User:Mthomas/Lifespan of Orcs

From Tolkien Gateway
Orc by Frithjof Spangenberg

Tolkien's writings have risen many questions about the lifespan of Orcs.

In The Silmarillion it is mantioned that Orcs were Elves tortured and altered by Morgoth. If Orcs were in fact Elves at their core, this could perhaps mean that they were also immortal — a fact which, if true, would seem inconsistent with Tolkien's treatment of Orcs, though the books do not openly confirm or deny it. If Orcs indeed were immortal, it holds no doubt that their fëar would not be allowed reincarnation by Mandos, if they even answered the calling. Most Orcs would probably fear the calling of Mandos, and therefore would see their fëar diminished to evil spirits. These may have been some of the evil spirits occasionally described in the books, such as the spirit which tempted Gorlim of Barahir's company, or the Barrow-wights.

There is some evidence for the immortality, or otherwise long life of Orcs in The Two Towers: Gorbag and Shagrat, during the conversation which Sam overheard, mention the "Great Siege" of the Last Alliance. It is possible to interpret from the sentence that they were actually there and remembered it themselves: an event which lay millennia in the past. Another interpretation of this conversation is that this "Great Siege" could have instead been merely the current siege ongoing at Minas Tirith or that they were refereing to the seige out of a knowlege of history. This is consistent with a statement made in the "Myths Transformed" essay of Morgoth's Ring that the orcs had short lifespans in relation to the Numenoreans.

Another hint for a long livespan, respectively immortality, lies in the story of two of the most famous Orc-chieftains: Azog and Bolg. Bolg, being the son of Azog, was the chieftain of the Orcs who attacked Erebor in the Battle of Five Armies in T.A. 2941. Azog himself was killed in the Battle of Azanulbizar in T.A. 2799, so Bolg was aproximately 150 years old.