View Full Version : Orc/Uruk shamans canon or not?

20-09-2010, 22:17
Greetings everyone.
I am currently writing a small piece of fluff regarding an Orc tribe and want to keep it as close to canon as possible.
However I want the tribe to be under the rule of a degenerate shaman since I would like to have it a more worshiping tribe over a rough, rag tag tribe.

The thing is though it's possible I believe sauron only taught the black arts to the black numenoreans and the nazgul. Are Orc shamans (I.e very minor magic i.e fury but still actual magic) possible in tolkiens world?


P.S. Also I am also curious of the easterlings and their take on magic. For since I know men can at least learn black magic. i.e Black numenoreans, could the easterlings have been taught magic somehow?

20-09-2010, 22:49
I never had the impression they were. Magic in Middle Earth is essentially just a very deep understanding of the way the universe works, requiring knowledge of much lore and I just don't see orcs as being all that into study.

That said, GW hasn't shied away from orc and goblin spell casters and there are probably some ways to cheat it.

A particularly shrewd orc may have been able to pick up some knowledge of gunpowder or something similar from watching Sauruman/Sauron/a Nazgul at some point.

While all the great rings are accounted for there are references to minor rings, considered insignificant to the wise, but possibly possessing powers that would be sufficient to impress at least lesser orcs.

Given that magic is just the natural workings of Middle Earth, it is possible that certain drugs or herbs could unlock some latent potential in orcs.

In War of the Ring the goblin shaman Druzhag has a special relationship with evil beasts such as Wargs, Bats and Spiders and that kind of thing is not limited to "the Wise" in Middle Earth (think Bard and the thrush in the Hobbit)

Gollum managed to encounter Shelob and convince her to not eat him, it is not completely out of the realm of plausibility that a particularly cunning orc or goblin did the same some time ago and maybe even managed to learn a thing or two from her after years of luring his comrades into her webs.

It is vaguely possible that some servant of Sauron's has tried to improve on orcs by giving them magic of some sort, either as an effort to curry favor with Sauron, or to build up a personal power base with which to play the black land's particularly cutthroat brand of politics.

The Balrog or some other fallen Maia possibly accidentally imbued the vermin around him with some of his essence (for example the Balrog's chief goblin pet might have developed some ability manipulating fire out of sheer necessity for survival.

So no, not exactly, but if you work hard enough on the rational you can probably come up with something to explain it.

Whitwort Stormbringer
21-09-2010, 00:17
Tolkien never explicitly mentions any orc spellcasters, and the general impression seems to be that they're not especially bright or adept at that sort of thing.

However, Gandalf does have one line in the books (I believe at the gates of Moria) where he says something to the effect of "I once knew all the spells of Middle-Earth in the tongues of orcs, elves, and men" from which you could extrapolate that there are or were, at some point, some orcish spellcasters. This could also simply mean that Gandalf knew how to cast spells in various languages, though, not that the orcs had their own spells.

Either way, it is support that you could use to justify a shaman if you wanted to. I would avoid anything as overt or direct as fireballs and lightning bolts, though, and would instead say that his magical powers are more subtle and include things like cursing his enemies, hypnosis, etc., and as ForgottenLore points out they could be derived from some lesser magical artefact.

21-09-2010, 01:31
I recall reading (in the appendices to RotK) that the orcs don't actually have a language of their own. They tend to adopt the language of whatever men they live around and Sauron requires them to use the Black speech of Mordor.

Whitwort Stormbringer
21-09-2010, 18:18
I recall reading (in the appendices to RotK) that the orcs don't actually have a language of their own. They tend to adopt the language of whatever men they live around and Sauron requires them to use the Black speech of Mordor.
True, so in the above quote Gandalf was most likely referring to the Black Tongue, even though in most situations they seem to just speak a low form of English (or the "Common Tongue" in Middle-Earth).

Personally? I don't think that quote alone is justification enough to extrapolate that there were orc spellcasters, but I've heard other people use it before as a possible justification so I thought I'd throw it out there for the OP.

Suicide Messiah
21-09-2010, 21:42
I'd imagine that any spells originating from Sauron would be in the black speech and this is what gandalf means.

Whitwort Stormbringer
21-09-2010, 22:18
I'd imagine that any spells originating from Sauron would be in the black speech and this is what gandalf means.

Maybe, although if that were the case, he probably would have said "in the tongues of men, elves, and the black speech" or something similar.

Also, perhaps of interest:

According to The Encyclopedia of Arda (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/o/orcspeech.html), orcs did devise some of their own languages even though they didn't have one to begin with - although as ForgottenLore points out these were largely derived from the surrounding men's languages with some orcish bastardizations, and were very localized meaning that orcs from different tribes may be unable to communicate. These were pretty much replaced with the Common Tongue and the Black Speech by the time of War of the Ring, so that's another possibility for what Gandalf could be referring to.

Suicide Messiah
22-09-2010, 11:11
Well we was writing a story and not a factual document. Since Gandalf's listing various races in that quote it sounds better to say orcs/goblins than the black speech.

Regardless, I think that Gandalf knowing spells in the goblin tongue implies there were spells in the goblin tongue.

23-09-2010, 12:00
I never liked the idea of orc shaman or uruk and goblin. I always regarded magic in Arda being left to either the purest most powerful beings (elves, wizards) or the most dreaded (nazgul).

I see orcs being essentially to weak willed to muster the ability to use magic, and even a much more apt reason for them to fear and worship Sauron and the Nazgul.

25-09-2010, 20:43
All of this is just opinion, and so take it for what you think it is worth.

Magic in Tolkien's middle earth seems to be something like great force of willpower, or alternately, the extension of a very powerful soul.

Examples of this can be found throughout, in things like Elves ability to be aware of things far away, something the men of Numenor could also rely on, perhaps because the greatest of them drew their line from elvish blood. This was generally described as being done by bending their will towards a certain thing or place, and being able to see across distance, or to pierce through shadows and deceptions.

It also manifests in craft. The Elves were amused by the thought that their rope was 'magic', although it possessed what we would consider magical properties. It was, rather, crafted with care and devotion by beings whose very souls were of such brilliance, that their passions and 'energies' could imbue their creations with attributes similar to their own. Thus Elvish items were wholesome in nature, and could not be born for long by creatures under the sway of the Enemy, but were not really magic.

As for the magic of Sauron and his minions, it is essentially the same, but is focused raher on deceipt and corruption, giving a fair form to dark items, to better tempt others to their dooms, or extending a fell hand over others, driving them to despair. It excels at the con game, spinning things to its advantage.

If out of that you can find a place for Orcs to have individuals who can tap into that sort of thing, then go to it and more power to you.

The Marshel
26-09-2010, 10:49
orkish shamans in wotr are unjustifiable imo, as are most all men shamans (actaully, the only one is the warpriest irrc). in sbg however the shaman blokes can actually be justified quite nicely i think.

in sbg most shamans do only 2 things, frenzy and transfix. given the effects of frenzy being simply that near by warriors are immune to courage test and ignore wounds on a 6+ this doesnt really need any magical ability at all. just imagine an orc who the other orcs THINK has magic powers literally wiping his warriors into a frenzy. It doesnt take magic to get some warriors into a riot.

as for the secondary power, well they always do this really badly, successful cast on a 5+ iirc so you can either assume they are using less magical ways of immobilize the opponent (maybe some sort of poison?) or have just a little bit of very weak magic.

so you could quite easily include a shaman in a more cannon based manner by simply making him nothing more then the guy everyone thinks has a little bit of magic, kinda like real life shamans and witch doters.