Orcs. For me they represent not only the most fascinating race in Warcraft, but also one of the most interestingly portrayed people in any fictional setting. Throughout their history they have veered wildly from a noble shamanistic people to demon-tainted slaughterers, and now occupy an ambiguous grey area between the two. As the central race of the Horde their singular identity continues to shape much of the Warcraft experience. So, inspired by Ercles’ recent article declaring his love for all things Troll, I’ve decided to make my own foray into the awesomeness of Orcs and my continuing obsession with them. As can easily happen with my writing this post got a bit out of hand so I’ve divided it into two sections. This first one will look at the history of the Orcs, the awesomeness of Grom Hellscream and why I admire Orcish strength.
A Brief History
The Orcs have had a long and tortured history. Despite originally being a noble shamanistic people on their homeworld of Draenor (although they didn’t call it that), they were corrupted by the Burning Legion into becoming one the most powerful armies ever created: the original Horde. Manipulated into drinking the demonic blood of Mannoroth the Destructor, the already strong Orcs became unstoppable blood-crazed warriors who not only committed near-genocide upon the Draenei, they ravaged the Eastern Kingdoms of Azeroth in two bloody wars which almost wiped out the Human Kingdoms. Once defeated, the surviving Orcs hit rock-bottom as they were rounded up into internment camps and began to suffer the debilitating withdrawal from the warlock magics they had become addicted to.
Of course this is pretty much where it becomes interesting. The rise of Thrall allowed the Orcs a chance at redemption. With the help of Grom Hellscream and the remnants of the Warsong Clan (not to mention Orgrim Doomhammer until he died) Thrall freed his people from slavery, reconnected them with their shamanistic heritage and took them on a voyage to Kalimdor to begin a new life. Not bad work for a teenager! Of course then the Third War arrived where the Orcs, despite a few hiccups, were able to prove their regained valour by fighting against the Burning Legion that they had previously served. The Orcs not only helped save the world, but Grom Hellscream freed the entire Orcish people from their demonic taint by slaying Mannoroth in a truly epic fashion (watch it here!).
A Warrior’s Strength
Of course a lot has happened since then with the birth of the New Horde and the building of a nation, not to mention all the events that have occurred since WoW began. All of this has combined to put the Orcish people in the fascinating state they are in today. They simultaneously exhibit many different cultural identities, each vying for majority as the Orcs seek to define who they truly are. On the one hand, they are a people with an exceptionally dark past, guilty of the most terrible atrocities. On the other they are remembering who they once were, a hardy but noble people, who not only valued strength but also honour and wisdom. They are also in some ways a very young civilisation as they transition into a new and different from of Orc culture, building a new home on a new world.
Thinking about the aspects of Orcness that I find most appealing I find that all of them are beautifully personified in various Orcish heroes. For instance I really admire the innate strength and valour of the Orcs and I feel that this can be best demonstrated in the character of Grom Hellscream. Despite his many mistakes, Grom showed incredible strength of character throughout his life and not simply as a kick-ass blademaster. After the end of the Second War when the other Orcs fell into their lethargy, Grom kept fighting. The gnawing emptiness which plagued him daily is described in Lord of the Clans as being truly horrific, yet he forced himself to hold it and bay and lead his clan through 15 long years of surviving within enemy territory. That level of resilience deserves respect and its mirrored in the Orc people as a whole to some degree. Orcs are a hardy lot, living a simple life in harsh environment. They have an inner strength which I find truly inspiring.
Deliver Us From Evil
Of course Hellscream embodies another compelling aspect of the Orcs: redemption. All but the youngest Orcs must now deal with the bitter history of their people, and the fact that they once more become an honourable people after the depths they had sunk to is truly commendable. The heroes of other races like humans and elves just aren’t as impressive to me, because they had it easy compared to the Orcs. As mentioned above, it is through Grom Hellscream that the Orcs finally won their freedom, but this is all the more significant because it was Hellscream who was the first to drink the blood of Mannoroth back when the that terrible pact was made. Thus Hellscream has embodied the very worst and best of Orcs, coming full circle from damning his people to mindless bloodlust to giving his life so that they might be freed of it. That moment in Warcraft 3 where he faces down Mannoroth is the main reason I love Orcs so much in the first place!
That concludes this first part of why Orcs are freaking cool. In my next post I will look at how Orcs balance their strength with wisdom, the importance of Shamanism, and what happens if you poke a peon too many times!