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Guest Post From The Tolkien Scholar In My House: English to Orc (Orkish?) and Back


Since the thesis gods have smiled upon me and I’m finally churning out chapter intros, I’m pleased to share the blog today with my resident Tolkien Scholar, JPC. Enjoy.

an Uruk, by the author

an Uruk, by the author

For those of you who wish to learn Orkish, a less-pretty language spoken by Orcs, Trolls, and some Men in Middle-Earth in the Third Age. Orkish dialects were usually vulgar forms of the Black Speech of Mordor, the language written on the Ring. These words are scrounged from what little Tolkien wrote of the Orkish language as well as some reconstructions by Tolkien linguist David Salo.

An example of formal Black Speech as written on the One Ring:

“Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatûl,
ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatûl”
“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

Some examples of colloquial Orkish written by Tolkien himself:

Improper Nouns

“ghash”
“fire”

“hai”
“folk”

“sharkû”
“old man”

“snaga”
“slave” (lesser Orc, common Goblin)

Races:

“Uruk”
“Orc”

“Olog”
“Troll”

“Nazgûl”
“Ringwraith”

“Golug”
“Noldor” (Golodhrim, Exiled Elves)

“Tark”
“Man of Gondor”

Places

“Lugbúrz”
“Dark Tower” (Barad-dûr)

An actual quotation, from the books:

“Uglúk u bagronk sha pushdug Saruman-glob búb-hosh skai…”
“Uglúk to the cesspool, sha! the dungfilth; the great Saruman-fool, skai!”
– Grishnákh, an Orc from Barad-dûr, Book III of The Lord of the Rings

A Few Helpful Phrases in Orkish (courtesy of this website)
“Ashdautas vrasubatlat” — “Someday I will kill you” (a standard Orkish greeting)
“Nar udautas” — “Not today” (the standard reply)
“Nar mat kordh-ishi” — “Do not die in bed” (This has several meanings.)
“Ang gijak-ishi” (Angijak)– “Iron in the Blood” (a high compliment)
“Lul gijak-ishi” (Lulgijak) — “Flowers in the Blood” (usually in reference to Elves)
“Amal shufar, at rrug” — “Where there’s a whip, there’s a way.”
“Snaga nar baj lufut” — “Slaves don’t make war.”
“Ambor mabas lufut” — “Liquor after war”
“Vras gruiuk” — “Kill the women”
“Mabaj nar armauk” — “I have no enemies” (an Orkish lament)
“Mabaj bot ob armauk” — “I have a world of enemies”
“Mirdautas vras” — “It is a good day to kill”
“Vrasubatburuk ug butharubatgruiuk” — “We will kill all the men and take all the women” (the Orkish equivalent of ‘cheers’)

Orkish Oaths
“Afar angathfark” — “By the forge of my soul!”
“Afar vadokanuk” — “By all the dead!”

Orkish Insults
“Lul gijak-ishi” (Lulgijak) — “Flowers in the Blood” (literally “bloomblood”) (interchangeably “Elf” or “Wimp”)
“Zanbaur” — “Elfson”
“Nar thos” — “No Sack”

Some Orkish Names
Azog
Balcmeg
Boldog
Bolg
Golfimbul
Gorbag
Gorgol
Grishnákh
Lagduf
Lug
Lugdush
Mauhúr
Muzgash
Orcobal
Orthrod
Shagrat
Snaga
Ufthak
Uglúk

Enjoy croaking in the foul tongue! -JPC

5 thoughts on “Guest Post From The Tolkien Scholar In My House: English to Orc (Orkish?) and Back

  1. This is a lot of fun. I know Tolkien didn’t do too much with Black Speech, but do you know the origin of the greetings? They’re almost cute and endearing.

    • (I’m JPC) Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. The greetings are from AngelFire.com. The grammar is derived from the Black Speech inscription on the Ring, some of the roots are from the Eldarin languages, but a few words were invented by David Salo. That AngelFire site has an expansive vocabulary if you’re interested.
      (Oh, and another Orkish word I meant to add as an example: “ghash”, meaning “fire”.

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