I was wondering why Shelob's diet consisted mainly of orcs (apart from the occasional Sauron's prisoner).

I understand that despite she was a convenient guardian for the Cirith Ungol pass, the orcs may still need to patrol the area (or close to it) , but knowing that such creature hunts there, why would the orcs get even close to her lair?

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    Common soldiers (and humans in general) tended to do dumb things throughout the history of mankind. Why would Orcs be any different? Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 13:26
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    @DVK, I'm not surprised that she gets a few of them from time to time. I'm intrigued by the "constant supply".
    – Kreann
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 13:45
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    Thiers was not to reason why. Thiers was but to do or die. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 8:03
  • @MajorStackings, you mean like in the charge of the Light Brigade?
    – Kreann
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 13:26
  • @Deion. Yes. If they were ordered to go, the Orcs would go. They knew Shelob might get them if they went, but they also knew their commanders would get them if they refused to go. Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 16:45

2 Answers 2


The specific case where they found Frodo was simple enough, as the Choices of Master Samwise explains. Orders:

'Hola! Gorbag! What are you doing up here? Had enough of war already?'

'Orders, you lubber. And what are you doing, Shagrat? Tired of lurking up there? Thinking of coming down to fight?'

'Orders to you. I'm in command of this pass. So speak civil. What's your report?'

Nonetheless they don't like being there, but despite that do use it on other occasions where it's a matter of simple expedience. But they do take appropriate precautions to avoid Shelob (from slightly later in the same chapter):

Orcs go fast in tunnels, and this tunnel they knew well; for in spite of Shelob they were forced to use it often as the swiftest way from the Dead City over the mountains. In what far-off time the main tunnel and the great round pit had been made, where Shelob had taken up her abode in ages past, they did not know; but many byways they had themselves delved about in on either side, so as to escape the lair in their goings to and fro on the business of their masters.

  • Why did Shagrat say "Hola"? (I might ask it as another question, but it's kinda short) Weren't most Middle-earth languages based on Germanic/Balto-Slavic languages? Spanish is on the Italic language tree.
    – trysis
    Commented Sep 14, 2014 at 23:31
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    @trysis - I don't think there was a Spanish influence. The Orcs in this chapter also use 'Hai! hai! yoi!' and 'Ya hoi! Ya harri hoi!' It seems to indicate just general shouting more than anything else (in keeping with the name Glamhoth (yelling-horde) used in some writings (but not in LotR)).
    – user8719
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 0:06

i think it was like cop being told to patrol watts or a soldier told to walk point... you don't like it, but those are your orders

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