 13
    Despite the bald assertion in that fandom entry, it is far from settled that Orcs came from Elves. The question you link and its answers has a useful discussion. Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 9:38
  • 4
    I guess they retained the pointy ears!?
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 9:43
  • 5
    I can think of two points. One is that orcs reproduced in the same way as the children of Illuvatar. The other is that it is not impossible that they had long lives/immortality. In Mordor, Grishnakh and Gorbat reminisced about the old days, which might refer to events of the Second Age (although that is far from conclusive). Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 11:03
  • 8
    Keen fashion sense. Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 12:09
  • 5
    @SillybutTrue Not only keen but cutting edge ;)
    – Shade
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


It is difficult to prove a negative, but the answer appears to be that there is nothing demonstrably elvish about orcs in Tolkien's published novels. I base this conclusion not just on my own recollections (having read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many, many times and The Silmarillion at least thrice), but also on the fact that there is no clear explanation for the origin of the orcs. It is well known that Tolkien never decided on a satisfactory explanation for how the orcs originated. His difficulties were moral and eschatological, since in his conception of the cosmology of Arda, Melkor did not have the power to change the fundamental nature of the children of Ilúvatar.

A result of the author's indecision on this question is that there is no truly satisfactory explanation of the origin of the orcs, and there thus seems to be no dispositive evidence for any of their proposed origins. In particular, there are no definite indications that the orcish races are derived from elvish stock. Their physical descriptions do not match up with those of any of Tolkien's elvish races; the orcs are often described as having sallow complexion and awkward, gangrel builds—most unlike the graceful elves. While the elves typically seem to be tall, the orcs come in all sizes, from the massive bodyguards of Bolg, larger than most men, to smaller types barely bigger than hobbits.

Of course, the most significant difference between Elves and the other Free Peoples of Middle-earth is that elves are immortal. They do not die of old age, and even if they are killed, their souls remain forever within Arda. Readers have noted occasional hints that orcs may live much longer than humans. The best known example is probably Shagrat and Gorbag discussing the good old days in The Two Towers, but there is nothing there that indicates that they are actually old enough to remember the Second Age. Tolkien himself opined that orcs were not immortal, so that evidently was his view on the matter at some point (which would seem to preclude the orcs being merely corrupted elves).

  • 1
    I wonder how Shagrat and Gorbag even managed to live for so long. Even were they true immortals, orcs tends to fight one another if they have no-one else to fight -- and even when they do, as evidenced by multiple scenes in both novel and movies. They do end up in a mortal fight. So how would they even last for years, let alone centuries, without getting killed by some other orc?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 21:36

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