15

Okay, I know this question has come up many many times before. But let's approach one more time.

Yet this is held true by the wise of Eressea, that all those of the Quendi who came into the hands of Melkor, ere Utumno was broken, were put there in prison, and by slow arts of cruelty were corrupted and enslaved; and thus did Melkor breed the hideous race of Orcs in mockery and envy of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes

Of the Coming of Elves, The Silmarillion

Tolkien told us here that all Orcs are descended from corrupted Elves. But Elves breed sexually... I doubt that Melkor could have changed THAT much about the basic life form. Besides, what other ways are there to reproduce? Did orcs bud asexually? Seeds? If you cut off an orc's arm and plant it in the ground, would it emerge a few months later as a fully grown new orc? These may sound like silly ideas, but I'm desperately trying to come up with anything other than sexual reproduction.

Because for sexual reproduction, there have to be female orcs. And baby orcs. And nurseries to care for the babies. And some sort of hint of sexual drive from the males. Truth is, all we've ever seen anywhere are male orcs. And all they seem to complain about is food and rest, or lack thereof. Usually a motivating factor for a large conquering army in the past would be ransacking a captive village and raping the women. Yet the orcs seemingly have no desire for women, human or otherwise. It doesn't quite make sense.

However, I should note that in The Hobbit, there is clearly a mention of Orc reproduction by setting up Bolg as "the son of Azog". Not only is he a biological son, he also inheirits Azog's position and power, which implies that Orcs recognize and attach importance to biological lineage/parentage that can only arise from sexual reproduction. But by the time he writes the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's views seem to have changed, because Orcs no longer seem to have "sons" but are "bred" by an overseeing power, be it Sauron or Saruman. It is nowhere mentioned that an Orc has a family; a son or a father, or anything else. It seems rather that they were mass-bred like clones. Here's some more food for thought: why did Tolkien's description of Orc-breeding change from The Hobbit to LOTR?

Clearly seeking an immediately understandable and visual answer for this issue, Peter Jackson interpreted Uruk-hai "breeding" as Uruks emerging fully grown from sacs in the ground. The Uruks were supposedly crossbreeds between Men and Orcs, but that again doesn't make sense because we know Men reproduce sexually. How could an asexual and a sexual species "breed"?

Science can't be the answer, either, because it's not like Saruman had a fully equipped genetics lab to play around with. Unlike today, he couldn't insert Man genes into Orc genes and then grow an embryo in a test tube. Either he did it the old fashioned way (sex) or it's all MAGIC, in which case this argument is moot.

So, what do you think? Either it's sexual, in which case we have a host of problems/issues not addressed in the book, or it's MAGIC/something else which we can't fathom.

  • 16
    Are you sure all of the orcs we see are male? – Xantec May 7 '13 at 18:09
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    When a mommy orc loves a daddy orc, they decide to spend their entire lives together. They get married, and on their wedding night they love each other so much that they do something very special. – John O May 7 '13 at 18:31
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    @JohnO - don't propagate your imperialist victorian mores on advanced modern technological civilizations. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 7 '13 at 19:09
24

Silmarillion chapter 3:

For the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar

Leaves it in no doubt whatsoever. So yes, there are female orcs. And baby orclings. And orc nurseries. And all the other things that it's horrible to think about. Nobody ever said Melkor was a nice guy - eh?

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    Eeeek. Even Orc children asking "Are we there yet" while walking into Mordor? – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 7 '13 at 19:09
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    "He started it!" "No, he started it!" "No, he started it!" "It's OK, you can both have started it." "Yayyyyy!!!" – user8719 May 7 '13 at 19:20
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    Thanks for that quote. I have a theory about Orc breeding in the Hobbit vs LOTR: When Sauron was vanquished by Isildur, the Orcs must have been free to breed as they like and may have attached more importance to family and lineage. But when the dark powers arose again, the Orcs were forced to breed like animals on a farm to produce more foot soldiers, and the concept of "family" was lost. Orcs probably never know their parents or children. – Kim Rudolph May 7 '13 at 22:19
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    Unfortunately I suspect your theory is probably correct. – user8719 May 7 '13 at 22:27

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