My Top Ten Orc Chieftains of Middle Earth

Middle Earth is full of dark and dangerous creatures and the most famous is the orc (also known as goblin in Tolkienology). There are several breeds and tribes of these nasties that often exhibit extreme rascism towards each other and other species. In order to keep these fighting machines in line, the powers of darkness find the strongest, smartest, and bravest to lead these endless hordes across the land.

Most of the orcs here are canon from Tolkien’s original works, but a few are taken from the expanded universe. If you are looking for orc cameos in non-Tolkien works, check out the top ten list of orc cameos.

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#10 Gorkil the Goblin King

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Coming it at the top of the list is the goblin king never mentioned in Tolkien’s works. He appears only in The Battle for Middle Earth II (EA Games) and rides a giant scorpion. His forces took control of the Ettenmoors in Angbar and leads the assault against the Elves and Dwarves in the North. In the alternate history of the game, he plays an important role in forming alliances with the dragons and destroying the Shire. He is a non-canonical character of Middle Earth, but his pivotal role in “what could have been” lets him squeeze into this list.

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#9 Glorfimbul

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Glorfimbul hails from Mount Gram of the Misty Mountains and led a war against the Northfarthing of the Shire in the year TA 2747. Since the rangers of the north were busy fighting so many goblins, Glorfimbul was able to reach the Shire with his entire host of goblins to pillage the peaceful hobbits. Glorfimbul’s moment of fame appears in a brief conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins as it was this particular chief that was killed by Bilbo’s ancestor Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took. According to the narrative, Bullroarer knocked Glorfimbul’s head off with a wooden club, sending it flying a hundred yards and down a rabbit hole. The war was one by the hobbits that day and the game of golf was invented.

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#8 Uglúk

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Without doubt, Uglúk is Saruman’s most trustworthy captain. After raiding the Wold and capturing Merry and Pippin, his company ran into a company of Sauron’s orcs that also wanted the halflings. Uglúk was undeterred, and continued on his journey to Isengard with his prisoners by the shortest route possible. With the Fellowship on his tail and dissenting orcs of Mordor in tow, Uglúk nearly succeeded in delivering Merry and Pippin to Saruman, but was killed by Éomer and the Rohirrim. In Peter Jackson’s film adaptation, Uglúk becomes the captain of the orcs after the death of Lurtz.

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#7 Shagrat

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Shagrat was captain of Cirith Ungol and led the patrol that found and captured the poisoned Frodo Baggins. Had it not been for Samwise’s wise choice to take the Ring from Frodo’s lifeless body, Shagrat would have discovered his master’s power and Middle Earth would have fallen to Sauron.

After searching Frodo, Shagrat and Gorbag fought over Frodo’s mithril coat, leading to Gorbag’s eventual death and the deaths of nearly every orc in Cirith Ungol. This allowed Samwise Gamgee the opportunity to enter Cirith Ungol and save Frodo. Shagrat fled with Frodo’s things, and brought them to Sauron, who then executed him.

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#6 Gorbag

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Gorbag is the shorter, yet quicker counterpart to Shagrat in Cirith Ungol. He is a Morgul Orc. He inadvertently allowed Sam to free Frodo when he fought with Shagrat over Frodo’s mithril coat. He is killed by Shagrat, who then takes the coat to Sauron. In Peter Jackson’s film portrayal, his and Shagrat’s roles are reversed and he meets his end when Sam sticks him in the back.

I like him over Shagrat partly because he is the more gruesome looking of the two captains. During the feud between orcs, Gorbag kicks one of Shagrat’s black orcs out of a window at the top of Cirith Ungol (in the film), and it is that act that wins him a place above Shagrat.

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#5 The Great Goblin

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The Great Goblin is the King of Goblin-town in the Misty Mountains. He and his subordinates preyed upon travelers and chanced upon Thorin’s company of dwarves. He was a huge and grotesque goblin and enjoyed taunting his victims. He would sometimes eat fish from the underground lake where Gollum lived. Many of his goblins died when Gandalf arrived to rescue the dwarves and he himself was stabbed to death by the wizard.

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# 4 Gothmog

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Gothmog was the Witch-King’s second in command. His species is unknown as he is only mentioned once in the books, but speculation puts him as an orc type of creature. He assumed command of the hosts of Mordor upon the death of the Witch-King. He called for the reinforcements from Osgiliath, a host of men serving the Great Eye. In the film, his role is greatly enhanced, from leading the ground troops against the men in Osgiliath to commanding the legions of Mordor in the siege of Minas Tirith. With a crippled hand, he fought Éowyn and was wounded, then killed while hunting her down.

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#3 Bolg

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Here the characters of the books and movies really begin to change. In the books, Bolg became leader of the orcs after his father Azog died in Moria. He ruled the Goblins of the Misty Mountains from his fortress in Mount Gundabad and led the forces of darkness in the Battle of Five Armies. He was crushed to death by Beorn.

In the Hobbit trilogy, Bolg is his father’s second in command and leads his father’s hunting party through Mirkwood to Lake-town, fighting the dwarves and the elves along the way. He proved himself difficult from Legolas to kill (which is an amazing accomplishment for an orc) and he is the only character to make Legolas bleed.

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#2 Lurtz

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Lurtz was the first captain of the Uruk-hai hunting party that ambushed the Fellowship in Amon Hen. He was created by Saruman to be a deadly force to be reckoned with. He is a Peter Jackson film character only. In the film, he chokes an orc to death upon his birth and is presumed the strongest and smartest of Saruman’s servants. He shoots Boromir three times with arrows, then engages in combat with Aragorn and very nearly decapitating him as well. Aragorn defeats Lurtz by stabbing him in the thigh with his dagger, then cuts his arm off, then stabs him in the stomach, an then decapitating him. To prove how unstoppable he was, he pulled Aragorn’s sword even deeper into his stomach to taunt Aragorn.

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#1 Azog the Defiler

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It was a tough choice between Azog and Lurtz, but Azog wins the number 1 spot, partly for his canonical story, and also for his non-canonical portrayal in the Peter Jackson films. First the canon. Azog was a powerful orc who assumed control of Moria and waged war against the Dwarves. He beheaded Thrór, the former King Under the Mountain, and carved his name into Thrór’s forehead. In the Battle of Azanulbizar, he killed Náin, but was then killed by Náin’s son, Dáin. His son Bolg carried on his legacy.

His life in the film version is quite different. In the films, he survives the Battle of Azanulbizar, but his arm is cut off by Thorin Oakenshield. He returns with a prosthetic hook arm and hunts Thorin’s company of dwarves. Later he is placed in command of Sauron’s forces in Dol Guldur and leads them in the Battle of Five Armies. He nearly kills Thorin and he ambushes and confronts Gandalf in Dol Guldur.

Well there you have it, my favorite orc chieftains of Middle Earth. What orc leaders did you like that aren’t on this list? Comment below if you want to share!

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Posted on November 29, 2014, in Top Ten Lists and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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