Orc Types and Gear

by Varda-(Valar)
Nov. 18, 2002
Updated Aug. 2, 2004 and March 12, 2008

Back to Orcs

Goblins/ Northerners/ Misty Mountains/ Moria Orcs
Mordor Orcs of the Tower
All Orcs
Communication between Orc groups

    The Orcs in the service of Barad-dur, the folk of Mordor, used the symbol of the Red Eye, for Sauron. The Red Eye was painted on their shields. Sauron did not use his right name, nor permit it to be spelled or spoken. He did not use white.
    Shagrat called these Mordor orcs "morgul-orcs".
    At least one, a guard on the march with Merry and Pippin, had a black knife with a long saw-edged blade that was later used by Pippin to cut through the ropes on his hands.
    These Orcs of Mordor referred to Sauron as the Great Eye.
    Grishnakh was their Captain.
    They were all long-armed and crook-legged, not as tall as the Isengarders but larger than the Moria Orcs. They could see better in the dark than the Isengarder Orcs could.
    In  Moria when the Fellowship passed through, they found some others among the Moria Orcs.  In a quick look out before Boromir could close the door, Gandalf lit the passage outside the Chamber of Mazarbul and saw very many Orcs and commented on the odd ones: "And some are large and evil: black Uruks of Mordor."  He mentioned they have one or more cave-trolls with them.  This showed that they do work together, however poorly.
    In the fight at the Chamber of Mazarbul, the chamber was temporily clear and the Fellowship tried to retreat before the troll can return. As the other Orcs clustered at the door, a great Orc-chieftain passed by other potential targets of the Fellowship to attack Frodo. He and his equipment and attack method were described:

    "A huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber; behind him his followers clustered in the doorway. His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear. With a thrust of his huge hide shield he turned Boromir's sword and bore him backwards, throwing him to the ground. Diving under Aragorn's blow with the speed of a striking snake he charged into the company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo."

    Sam broke the spear and the Orc switched to a scimitar. He wore a helm, although it might as well have been a cloth cap against Aragorn's sword, Anduril.

    The Orcs of Saruman, who called themselves Uruk-hai, used an S elf-rune wrought in white metal on the front of their iron helms. Their shields had a small white hand centered on a black field. Aragorn commented that their gear was not in the manner of other Orcs at all. Instead of curved scimitars, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, in length and shape as those of Men.
    They also appeared different physically: greater stature, swart, slant-eyed, with thick legs and large hands. Although they did not like the light of the sun, they could withstand it better than other orcs.
    Saruman promised the Uruk-hai man-flesh as a treat. He aided them with his wizardry as well: for instance when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas followed the Orcs who kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Saruman's will caused weariness of the heart for the pursuers and lent speed to the Orcs.
    Ugluk led the Uruk-hai and, since they were the strongest, felt that he led the hobbit march as well, insisting on going back by way of Isengard. They were of the group that slew Boromir.

Goblins/ Northerners/ Misty Mountains/ Moria Orcs:
    Northern Orcs came from the Misty Mountains and said they were from "the Mines", Moria, on the hobbit march. They come for killing and vengeance, not interested in the idea of taking the hobbits or their spoils to either Saruman or Sauron, but only in getting rid of the prisoners and going home.
    These smaller orcs were referred to as goblins by the narration during the first dominance fight with Ugluk. When the time came to stand against the Rohirrim, Ugluk allowed the Northerners to run into the Forest, leaving the hobbits with the Isengarders, although some of the larger and bolder Northerners remained with him.

Mordor Orcs of the Tower:
    Orcs in the Tower of Cirith Ungol used the symbol of a white moon disfigured by a death's face. This referred to the tower's once having been Minas Ithil, the "Tower of the Moon", before it was taken from the Gondorians.

All Orcs:
    Orcs of all kinds would not carry blades of Westernesse, which were "wound about with spells for the bane of Mordor". It is possible that these spells caused the glow in the presence of Orcs rather than any particular metal alloy or other physical ingredient.
    After the Fellowship left Moria, Aragorn tended Sam's wound and said, "The cut is not poisoned, as the wounds of orc-blades too often are."

Communication between Orc groups:
    Orcs of the three different tribes on the march with Merry and Pippin could not understand each other's language and had to resort to the Common Speech. They stuck together partly for safety against the "horse-riders" of Rohan.

    Fellowship: "The Bridge of Khazad-dum", "Lothlorien". 
    Two Towers: "The Departure of Boromir", "The Uruk-hai".  
    Return of the King: "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"