What Happened To The Orcs After Sauron’s Defeat In The Lord Of The Rings?

In the same episode, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) suggests doing away with the species entirely in a move that, based on the show’s more empathetic contextualization of the orcs, amounts to genocide. Although it’s an appalling plan, it’s not completely out of line with the common conception of orcs as mostly mindless but definitely harmful beings whose function is only to serve darkness. So did all the orcs end up slaughtered by the end of the Third Age?

Not exactly, although, with their leader Sauron well and truly gone at the end of “The Return of the King,” they don’t fare much better. Here’s what Tolkien wrote in “Return of the King,” describing the aftermath of Frodo and Sam destroying the One Ring:

“As when death smites the swollen brooding thing that inhabits their crawling hill and holds them all in sway, ants will wander witless and purposeless and then feebly die, so the creatures of Sauron, orc or troll or beast spell-enslaved, ran hither and thither mindless; and some slew themselves, or cast themselves in pits, or fled wailing back to hide in holes and dark lightless places far from hope.”

So basically, as empathetic and individualized as Adar makes the orcs sound when he tells Galadriel that “each one has a name, a heart,” the dark fate their race will meet thousands of years later is still indicative of their lack of autonomy. The orcs are essentially mind-controlled, and when the last bit of Sauron’s power blips out of existence, they lose their drive to go on. Still, the word “some” here implies that there are orcs who may have lived past their Sauron-mandated expiration date, but if they did, we’re not told what their lives looked like.

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