Orcs, also called Goblins by Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarves, were the minions of Sauron. They acted as his basic grunts and did his bidding: patrolling borders, carrying out raids and attacking the innocent. Orcs often used other creatures as tools, such as employing trolls to lift heavy objects, or wargs and oliphaunts as mounts. The orcs that were Sauron's soldiers bore the Eye on their helmets. Perhaps their most famous role is as the performers of the marching song "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way!," which is well-known among fans for it's catchiness.
Goblins first appear in The Hobbit as recurring villains throughout the film. They make their debut when
Thorin, Bilbo, and company camp out at the side of a mountain. Bilbo is roused from his sleep by a dream, then notices that one of the walls has opened up into a cave, and the ponies they were riding are being taken. He alerts the others, and they all foolishly charge in to rescue their mounts, only to have the cave entrance closed, and the goblins capture the party in chains, while singing the song "Down, Down, to Goblin Town." They are brought before the Great Goblin, who attempts to kill Thorin upon being informed that he was carrying Orcrist, a sword that killed many goblins, and accuses them of being "murderers" and "elf-friends." However, Gandalf appears and slays the Great Goblin with Glamdring, the "Foe-Hammer," and the group escapes, with goblins in hot pursuit. During this commotion, Bilbo is knocked into the pit where Gollum lurks.
The goblins appear again shortly after the party escapes them the first time, pursuing them again in want of revenge for killing their king. They ride wargs, their giant wolf steeds, this time around, and chase the group up into several trees while joyously singing "Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees," a macabre tune about roasting the dwarves alive. While Gandalf uses magic to fend off a few of them, more quickly arrive, and use their torches to light the trees on fire. All seems lost until Gandalf summons the Lord of the Eagles and his flock, who airlift him, the dwarves, and Bilbo to safety.
The last time the goblins show up in The Hobbit is in the Battle of Five Armies, being the fourth army to join the fray. Unlike the other armies, they have no justification to claim the treasure of Smaug and simply desire it out of greed. They vastly outnumber the other three, and it is their appearance that causes Thorin, the Elvenking, and Bard to hastily put aside their differences and join forces to defeat the goblin troops. The goblins have the other armies losing badly until the eagles, the fifth and final army in the battle, arrive and decimate the goblins by picking them up and dropping them from great heights. Many perish in the battle, with only six of the original thirteen dwarves surviving the clash, and Thorin is among those who are killed.
The Lord of the Rings
Orcs once again are the main forces of evil in The Return of the King, as the rank-and-file minions of the Dark Lord Sauron. As usual, the orcs were as cruel and malicious as always, taking pleasure in causing fear, death, and destruction across Middle-Earth. Orcs captured and tortured Frodo in the beginning of the film, and when Samwise breaks into Cirith Ungol to rescue him, he discovers the orcs have all killed each other. He encounters one that remains alive and tries to kill him, but it fears the power of the Ring and cowers in fear when it finds that Samwise has it, begging for mercy. This orc informs the Hobbit that Frodo is still alive, and tells him the orcs all killed each other fighting over ownership of Frodo's coat. He then attacks Sam once more when he discovers he has it, only to flee from the Ring again and stumble off the stairs into the abyss below, presumably dead. After fighting another orc and dispatching him in a similar manner, Sam finds Frodo, and on their way out, the two Hobbits don armor and arm themselves with weapons from the dead orcs as protection before leaving.
After falling asleep behind a rock, Samwise and Frodo wake up to find a battalion of orcs marching near them, singing "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way!," and the captain discovers them. Believing them to be deserting orcs due to their armor, he forces them to march with the rest of the orcs, and Frodo decides they must break from the rest of the orcs. The orcs end up meeting a group of Sauron's human soldiers at a point where their road meets with another, and the human captain shoves the orc captain and tells them that men go before orcs. Samwise takes advantage of this and incites the orcs to attack the men, giving Frodo and him a chance to slip away unnoticed. This is the last major role the orcs play in the story, though they do show up again as generic foot soldiers and riding oliphaunts in the rest of the battle sequences, as well as performing the song "Towers of the Teeth" at the eponymous towers to intimidate the forces of Aragorn. Samwise also fantasizes about turning the orcs into peaceful forest animals when he is tempted by the Ring.
Orcs are ugly, grotesque creatures with a humanoid shape, though they are more similar to devils or imps in appearance than anything else. They are generally fat and rotund, with large, toad-like lower jaws, and are squat and wide in stature, being shorter than men or elves but taller than hobbits or dwarves. Orcs have warty, scaled blue skin, though it appears brown under some lighting, tusk-like teeth, and long horns like cattle, as well as noses and pointed ears resembling those of dogs. While the goblins all look identical with the exception of the Great Goblin, in The Return of the King they display a greater variety of form, with some being less fat and having no horns, or one or two horns that varied in length, and had blue hair instead of the brown hair of the goblins. Another, different type of orc also appears, possibly a different race, with tan skin, no visible hair, samurai-like hemets that do not bear the Eye of Sauron, and less dog-like faces, instead having blunt, rounded muzzles with wide nostrils.
Personality and Traits
Orcs have little personality beyond being stereotypically evil, enjoying whenever they cause fear or pain among others. They are very petty and will fight amongst themselves and their allies over any trivial matter, and treat those below them with great contempt. However, the lyrics of "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way," as well as a brief scene in Frodo's dream during "Leave Tomorrow 'Till it Comes" where he and Sam encounter a friendly orc, seems to suggest that the orcs are not entirely evil, and are forced to be so by their dark master Sauron. Orcs also have a strong aversion to light, as they are naturally creatures of darkness.