What are Goblins?

Discussion in 'The Hall of Fire' started by Myles, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. Myles

    Myles New Member

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    I am wondering if anyone can tell me what Goblins are?

    The Tolkien Companion defines Goblins as Orcs. Orcs being called Goblins by the Hobbits.

    I don’t recall any mention of the origin of goblins in The Silmarillion.

    In The Hobbit, Gandalf refers to the Misty Mountains as being full of Goblins, Hobgoblins and Orcs - presumably each being different entities.

    Can anyone clarify, please?
    Thank you!
     
  2. Gothmog

    Gothmog Lord of Balrogs Staff Member

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    The first thing to say on this matter and something to remember with such issues in the Hobbit is that until the writing of The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit was a "Stand alone" children's book unconnected with the legendarium of Tolkien's middle-earth. This means that there are in the story things that don't fit in with the rest of middle-earth such as Rock Giants and other things that have to be looked at as being seen, and named, differently by Hobbits to the rest of the Peoples who used terms based on Elvish names for them. Goblins are an example of the latter, Orcs are known to the Hobbits as Goblins or Hobgoblins likely dependent on the size and ferocity of the type.

    As for the origin of Orcs, This is touched on in the Silmarillion but Tolkien came to no definitive answer. The earliest idea was that they were Elves corrupted by Melkor. Tokien was not happy with this origin due to questions of what happened to corrupted Elves after they died/were killed. Also if Orcs were made from corrupted Elves then they would have the life-span of Elves. Tolkien tried various ideas such as them being animals altered by Melkor or even Men corrupted and changed. However, each idea had problems associated with it and he came to no definite answer.
     
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  3. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Treacherous and Vile

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    I would point out that, even in LOTR, Frodo thinks that the (ahem) Squint-eyed Southerner "looks more than half like a goblin".
     
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  4. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Tolkien explained, with my emphasis in colour:


    "2) orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places but is usually translated as goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds) (...) Orc is the hobbits' form of the name given at that time to these creatures..." JRRT, The Hobbit, 3rd edition​

    I find no certain evidence that "goblin" represents some special Hobbit word, that is, some word other than Orc itself. Sindarin used the similar word Orch. It's about the translation conceit: think of English "Elves" used to translate the Elvish word Quendi. Or moving outside the books, think of the German word hund translated by English "dog".


    When writing The Hobbit I think Tolkien imagined a difference between an orc and a goblin. Even early drafts of The Lord of the Rings appear to confirm this. But in the end, Tolkien's decision to make Orc a Westron word used by Hobbits and other folk (translated by goblin or hobgoblin), can plug into the Hobbit references with the word orc(s) in them (instances of the word outside of Orcrist "Goblin-cleaver"). And The Lord of the Rings, in its published form, agrees with Tolkien's later decision on the matter in any case.

    The Hobbit
    reference you refer to then becomes, I would say, a matter of style, Tolkien as writer/translator (as the conceit goes) is using a Westron word and two English terms to refer to: orcs, large orcs, and orcs of the worst description (English "hobgoblin" refers to larger kinds).

    The external history is more confusing than this, but the internal (in story) answer has to do with a word in a language other than English being translated with English goblin, more often in The Hobbit than in The Lord of the Rings.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2018

  5. Glorfindel_ofGondolin

    Glorfindel_ofGondolin Elf Lord from the First Age

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    Firstly, hi first post here.
    I think goblins are the cave dwelling relatives of orcs, who cannot stand light.
    There was a reference in LOTR that Saruman made the Uruk Hai by crossing goblins with orcs in order to make them. Therefore, I dont think that goblins are orcs or orcs are goblins at all. Both are different creatures that are similar, yes, but different.
    Cheers, John
     
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  6. Gothmog

    Gothmog Lord of Balrogs Staff Member

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    As you can see, the races that are mentioned are Orcs and Men, it is the addition of Men that allow Saruman's orcs to stand the light of the sun. Goblin and Hobgoblin are alternative names for Orcs. There are many different types of Orc but all are Orcs.
     
  7. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Treacherous and Vile

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    The real confusion lies in the nature of Saruman's Orcs, especially given Gamling's reference, at Helm's Deep, to "these half-orcs and goblin-men that the foul craft of Saruman has bred". It's caused argument for decades, with some stating confidently that the two are separate "breeds".

    My own impression is that Men simply didn't have a category for them, as they were a new form -- neither "full" Orc, or full Man. Therefore, none of the known names fit.

    On the other hand, if Saruman was indeed crossbreeding Orcs with Men, it would be expected, due to genetic factors, that some products would be closer to one kind or the other. This is something Saruman would no doubt find useful. I'd look at it more as a spectrum, rather than different "breeds".

    And welcome to the forum, Glorfindel!
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2018
  8. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Yep, the film made a distinction here, and changed some wording too, as Gothmog noted.

    With respect to the Uruks, according to Appendix A, they first appeared out of Mordor.
    Also in the book, Treebeard does wonder (and it's not the only possibility Treebeard offers up concerning Saruman's lot) if Saruman's Uruk-hai (which term means "(Great) Orc folk")
    are the result of crossing Orcs with Men.

    And we know that Saruman did this, but the result can easily be the Orc-men that Merry describes to Aragorn (also described in Unfinished Tales), instead of the Uruk-hai.

    I note the terms: to me Orc-man suggests Treebeard's mix (man-high but with orc/goblin faces), and Uruk-folk suggests great orcs. And if we plug in Tolkien's translation conceit (English "goblin" translates Westron Orc): Gamling's reference becomes half-orcs and orc-men,
    without translating Westron orc in both places.

    My opinion on the Uruk-hai debate anyway. And welcome! :)

    We also know (books) that Saruman's Uruks are at one point referred to as goblin-soldiers, for example.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
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  9. Elaini

    Elaini Lost in Eä

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    Not all horses are ponies, but all ponies are horses.
    Not all orcs are goblins, but all goblins are orcs.
    Not all orcs are uruk-hai, but all uruk-hai are orcs.

    That's my simple take on it.
     
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  10. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I agree with your third sentence :)

    . . . but to me, the second sentence is like saying not all Quendi are "Elves". Or to put it another way: a dachshund is a kind of dog, a "badger-dog" -- but hund and "dog" simply represent a German word and its English translation, like Westron Orc, English "goblin".

    And although uruk is Black Speech for Westron orc, Appendix F tells us the word uruk came to refer (in usage) to greater kinds compared to the lesser, snaga-types. So an uruk is a kind of orc, compared to a snaga. But they are both orcs in Westron, and thus both "goblins" in English.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  11. lotrfox

    lotrfox Looking up to Eru

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    Elaini, what then is the relationship between goblins and uruk-hai?
     
  12. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    Tolkien actually addressed this himself.

    “Nomenclature of the Lord of the Rings” was an essay written by Tolkien for translators. It was photocopied by Allen & Unwin, his publishers, and shared for many years. It first appeared in print in A Tolkien Compass by Christopher Tolkien in 1975; this is from an appendix to Reader’s Companion.
    ─◊─
    Orc. This is supposed to be the CS name of those creatures at that time. It should therefore according to the system be translated into E. or the LT. It was translated ‘goblin’ in The H., except in one place; but this word, and other words of similar sense in other European languages (as far as I know), are not really suitable. The orc in The L.R. and The Silmarillion, though of course partly made out of traditional features, is not really comparable in supposed origin, functions, and relation to the Elves. In any case orc seemed to me, and seems, in sound a good name for these creatures. It should be retained.

    It should be spelt ork (so in the Dutch translation) in a Germanic LT, but I had used the spelling orc in so many places that I have hesitated to change it in the E. text, though the adjective is necessarily spelled orkish. (The Grey-elven form is orch, pl. yrch.

    (I originally took the word from OE orc (Beowulf 112, orc-neas and the gloss orc = Þyrs ‘ogre’, heldeofol ‘hell-devil’). This is supposed not to be connected with the modern E. orc, ork, a name applied to various sea-beasts of the dolphin-order.)​
    ─◊─
    Paragraph two has an unclosed parenthesis, which I have reproduced. “CS” is “Common Speech”, “E.” is “English”, “LT” is the “language used in translation”, “OE” is “Old English” (Anglo-Saxon).

    I will dare to disagree a bit with Galin concerning uruk – a dangerous thing to do, since his grasp of Tolkien’s languages far exceeds mine. But Appendix F says of uruk,
    ─◊─
    Orcs and the Black Speech. Orc is the form of the name that other races had for this foul people… In Sindarin it was orch. Related, no doubt, was the word uruk of the Black Speech, though this was applied as a rule only to the great soldier-orcs that at this time issued from Mordor and Isengard. The lesser kinds were called, especially by the Uruk-hai, snaga ‘slave’.​
    ─◊─
    And at the end of the section on Orcs, he writes
    ─◊─
    But at the end of the Third Age a troll-race not before seen appeared… Olog-hai they were called in the Black Speech. … a fell race, strong, agile, fierce and cunning, but harder than stone. Unlike the older races of the Twilight they could endure the sun…​
    ─◊─
    I deduce from this that the suffix -hai means “great”, so that uruk-hai is “great orcs” and olog-hai “great trolls”.

    And just to stir controversy, I think these olog-hai were half-trolls bred from Entwives: their physical description as “clad only in close-fitting mesh of horny scales, or maybe that was their hideous hide” parallels that of the Ents, “As tall as trolls… clad with raiment or with hide of close-fitting grey and brown.” Moreover, the olog-hai were “strong, agile, fierce and cunning, but harder than stone,” also an apt description of Ents. And just as Orcs were bred in mockery of Elves, Treebeard said that Trolls were bred in mockery of Ents.

    To summarize: “goblins” are orcs. The Hobbit is a children’s story – for Tolkien’s children, no less – and he used “goblins” instead of “orcs” when telling his children his story. Tolkien himself tells us this in “Nomenclature”. “Hobgoblins” I suppose would be “uruk-hai”, or at least the leaders of the goblins: larger, stronger, and more cunning that the rest. Sindarin orch is feigned to be the origin of the Common Speech orc and the Black Speech uruk. All orcs are properly uruk in Black Speech, but with the appearance of the uruk-hai, the orcs themselves made a distinction between these greater orcs and those weaker and smaller of their kind, whom they disparagingly and derisively called snaga “slave”.

    That’s what makes sense to me from this material.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  13. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Thanks Alcuin. I began with Tolkien's note to the (3rd edition) Hobbit, but Nomenclature agrees with it (and I note the relatively late date concerning both texts). It echoes that the word Orc is a Common Speech (Westron) word, and is translated by English goblin -- and since, according to Tolkien's own system, orc should be translated in The Lord of the Rings, here JRRT feels the need to tell other translators not to translate it where it appears in The Lord of the Rings. Orc should be retained for this work, as you quoted:

    Orc. This is supposed to be the CS name of those creatures at that time. It should therefore according to the system be translated into E. or the LT. It was translated ‘goblin’ in The H., except in one place; but this word, and other words of similar sense in other European languages (as far as I know), are not really suitable. The orc in The L.R. and The Silmarillion, though of course partly made out of traditional features, is not really comparable in supposed origin, functions, and relation to the Elves. In any case orc seemed to me, and seems, in sound a good name for these creatures. It should be retained.

    Also Alcuin, congrats on the Red Sox! With respect to -hai though, it's translated "folk" by Tolkien in Parma Eldalamberon 17, Words, Phrases and Passages. So basically we end up with "Uruk-folk" -- and taking into account the use of uruk compared to snaga, something like: "(great) orc-folk". Or in full English: "(great) goblin-folk".

    I'll only add (not that you said otherwise) that Tolkien used the word goblin in early "Silmarillion" texts, and used it a number of times in The Lord of the Rings of course, even to refer to some of Saruman's uruks as "goblin soldiers", despite that the translation "goblin" basically took a back seat to the word orc in this tale.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2018
  14. Jordan Thomas

    Jordan Thomas Melkor’s Welsh Maiar

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  15. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Treacherous and Vile

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    Here's an old thread on the subject, featuring some members still around (looking at you, Galin!):

    http://www.thetolkienforum.com/index.php?threads/uruks-vs-uruk-hai.2146/

    Extensive (36 page!) discussion, which I haven't worked through yet, but it contains a quote from Morgoth's Ring that would seem to undercut the idea I posted above:

    Seems I need to update my profile. :(

    More seriously (ahem), since we know many of Tolkien's later writings were attempts to work out and rationalize various ideas in earlier ones, the question remains as to whether he had these differences in mind at the time of writing LOTR.

    Similarly with -hai: the statement that it translates as "-folk" looks definitive, and yet "Uruk-hai" seems always to be applied only to the "Great Orcs" of Saruman or Sauron:

    Whatever the case, it seems clear that the Uruk-hai, as a Third Age phenomenon, are the demonic parody of Men, and intended as a counter to them, in the coming time when Men would replace Elves, Dwarves, and other races as the dominant peoples of Middle Earth; this would probably include the "old" version of Orcs, created by Morgoth. The "New Man" edition certainly seems by Tolkien to be (from the standpoint of evil) considered "superior" to both Orcs and Men.

    Conclusion: if you're looking for evil,

    you-never-go-5be440.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  16. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Westron

    From my research on the subject, Tolkien (surprisingly to me), did not fully settle on the relationship between the words goblin and orc until the later 1960s (in 1967 Tolkien noted that he had "recently" been working on Nomenclature), and then . . .

    . . . he published this explanation, in the Hobbit, third edition. To my mind, the author-published explanation then wipes away any decades of behind-the-scenes confusion and JRRT's arguably changing ideas. These three late texts all agree in whole or in part:

    1) Hobbit note, 3rd edition
    2) Nomenclature, orc entry for translators
    3) a late, posthumously published note on Orcs, Morgoth's Ring.

    The idea Tolkien landed on also agrees with Appendix F, On Languages, and to my mind, even serves to explain those instances in The Hobbit of "orc" that seem confusing (because in origin, Tolkien arguably did have a different idea at this point).

    A word used by Hobbits

    Westron <> English translation

    Kuduk <><> "Hobbit"
    Banakil <><> "Halfling"

    So, in general, it's not impossible that "Goblin" represents some word used by Hobbits, while "Orc" represents another word used by other Westron speakers. Meaning . . .

    Westron <> English translation

    Unknown Hobbitish (Westron) word <><> "Goblin"
    Unknown Westron word <><> "Orc"

    But in my opinion that doesn't go with what Tolkien explained, which I would illustrate as . . .

    Westron <> English translation

    Orc <><> "Goblin"


    Even Tom Shippey once argued the scenario that "goblin" represents a Hobbit word. But he used a secondary source which did not give every example of "goblin" in The Lord of the Rings. And he discounted The Hobbit, basically arguing that Tolkien had yet to be careful about this matter.

    For me, Tolkien's ultimate scenario embraces/works with all his published texts.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
  17. Jordan Thomas

    Jordan Thomas Melkor’s Welsh Maiar

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