Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

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Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:24 am

This is a continuation of an archived thread (if this should not be done I accept the penalty of the Powers)

Eldorion wrote: I'm afraid there is not a single difference between goblins and orcs, not even as a sub-type.

Zeonista responded: Untrue, Tolkien uses the two words interchangeably in LOTR, so they are meant to be divergent Westron words for the same race.


I disagree. Interchangeability does not necessarily equal this scenario; for instance Quendi and 'Elves' are not both meant to be internal words. Eldorion already provided Tolkien's note (added to later editions of The Hobbit) that orc is not an English word, and obviously 'goblin' is English, and noted as a translation. What you are describing (Zeonista) is rather closer to...

Westron (Hobbit usage) Kuduk tr. 'hobbit'
Westron Banakil tr. 'halfling'

But we cannot have...
unkown Westron word (Hobbit usage) tr. 'goblin'
unknown Westron word tr. 'orc'

because according to JRRT we have...
Westron word orc tr. 'goblin'

Eldorion wrote: Goblin is just an English word

Zeonista responded: Goblin is derived from the French gobelin, which refers to a French village and its faerie denizen from folklore. The term crossed the channel with the Normans, I guess. Christopher Tolkien references it in one of his books, I don't hjave the source at hand right now.


In any case Goblin is an English word as Eldorion writes, but orc is not (as Tolkien explains).

Eldorion wrote: and Orc and Old English (standing in for Rohirric) word.

In my opinion orc is a Westron word and a true word in the language of the Rohirrim. Of course this confuses matters a bit because it is also -- in the Primary World -- an Old English word, and thus would seem to be a translation when we are dealing with the Rohirrim.

Here I would say Old English orc 'demon' was certainly the Primary World inspiration, but I think the matter becomes a bit too fluid and confusing if it is both Westron and a modern translation for some other word in the language of the Rohirrim. It could function that way, but in my opinion Tolkien is going to have to accept this seeming 'coincidence' just like he must with Orthanc.

Zeonista wrote: In Middle-Earth, "orc" is a Westron corruption of the Elvish yrch, the name applied by the Elves to those creatures. Legolas says it twice. Tolkien is having fun with language again.


I would agree that Tolkien is having fun, but orc cannot be an actual corruption of an Elvish word unless it is itself actually Westron (as I argue it is, but you seem to be arguing it isn't, at least above -- as when you say orc and goblin are 'meant to be divergent Westron words for the same race' you must mean they are both translations representing two different words, as one of the Westron words cannot be modern English 'goblin').

Perhaps you mean that 'orc' as a translation represents a corruption of Elvish orch, but if so I disagree, even though its similarity to orch (yrch is plural) could still be arguable linguistic fun. If orc is actually Westron then it could hail from Elvish sources, but even so Tolkien himself does not note that it did (in any source published to date).


Zeonista wrote: Tolkien kept "goblin" around in LOTR as a Hobbit-word for orcs in general.

Having encountered this statement so much in the past I decided to check it out as far as examples go, and in my opinion it doesn't really follow. Or that is to say, I can't find any conclusive pattern or definitive example that Hobbits used 'goblin' -- meaning the fictive translator employed this modern word to represent some particular word that Hobbits had for these creatures. As posted already in the archived thread, Tolkien notes that orc is the Hobbit's word for these creatures given 'at that time' (way back when in Middle-earth), but what I'm noting here is that I don't think even the examples alone would prove such a theory.

Tolkien's examples can be confusing (some of them might seem to point to a distinction), but the conceit of translation smooths out any bumps, because any example of 'goblin' really represents... orc in the original! or possibly an original Elvish word if the context is clear, and the variation becomes just that: the variation of the translator.

Sorry I couldn't resist a good debate on orc nomenclature Very Happy




Last edited by Elthir on Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:38 am

Resurrecting threads is always welcome when there's something new to be added, and your commentary is as fascinating and insightful as always. study

If I recall that thread correctly it was not my proudest Lore moment, especially since Tolkien's languages are not my strong suit. How much information did Tolkien really give about the true language of the Rohirrim? I seem to recall reading a little bit about it but I cannot remember if it was from a reputable source.

The idea that "goblin" is a Hobbit-specific term has made little sense to me in light of the relationship between traditional Hobbit language and the Rohirric language, but it's very nice to see a more detailed analysis. Smile
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:58 am

Thanks for the kind words Eldorion!

Eldorion wrote: (...) How much information did Tolkien really give about the true language of the Rohirrim? I seem to recall reading a little bit about it but I cannot remember if it was from a reputable source.

Not much at all is known about the true language of the Rohirrim; a few words or names were revealed in HME too but since these were for the Appendices, and thus not used, the information is possibly 'rejected' even if possibly 'left out' for other reasons. But what you said about 'orc' in the context of the language of the Rohirrim is not necessarily wrong in my opinion, and is a natural enough conclusion given Tolkien's conceit. Not everyone agrees with me that orc is actual Westron even!

I just imagine my interpretation there is 'solid enough'... so far anyway Smile

But it's not attested anywhere that orc is the actual form used by the Rohirrim. That just makes things simpler within my larger interpretation, and the other orc-words in the description I'm thinking of (Appendix F I believe) were 'also' not translations IIRC (uruk, orch), but that only goes so far.

Anyway, thanks again!

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:40 am

You're very welcome, Elthir! Thank you for making me pull out my books again. Very Happy

Elthir wrote:But what you said about 'orc' in the context of the language of the Rohirrim is not necessarily wrong in my opinion, and is a natural enough conclusion given Tolkien's conceit. Not everyone agrees with me that orc is actual Westron even!

I don't think that the two ideas are necessarily mutually exclusive. Looking back at the texts, I based my idea on the relationship of the Hobbit and Rohirric terms for orcs from two quotes, one from The Hobbit and one from The Lord of the Rings. In The Hobbit, the note on runes, we are told that "Orc is the hobbits' form of the name given at the time to these creatures ...", where as in LOTR, Appendix F, we are told that "Orc is the form of the name that other races had for this foul people as it was in the language of Rohan."

My personal theory on this has been, as mentioned previously, that Orc is a word derived from whatever common language traditional Hobbit-words and Rohirric both derive from. However, I think you make some interesting points in defense of the idea that Orc is a Westron word, and its usage in the story by different characters seems quite broad for a regional term.

Re-reading the quote from Appendix F, I think it gives some support to your idea that the word Orc had entered the general Westron lexicon (being "the form of the name that other races had for this foul people") but that it was originally of Hobbit/Rohirric/Vales of Anduin extraction ("as it was in the language of Rohan"). I'm pretty tired right now, though, so I'm just hoping that this makes sense, and am not able to fully think it through, so it's just speculation. I'm curious as to your thoughts on the idea though, whatever they may be. Smile

NB I hope I have understood your reasoning about the word's mixed Westron/Rohirric origins. I apologize if I have misunderstood; as I said I'm quite tired. Razz
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:08 pm

Just to test all this lore mastery given all this talkof orcs and goblins and Rohan, when Gamling says, "these half-orcs and goblin-men" that presumably is either a translation into Westron from the Rohimmiric (that the right word?) or they were already speaking Westron. Either way what does it mean? If there is no difference between orc and goblin why the seeming distinction here?

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:43 pm

Eldorion wrote: (...) My personal theory on this has been, as mentioned previously, that Orc is a word derived from whatever common language traditional Hobbit-words and Rohirric both derive from. However, I think you make some interesting points in defense of the idea that Orc is a Westron word, and its usage in the story by different characters seems quite broad for a regional term.

Hmm, before I respond, do you mean that 'orc' is a translation of a word hailing from this common tongue (earlier I thought you meant it was a translation), or the actual word? Here's my fuller case for Westron in any event. You already posted this first quote in the archived thread, but I'll just pop it here again for ease of reference:

(2) 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 hobbits' form of the name given at that time to these creatures, and it is not connected at all with our orc, ork, applied to sea-animals of dolphin-kind.' JRRT The Hobbit

This note was only added to The Hobbit in the 1960s, well after Tolkien was firmly into his translation conceit. Then there is Tolkien's note to translators, describing his method...

Orc This is supposed to be the Common Speech name of these creatures at that time; it should therefore according to the system be translated to English, or the language of translation. It was translated 'goblin' in The Hobbit, except in one place; but this word, and other words of similar sense in other European languages (as far as I know), are not really suitable. The orc in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, though of course partly made out of traditional features, is not really comparable in supposed origin, functions, and relation to the Elves. In any case orc seemed to me, and seems, in sound a good name for these creatures. It should be retained.' JRRT Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings

Orc is C.S. and according to the system it should be translated with an English word (and it was in many instances), or the language of translation. This is also a relatively late source and fits perfectly with Tolkien's added note to The Hobbit. Of course Tolkien here advises translators to ignore the method, but only because he prefers orc be retained... but the method itself illustrates how this word is to be characterized I think.

Re-reading the quote from Appendix F, I think it gives some support to your idea that the word Orc had entered the general Westron lexicon (being "the form of the name that other races had for this foul people") but that it was originally of Hobbit/Rohirric/Vales of Anduin extraction ("as it was in the language of Rohan"). I'm pretty tired right now, though, so I'm just hoping that this makes sense, and am not able to fully think it through, so it's just speculation. I'm curious as to your thoughts on the idea though, whatever they may be.

Again, to be sure, do you mean orc is the actual word used by both the Rohirrim and Hobbits and which arose in the Anduin Vale, finding its way into Westron? For now I'll go back to how I interepret Appendix F given my larger interpretation...

Appendix F: 'Orc is the form of the name that other races had for this foul people as it was in the language of Rohan. In Sindarin it was orch. Related, no doubt, was the word uruk of the Black Speech, though this was applied as a rule only to the great soldier-orcs that at this time issued from Mordor and Isengard. The lesser kinds were called, especially by the Uruk-hai, snaga 'slave'.

Here the reader has yet to encounter the 'on translation' section, and 'all' (admittedly only three!) the other words noted: orch, uruk, snaga, are actual words spoken in Middle-earth (not translations). So if one reads orc in the same way, there is no conflict with it being an actual Westron word, and the Hobbits and the Rohirrim would share this word.

As for how orc entered the languages in general, the only source I know that seems to speak to this is Quendi And Eldar:

'The form in Adunaic urku, urkhu may be direct from Quenya or Sindarin; and this form underlies the words for Orc in the languages of Men of the North-West in the Second and Third Ages. (...)'.

Note: 'The word used in translation of Q urko, S orch, is Orc. But that is becaue of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey' to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connexion between them. The English word is now generally supposed to be derived from Latin Orcus.'

But at this point (this was written earlier than the published note in The Hobbit for example) I'm not sure Tolkien considered orc as an actual Westron word (as I claim he ultimately did at least), noting too: ['Orc is adaptation of the form of the word occuring in Westron, orka.'] This is from Words, Phrases and Passages (WPP), entry uruk. Here the Westron word is orka, and I'm not exactly sure what JRRT means here by an 'adaptation', but maybe he means adapted by the translator.

These two quotes do not fit my interpretation (at least not necessarily)! but I don't think they represent the ultimate author-published notion, which seems more simple and elegant to me. And the note to translators (on the nomenclature) may not have been published to a readership at large, but it was actually used and sent to translators while JRRT was alive.


Anyway your idea is one I've not considered before, or appears to be... I just want to be sure of the details before I ramble on Smile

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orcs................

Post by leelee on Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:30 am

Elthir wrote:This is a continuation of an archived thread (if this should not be done I accept the penalty of the Powers)

Eldorion wrote: I'm afraid there is not a single difference between goblins and orcs, not even as a sub-type.

Zeonista responded: Untrue, Tolkien uses the two words interchangeably in LOTR, so they are meant to be divergent Westron words for the same race.


I disagree. Interchangeability does not necessarily equal this scenario; for instance Quendi and 'Elves' are not both meant to be internal words. Eldorion already provided Tolkien's note (added to later editions of The Hobbit) that orc is not an English word, and obviously 'goblin' is English, and noted as a translation. What you are describing (Zeonista) is rather closer to...

Westron (Hobbit usage) Kuduk tr. 'hobbit'
Westron Banakil tr. 'halfling'















But we cannot have...
unkown Westron word (Hobbit usage) tr. 'goblin'
unknown Westron word tr. 'orc'

because according to JRRT we have...
Westron word orc tr. 'goblin'

Eldorion wrote: Goblin is just an English word

Zeonista responded: Goblin is derived from the French gobelin, which refers to a French village and its faerie denizen from folklore. The term crossed the channel with the Normans, I guess. Christopher Tolkien references it in one of his books, I don't hjave the source at hand right now.


In any case Goblin is an English word as Eldorion writes, but orc is not (as Tolkien explains).

Eldorion wrote: and Orc and Old English (standing in for Rohirric) word.

In my opinion orc is a Westron word and a true word in the language of the Rohirrim. Of course this confuses matters a bit because it is also -- in the Primary World -- an Old English word, and thus would seem to be a translation when we are dealing with the Rohirrim.

Here I would say Old English orc 'demon' was certainly the Primary World inspiration, but I think the matter becomes a bit too fluid and confusing if it is both Westron and a modern translation for some other word in the language of the Rohirrim. It could function that way, but in my opinion Tolkien is going to have to accept this seeming 'coincidence' just like he must with Orthanc.

Zeonista wrote: In Middle-Earth, "orc" is a Westron corruption of the Elvish yrch, the name applied by the Elves to those creatures. Legolas says it twice. Tolkien is having fun with language again.


I would agree that Tolkien is having fun, but orc cannot be an actual corruption of an Elvish word unless it is itself actually Westron (as I argue it is, but you seem to be arguing it isn't, at least above -- as when you say orc and goblin are 'meant to be divergent Westron words for the same race' you must mean they are both translations representing two different words, as one of the Westron words cannot be modern English 'goblin').

Perhaps you mean that 'orc' as a translation represents a corruption of Elvish orch, but if so I disagree, even though its similarity to orch (yrch is plural) could still be arguable linguistic fun. If orc is actually Westron then it could hail from Elvish sources, but even so Tolkien himself does not note that it did (in any source published to date).


Zeonista wrote: Tolkien kept "goblin" around in LOTR as a Hobbit-word for orcs in general.

Having encountered this statement so much in the past I decided to check it out as far as examples go, and in my opinion it doesn't really follow. Or that is to say, I can't find any conclusive pattern or definitive example that Hobbits used 'goblin' -- meaning the fictive translator employed this modern word to represent some particular word that Hobbits had for these creatures. As posted already in the archived thread, Tolkien notes that orc is the Hobbit's word for these creatures given 'at that time' (way back when in Middle-earth), but what I'm noting here is that I don't think even the examples alone would prove such a theory.

Tolkien's examples can be confusing (some of them might seem to point to a distinction), but the conceit of translation smooths out any bumps, because any example of 'goblin' really represents... orc in the original! or possibly an original Elvish word if the context is clear, and the variation becomes just that: the variation of the translator.

Sorry I couldn't resist a good debate on orc nomenclature Very Happy

Absolutely brilliant Elthir. I could not have said it better myself. In fact, I positively could not have said any of it. Embarassed

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Eldorion on Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:08 am

I'm not trying to ignore you, Elthir, but I was busy today and tired again now, so I will have to respond to your latest post tomorrow. I should have an open evening then and I'm looking forward to continuing our discussion. Smile
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:53 am

Pettytyrant101 wrote:Just to test all this lore mastery given all this talk of orcs and goblins and Rohan, when Gamling says, "these half-orcs and goblin-men" that presumably is either a translation into Westron from the Rohimmiric (that the right word?) or they were already speaking Westron.

I think this would be a good example to apply Tolkien's explanation: if I recall correctly there is no indication Gamling is speaking in the tongue of the Rohirrim here, and so we arguably have Westron translated with Modern English -- but again, Tolkien notes that 'goblin' is a translation of orc -- so popping that in here and fully translating this phrase:

'these half-goblins and goblin-men' (fully English now of course, or fully translated).

Either way what does it mean? If there is no difference between orc and goblin why the seeming distinction here?

Good question, and one which might relate to the great debate about the Uruk-hai. I think Gamling uses two terms because there is a notable enough variety to Saruman's gobliny folk -- some appear to be quite goblin-faced, but are man-high, as Kalimac Brandagamba notes -- others are more human-like, which can even be employed as spies it seems.

I'm not sure Gamling would truly know all about the orc-like beings he might see, or even care to know about them, but he might be inspired to use two terms simply because of a seeming variety in the forces at Helm's Deep. In Morgoth's Ring Tolkien himself uses two terms to describe the results of Saruman's breeding program.

'There is no doubt that long afterwards, in the Third Age, Saruman rediscovered this, or learned of it in lore, and in his lust for mastery committed this, his wickedest deed: the interbreeding of Orcs and Men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile.' JRRT, Morgoth's Ring

Here Tolkien doesn't use 'goblin' of course, but the result of this interbreeding produces things distinct enough to receive two terms -- but the terms are simply man + orc or orc + man, which I think a very suitable and simple way to describe two different enough 'kinds' of half orcs: these beings are, in a sense anyway, 'half' one thing and half the other, even though they can look different. But again, from Gamling's perspective, using two terms might do to simply get his general point across.

Others will no doubt answer differently concerning both citations, as I have seen in certain Uruk-hai debates here and there Smile


Oh, and no problem Eldorion!
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:26 pm

Good answer Elthir. Makes sense for me.
I am never certain when people in LotR's are being translated and when they are not. In the scene with Gamling everyone present speaks the language of Rohan, so it seems unlikely to me they would use another language other than their own when talking amongst themselves, why would they? In which case it would be a translation from Rohan to westron to english wouldn't it?

I find the Tolkien quote intresting. If we take LotR as a history then the period of LotR's with its emergence of these half-orcs, half-goblins we seem to be seeing an emergence also of a language to adequetly describe them.
"Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."
This seems to indicate that there were essentailly two physical types of half breed. One large one less so. This would seem to be the case with the Uruk-Hai who would seem to be 'Men-orcs' whereas the squint eyed southerener sems to fit more being one of the orc-men (Merry even says he looks more than half like an orc).
Gamling's statement therefore could be seen in the light of a time when there is no fixed name for these creatures, just an emerging one. Gamling can see the half orcs/goblins are not all alike. But the language only offers interchangeable words for orc, these interchangable words seem to me to be splitting off at this time, now that there is more than one type of orc to differeniate from. And it seems like the direction it is going is to define them as Tolkien does in the above quote. But at the time of LotR's this is still an evolving lingual feature.

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:22 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote: I am never certain when people in LotR's are being translated and when they are not. In the scene with Gamling everyone present speaks the language of Rohan, so it seems unlikely to me they would use another language other than their own when talking amongst themselves, why would they?

That makes sense but Gamling is talking with Aragorn (Eomer might be present too, if I remember rightly) and in a text called Of Dwarves And Men it's noted: 'Among the Rohirrim there can have been very few who did not understand the Common Speech, and the royal house, and no doubt many other families, spoke (and wrote) it correctly and familiarly.'

Where we have an instance of Old English in the text theoretically we have a translation of something in the actual language of the Rohirrim, or possibly the story might make it clear that something is being said in this language, even where no Old English translation is actually employed. This might confuse the issue of orc/goblin a bit, because Tolkien took orc from Old English!

But JRRT isn't always consistent with his conceit. Orthanc: Tolkien either made a mistake here or just couldn't resist his fun (I guess the latter), as Orthanc actually means something in Old English and in Sindarin -- thus the implication is: Orthanc cannot be a translation, having the same form in Sindarin, and Old English is a language that is quite in the future from Frodo's perspective, and not yet arisen in the world! As Carl Hostetter put it...

'Alberto also asked whether orthanc, which in Sindarin means 'Mount Fang', and which is said to mean 'Cunning Mind' in "the language of the Mark of Old", is Old English. Yes, it is, and it does mean 'cunning mind'. However, the implication of Tolkien's statement is that the word has the same form and meaning in actual Rohirric (otherwise, there would be no pun apparent to the characters). A remarkable coincidence, indeed!' Carl Hostetter

Coincidence will have to do; but again I think JRRT was having his fun here.

'(...) This would seem to be the case with the Uruk-Hai who would seem to be 'Men-orcs' whereas the squint eyed southerener sems to fit more being one of the orc-men (Merry even says he looks more than half like an orc).'

Aha! The Uruk-hai appear, as I suspected Wink

I think the Half-orcs -- that is, in my opinion the Men-orcs and Orc-men noted by Tolkien in Morgoth's Ring -- are distinct from the Uruk-hai or 'Orc-folk', who are great soldier orcs. Although to add to the confusion here (and possibly Gamling's), there were certainly Uruk-hai at Helm's Deep in any case, who, as we know, liked to boast that they don't mind the sun!
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:51 pm

So are you saying there were at least three distinct types of orc at Helm's Deep? Orc-men, Men-orcs and Uruk Hai (Orc solideirs).

The Gamling conversation if memory serves takes place on the battlements of the Hornburg overlooking the gate. Aragorn and Eomer are present with Gamling. But Aragorn rode with the Rohirrim in his youth and presumably is fluent in their language, so there was no one there who would not have understand were it in the Rohan language.

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:20 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote: So are you saying there were at least three distinct types of orc at Helm's Deep? Orc-men, Men-orcs and Uruk Hai (Orc solideirs).

I would say there were half-orcs and Uruk-hai present. Merry refers to the goblin-faced man-high types specifically, and I suppose it's possible that all the more mannish types were away on spy duty or whatever, but I don't think it's pushing things too far to say both types of Half-orcs were at Helm's Deep, along with the Uruk-hai and Men.

And even if Gamling is noting a difference between the uruks and Merry's goblin-faced half-orcs, I don't think he would know for sure if soldier-orcs, arguably well trained to not mind the sun, truly had any mannish blood or not. Treebeard wondered about Saruman's lot, but he did not know; and I think Isengard ended up with a mix of orcs and orcish related beings.

The Gamling conversation if memory serves takes place on the battlements of the Hornburg overlooking the gate. Aragorn and Eomer are present with Gamling. But Aragorn rode with the Rohirrim in their youth and presumably is fluent in their language, so there was no one there who would not have understand were it in the Rohan language.

Aragorn would not necessarily have to learn, or learn much, considering that enough of the Rohirrim could speak Westron -- I can't remember right now if there is any notable evidence here, although he did at least chant a fair amount about Eorl in the language of Rohan, for instance -- yet that much noted, I know the hymn to Elbereth by heart for example (learned it long ago in the last century), and its meaning, although no modern person can speak Sindarin fluently.

In any case since Westron is one of the choices here, and since the language is Modern English in the text (not Old English) I would stick with Westron to English in this instance, with Gamling.


Except that Westron orc has been left alone, and not translated here Very Happy


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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:24 pm

My head hurts!
If he didn't translate orc then that implies goblin is a translation. Of what? orc again? scratch

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Wed Jun 29, 2011 3:40 pm

Right, orc is translated 'goblin' just not all the time; although most of the time in The Hobbit.

The translator can choose either word (once the reader, in 1954 especially, has a good enough grasp of what an orc is anyway). Tolkien preferred orc, as he says, and found it more suitable for The Lord of the Rings, but he did employ 'goblin' in that tale a number of times. I counted them once, or tried to as best I could without using computer text.

Granted, it would be kind of like translating a German text into English... but still employing hund after the reader understands a hund is a dog; but then again this is Tolkien we are talking about, someone very finely tuned to words and how they sound.

Here (one could say) it could be as simple as liking the 'flow' (sound of) 'half-orcs and goblin-men' in this instance. Tolkien did write that 'goblin' was a translation of orc long after he wrote this phrase for Gamling...

... but he still wrote, and published it, ultimately Very Happy
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Eldorion on Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:49 am

Apologies for taking so long to respond. Rolling Eyes

Elthir wrote:Hmm, before I respond, do you mean that 'orc' is a translation of a word hailing from this common tongue (earlier I thought you meant it was a translation), or the actual word?

I don't think I've thought about the matter as much as you - and not for a while - but my original idea had been that orc was the Old English stand-in word for whatever the original Hobbit/Rohirric/Anduinish word had been. However, having read over your posts in this thread and your arguments for why orc is a Westron word, I think it's more likely that orc was the actual word from H/R/A that was co-opted into Westron. I suppose this is a synthesis of the two ideas, and perhaps not what Tolkien intended, but it makes a certain amount of sense to me given the various accounts that the word orc was an actual Rohirric word (shared by Hobbits in some form) that was absorbed into the broader Westron lexicon, as I had mentioned before.
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:08 pm

No problem Eldorion. And I think there is some evidence that Tolkien thought of orc as a translation (see below for a sleep aid), at least along the way.

There are some points in the external history where orcs and goblins seem distinguished too, especially in an early draft text for The Lord of the Rings, interestingly enough, even though these examples are surrounded by other descriptions where they appear to be the same thing, but I think the relatively late characterization answers this question as well.

I have also wondered how orc came to be Westron (considering that I think it is), and have thought that it could be a borrowing direct from Sindarin orch -- especially considering note 49 to Cirion and Eorl which explains that Westron did not contain the sound -ch- (as in Welsh), and in pronouncing Sindarin the people of Gondor, unless learned, pronounced final -ch as k. Thus orch naturally becomes orc here.

Of course Tolkien never attested that orc entered Westron directly through Grey-elven orch; and moreover it's noted that the sound -ch- as in Welsh was found in the tongue of the Rohirrim, so they would have no real reason to alter orch to orc; although languages can be somewhat unpredictable concerning this in any case, and Westron was spoken among the Horse-lords too.

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I can't pin down exactly what Tolkien thought at the time he noted that orc was a word in the language of the Rohirrim in Appendix F; or actually just when he added this statement to the drafts! That said, in the early 1950s for example:

'Orcs we may name them; for in days of old they were strong and fell as demons. Yet they were not of demon kind' (a suggestion of Elfwine's suggests that Orcs is Old English (...), conveniently similar to the Elvish word.'

JRRT, CJRT, Morgoth's Ring, commentary Annals of Aman

Compare that to Tolkien's own note to Quendi and Eldar dated around 1959-60: 'Note. The word used in translation of Q urko, S orch, is Orc. But that is because of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey', to the Elvish words.' And this is possibly to be paired with Tolkien's note in Words, Phrases and Passages from (I think) 1960: 'Orc is adaptation of the form of the word occuring in Westron, orka.'

Incidentally, compare Elfwine's statement in Annals of Aman to earlier versions of Quenta Silmarillion from the 1930s:
'Goblins they may be called, but in ancient days they were strong and fell.'
To me this seems to say: we may call them goblins, but they weren't the goblins of later tales (as the Eldar were not 'Elves') -- and so the implication is rather they are better called -- orcs! or does anyone have another interpretation?


Anyway, this much (which is not all!) precedes what I think became Tolkien's ultimate solution with respect to orc and 'goblin', for the latter must be a translation no matter what orc is. In the Gnomish Lexixon (1917) orc appears to have been the actual Elvish word, with attested plurals orcin and orchoth, along with Qenya ork. In the much later scenario the Elvish terms are still close enough, so why not also characterize orc as the actual word used by Hobbits and others? In 1954 especially, the word orc wasn't exactly as well known as it is today.

I think Tolkien must have thought of this when he decided to explain the relationship of orc to 'goblin' for the revised edition of The Hobbit of 1966. He had already mused about Westron orka, and we are but a dropped vowel away. And so we end up with orc being the form of the name 'given at that time' (Frodo's day, generally speaking), and in 1967 (nomenclature), that Orc is Common Speech and should be translated 'goblin' at every instance -- that is, according to the system no instance of orc should be left in a translated version, and the translator would be correct to translate them all -- but in this case Tolkien wants the correct procedure ignored, as he wanted orc to remain where he had written it.

Also around this time:

'Although the spelling of what, in the later more organized linguistic situation, must have been a Common Speech form of a word or group of similar words should be ork.'

JRRT, Orcs 1969 or later


So the idea of Orc as actual Westron is basically built on texts dated 1966 (author-published), 1967 (author-distributed to translators of non-English editions), and 1969 or later (author-written), and as I say, I think is rather simpler than other ideas. Not that you disagreed of course, but I thought I would add this new citation anyway.


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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:20 pm

I'd claim to have been enlightened by that if I wasn't so confused. scratch
I think I follow as far as Orc is a Westron word, which may or may not have developed from an elvish word, and thats about it. And goblin is the Westron translation for orc? Even though they have the word orc already?
Um is it possible to state the position in a single sentence written for buckie filled idiots, just in case one happens by?

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Tue Jul 05, 2011 8:54 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote: I think I follow as far as Orc is a Westron word, which may or may not have developed from an elvish word, and thats about it.

That's 'correct' -- in as much as that's how I see it anyway, yes.

And goblin is the Westron translation for orc? Even though they have the word orc already?

Yes 'goblin' is the English translation of Westron orc, like Quenya Quendi translated with English 'Elves', or Westron banakil 'halfling'... or German hund 'dog' to use a favorite Primary World example.

In a single sentence: Orc is Westron, translated by English 'goblin'... just not in every instance.

That's the conceit anyway... or again, as I argue became the ultimate conceit Smile



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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Orwell on Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:07 am

A little conceited of you, Eldo?  Suspect 

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Elthir on Wed Dec 16, 2015 4:45 pm

By the way, I just realized that the second "orc reference" to The Hobbit (not counting Orcrist), while published in 1951, was possibly written in 1944, submitted to Tolkien's publishers in 1947, and after a little misunderstanding with Allen and Unwin, was used for the second edition of 1951.

This is the reference when Bilbo is in the "goblin mines", and one in which the word orc seems to refer to the "big ones" compared to the word goblin (but yet there are big "goblins" in The Hobbit in any case).

Which changes nothing really... but still it surprises me muchly (if my theory is correct), that Tolkien really didn't hit upon his ultimate solution here until the 1960s!
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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by halfwise on Wed Dec 16, 2015 5:44 pm

I think it's expecting too much even of Tolkien to be completely consistent with his translations. His first concern was to make things sound right, so he stuck with 'orcs' while translating nearly everything to evocative old english, etc to give them the proper sound. If something seemed to convey the proper meaning in the original language (Faramir? Lorien? Cirith Ungol?) he kept it. Same with orc.

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Forest Shepherd on Wed Dec 16, 2015 7:38 pm

It is an interesting example of Tolkien's legacy that these various translations of the same sort of thing have resulted in a solidly established tradition in fantasy of inherent differences between "orcs", "goblins", and "Uruks".

I know this discussion has thus far been limited to questions of translation and the central story-telling conceits of Tolkien's work, but I'd like to has over exactly why it is that fantasy writing, roleplaying games, and Jackson himself feel the need to categorize these as different breeds.

For example, in the roleplaying game D&D, there are two categories of what we would simply call "orcs/goblins" in Tolkien: goblinoids, which are generally small, cowardly, and only competent in groups; and orc-kind, which are generally warriors, large, and adept in battle. Creatures like Orogs, bugbears, and hobgoblins land somewhere along the spectrum of these two broader categories, but the categories are very distinct for all that. And then on top of this is the question of trolls. In D&D trolls, ogres, ettins and fomorians are all basically lesser, fouler, and eviller versions of giants. They fall under "giant-kind" but share many traits with orcs. This blends the line between orcs and trolls. 

In Jackson's films, "orcs", "goblins", and "Uruks" are also distinct. The creatures in the Mines of Moria? Goblins. The armies fought in The Hobbit? Orcs. Was it simply the fantasy culture inspired by Tolkien affecting Jackson's design team as they worked? Or were the descriptions in the books enough to inspire segregation? 

In the Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG, this is taken further, with the idea of goblins, orcs, and Uruks becoming even more solidified as their own types in the graphics design.

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by halfwise on Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:25 pm

Uruks and the general orcs are definitely distinct in Lord of the rings; in fact even Mordor orcs and misty mountain orcs are seen as different.

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Re: Orcs and goblins and trolls! Oh my!

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:34 pm

I always got the impression no one on the 'good' side cared enough about orcs to properly categorise them, and that what you have is the sort of arrogance that comes with a sense of suiperiroty, usually military- its something Tolkien dislikes, from the stick to your good old hobbit sense and dont ask awkward questions parochial mentality of the Shire, to Eomer scoffing ignorantly at the cries of the Wild-Men before the Gate of Helms Deep.
With orcs we get I think whatever they tend to be called by whoever is doing the calling.
I feel in his role of author the only definite definition Tolkien gives I would say is Uruk, and they too may come in different forms, as we have Saruman's Uruak-Hai and we have the Black Uruks of Mordor.
On top of that if I remember right words like snaga are orc/goblin words for a type of orc, and then we have ones like the sniffer orcs, seemingly breed for the purpose and who no doubt have their own name among orcs/goblins who tracks Frodo and Sam in Mordor.

In Moria I think their is mix of orc and Goblin used to describe events in authorial tone- and it reflects the point of view of the story- the main use if I remember it is goblin, but the more worldly members say orc for the same thing.

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