Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Of Orcs

You will never find an Orc in any of my fantasies. The name is far too closely identified with Tolkien, who essentially coined it for modern use. Yes, it originated from a few brief mentions in Old English (including in Beowulf, which he knew well and translated). Those old Anglo-Saxons may have borrowed it from the Latin Orkus, a sort of demon. Tolkien was skeptical of that but I am rather inclined to believe it.

It may be noted that the name Ogre comes from that source as well, via the French. I would much prefer to use ogre in my tales, though so far only one has appeared briefly in my Donzalo's Destiny novels. Ogres there are essentially a largish variant of the the goblin/kobold fairy family. Goblins and/or Kobolds do appear also, in more than one of my novels. I prefer the latter name but they mean essentially the same thing and the same type of being.

Tolkien, remember, used goblin instead of orc, originally. So they are named in 'The Hobbit.' I can certainly understand his desire to use a term with less baggage when he got into 'The Lord of the Rings.' Everyone has preconceived ideas about just what a goblin is (which, again, is why I prefer kobold).

A final question here: are orcs (or whatever analog) inherently evil? This was a question with which Tolkien wrestled and could never quite come to a satisfactory answer. There are no inherently evil beings in my fantasies (except possibly some gods — the jury is out on them). Kobolds come good and bad, as do the Fay, ogres, trolls, dwarfs, and, of course, humans. Admittedly, some demons are essentially amoral (like Qu'orthseth in 'The Ways of Wizardry'), but we needn't explore that right now!

So, no orcs. I won't let them near my computer. If someone else wishes to borrow them from Tolkien, that is their affair. I suspect I have borrowed enough else from him already!

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