It certainly seems that the Orcs are always evil. So what happened when their master (Sauron) was defeated at the end of Lord of the Rings? I can't really imagine that either they would be entirely killed (genocide) or alternately that the men of Gondor, etc. would learn to live with them either (coexistence).

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    The Last Ring-Bearer nicely pounds upon your genocide point... Jan 20, 2014 at 20:05
  • Also Nick Perumov's Эльфийский Клинок (Elven Blade) state genocide.
    – liftarn
    Jul 9, 2014 at 9:56
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    Peaceful coexistence is out of the question - Orcs and Men would never be able to get along. But there is an option between genocide and peaceful coexistence - however many Orcs survived the war probably returned to their old ways- lurking in the shadows, waylaying unsuspecting travelers on the roads, robbing and sometimes killing them. This would be unpleasant for the victims, but tolerable for society as a whole. We have such people today- we call them "criminals", not Orcs, but they mean the same thing, more or less. An individual Orc is basically a 4 foot tall thief.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 28, 2015 at 22:19

8 Answers 8


The Orcs were actually creatures of Morgoth, not of Sauron, being corrupted by him during the years of the Trees.

Since Morgoth dissipated his power into Arda, and since he was removed from the world at the end of the First Age, the defeat of Sauron had no effect on them so long as general survivability is concerned.

Also, there have been extended periods of time between the defeat of Morgoth and the final defeat of Sauron when Sauron was not active and could not command them. These times were as recent as TA 2950 (i.e before Sauron declared himself openly again) and were what Shagrat and Gorbag refer to in their discussion in the Two Towers:

'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.'

There's no reason to suppose that post-Sauron times would be any different from these "old times". In other words, the Orcs would resort to independent banditry rather than being an organized force.

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    More on topic, I'm not sure I entirely agree with the first paragraph. Sun-resistant Orcs were the product of Sauron, as far as I recall. The conclusion makes sense though. Jan 20, 2014 at 12:45
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    @DVK - Morgoth's Orcs fought in daylight at Unnumbered Tears ("phalanx of the guard of the King broke through the ranks of the Orcs ... and in that very time, at the third hour of morning") and the Fall of Gondolin (which began just before sunrise).
    – user8719
    Jan 20, 2014 at 12:55

Some of the orcs in Mordor were bred by Sauron:

...a race of sentient beings bred by the evil Vala Melkor (Morgoth) during the time of the Great Darkness. The Dark Lord Sauron also bred them, and later the wizard Saruman

It is stated that:

After the ultimate defeat of Sauron, Mordor became mostly empty again as the orcs inside it fled or were killed. Crippled by thousands of years of abuse and neglect, but capable of sustaining life, the land of Mordor was given to the defeated foes of Gondor as a consolation

Assuming that they lived and bred as Elves and Men do, the rest that fled would have gone "home". Those that Sauron didn't create would have probably gone to Angmar and Ered Mithrin.

No female orcs are ever mentioned by Tolkien, but in The Silmarillion he wrote that "the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men)"

They were nearly destroyed in the War of Wrath, and those that survived fled eastwards into the Mountains of Angmar and the Grey Mountains (Ered Mithrin).

We may assume that the others (the ones Sauron created), along with some of the Melkor breeds, fled and hid anywhere they could. Inside deep caves, pits or chambers of fallen fortresses, and of course the Misty Mountains (Hithaeglir).

Although the entire force of Sauron was extinguished by the end of the War of the Ring, groups of orcs were thought to continue to dwell in the Misty Mountains, but posed no threat to the lands north, south, east and west after that point.

Almost all of the orc army force was destroyed, leaving them crippled as a race since we don't know anything about the dwellings of female orcs and child orcs.

  • Without any sources to back me up, perhaps we can assume that Aragorn (as King Elessar) cleared out any remaining Orc dens during the Fourth Age. Otherwise the Orcs would continue to multiply without end.
    – RobertF
    Jan 20, 2014 at 15:41
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    @RobertF That would be improper for Aragorn. He surely kills a lot of orcs, but he didn't like to do so, and he had compassion for even creatures as wicked as orcs. Compassion is probably the most important virtue of the LOTR books, and the ultimate hero of it must be a great example. So, no, Aragorn didn' commit genocide against orcs.
    – Flamma
    Jan 20, 2014 at 18:08
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    Tolkien said that there was in fact female orcs. He said we didn't read of any of them, because we knew orcs primarily in war.
    – Flamma
    Jan 20, 2014 at 18:10
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    @RobertF - You seem to have forgotten about the primary limiting factor regarding Orc populations - no matter how much they breed, they are so prone to infighting and treachery that they kill each other off almost as quickly as new Orcs can be brought into the world. In LotR, one Orc kills another for not letting him go to sleep. While a group of Orcs from Mordor, Isengard, and Moria are being pursued by the Three Hunters and the Rohirrim, they begin fighting amongst themselves and lopping off each other's heads. Orcs love killing men, but only slightly more than they love killing each other.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 28, 2015 at 22:41
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    The answer seems derived from a wiki. It would be much better if it cited JRRT's writings.
    – Mark Olson
    Sep 6, 2020 at 12:38

It is only known that the slave Orcs of Mordor were set free. The fate of the Orcs in the Misty Mountains is not known.

Gandalf stated that he pitied the slaves of Mordor:

'You think, as is your wont, my lord, of Gondor only,' said Gandalf. 'Yet there are other men and other lives, and time still to be. And for me, I pity even his slaves.'

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The Siege of Gondor

No doubt this view was shared by Aragorn also:

... and the slaves of Mordor he released and gave to them all the lands about Lake Nurnen to be their own.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - The Steward and the King

For the Orcs that were still rebellious and attacked the Kingdoms of Men, they were slain:

For though Sauron had passed, the hatreds and evils that he bred had not died, and the King of the West had many enemies to subdue before the White Tree could grow in peace; ...

Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - Appendix A, Of Rohan

The fate of the Orcs in the Misty Mountains is not known, but presumably they stayed there and lived in independence. They were most likely slain if they attacked.

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    Are you sure those slaves were Orcs, though, not humans?
    – Adamant
    May 21, 2017 at 19:53
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    Yes: Shagrat and Gorbag are 2 good examples of Mordor Orc slavery.
    – Voronwé
    May 22, 2017 at 7:43

Orcs continue to live, hiding, until our days. Since the fall of Sauron, they lacked the strong will that was driving them, and they scattered and their numbers decreased. Also, as while Sauron was in the Middle Earth there was a shadow on the heart of free people (that led them to fear, despair or corruption), after the Dark Lord demise, all the dark creatures began to have a similar weight.

If we take the Hobbit as accurate (it isn't in some matters that changed later), orcs did not only survive, but they are responsible for many of the harmful inventions (probably bombs and other weapons).

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    I would love to see you explain (with references if possible) what you mean by "hiding, until our days" and "probably bombs and other weapons"?
    – Secko
    Jan 20, 2014 at 18:33
  • @Secko Middle Earth was originally conceived by Tolkien as the mythological history of our own world. Jan 20, 2014 at 19:27
  • @SevenSidedDie Correction, not the entire world only the continent of Europe. It was meant to be a version of English mythology based in a version of our world and on earth for the continent of Europe. To narrow it down, Tolkien concentrated only on one region of Europe itself and mostly the western part of it.
    – Secko
    Jan 20, 2014 at 19:36
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    @Secko On Hobbit chapter "Over Hill And Under Hill" is described that "It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, [...] but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far."
    – Flamma
    Jan 21, 2014 at 0:44
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    @Secko I quoted you already a text saying how they invented those machines in my first comment in this answer. Previous to that: "Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones". Also, I wouldn't call a beverage that turns a nasty open wound in the head into an ugly scar instantly "minor medicine potion" (especially not in a low magic setting). Also, in LOTR they build many advanced war machines.
    – Flamma
    Jan 21, 2014 at 21:51

The squint-eyed Southerner at Bree who was a companion of Bill Ferny was remarked by Merry to look as orc-like as some of Saruman's soldiers marching away in Flotsam and Jetsam. Likely some survived the Wrath and lived as was their wont. Shagrat was probably right.


If orcs are corrupted Elves, then they eventually faded as did the Elves who remained in Middle Earth.

If orcs are corrupted Men, then the most corrupt ones probably got killed in whatever wars and banditry they perpetuated, and the race as a whole mellowed out over time.

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    This answer could benefit from reference, to show that it's not pure speculation. May 21, 2017 at 19:55

Once the Ring is destroyed and the Orcs are no longer bound to the will of Sauron I think they'd find it difficult to find a new purpose. Orcs were notoriously poor craftsmen among other things and so I can't see them building any kind of civilisation after the War of the Ring.

My theory is that the Orcs that weren't hunted down by vengeful Men and Dwarves would have fled to either the Misty Mountains or to Angmar. I think the Men of the North would have wiped out the Orcs in Angmar as soon as they once again became a threat and so I think the last of the Orcs would have dwelt in the deep places of the Misty Mountains and been forgotten.

The last of the Orcs would struggle to find any food (besides fish) in the depths and so I believe that over the years the few Orcs remaining would wither and become like Gollum in many ways. Eventually I think they'd fade away as the Elves who remained in Middle Earth did.

It's a sad story, but like the tale of the Entwives, not all things that are lost are found. Not all that is evil can be redeemed. Catholics believe that once a soul goes to hell it cannot again be redeemed. Since the word "Orc" came from the Saxon/Norse word for demon (according to Tolkien) I believe that the Orcs might never find redemption.

Keep in mind this is only my personal theory and so it is backed with little evidence.

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    Welcome to SciFi.SE. If you could find and edit in some relevant quotes from the books it would improve your answer greatly. You may want to take the tour and view the help center
    – fez
    Sep 10, 2021 at 9:37
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    Your "theory" is interesting but some evidence would make this a better answer.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:10
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    Please add further details to expand on your answer, such as working code or documentation citations.
    – Community Bot
    Sep 10, 2021 at 13:09

I think the orcs made home in Dol Goldur or Angmar. But the silmalirion says that the orcs of Angband fled to the grey mountains.

  • 2
    You could expand this answer with relevant quotations Feb 23, 2017 at 8:28

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