Monday, October 12, 2015

Orcs and Goblins

I just noticed in the Author’s Note in The Hobbit the distinction between orc and goblin is discussed:

“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 at all connected at all with our orc, or ork, applied to sea-animals of the dolphin kind.”

This made me think of the discussion we had in class about them and whether they were separate races or not. I have no idea what the sea creature reference is about but it is interesting how the distinction is made between goblin and orc. It seems to be saying that the name goblin was used in the time of The Hobbit more than in, say, LOTR. This is the latest edition of the Hobbit which has been edited slightly to fit better to the LOTR (there in an editor’s note that says so). I think that probably Tolkien had not developed his concept of orcs until after writing The Hobbit, so he went back and made this edit to make the entire story flow better.


Varda said...

The differences and similarities between orcs and goblins does seem a little thrown together, if you ask me. It all begs the question of whether orcs were called orcs when Isildur cut the ring from Sauron's hand, or if they were called goblins. Maybe Bilbo didn't know what else to call the creatures, so he called them goblins. Maybe, as this novel is directed toward children, the term goblin is more easily interpreted by children.

I suspect that the sea creature reference is referring to orcas, otherwise known as killer whales. They are related to the multiple species of dolphin.

Oromë said...

Because we have had this conversation in class a few times, I was careful to notice any use of the word "orc" in The Hobbit. Only twice in the book does he use the word "orc," and in both cases, it is in a list of different groups of goblins. It is my interpretation that goblins and orcs are the same race, just called by a different name on different occasions. There are a few different reasons why he may have chosen to do this.

First, the word "goblin" is originally a French word for a small, grotesque, demon-like creature. The English word "orc" described a similar creature in English folklore. Given Tolkien's pride in English language and history, it is not surprising that he would choose to favor the English word in his later realization of Middle-earth.

Another possible reason, as Varda mentioned, is that the word "goblin" may provoke a familiar image for children, to whom the book is directed. Although Tolkien's goblins/orcs are an invention all his own and do not particularly resemble the goblins of European folklore, the use of a familiar word could help children to better imagine the monsters of Tolkien's fiction.

Tulkas said...

I find it interesting that his explanation is entirely linguistic. It makes sense coming from Tolkien, and I think we do the same thing in English. English is influenced by many different cultures, and we often use two different words that mean almost the same thing. For instance, when France took over England French words became associated with higher class, while English was lower class. This is why we have words like fight and battle. Fight is the English word and can mean anything from fighting a war to a fight in the street. Battle, on the other hand, is the French form of the word. We associate it with large scale, organized, honorable fights. The act is essentially the same, but our notions surrounding the act differ. I think this is similar to what Tolkien describes with orcs and goblins. On a certain level they are synonymous,their denotative meanings are the same. But their connotative meanings, the extra information we add on, give us different images.