ORCS

In the folk tradition the image of the ogre is quite different from that one in the fantasy literature. In fact, the English language has two different words to describe this being: "Orc" and "Ogre".

The Orc, belonging to the fantasy literature, draws directly from the model of JRR Tolkien’s works and it is inspired by the Germanic mythology. It is an evil creature, similar to human beings, but characterized by bestial and often demonic connotations. On the contrary, the Ogres we can find in tales are different: the ogre of the Roman mythology, a ruler of the underworld and a man-eating, along with his dog Cerberus, has probably inspired their representation. The word "ogre", used to describe a man-eating monster, is documented in many works of the Italian literature since the thirteenth century. Among them, we can mention The Frenzy of Orlando by Ludovico Ariosto, while Ristoro Canigiani in 1363 describes it as a bogeyman for children.

The figure of the ogre has however been re-evaluated in a positive way in many recent works, starting from Shrek, Gmor Burpen in the Black Dragon series, the orcs of the Warhammer series up to the protagonists of the series Orcs (Orcs: First Blood) by Stann Nicolls, in which the author operates an extraordinary reversal of the classical roles; in this series of three books, a bunch of orcs - the Sons of the Wolf - fight humans, portrayed as ruthless conquerors of their world, Maras-Dantia.

Tolkien's novels have certainly represented a reference for authors of fantasy literature, but also for movies, role-plays, videogames and so on. In this case, the Orcs are anthropomorphic beings, shorter than men, horribly misshapen, suicide victim, with bowed legs, extremely strong but clumsy, evil and miserable creatures, that are just able to destroy. The Greenskins, as often they are called together with goblins, have a particularly violent nature, but also a strong personality and character. All their disputes, even the most trivial, are solved with a fight. On the battlefield, they move in a chaotic and confused way, marching and fighting for the frenzy of brutality, looting, and pillage. Even their weapons represent their character: rough and heavy.

While Tolkien describes them as beings with a yellowish or black skin, in many recent works Orcs have green skin (e.g. Shrek, Warcraft or Warhammer). Tolkien “puts them” in a tribal society (we can see that in the Warhammer world) divided into different bands, while the previous tradition had always described them as solitary beings. It must be said that, according to Tolkien, goblins and orcs belong to the same race, while the distinction of the two races is present in the film produced by Peter Jackson. In the first trilogy, Goblins are described as green-skinned beings, equipped with rudimentary iron tools, while in the second they have been represented as beings misshapen due to illness. In the original Tolkien work, goblins are nothing more than a synonym for ogres; as proof of this, in “The Two Towers”, the term Goblin is a name given to the Uruk-hai of Saruman. Tolkien takes the name orc and ork directly from an old English word that appears in the medieval epic poem Beowulf, which refers to some monstrous creatures belonging to the Grendel’s breed.

Many characterizations of the Orcs appeared in later works: these representations describe them in a different way from the tradition. For example, in the novels "The Last Orc" and "The Last Magic," by Silvana de Mari, they are described as beings very similar to men, sometimes even beautiful, much taller, from 2 meters up, and with very short, wide, and squared hands, that do not feel pain, able to see the future and great military strategists, although it is hard for them to express themselves and learn to talk very late. In the novel "The Killing Spirit" by Sean-Michael Argo they are represented as intelligent creatures and able to use magic, but at the same time brutal and cruel.

We can find differences or similarities in many games, role-plays or video games, such as Warhammer, Confrontation, World of Warcraft in the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, the web-based strategy game Utopia, in video games of Elder Scrolls or Arcanum series, in the role-play game Dungeons & Dragons, and the following settings as Forgotten Realms, Eberron and Mystara, and in those of the Earthdawn and Shadowrun series. In particular, the Shadowrun series is set in a future Earth, transformed by a dramatic genetic cataclysm; here, the Orcs are the descendants of human beings (or metahumans), and as such, they belong to the species homo sapiens robustus. Gmor, the ogre of the Black Dragon series, created by Luca Enoch and Stefano Vietti, is unique: he abandoned his fellows and live with humans, loves to cook delicacies, loves to read books and, behind his glasses, we can foresee a very erudite being, enlisted with Ian as a scouts in the Imperial forces.

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