Within the deepest pits of Utumno, in the First Age of Stars, it is said Melkor committed his greatest blasphemy. For in that time he captured many of the newly risen race of Elves and took them to his dungeons, and with hideous acts of turture he made ruined and terrible forms of life. From these he bred a Goblin race of slaves who were as loathsome as Elves were fair.
These were the Orcs, a multitude brought forth in shapes twisted by pain and hate. The only joy in these creatures was in the pain of others, for the blood that flowed within Orcs was both black and cold. Their stunted form was hideous; bent, bow-legged and squat. Their arms were long and strong as the apes of the South, and their skin was black as wood that has been charred by flame. The jagged fangs in their wide mouths were yellow, their tongues red and thick, and their nostrils and faces were broad and flat. Their eyes were crimson gashes, like narrow slits in black iron grates behind which coal burn.
The Orcs were fierce warriors, for they feared more greatly their master than any enemy; and perhaps death was preferable to the torment of Orcish life. They were cannibals, ruthless and terrible, and often their rending claws and slavering fangs were gored with the bitter flesh and the foul black blood of their own kind. Orcs were spawned as thralls of the Master of Darkness; therefore they were fearful of light, for it weakened and burned them. Their eyes were night seeing, and they were dwellers of foul pits and tunnels. In Melkor's Utumno and in every foul dwelling in Middle-earth they multiplied. More quickly than any other beings of Arda their progeny came forth from the spawning pits. At the end of the First Age of Stars was the War of Powers in which the Valar came to Utumno and broke it open. They bound Melkor with a great chain, and destroyed Melkor's servants in Utumno and with them most of the Orcs. Those who survived were masterless and went wandering.
In the Ages that followed were the great migration of Elves, and, though Orcs lived in the dark places of Middle-earth, they did not appear openly, and the Elven history speak not of Orcs until the Fourth Age of Stars. By this time the Orcs had grown troublesome. Out of Angband they came in armour of steel-plate and linked chains, and helmets of iron hoops and black leather, beaked like hawk or vulture with steel. they carried scimitars, poisoned daggers, arrows and broadheaded swords. This brigand race with Wolves and Werewolves dared in the Fourth Age of Stars to enter the realm of Beleriand where the Sindarian Kingdom of Melian and Thingol stood.The Grye-elves knew not what manner of beings the Orcs were, though they did not doubt they were evil. As these Elves did not use steel weapons at that time, they came to the Dwarf-smiths of Nogrod and Belegost and battered for weapons of tempered steel. Then they slaughtered the Orcs and drove them away.
Yet when Melkor returned to Beleriand in the last Age of Stars, out of the Pits of Angband the Orcs came, rank upon rank, legion upon legion, in open war, and this was the beginning of the Wars of Beleriand. For in the valley of the river Gelion they were met by Thingol's Grey-elves and Denethor's Green-elves. In this first battle the Orcs were decimated and driven shrieking in flight to the Blue Mountains, where they found no refuge but only the axes of the Dwarves. None of that Army escaped. Yet Melkor sent forth three grand armies. The second army overran the westerrn lands of Beleriand and besieged Falas, but the cities of the Falathrim did not fall. So the second army of Orcs joined the third army and mrached north to Mithrim, where they thought they might entrap and slay the newly arrived Noldotin Elves. But the Orcs were little prepared for these Elves. In strength of body the Noldor were far beyond the Darkest dreams of the Orcs. The eyes of these Elves alone seared the flesh of the Orcs, and the fierce light of Elves swords drove them mad with pain and fear. So the second Battle of Beleriand was fought against the Noldor whom Fëanor led, and this battle was called the Battle Under Stars, the dagor-nuin-Giliath. And though the Noldor king Fëanor was slain, the second and third armies of Melkor were entirely destroyed.
As the second Noldorin army led by Fingolfin came out of the West and the great light of the Sun mounted the Ramparts of the Sky as with a great shout that brought fear to every servant of Melkor. So the First Age of Sun began and for a time the Orcs were checked by the new light of the Sun. However, soon under cover of darkness Orcs came in yet another grand army, more numerous than the other three and more heavily armed, hoping to catch the Noldor unaware. In the glorious battle the Orc legions were slaughtered again. At this time the siege of Angband was begun and, though Orcs at times sallied forth in bands, for the most part they were held within Angbands walls. Yet Melkor's might grew, for by dark sorcery he bred more of the Orc race and also the race of Dragons, and about them were Balrogs, Trolls, Werewolves and monsters many and great. When he deemed himself ready the mighty host came into the Battle of Sudden Flame, and this broke the siege of Angband and the Elven-lords were defeated. From this mighty battle is counted the reign of terror that the Orcs remembered as the Great Years.
At that time Tol Sirion fell and the kingdoms of Hitlum, Mithrim, Dor-lómin and Dortonion were overrun. The Battle of Unnumbered Tears was also fought: this was the Fifth Battle in the Wars of Beleriand and the Elves and the Edain were completely defeated. The evil Orc legions of Angband then marched into Beleriand. The Falas fell to the Orcs, as did both the cities of Brithombar and Eglarest. The Battle of Thumbalad was fought and Nargothrond was sacked; because of disputes with Dwarves and the Noldor, Menegroth was twice overrun and the Grey-elves lands were ruined. Finally Gondoli, the Hidden Kingdom, fell. So Melkor's victory was all but complete; his Orc legions went wherever they wished in Beleriand. All the Elven kingdoms were ruined; no great city stood; and the lords and the greatest part of the Elves and Edain were slain. Such are the tales that are joyful to the black hearts of the Orcs.
Yet the terror of that Age finally came to an end. For the Valar, the Maiar, the Vanyar and the Noldor of Tirion, all came out of the Undying Lands and the Great Battle was joined. In it Angband was destroyed and all the mountains of the North were broken. Beleriand with Angband fell into the boiling sea; Melkor was cast out into the Void forever more and his servants the Orcs were exterminated in the North.
Still the Orcs that survived, for in the east and the South part of the race lay hidden in foul dens beneath dark mountains and hills. There they bred and multiplied. Eventually they came to Melkor's general, Sauron, offering their services, and he became their new master. In the Second Age of Sun they served Sauron well in the War of Sauron and the Elves and in all his battles until the War of the Last Alliance, when the Age ended with the fall of Mordor and with most the Orkish race again being exterminated.
Yet in the Third Age of Sun, as in the Second, those Orcs hidden in dark and evil places lived on. Masterless, the Orcs raided and ambushed for many centuries, but made no grand scheme of conquest until more than a thousand years of that Age had passed, when, as a great and evil Eye, Sauron re-appeared in the dark realm of Dol Guldur in southern Mirkwood. As in the Second Age, the dark destinies of Sauron and the Orcs were again made one, and for two thousand years of the Third Age Orcish power increased with that of their dark lord.
Their power first grew in Mirkwood near Dol Guldur; then in the Misty Mountains. In 1300 the Nazgűl re-appeared in Mordor and the realm of Angmar in northern Eriador and the Orcs flocked to them. After six hundred years of terror, Angmar fell but the evil realm of Minas Morgul arose in Gondor, and there again the Orcs increased with those of the Mirkwood, the Misty Mountains and Mordor for the next thousand years.
Yet it was said that Sauron was not fully pleased with his Orcish soldiery and he wished to increase their strength. And though no tale tell of it, it was believed that Sauron through terrible sorcery made a new breed of greater Orcs. For, in the year 2475, those creatures called Uruk-hai came out of Mordor and sacked Osgiliath, the greatest city of Gondor. These Uruk-hai were Orcs grown to the height of Men, yet straight-limbed and strong. Though they were truly Orcs - black-skinned, black-hooded, lynx-eyed, fanged and claw-handed - Uruk-hai did not languish in sunlight and did not fear it at all. So the uruk-hai could go where their evil brethren could not, and, being larger and stronger, they were also bolder and fiercer in battle. Clad in black armor, often carrying straight swords and long yew bows as well as many of the evil and poisoned Orc weapons, the Uruk-hai were made élite men-at-arms and most often were the high commanders and captains of the lesser Orcs.
In the centuries that followed, the Uruk-hai and the lesser Orcs grew still greater in power and made alliances that they might ruin all the kingdoms of Elves and Men that were in the Westlands. Therefore the Orcs made treaties with the Dunlendings, the Balchoth, the Wainriders, the Haradrim, the Easterlings of Rhűn and the Corsairs of Umbar to achieve their aim. The Orcs came even to the realms of the Dwarves. In the year 1980 the realm Moria was taken by a mighty Balrog demon. With him there were Orcs of the Misty Mountains, who had come out of their capital of Gundabad in great numbers to inhabit the Dwarvish city, heaping great contempt on the Dwarf people and slaying whosoever came near this most ancient realm.
Yet in the North this was to be the undoing of Orcs, for the Dwarves were so enraged that they cared not for what cost they would have revenge. So it was that from 2793 to 2799 there was waged a seven years' war of extermination called the War of Dwarves and Orcs. In this war, though dearly it cost the Dwarves, almost all the Orcs of the Misty Mountains were hunted out and slain, and at the East Gate of Moria the terrible Battle of Azanulbizar was fought. The Orcs were destroyed and the head of their Orc general, Azog, was impaled on a stake. So it was that for a century the Misty Mountains were cleansed of this vile race, yet in time they returned to Gundabad and Moria.
In the year 2941 a second great disaster befell the Orcs in the North. After the death of the dragon Smaug, all the Orc warriors of Gundbag came to the Dwarf-realm of Erebor and the Battle of Five Armies was fought beneath the Lonely Mountain. The Orcs were led by Bolg of the North, son of Azog, and he wished to have revenge on the Dwarves, but all he achieved was his own death and that of all his warriors.
In the War of the Ring, the last great conflict of the Third Age of Sun, the Orcish legions were everywhere, as the "Red Book of Westmarch" relates. From the Misty Mountains and the shadows of Mirkwood the Orcs came to war under banners both black and red. Fearless Uruk-hai with shield and helmets carrying the emblem of the White Hand came out of Isengard, where the rebel Wizard Saruman ruled. In Morgul both lesser and great Orcs were marked with a white moon like a great skull; and under Sauron's command were the countless Orcs of Mordor of whatever breed, who were marked by the symbol of the Red eye. All of these prepared for war and many others as well. They fought numerous skirmishes and ambushes, as well as the Battles of the Ford of Isen, The Battle of the Hornburg, the Battle of Pelennor Fields, the Battle under the Trees and the Battles of Dale. In these assaults thousands on both sides fell, and, though in many of these battles the Orcs were utterly vanquished, it is told that Sauron held back the greatest part of his force within Mordor until the enemy came to the Northern gate of his realm.
All was to be resolved in this one battle before Morannon, the Black Gate. All the dreadful forces of Mordor were gathered there and at Sauron's command they fell upon the army of the Captains of the West. However at that very moment, in the volcanic fires of Mount Doom, the One Ring which held all Sauron's dark world in sway was destroyed. The Black Gate and the Black Tower burst asunder. The mightiest servants of Sauron were consumed in fire the Dark Lord became black smoke dispelled by a west wind, and the Orcs perished like straw before flames. Though no doubt some Orcs survived, they never again rose in great numbers, but dwindled and became a minor Goblin folk possessed of but a rumor of their ancient evil power.