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  1. #1
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    Question Goblins vs. Orcs

    Perhaps some of you may shed light on the distinction (or lack of) that Tolkien makes between goblins and orcs.

    It has been a while since I read The Hobbit, but i have recently started re-re-re-re-reading the LoTR.

    In The Hobbit, I dont recall much talk about orcs at all, he seems to focus on goblins. In The Fellowship, he seems to interchange between goblins and orcs when talking about the same creatures.

    Is this just something that happened because the "tale grew in the telling?" I have not read anything outside of the Canon, so perhaps his other works and letters shed light on this?

  2. #2

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/g/goblins.html
    A name almost synonymous with Orcs. There is some debate about how closely the the two terms are related to one another, and indeed it could be argued that they both effectively relate to the same thing.
    The following quote from the foreword to The Hobbit sheds some light on this: "[The word 'Orc'] occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds.)' The fact that the larger kinds are given their own special word might suggest that goblins tend to be smaller Orcs, but the evidence on this point is inconclusive.
    The word 'goblin' is also used occasionally and indiscriminately in The Lord of the Rings; it never occurs in the The Silmarillion.

    Pretty much the same thing, people tend to describe the smaller of the race goblins, and the larger orcs.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Yes, that's about the size of it. Goblins and Orcs are of the same breed, that's why they're all classified as 'Orc-kind' in the game. Goblins are just the runtier ones of the lot, which I don't think is ever explained or really needs an explanation as there are different breeds of most types of creatures.

    While I don't have my copy of The Hobbit handy there is a bit where they've been captured by the Great Goblin and Tolkien says something about the 'bigger goblins, the orcs of the mountains'. If I remember to I'll post the actual quote some time later.
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  4. #4

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    in my head, ive sort of come up with the idea that while orcs were a twisted form of elves, goblins may have been a twisted form of dwarves. theyre shorter, they live in caves and mountains, and they seem to have a particular beef with dwarves.

    of course, that is entirely unsupported by lore,

  5. #5
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    As far as I know, "goblin" is just what the Hobbits call the race that is much more commonly known as "orcs" by everybody else. Dialect or regional variation, if you will.

  6. #6
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by newwwwb View Post
    in my head, ive sort of come up with the idea that while orcs were a twisted form of elves, goblins may have been a twisted form of dwarves. theyre shorter, they live in caves and mountains, and they seem to have a particular beef with dwarves.
    Ideally, they should all have been living in caves and mountains, whether referred to as orcs or goblins. Remember that most of the twisted creatures of Middle-earth couldn't stand the light of the sun. Hence the special quality of Saruman's "Fighting Uruk-hai".

    Quote Originally Posted by Fornost View Post
    As far as I know, "goblin" is just what the Hobbits call the race that is much more commonly known as "orcs" by everybody else. Dialect or regional variation, if you will.
    This is more the way I see it. It's a bit like hobbits referring to 'magic', when the elves think of the same processes as Art. It's just alternate terminology (perhaps associated with a differing cultural viewpoint) for the same thing.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Thanks, I think that clears it up as far as the lore goes

    However, it seems the game makes much more of a physical distinction, though.

  8. #8

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    The game does indeed although it's very much along the lines of the "big ones" and "small ones" idea. I daresay much of the reason for this was to help the developers create as large a pool of MOBS as possible.
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  9. #9
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by newwwwb View Post
    in my head, ive sort of come up with the idea that while orcs were a twisted form of elves, goblins may have been a twisted form of dwarves. theyre shorter, they live in caves and mountains, and they seem to have a particular beef with dwarves.

    of course, that is entirely unsupported by lore,

    In the literature it is stated that Goblins/Orcs originated from Elves that Morgoth (the 1st Dark Lord) corrupted and twisted to evil soon after the Elves awoke at Cuivienen.

    As for the difference between Goblins and Orcs: Goblins are typically the smaller of the two, although there is some blurring of the distinction based upon region. (eg: Hobbits refer to them all as Goblins). Tolkien seems to have steered away from the term Goblin more and more after the Hobbit. So that by the final books of LotR they are almost always referred to as Orcs, by all races/regions.

    Dwarves, according to the literature, were uncorruptable by either Morgoth or Sauron. This is why the seven Rings given to the Dwarf Lords were unable to corrupt the dwarves. Instead they only inflamed a burning greed and desire for gold and mithril.
    Last edited by AzarLoTRO; Apr 07 2009 at 05:09 PM.
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  10. #10

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by AzarLoTRO View Post
    In the literature it is stated that Goblins/Orcs originated from Elves that Morgoth (the 1st Dark Lord) corrupted and twisted to evil soon after the Elves awoke at Cuivienen.

    As for the difference between Goblins and Orcs: Goblins are typically the smaller of the two, although there is some blurring of the distinction based upon region. (eg: Hobbits refer to them all as Goblins). Tolkien seems to have steered away from the term Goblin more and more after the Hobbit. So that by the final books of LotR they are almost always referred to as Orcs, by all races/regions.

    Dwarves, according to the literature, were uncorruptable by either Morgoth or Sauron. This is why the seven Rings given to the Dwarf Lords were unable to corrupt the dwarves. Instead they only inflamed a burning greed and desire for gold and mithril.
    if i remember correctly, there were dwarves who fought for morgoth in the war of wrath, so uncorruptable may be a bit strong. their wills cannot be dominated, but they can be swayed by greed.

  11. #11
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by newwwwb View Post
    if i remember correctly, there were dwarves who fought for morgoth in the war of wrath, so uncorruptable may be a bit strong. their wills cannot be dominated, but they can be swayed by greed.
    Not that I know of. Both Belegost and Nogrod were fighting against Morgoth, even if there were a few instances of in-fighting (Nauglamir anyone?) they never declared allegiance to Morgoth.

    Mim the Petty Dwarf was after vengance, and he only agreed to betray Turin on a certain condition. Not really fighting for Morgoth, rather a business agreement.
    Last edited by O03; Apr 07 2009 at 09:00 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

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  13. #13

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by O03 View Post
    Not that I know of. Both Belegost and Nogrod were fighting against Morgoth, even if there were a few instances of in-fighting (Nauglamir anyone?) they never declared allegiance to Morgoth.

    Mim the Petty Dwarf was after vengance, and he only agreed to betray Turin on a certain condition. Not really fighting for Morgoth, rather a business agreement.
    There is a passage that talks about a battle ( the 5 armies? The war of the Last Alliance?) between the forces of Sauron and the free peoples. Something like 'All the creatures of middle earth took part in the battle, some of each on either side. Except the Elves, they alone fought united against the Dark Lord'. This implies not only that some dwarves fought for Sauron, but some Orcs fought against him which would be really odd.
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  14. #14

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by lordjimdudkiewicz View Post
    There is a passage that talks about a battle ( the 5 armies? The war of the Last Alliance?) between the forces of Sauron and the free peoples. Something like 'All the creatures of middle earth took part in the battle, some of each on either side. Except the Elves, they alone fought united against the Dark Lord'. This implies not only that some dwarves fought for Sauron, but some Orcs fought against him which would be really odd.
    there were a lot of tribes and clans of orcs. perhaps several clans decided that the climactic battle between good and evil was a good time to do a little house cleaning

  15. #15
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by lordjimdudkiewicz View Post
    There is a passage that talks about a battle ( the 5 armies? The war of the Last Alliance?) between the forces of Sauron and the free peoples. Something like 'All the creatures of middle earth took part in the battle, some of each on either side. Except the Elves, they alone fought united against the Dark Lord'. This implies not only that some dwarves fought for Sauron, but some Orcs fought against him which would be really odd.
    Yep, that shows that the dwarves did fight for A dark lord, but not The dark lord. None of the dwarves fought for Morgoth. They just fought for his Lieutenant, Sauron, thousands of years later.

    That is odd though how it seems to say that some orcs fought against sauron.... But they were all in one big army. Maybe it was just that same old fighting that they always do? you know, arguing, threatening to kill, and killing each other... that kind of stuff.
    Last edited by sir-rinthian; Apr 12 2009 at 07:24 PM.
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  16. #16
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    I was going to pop in and remind everyone that Uruk-hai are sometimes called Orcs, but I think we're confused enough!




    They really mess up our perception of Goblin vs. Orc with the fact that some of the lanky "archer-orcs" are listed as warriors for the goblins in Goblin-town... (though perhaps these are the members of the "Great-goblin's guard" from the Hobbit...)
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  17. #17
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by Sylux14 View Post
    I was going to pop in and remind everyone that Uruk-hai are sometimes called Orcs, but I think we're confused enough!




    They really mess up our perception of Goblin vs. Orc with the fact that some of the lanky "archer-orcs" are listed as warriors for the goblins in Goblin-town... (though perhaps these are the members of the "Great-goblin's guard" from the Hobbit...)

    Well,Uruks are orcs. Sauron created somewhat larger, tougher 'black orcs' and they were often called Uruks.

    Saruman later further 'refined' them, possibly breeding orcs with humans. (ewww).
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  18. #18

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    On the subject of the relative sizes of the orcs and goblins, I have always wondered that Frodo and Sam were able to disguise themselves and travel for a time with a company of orcs when making their way through Mordor. Aside from the fact that I would think a fully enclosed helm would have been necessary to avoid detection (but I can assume Frodo and Same wore such even though I'm pretty sure there is no evidence for it in the text), wouldn't the fact that the hobbits were a little over 3 feet tall have been a dead giveaway? Or was it really the case that in any company of "orcs" there would be a fair share of "goblins" some of which would be pretty short? To confuse things even more, I also recall in this regard a line in FotR (I think in the encounter at Mazarbul) where an orc was referred to as being (I'm paraphrasing here) "very large, nearly man-high". So are "orcs" generally about 5' tall, but not uncommonly running as short as 3.5' tall?
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  19. #19
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    I should think there would be goblins or just stunted orcs around. Think about Grishnakh. He's described as short and basically walking like a quadruped, right? I may be thinking of the movie but there were many orcs who were deformed and 'stunty', especially the twisted Mordor orcs.
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  20. #20
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    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    The following is from the same foreword or prologue to the Hobbit that somebody quoted from another site:

    "Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds). Orc is the hobbit's form of the name given at the that time to these creatures, and it is not connected at all with our orc, ork, applied to sea-animals of dolphin-kind." (The Hobbit, Harper Collins, 1999, p 1.)

    I think the issue is one of translation vs. transliteration. In translation you start with a word in another language and find the closest word in your language to it. So "orc" would be translated "goblin."

    In transliteration, you take the word in the original language and match the LETTERS of the word to the closest letters in your language, essentially making a new word in your language. This seems to be what has happened with the hobit word "orc" being transliterated into English letters. At the risk of sidetracking to religious discussions, we see this in the Bible with the word "angel." Angelos is the Greek word for messenger. The fancy, shiny beings we think of as "angels" that go on Christmas trees were God's messengers. The word "angel" in ancient Greek didn't necessarily have a spiritual connotation. So the person who delivers a singing telegram in ancient Greece would be an "angelos." This is just to serve as an example of transliteration off the top of my head, athough Jehovah is another one from Hebrew to Latin. (Sorry for the religious overtones but that's my most extensive language training.)

    Also, this passage shows that the hobit word was orc, not goblin. Goblin is the English word. There is a size distinction, but that's reflected in the English of either goblin or hobgoblin.

    Hope that clarifies!

  21. #21

    Re: Goblins vs. Orcs

    Quote Originally Posted by Vilnas View Post
    On the subject of the relative sizes of the orcs and goblins, I have always wondered that Frodo and Sam were able to disguise themselves and travel for a time with a company of orcs when making their way through Mordor. Aside from the fact that I would think a fully enclosed helm would have been necessary to avoid detection (but I can assume Frodo and Same wore such even though I'm pretty sure there is no evidence for it in the text), wouldn't the fact that the hobbits were a little over 3 feet tall have been a dead giveaway? Or was it really the case that in any company of "orcs" there would be a fair share of "goblins" some of which would be pretty short? To confuse things even more, I also recall in this regard a line in FotR (I think in the encounter at Mazarbul) where an orc was referred to as being (I'm paraphrasing here) "very large, nearly man-high". So are "orcs" generally about 5' tall, but not uncommonly running as short as 3.5' tall?
    i believe that the company of orcs that frodo and sam hid amongst would have been small in stature. the text does say that they were unwilling to go, and were being driven by task-masters, so i would think that they were of a 'lesser' tribe of orcs that was basically subservient to the tribes that might be called 'uruks'

 

 

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