An Orc Like Me

By Brent King On April 20, 2016 Under Lessons in Fantasy


In the course of long years of contemplation on The Lord of the Rings I have seen my reflection in Gollum, the Nazgûl, and even in the pathetic life of Grima Wormtongue. Yet I have never seen it in the sickening existence of an Orc.

Beyond Salvation?

Maybe it’s because they’re so ruined—so ugly—so hopelessly given over to the dark side. I couldn’t envision myself like them. I just couldn’t.

So it’s been easy for me to write the Orcs off, to resign them forever to the realm of evil. Could any of us envision an Orc’s heart softening or an Orc doing something noble like Faramir or Aragorn?


Surely they are beyond salvation, like vampires and zombies.

A Horrifying Thought

Yet just today the appalling thought struck me:

The Orc is me. 

All who refuse to sever ties with the Dark Lord by daily surrendering their lives to Christ live the life of an Orc. Tolkien makes that clear:

“The Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Ilúvatar…And deep in their dark hearts the Orcs loathed the master who they served in fear, the maker only of their misery” (Silmarillion 50).

Without the liberating grace of Christ in my life each day I am locked in slavery and fear just like the Orcs, eking out a rotting existence in the dark places of the earth.

They’re Slaves Like Us

Like Tolkien observed, the Orcs had the same sort of life that any of the Children of Ilúvatar had. The light of goodness shone on them as surely as it did on Men and Elves. Like all of us, they feared the Dark Lord, but they seemed incapable of turning from him to the light. Fear locked them in a dark and wicked place. They were slaves to doubt and despair.

So if I am an Orc, then how can I escape? How can I pull off what no known Orc ever managed?

The Mistake That Damns Us Both

Here is the mistake the Orcs made, the same mistake I make too easily. Here is my only hope. Ellen White describes it well:

“You desire to give yourself to Him [Christ], but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair.

“What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Steps To Christ 48, emphasis mine)

An Orc Like Me

Like the Orc, I see my rotten flesh. I know my many failures and evil deeds, and I despair. So I turn from the light—back to my loathing, back to my putrefying hell. And all along the power of surrender could have saved me just as it saved Bilbo, Galadriel, or Faramir.

“Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.” (Ibid)

Now at last I see what I couldn’t bring myself to see before, and I’ve added the Orc to the list of the metaphors that underscore my condition. And why not? It adds the urgency of my ugly, rotting Orcish self to the truth of the need to surrend my will to God each day.

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