Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Progress: Orc Romance (II)

Stories of beowulf grendel15 days in and the Orc Romance has left any dream of Short Story behind at 25,500 words. I feel like I'm doing a dry run for NaNo or something, except at half-speed. What am I going to do with more than 25,000 words of Orc Romance?!

Other than researching Ogres as they relate to Orcs, of course. For which I have another installment, a la Beowulf illustrations. They predate Lord of the Rings by a couple of years, though not Tolkien. In fact, with a publication date of 1908, I almost wonder if Tolkien read this particular edition.

Fangs instead of tusks, but fearsome and very Uruk-hai in style, all the same. Even if Tolkien wasn't influenced by this depiction, it seems to capture the essence of the beast. I'm not sure I subscribe to Grendel as an Ogre, myself. I've always thought of him as more dragon-like, but since he's not all that well-described (and I am known for ignoring description anyway) it could just as easily be a me thing, than anything grounded in fact or literature.
Stories of Beowulf water witch trying to stab beowulf
But look also at the image of Grendel's mother in the same book. Green skin, blue-black hair, a long ugly nose. If anything, she's even more orc-like than Grendel, complete with rippling muscles.

We know that Tolkien was studying Beowulf -- and in fact he was one of the first to study it seriously for more than just the evolution of language. Looking at images like this, I can't imagine how the ogre isn't the father of the Orc -- or at the very least, the father of our perceptions of what makes an Orc. It's obvious that as a culture, we were already imagining them in 1908.


  1. The second picture looks very Orcish. The first picture is close, too. If the ogre had tusks and greener skin.

    You make me want to re-read Beowulf, though I have to admit it was a DIFFICULT read for me on the first run. I was in high school though, so maybe I'm in a better place for it now.

    Well-written, thought-inspiring post as always! :)

  2. I didn't enjoy Beowulf when I read it either (for the dreaded Tolkien class). It's on my re-read list, too, but I've been dragging my feet. I REALLY enjoyed my reread of Saga of the Volsungs though, now that it was no longer tainted by an awful professor, so here's hoping Beowulf is just as good the second time around.

  3. Cool! Of course, Tolkien's orcs, like much of his mythos, were derivative in various ways from Norse mythology among other things. But that doesn't reduce his creativity. A lot of the orc soldier dialogue in Lord of the Rings was pretty much derived from WWI soldier talk. A unique blend which is exclusively Tolkien's.

    Matthew Wright


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