Orcs

“There are fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.

And so we move on to our next mystical creature / race:  Orcs.  The bane of existence to any good and noble adventurer, the orc has as its basis, German folklore but it is again to JRR Tolkien that we owe the culture and the modern perception of the orc or ork, depending on which way you would like to  spell it.

Folklore

In German folklore, the orc is a demon from the Tyrol region of Austria.  He lives in the mountains, in caves or in the valleys around the mountains.  At times the folklore of the alpine people of this region and as far south as Italy, made the orc a kind house spirit, a denizen of the forest that might cause poor hunting for the day and even as a trickster of these ancient people.  This folklorish version of the orc seems to not have been all that bad.  In fact it is odd that Tolkien, who gave us our most in depth version of the orc and orc society, made him the evil monster that the orc has become.

Tolkien

Tolkien set the orc as one of the evil races in his works of fiction.  Much like the rest of the Tolkien compendium, the orc has an interesting history.  It is assumed from his writings that the Middle-Earth orcs are descended from the tortured elves that Melkor captured.  He attempted to create a mockery of the elf to become their bitter enemy.

Yet this is held true by the wise of the 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 the Orcs in envy and mockery of the Elves, of whom they were afterwards the bitterest foes. – JRR Tolkien

The Tolkien orc is humaniod, green to greyish in color, most of them are hulking, muscled beasts and they are very aggressive and combatative.  They are at constant war and know only destruction.  It is mentioned, that they destroy to the extent that they cannot create anything.

Other Pop-Culture

Warhammer – This might be my favorite incarnation of the orc.  Whether they are just using melee weapons and stones or you have Shoota Boys carrying guns, the orcs in Warhammer are always good for a laugh and they are fun to play.  Especially in the 40,000 version of the game when you can upgrade the Boss Orc, the amount of destruction they can cause is substantial.

Warcraft – In the old standby RTS and in the MMORPG, the orc is the main adversary of The Alliance and in particular of the human.  As the game series has progressed through the years, the orc has changed form being a race of monsters to been a tribal society with ties to the land and to each other.  They are powerful warriors but they are also shamans and powerful magic users.

D&D – This wa sof course, my first introduction tot he orc.  I can remember the GM of one of the first games that I ever played trying to discribe the orcs that were attacking.  I think he used the term ‘green skinned Conan’s.’  To me I made Arnold green and saw him charging across the field at my party and my poor little level 1 Halfling Rogue.  Terrified, I had my character draw his dagger and prepare ofr the onslaught.  After realizing that in the game of Dungeons and Dragons, that orcs are not that bright, I changed tactics.

Orcs – I have to say they are still one of my favorite mystical creatures and races.