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Marauded across northern Beleriand especially in the years after the Dagor Bragollach of I 4551
The term is particularly used of bands of Orcs that travelled through the Pass of Sirion to ravage the lands to the south
Originated from Angband
Orc is pronounced 'o'rk'
Orc comes from the Old English for 'demon' or 'monster'


About this entry:

  • Updated 4 July 2024
  • This entry is complete


Marauding bands of Orcs

In the years after the Noldor returned to Middle-earth, and especially after they penned Morgoth in the North during the Siege of Angband, the lands of Beleriand had remained almost completely free of Orcs and other servants of the Dark Lord. This situation changed after Morgoth broke the Siege, and especially after Sauron captured the tower of Minas Tirith that guarded the Pass of Sirion. With that tower lost to the Elves, the southward pass lay open to Morgoth, and he began to send his Orcs through it into Beleriand.

For the most part, these Orcs seem to have formed marauding bands and raiding parties rather than any kind of organised army. Nonetheless, these Orc-hunters posed a real danger to the people living southward of the Pass of Sirion, and within a year of Minas Tirith's loss, the Orcs launched an attack against the Men of Brethil. That incursion was fought off with the help of Doriath, and the Orcs were also held at bay by others. For a time the warriors of the short-lived realm of Dor-Cúarthol fought back the invaders, and later the Men of Brethil themselves organised against the Orc-hunters with Turambar as their war leader. Despite these reverses, however, Morgoth's Orcs continued to threaten the lands of West Beleriand.

One particularly daring band of Orc-hunters made its way as far eastward as the borders of Doriath. They could not enter that land because of its protective Girdle of Melian, but they encountered a party of Elf-soldiers outside the Girdle and attacked them. These warriors were led by Mablung of the Heavy Hand, returning to Doriath from a scouting mission to the sacked city of Nargothrond. With them was Túrin's sister Niënor, who had suffered a loss of her memory in a fateful encounter with the Dragon Glaurung. In the chaos of the Orc-hunter attack, the confused Niënor ran in panic into the fringes of the Forest of Brethil, setting the stage for the tragic last act of her story and that of her brother Túrin.

We might perhaps expect that the term 'Orc-hunters' would mean 'hunters of Orcs' rather than 'hunters who were Orcs', but our sole recorded use of the term (in relation to the flight of Niënor) very definitely has the latter meaning. There were many hunters of Orcs in Middle-earth (perhaps most famously the Three Hunters Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, but also notably the great hunter King Folca of Rohan) but none of these are specifically referred to as 'Orc-hunters'.



Bands of raiding Orcs were known in the First Age before the Dagor Bragollach, but prior to that battle the passes southward of Angband were heavily defended, and attacks by hunting Orcs were rare. Morgoth's victory in the Dagor Bragollach, and in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad that followed, left him free to send Orcs to raid almost at will across the northern parts of Beleriand. It is during this period that the Orc-hunters are specifically described.

Though the name is not used directly, there were many instances of Orc-bands in later ages that could reasonably have been called Orc-hunters. Examples might include the Uruks that attacked Ithilien in III 2475, or the bands that troubled Rohan for many years. The term 'Orc-hunters' is not specifically used of any of these groups, however, and in general these later Orcs would perhaps be better described as raiders or soldiers than hunters.


About this entry:

  • Updated 4 July 2024
  • This entry is complete

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