The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
First seen in c.III 2475
Race
Pronunciation
ooroo'k-high
Meaning
Literally, 'Orc-people', a name from the Black Speech
Other Names

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  • Updated 12 April 2012
  • Updates planned: 1

Uruk-hai

The great soldier-Orcs of the later Third Age

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"We are the fighting Uruk-hai!"
Words of Uglúk
From The Two Towers III 3
The Uruk-hai

In the Black Speech, the word uruk originally meant no more than 'Orc', but in the later centuries of the Third Age, it took on a new meaning. At that time a new breed of soldier Orc appeared out of Mordor, larger and fiercer than any other kind, that came to be known as Uruks or (in full Black Speech form) Uruk-hai, literally meaning no more than 'Orc-people'.

Appearance and Nature

By Orc standards, the Uruk-hai were large, approaching the height of a typical Man. They were also broadly built, with thick limbs and large hands, and their skin was black in colour.

The Uruk-hai were in almost all ways superior to the lesser Orcs who preceded them. Not only were they larger and stronger, but they were also more disciplined and better trained, making them far more effective soldiers or commanders of the lesser Orc kinds. Where most Orcs could not stand the light of the Sun, the Uruk-hai could fight by day or by night.

The History of the Uruk-hai

The detailed origins of the Uruk-hai are uncertain. They were first seen in Mordor, and may have been bred there, but at that time Sauron still dwelt in Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. It seems rather implausible that the Dark Lord would have left the breeding of such creatures to his Nazgûl, so it may be that the first Uruk-hai originated in Dol Guldur, and were transported to Mordor before they were seen by outsiders.

Whatever their origins, the Uruk-hai first appeared in the histories of Men during the rule of Steward Denethor I. In the year III 2475 they emerged from Mordor and captured Osgiliath, and though they were beaten back they left the city in ruins. They continued to attack Ithilien for centuries, and by III 2901 the last of the Gondorian inhabitants had fled the land.

Meanwhile the Uruk-hai began to spread beyond the borderlands of Mordor. Some travelled into the Misty Mountains and entered Moria, while others went into the service of Saruman. At first Saruman's Uruks acted as raiders, launching attacks against Rohan from the southern Misty Mountains. One band under the leadership of Uglúk was sent eastwards to join Orcs of Mordor in the search for the Ring, and it was these Orcs that captured Merry and Pippin at Parth Galen. An even larger force was gathered for the invasion of Rohan: two battalions of Uruk-hai were sent against the Fords of Isen by Saruman. In the Battles that followed, they slew Théoden's heir Théodred, and finally captured the Fords, opening the way south to the Hornburg. These Uruks then marched with the rest of Saruman's armies to the Battle of the Hornburg, where they met their doom.

Though Saruman's Uruk-hai were lost at Helm's Deep, Sauron still retained many among his forces in Mordor. They are mentioned several times as part of the preparations for his great war, and presumably took part in the battle against the Captains of the West before the Morannon (though they're never identified explicitly in accounts of that battle). Most, if not all, were lost with the Downfall of Barad-dûr that brought the battle to an end, and the Uruk-hai are never mentioned again after the Fall of Sauron.


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