The Official Collection of Fantastical Creature Information--Updated Randomly

For all your fantastical creature needs! This is the beginning of my encyclopedia, and I'm collecting as much information as I can on various fantasy creatures. Most of my stuff can be found on wikipedia. However, no source is perfect, so the stuff that is my input is often italicized. Help me by sending me more information at

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Monday, July 9, 2007


Orcs are often portrayed as misshapen humanoids with brutal, warmongering, sadistic, yet cowardly tendencies, although some settings and writers describe them as a proud warrior race with a strong sense of honour. They are variously portrayed as physically stronger or weaker than humans, but always high in numbers. They often ride wolves or wargs. In many role-playing and computer games, though not in Tolkien's works, Orcs have green skin (earning the name "Greenskins" in most games) and have faces that resemble a cross between a pig and a primate.

Etymology of the word "orc"
The modern use of the English word "orc" to denote a race of evil, humanoid creatures begins with J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien's earliest elvish dictionaries include the entry "Ork (orq-) monster, ogre, demon" together with "orqindi ogresse." Tolkien sometimes used the plural form orqui in his early texts.
Tolkien sometimes used the word "goblin" instead of "orc", (though they are completely different) to describe the same type of creatureLater in his life he expressed an intention to change the spelling of "orc" to "ork" in but the only place where that spelling surfaced in his lifetime was in the published version of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, in the poem Bombadil Goes Boating ("I'll call the orks on you: that'll send you running!"). In the posthumously published Silmarillion, the spelling "orcs" was retained.

Old English influence
Tolkien's own statements about the real-world origins of his use of the word "orc" are as follows:
"the word is, as far as I am concerned, actually derived from Old English orc 'demon', but only because of its phonetic suitability"

"I originally took the word from Old English orc (Beowulf 112 orc-neas and the gloss orc = þyrs ('ogre'), heldeofol ('hell-devil'). This is supposed not to be connected with modern English orc, ork, a name applied to various sea-beasts of the dolphin order."
"The word used in translation of Q urko, S orch is Orc. But that is because of the similarity of the ancient English word orc, 'evil spirit or bogey', to the Elvish words. There is possibly no connection between them. The English word is now generally supposed to be derived from Latin Orcus."

Early modern usage
As far as what otherwise might have influenced Tolkien, the OED lists a 1656 use (see below) of an English word ‘orke’ in a way reminiscent of giants, ogres and the like.

In at least a dozen or more tales, Basile used 'huorco' (or 'huerco', 'uerco') which is the Neapolitan form of ‘orco’ [modern It. ‘giant’, 'monster'] to describe a large, speaking, mannish beast (hairy and tusked) that lived away in a dark forest or garden, and that might be evil (capturing/eating humans), indifferent or even benevolent - all depending on the tale.

But the 1656 English use of 'orke' comes from a fairy-tale by Samuel Holland entitled Don Zara, which is a pastiche and parody of fantastical Spanish , and presumably is populated by beasts and monsters common to them. (Note: Straparola was translated into Spanish in 1583. Independent of this, there is in Spain to this day the folktale of the ‘huerco’ or ‘güercu’, which is a harbinger of impending death; a shade in the form of the person about to die.)

Whether 'orke', 'ogre', 'huerco' or 'orco', the word ultimately comes from Latin Orcus, and has apparently descended by several stages through the meanings "underworld, hell", "devil", "evil creature" and at last "ogre". Note that Tolkien and the lexicons he used also attributed the origin of the doubtful Old English orc to Orcus, and that in one of his invented languages the word for "orc" also had the form orco.

Words derived from or related to Italian orco are fairly common in Mediterranean countries; in addition to Italian dialectal uerco, huerco and huorco and Spanish güercu, there is also Tyrolean ork which may be either a house gnome or a mountain spirit that acts as protector of wildlife
Such creatures have little in common with Tolkien's orcs.

Tolkien's Orcs
The humanoid, non-maritime race of Orcs that exist in Middle-earth are J.R.R. Tolkien's invention. The term 'Orc' is usually capitalised in Tolkien's writing, but not necessarily in other sources. In Tolkien's writing, Orcs are of human shape, but smaller than Men, ugly, and filthy. In a private letter, Tolkien describes them as "squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes".Although not dim-witted, they are portrayed as dull and miserable beings, who are only able to destroy, not to create.

Orcs are first described in The Tale of Tinúviel as "foul broodlings of who fared abroad doing his evil work". In The Fall of Gondolin Tolkien wrote that "all that race were bred by Melko of the subterranean heats and slime. Their hearts were of granite and their bodies deformed; foul their faces which smiled not, but their laugh that of the clash of metal, and to nothing were they more fain than to aid in the basest of the purposes of Melko."
Orcs eat all manner of flesh, including human. In Chapter II of The Two Towers, Grishnakh, an Orc from Mordor, claims that the Isengard Orcs eat Orc-flesh, but whether that is true or a statement spoken in malice is uncertain; what does seem certain is that, true or false, the Orcs resent that description. However, knowing what they are like and from later events, it seems likely that Orcs do eat other Orcs. Later in The Two Towers, Merry and Pippin are presented with meat by an orc after a fight occurred in which the Uruk-hai killed several orcs; the narration is vague as to what species the flesh belongs to. In the film, the famous line "Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys," occurs when an orc is killed by another in an attempt to protect their captives.
Tolkien also describes them as bow-legged. They fight with ferocity (so long as a guiding 'will' compels/directs them). In some places, Tolkien describes Orcs as mainly being battle fodder Orcs are used as soldiers by both the greater and lesser villains of The Lord of the Rings — Sauron and Saruman.

In some versions of his stories, Tolkien conceived Orcs to be marred Elves, enslaved by Morgoth and and twisted into his evil soldiers. Other versions have Orcs as 'parodies' or false-creations of Morgoth's that are animated solely by his evil will (or, perhaps, by his own essence diffused into each), and made intentionally to mock or spite Eru Ilúvatar's creations — the Eldar and Edain.
Tolkien also "suggested" that men were cross-bred with Orcs under Morgoth's lieutenant, Sauron (and possibly under Morgoth himself). The fierce black orcs known as Uruks were created in this way.The process was later repeated during the War of the Ring by Saruman, enabling him to create the "fighting" Uruk-Hai.

Within Tolkien's invented languages, the Elvish words for "orc" are derived from a root ruk referring to fear and horror, from which is derived an expanded form of the root, uruk. A noun *uruku is produced from the extended root. This eventually turns into Quenya urco, plural urqui. A related word *urkō produces Sindarin orch, plural yrch. The Quenya words are said to be less specific in meaning than the Sindarin, meaning "bogey". For the specific creatures called yrch by the Sindar, the Quenya word orco, with plurals orcor and orqui, was created.
These orcs had similar names in other languages of Middle-earth: in Orkish uruk (restricted to the larger soldier-orcs), in the language of the Drúedain gorgûn, in Khuzdul rukhs, plural rakhâs, and in the language of Rohan and in the Common Speech orc.

Orcs in other fantasy works
in Letter #210, Tolkien describes the Orcs as "degraded and repulsive versions of the least lovely Mongol-types". The similarity between the word Orc and Turk is striking.

Anatomically, Warhammer Orcs are no taller but substantially broader than humans, with short legs and long arms much like an ape. They have massive heads which come directly forward on their necks, giving them a stooping appearance. They have tough thick green skin which is highly resistant to pain. Warhammer Orcs aren't very smart, but can be cunning at times. They are extremely warlike and the whole society is geared towards constant warfare. The constant need to fight is the expression of Orc culture, a fact that keeps the Orcs from forming anything but temporary alliances with each other. In combat they can transform even the most common object into a lethal killing instrument. Orcs tend to ally with Goblins and Snotlings, but their alliance is more of a matter of the Orcs bullying their smaller Goblinoid cousins into being everything from servants, to Human (Goblin) shields, to an emergency food source. They worship a pair of gods known as Gork and Mork (other gods were included in earlier editions of the game, but are no longer included).


In the series Orcs are depicted as more ethically and socially complex than in most renditions. The great Orcish race is a savage but noble society made of Shamanisitic and fierce warriors. Their race came from the world of Draenor, and were corrupted by a demonic force known as the Burning Legion, as the Legion saw that they could make a most fierce and savage army. Under the Legion's influence, the Orcish Horde slaughtered the Draenei. After two devastating wars, the Orcs were finally defeated on Azeroth and rounded up into Internment camps. They remained there until a young Orc named Thrall, who was raised by humans, rallied them together, freed the Horde from their demonic taint, and helped return them to their shamanistic roots.

Warcraft Orcs are humanoid, but prodigiously muscled and green with broad noses and distinctive tusked mouths. Male orcs are significantly larger than humans, around 6 and a half feet tall when standing straight. Females are slightly larger than a human female, and while much more slender than their male counterparts, they are nonetheless well-muscled. Female orcs' tusks are very small to nearly nonexistent, arguably more exaggerated canines than tusks. Orc warriors are characterized by wearing scant armor with horned helmets and wielding axes as weapons. Warcraft is one of the few settings in which Orcs are not inherently evil, and, after significant plot developments in the latest Warcraft games, can even be heroic. One could consider the orcs unfairly treated by humans and not only misunderstood, but vilified. The humans' (of which were already somewhat xenophobic) enmity and prejudice towards the Orcs can be traced back to the first and second invasions, and could be fully justified, as it was orcs under the control of the Burning Legion that invaded.
Their political standpoint in the Warcraft universe is set as the leading race of the Horde, an association of races made to help their mutual survival.

Final Fantasy XI
The Orcs are a tribe of Beastmen. Though the Orcish Empire lies far to the north, its advance forces have two large strongholds near the city of San d'Oria: the Davoi Monastery and Fort Ghelsba. The Orcs frequently launch small missions out of their strongholds, and they practically control Jugner Forest and Ronfaure. Personality-wise, they follow the same pattern as many fantasy Orcs: brutish, savage and slow witted. Their entire culture is centred on violence; service in the Orcish military is mandatory for both males and females, and social standing is determined by military rank. The Orcs formerly occupied a sacred garden in Ronfaure which was destroyed as the San d’Orian Empire expanded during the Age of Power, adding to their already fierce hatred of the peoples of Vana'diel. The San d'Orian cathedral teaches that during the Age of Darkness, the Orcs (and other beastmen) were constructed by the god Promathia to constantly battle with the human(oid)s of Vana'diel, adding to the distance between most people and beastmen.

The Elder Scrolls series
Orsimer are sophisticated barbarian beast peoples of the Wrothgarian and Dragontail Mountains and are noted for their unshakeable courage in war and their unflinching endurance of hardships. In the past, Orcs have been widely feared and hated by the other nations and races of Tamriel, but they have slowly won acceptance in the Empire, in particular for their distinguished service in the Emperor's Legions. Orcish armorers are prized for their craftsmanship, and Orc warriors in heavy armor are among the finest front-line troops in the Empire. Most Imperial citizens regard Orc society as rough and cruel, but there is much to admire in their fierce tribal loyalties and generous equality of rank and respect among the sexes. According to ancient legend, they were once elves before the Daedric Prince Boethiah defiled their god and stole their heritage by deceiving and leading them astray. The Orcs of the Elder Scrolls are generally depicted as of similar stature and build as large humans. Their culture produces proud, but often dull-witted, warriors (although some have demonstrated exceptional intelligence). They have bestial faces, with piggish, upturned noses and often with tusks. The female Orcs appear slightly more human, but also have a trace of the bestiality in their features. Until the events of Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, Orcs were rampaging monsters hunted by the other races. Their leader, Gortwog, tired of their nomadic lives and outlaw nature. Though some orcs have turned to this new way of life, many are still outlaws. Orcs have gendered-patronymic surnames, being either Gro-patronym for males or Gra-patronym for females. The main idea that separates the Elder Scroll Orcs from other fantasy series is that in the Elder Scrolls series, Orcs are accepted beings, and are not associated with evil.

Lineage II
The Orc race is the race of fire, so they worship a god of fire, Paagrio. Orcs live in the land of Elmore. They have been banished after they were defeated by the human-elf alliance. They have natural resistances for various negative effects, such as poison or sickness. However, they lack in accuracy, evasion, speed and casting speed. They live for war and for pride.
The orcs in this game have stylized hair (mostly braided or tied) and heavily muscled bodies. Although they are not as exaggerated as the WH orcs, they still have fangs, but with more sexual appeal.

Orcs are called Gargûn. While loosely derived from the Middle-earth legendarium, they have a distinct morphology and life-cycle similar to the naked mole rat. There are five distinct species of Gargun, none of whom can interbreed. They are squat, hairy, nasty, brutish, and short creatures. Some species are subterranean, while others can be found above ground in roving bands. One of the larger species is the Gargu-Khanu. Gargu-Khanu are often found in mixed-species colonies where they are overlords of the smaller vassal species, controlling access to the singular breeding queen of the other species as well as their own.

Earthdawn and Shadowrun
Orks are, in contrast to the common fantasy Orc, neither inherently good nor evil. They emerged during the Unexplained Genetic Expression in the year 2021 as either young humans changed to orks or ones born as orks from human parents. They are categorized as homo sapiens robustus, and are considered metahumans, like trolls, elves, and dwarfs. Orks are able to interbreed with humans and fellow metahumans. Despite this, their offspring will be of the race of only one of their parents. No half-breeds exist. They grow much faster than humans, reach maturity at the age of 12, and give birth to a litter of about four children, though six to eight are not uncommon. Their average life-expectancy is about 35 to 40 years. They are physically larger and stronger than humans. Their mental capacities are considered slightly inferior on average to humans, though they are still not as dull as the average troll.

Sovereign Stone Series
Orks are a seafaring people. They are very superstitious, believing in even the slightest omen. They are aligned to the element of water and their leader, The Captain of Captains, possesses one fifth of the prized Sovereign Stone as well as being a Dominion Lord.

The Killing Spirit
The orcs are presented as being the creations of a race of gods, called the Sheul. While similar to the Middle-earth legendarium, the orcs are divided into two groups. The first group are swarthy and stooped, living in clans on the coasts and mainland. The other group are tall and proud tribal warriors of dark forests and frozen mountains. The orcish women live in communal huts and choose mates based on perceived 'supremacy'. Unlike other fantasy settings, the orcs of this setting are portrayed as being highly intelligent and able to use magic, though have a brutish language that combines with their violent tendencies to create the illusion of simplicity. A unique element is that they are able to use magic to transform themselves into eldritch berzerkers, which they call the Gor-Angir, or 'the killing spirit'.

The Three Towns
the orcs are a vile race of strong, squat, furry humaniods in league with the iron brotherhood (an evil race of men). The orcs originate in the foothills of mount drassa, and have crossbred with many of the native human barbarians there, it is speculated that their crossbreeding with the race of giants has created the ogres, but this is not explained in enough detail to know for certain. The orcs pillage the Three Towns in order to accumulate enough sacrifices to revive their blood god.

In Utopia, Orcs are known for good offensive abilities and weak capabilities in the art of magic and thievery. They are a destructive and evil race by description. In the real game, there are no good or evil races. They have gained the ability to spread the plague. The orc's strong offensive capabilities have remained, but the hinderance to magic and thievery have been removed, and have been replaced by the disabilities of no benefit from honor and less effective sciences.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
Orcs are descended from early humans, although they were popularly considered a monstrous race before the Industrial Revolution. They generally look like savage parodies of humans. Orcs are strong and hardy but live short life spans. Before the Industrial Revolution, they were nomads who lived off the land and occasionally off of people unlucky enough to travel near them. As time passes, more orcs move to cities, where their strength and stamina make them ideal factory workers. Although they are considered intellectually inferior, their lack of brain power may be the result of their poor upbringing and educational opportunities; people of orcish descent who receive the opportunity to reach their full potential prove to be as able-minded as humans.

Magic: The Gathering
Orcs are portrayed as generally cowardly warriors who relied extensively on the smaller, less intelligent Goblins when waging warfare.

Orcs are the dominant race of the "greenskin" species, which also includes various goblins, trolls, ogres, and cyclopes. It is to be noted that there are two strains of orcs: "small mouth" types, which appear to be constitute a lower caste, and "large mouth" types, which are dominant, being stronger and better-equipped. Orc Kings may be of a still different strain, being bulkier. Although they are the most intelligent, and therefore ruling, race of all greenskins, they live in disorganized tribal societies, and although they are sometimes hired as mercenaries, they are usually considered no more than a nuisance by more civilised races.

Siege of Avalon
Arace of human-orc hybrids called Sha'ahoul, they are a race of nomads, whose beliefs forbid them from farming or building. When they discover human kingdoms (who do both), they form a unified horde and declare war on humans. Most of the Sha'ahoul look similar to the Warhammer orcs - large, stocky, filled with bloodlust, etc. There is a caste, however, who look very much like the humans of the Seven Kingdoms and are adept at magical arts. Their more brutish cousins prefer weapons to magic, but the leader of the Sha'ahoul horde understands the need for magic against the powerful wizards of the kingdoms. While their beliefs forbid them from building structures on the ground, the Sha'ahoul can still build primitive warships, which they use to set up blockades against human supply ships.

Palladium Fantasy
Orcs are a race of stupid, but strong, humanoids who may be descended from faeries. They are frequently the pawns of more powerful creatures, as they tend to respect strength (be it physical or magical). They have very strong family ties, however.

In the fantasy world of Ciredaun, Orcs are a the result of Ogre-Elf crossbreeding.

Gothic Trilogy
the orcs are in a war with the humans from the Kingdom of Myrtana. The only weapon Myrtana has against the Orcs is a magical Ore, found in the mines of the isle Khorinis, which is where the orcs originate.

Ragnarok Online
A place called Orc village is filled with orcs. This village is located near Geffen and accessible via a kafra from Prontera. The orcs are of different kinds, namely orc ladies, orc warriors, high orcs, orc archers, orc lord and orc hero.

Woah...lots of stuff there...
A special thanks to Wikipedia, Mandi and Mastah, and to Bjourn Hurri for this slightly stolen picture

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