What is is your response to Dan Sanchez’s article about the World of Warcraft movie and how the movie treats the orc race versus how Tolkien does it?
Sanchez mentions Game of Thrones author George RR Martin’s criticism of how Tolken handled the Orc Race:
“The war that Tolkien wrote about was a war for the fate of civilization and the future of humanity, and that’s become the template. I’m not sure that it’s a good template, though. The Tolkien model led generations of fantasy writers to produce these endless series of dark lords and their evil minions who are all very ugly and wear black clothes. But the vast majority of wars throughout history are not like that.”
Sanchez compares it to WWI War Propaganda about Germans.
George RR Martin’s books don’t have a single role model character, and life is not like that either, so it is funny to hear him complain about that. But also, you must realize that Tolkien was writing an allegory if a sort, with the orcs representing the devils. And if you read Tolkien’s appendixes you will see that orca are actually elves twisted by Saurons master Morgarath, so in reality, they are not even a real race.
Yes, Tolkien’s orcs are one-dimensional and unredeemable. I’ve always thought of it, though, more as a convention that allows the reader to passionately root for good and wish to conquer evil, because they are portrayed more clearly. Discerning which things are good is much more difficult in real life, and other literature is adept at helping us explore that. But I think Tolkien’s story is meant to serve other purposes—not so much exploring the defining contours of evil, so much as encouraging us to be willing to fight it. I think it’s the same reason behind the appeal of video games where you fight aliens, such as Halo.
I think Brad’s observation that Tolkien really hated what industrial technology could do to people and the environment is a key to understanding orcs. When you take something wise, beautiful, and in balance – like an elf – and subject it to technology what you get is something which has been stunted, twisted, and degenerated – an orc. Orcs are the animal version of what Saruman is doing to Fangorn forest. In this way they serve as a warning about what could happen to humans as well.