Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To The Dung Pit

I have one reader who asked to see the type of writing I'm doing for my Tolkien class. Therefore, here is a post I added to The Prancing Pony, the online forum. The topic this week is "Orcs & The Black Speech".
I was intrigued by the background information that Tolkien gives the readers regarding the Orcs of Middle-earth. As always with Tolkien, there is a subtext to what he says and how he says it. Therefore, I found what Tolkien had to say about the Orcs to be quite telling. Simply put, he doesn't like them at all. The proof of this is in the fact that Tolkien denied them the power of a unique language for their own use.
In Appendix F, Tolkien noted that Orcs "had no language of their own, but took what they could of other tongues and perverted it to their own liking" (Tolkien 1131). Furthermore, Tolkien tells us that the Orcs quickly developed many different dialects among their kind which made the language virtually useless between their different tribes. Simply put, they had no language of their own. Unlike the Dwarves whose language was given to them by their god, the Orcs are linguistic orphans and their language is the bastard-child of Westron, Black Speech and their own garbled, foul tongue.
The longest Orc phrase is nothing but curses and filth: "Uglúk u bagronk sha pushdug Saruman-glob - búbhosh skai!" (translated as "Uglúk to the dung-pit with stinking Saruman-filth - pig-guts, gah!") whereas Tolkien provided Aragorn, Gandalf and even Frodo the opportunity to display their linguistic talents throughout the text. This weeks readings tell us that the Black Speech was created by Sauron in the Dark Years, who devised it for all those who served him, yet this plan ultimately failed. However, Orcs took bits and pieces of the Black Speech and sprinkled it throughout their own tongues. We also know that their are bits of Westron thrown into the Orcs linguistic soup as well. Simply put, the Orcs literally stole scraps of conversation from the table of the other races of Middle-earth. Orcs are the ultimate scavengers and their language is the perverted fruit of their lazy, linguistic attitudes.
For Tolkien the philologist this attitude would be an anathema to him. I do not believe that Tolkien could better display his utter disgust for the vile creatures that he created then by not giving them a means of linguistic expression that was unique to their culture. They couldn't even talk amongst themselves if they were from different tribes. By making the Orcs the bottom-feeders of the language pond he would naturally, inherently despise them simply because they do not measure up to his own exacting, linguistic standards and those that he bestowed upon the Dwarves, Elves and men of Middle-earth.


Blogger Cynthia said...

What a fabulous concept--to not allow a unified language as way to convey one's utter contempt for the literary creatures one has created.

It also calls to mind the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 when God confuses the language of all the people of the earth so that they could not understand one another, so they could not build an empire and think themselves equal to God.

Now there's an interesting topic to research: evil and the role of language.

Thanks for sharing some of your classwork writing!

9:10 PM, May 05, 2010  

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