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Uruk Hai from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film

An orc is a member of a race of humanoid monsters common in modern fantasy. They were first created by JRR Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings series of novels as a race of soldiers created by the Dark Lord. The word "orc" is derived from an Old English word for demon.


Orcs are humanoid creatures of comparable size to Humans, generally green, brown, or grey in color; heavily built; and normally with sharp teeth. Other features common to orcs include claws, slitted eyes, pointed ears, flat faces without protruding noses, long arms, hunched posture, an abundance of hair or hairlessness and healing abilities, though fine details vary from depiction to depiction. Orcs generally reproduce faster than humans and are usually somewhat less intelligent. Orcs are also typically antisocial and aggressive toward all other life forms, although in a few depictions they are not necessarily evil and depicted sympathetically. Orcs generally do not have sophisticated societies of their own, rarely place a high value on asthetics, and often live as small bands of Iron Age warriors. While not often well organized of their own accord, they can be unified into formidable armies (generally by a non-orc leader). Orcs are often interfertile with humans and other races to some degree.

Orcs are sometimes depicted as being created as the result of a supernatural genetic engineering with the intent of creating a race of warriors, an idea stemming from the more popular ideas that Tolkien had for the origins of the orcs having their origins with Morgoth twisting elves (even though he never settled on one origin story for them in his mythos). Despite often having a supernatural origin, orcs are generally not inherently magical creatures, and orc magicians are relatively uncommon.

Fiction with Orcs

  • The Lord of the Rings: Several different types of orcs, including orcs of the Misty Mountains, orcs of Barad Dur, the orcs of Mordor, "Snufflers", Mordor Uruks and the Uruk Hai of Isengard
  • Warcraft
  • Warhammer Fantasy
  • Discworld
  • The Salvation War

See also

  • Ork: Orcs in SPAAACE