loreology: orcs

If you’ve got a memory like an elephant, the old saying goes, then your noggin’s in good shape. Mine, when challenged under the gun, tends to shoot blanks. I’m a research kind of guy, not a living, breathing almanac…. Each week “Loreology” will unravel the mysteries behind something in gaming that I may have known once and completely forgot, or something that I should probably know and cram up into my nearly full brain cavity.

This Week: Tolkien’s Tough Guys

If you haven’t seen an orc in your fantasy travels you’ve been living in a well-protected fortress all your life or you started gaming back in 1912 before J.R.R. Tolkien ever put pen to paper. It was Tolkien who brought the word orc into the popular fantasy lingo. In Tolkien’s Middle-earth, orcs are the larger cousins to the goblins. Orcs thrive in places like the Mines of Moria, and are sure to play a prominent role in this fall’s upcoming Lord of the Rings Online expansion.

Tolkien derived his word orc from the Old English word for “demon.” It certainly made an impact because now “traditional” fantasy includes the orc as a common race. Some video games stick to the well-known Tolkien orcs–any Dungeons & Dragons game, like the Baldur’s Gate series comes to mind–while others take them to wild places. In Lineage II orcs are a race attuned to fire, Might and Magic gives us orange orcs and there are even online generators that morph headshots into what you would look like as an orc.

All this trivia probably won’t help me the next time I’m chugging through the Burning Steppes and a WoW orc wants to play the bongos on my brain. Then again, maybe it will if I can pull a Sauron and figure out how to get them to make gunpowder for me.


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