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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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John Howe - The Uruk-hai.jpg
"The Uruk-hai" by John Howe
General Information
Other namesGreat Orcs, Uruks
OriginsBred by Sauron (and later Saruman) in the late Third Age
LocationsNorthern Rohan and Isengard, Mordor
AffiliationSauron, Saruman
LanguagesVarious dialects of the Black Speech, Westron
MembersUglúk, Mauhúr
Physical Description
DistinctionsLarge build; better resistance to sunlight; faster, stronger, and smarter than other Orcs
Average heightShorter than Men
Skin colorSwarthy
WeaponryShort, broad-bladed swords, shields, bows of yew, knives
GalleryImages of Uruk-hai
"...and others, too, came out of the forest. Great Orcs, who also bore the White Hand of Isengard: that kind is stronger and more fell than all the others."
Éomer in The Two Towers, "The Riders of Rohan"

The Uruk-hai were a new breed of Orcs that appeared during the Third Age.


They were faster than normal Orcs and could travel during the day without being weakened. They were not only faster but smarter, stronger and larger, though they were still shorter than Men.

The Uruks in the service of Barad-dûr, the folk of Mordor, used the symbol of the Red Eye of Sauron. The Red Eye was also painted on their shields. At least one, a guard on the march with Merry and Pippin, had a black knife with a long saw-edged blade, used by Pippin to cut through the ropes on his hands. They were long-armed and crook-legged.

The Uruk-hai of Saruman the White used an S elf-rune wrought in white metal on the front of their iron helms. It was clear this "S" stood for Saruman, because their shields had a small white hand (the symbol of Saruman) centered on a black field. Aragorn commented that their gear was not in the manner of other Orcs at all. Instead of curved scimitars, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, in length and shape as those of Men. Although they did not like the light of the Sun, they could withstand it better than other orcs. Saruman promised them man-flesh as a treat.


Treebeard openly wonders if they are Orcs that have been somehow "improved", or Men that were corrupted with Orc-like qualities, or if they were indeed a blending of Men and Orcs, an act which Treebeard considered to be "a black evil".

The race of uruks, described as "black orcs of great strength", first appeared out of Mordor in the last years of the Stewardship of Denethor I. In T.A. 2475 they conquered Ithilien and destroyed the city of Osgiliath, but they were defeated by Steward Boromir later.[1] The following years, Orcs of Mordor and Uruks continued to infest Ithilien, further deserting it by T.A. 2901.[2]

Some Uruks were secretly in the service of Saruman and were seen among the Orcs of the Misty Mountains who raided Rohan.[3]

In the War of the Ring, these Uruks of Mordor referred to Sauron as the Great Eye, and Grishnákh was their captain. These were evidently of Sauron's breeding, but it is not clear whether or not these Uruks should be regarded as identical with the Uruk-hai, who could be a further 'improvement' to the race achieved by Saruman in the war.

Orc Assault by Darek Zabrocki

The Uruk-hai made up a large part of Saruman's army, together with the Dunlendings and other Mannish enemies of Rohan. Saruman's army of Uruk-hai fought against King Théoden of Rohan and his people at Helm's Deep.

He aided them with his wizardry as well: when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas followed the party of Uruks who kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Saruman's will caused weariness of the heart for the pursuers and lent speed to the Orcs[source?]. Uglúk led the Uruk-hai of Isengard, and since they were the strongest he felt that he led the hobbit march as well, insisting on going back by way of Isengard. This was the group that slew Boromir.


The name Uruk-hai has the element uruk, which is a Black Speech word meaning "Orc".[4][5][6][7] (For related words in other languages, see Orcs in Tolkien's languages.) The element -hai, also present in Olog-hai and Oghor-hai, means "folk, people".

Portrayal in adaptations[edit]

In both The Lord of the Rings (1978 film) and The Return of the King (1980 film), Uruk-hai are portrayed identically as (and without distinction to) the Orcs.

1988: J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth:

Uruk-hai at Isengard in J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth
The Uruk-hai are portrayed as figures with purple armor and a shield.

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, Saruman appears to be the only one who created the Uruks. They are shown in the movie as being released from a kind of membrane in the mud deep under Isengard (special commentary on the DVD edition explained that they were trying to base the scene on an early description of Tolkien's that Orcs "worm their way out of the ground like maggots"). In the movies Uruk-hai are described as a crossbreed between Orcs and "goblin-men". This is presumably a reference to the Goblin-men and Half-orcs in Saruman's service, creatures that blend the traits of Orcs and Men. These Uruks are sent after the Fellowship, and their leader is Lurtz, a movie-only character.
His Uruks included Pikemen, Swordsmen, Archers, and Berserkers. The Berserkers are the shock troops. When they were first spawned a helmet filled with blood was placed on their heads, so that they were filled with a bloodlust for their enemies. They carry doubly-bent swords, and forgo any armour in lieu of agility, slaying foes left and right, completely devoid of fear and pain. Pikemen, as the name suggests, carry long pikes, while archers carry crossbows. Swordsmen wield a straight iron sword, hooked at the tip, and deadly in an Uruk's strong grip. They also use bladed shields, as seen in Amon Hen during Aragorn's fight against Lurtz.
The Uruks were also very efficient using siege equipment, and had been trained to use crossbows with deadly accuracy. The Uruks, like the lesser Orcs, seemed to not care of each other's presence, shown by the battering ram wielders at Helm's Deep, barging each other off of the thin bridge. The Uruks also hated the Orcs, believing they were a lesser being and often rioting, e.g. in the tower of Cirith Ungol when Shagrat and Gorbag argued over Frodo's vest of Mithril and starting a mass war within the tower. The Uruks seem also to be able to control natural urges more than the Orcs, e.g. the Orcs demanded to eat the Hobbits they had captured, while the Uruks were protective. It would seem the only way Orcs were better than Uruks is in treachery, lying and being devious. The Uruks are also not seen to ever ride a mount, possibly due to size, weight and build (the Wargs which attacked the Rohan migration were ridden by trained Orcs).

2002: EA's The Two Towers:

Uruk-hai appear as enemies in the "Battle of Helm's Deep" and "Fangorn Forest" missions, retaining the movie appearance.
Uruk-hai in the cancelled video game The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard

2004: The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring:

Uruks become available after a storyline mission in which Saruman manages to perfect his creation.

2004: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth:

Uruks compose most of the units of Isengard faction: swordsmen, pikemen, crossbowmen, in addition to Uruks operating siege engines are available, following the movie appearance.

2006: The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II:

Most of Uruk-hai units from the first game return with little if any changes in behavior.

2007: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Multiple Uruks are used by the Enemy in different parts of Middle-earth. In addition to White Hand Uruks, notable are the Angmar Uruks and the Black Uruks from Dol Guldur, all sporting a variety of different appearances. Players can play as Uruks as part of the "Monster Play" game option.

2009: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest:

Uruk-hai appear as enemies during the Battle of Helm's Deep.

2014: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor:

Uruks replace the role of the lesser Orcs, making up the force stationed in Mordor.

See also[edit]


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion", "The Stewards"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl", "The Kings of the Mark"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix C. Elvish names for the Orcs", pp. 389-91
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 47