Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will not only be showing female orcs, but will also be featuring Orcs having “their own culture.”
These revelations were revealed by executive producer Lindsey Weber and the head of the production’s prosthetic department Jamie Wilson in an interview with IGN.
Weber made it very clear that these Orcs will be different from the Orcs seen in the Third Age and brought to life in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
She told IGN, “Well, I love Orcs. I love creature design, so I’m very happy to talk about this stuff. JD and Patrick — the showrunners — the very first page of their bible was about Orcs.They have a real passion for them, they love practical prosthetics and design, and they felt that they needed exploration given that this is the Second Age and thousands of years before the events of the Third Age.”
“It was really important to them to treat them as their own culture and explore their world on its own two legs in its own right.”
It’s unclear exactly what this means, but Tolkien did discuss them in a number of his letters. In letter 144 to Naomi Mitchison he wrote, “Orcs (the word is as far as I am concerned actually derived from Old English orc ‘demon’, but only because of its phonetic suitability) are nowhere clearly stated to be of any particular origin. But since they are servants of the Dark Power, and later of Sauron, neither of whom could, or would, produce living things, they must be ‘corruptions’.”
He continued, “They are not based on direct experience of mine; but owe, I suppose, a good deal to the goblin tradition (goblin is used as a translation in The Hobbit, where orc only occurs once, I think), especially as it appears in George MacDonald, except for the soft feet which I never believed in. The name was the form orch (pl. yrch) in Sindarin and uruk in the Black Speech.”
In letter 153 to Peter Hastings, Tolkien wrote, “Treebeard does not say that the Dark Lord ‘created’ Trolls and Orcs. He says he ‘made’ them in counterfeit of certain creatures pre-existing. There is, to me, a wide gulf between the two statements, so wide that Treebeard’s state could (in my world) have possibly been true. It is not true actually of the Orcs – who are fundamentally a race of ‘rational incarnate’ creatures, though horribly corrupted, if no more so than many Men to be met today.
He further added, “Suffering and experience (and possibly the Ring itself) gave Frodo more insight and you will read in Ch. 1 of Book VI the words to Sam. ‘The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the Orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them.’ In the legends of the Elder Days it is suggested that the Diabolus subjugated and corrupted some of the earliest Elves, before they had ever heard of the ‘gods’, let alone of God.”
Later in the letter he noted, “So in this myth, it is ‘feigned’ (legitimately whether that is a feature of the real world or not) that He gave special ‘sub-creative’ powers to certain of His highest created beings: that is a guarantee that what they devised and made should be given the reality of Creation. Of course within limits, and of course subject to certain commands or prohibitions. But if they ‘fell’, as the Diabolus Morgoth did, and started making things ‘for himself, to be their Lord’, these would then ‘be’, even if Morgoth broke the supreme ban against making other ‘rational’ creatures like Elves or Men.”
“They would at least ‘be’ real physical realities in the physical world, however evil they might prove, even ‘mocking’ the Children of God. They would be Morgoth’s greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad. (I nearly wrote ‘irredeemably bad’; but that would be going too far. Because by accepting or tolerating their making — necessary to their actual existence — even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God’s and ultimately good,” he continued.
He further explained, “But whether they could have ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’ seems a different question; and since in my myth at any rate I do not conceive of the making of souls or spirits, things of an equal order if not an equal power to the Valar, as a possible ‘delegation’, I have represented at least the Orcs as pre-existing real beings on whom the Dark Lord has exerted the fullness of his power in remodeling and corrupting them, not making them.”
In his critique on a film treatment for The Lord of the Rings that he shared in letter 210 to Forrest Ackerman, Tolkien also wrote, “Why does Z put beaks and feathers on Orcs!? (Orcs is not a form of Auks.) The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the ‘human’ form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.”
So, if they do indeed have their own culture it is one modelled after the Dark Lord and is a twisted and corrupted version of Elves.
While it’s still unclear what this culture of the Orcs will be in the Rings of Power, Weber also touched on what the Orcs have been up to saying, ““It felt appropriate that their look would be different, part of a wilder, more raw, Second Age, Middle-earth, closer to where the First Age ends. As we meet them, they’re not yet organized into armies, they’re a little more scattered and they’ve been scavenging. So it’s just a different time in their total story.”
Wilson added, “They [the Orcs] kind of disappeared. Everyone thought, ‘Yay, they’ve been wiped off Middle-earth.’ But really they regressed into the dark in small little groups, and hid away, and lived in tunnels and sort of under Middle-earth, because the only way they could hide, because of course they were hunted for so long. So this is really them coming back out as they reform under a so-called new leader who’s going to lead them forward.”
Weber would then go on to reveal the show will feature female Orcs. She said, “There’s some female Orcs that I truly loved. But there’s one Orc in particular, who’s very, very tall and strong, who has a particularly enjoyable fight with one of our Elven characters that I suspect will be, or hope will be a favorite among fans.”
Tolkien did confirm that female Orcs existed in a letter to Mrs. Munby. He wrote, “There must have been orc-women. But in stories that seldom if ever see the Orcs except as soldiers of armies in the service of the evil lords we naturally would not learn much about their lives. Not much was known.”
It seems that The Rings of Power has plans to explore the Orcs as more than “soldiers of armies in the service of the evil lords” as it appears the show will not only explore their culture, but will feature orc-women.
What do you make of the idea of The Rings of Power showing orcs having their own culture and featuring female orcs?