Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ask Dog: Why are Orks Green?

Why are Orks always 'greenskins'? I thought Tolkein created Orcs. Orcs in Lord of the Rings were grey and not green. Is this a Warcraft thing that caught on?

This wasn't received through email, but came up in conversation last night while grinding away for Eternity Splinters in Marvel Heroes 2016. It's a pretty common question that I hear every now and then, and as with all things related to Orks, it's not WarCRAFT to blame for the common tropes we associate with them, but WarHAMMER.

Orcs weren't even a direct invention of Tolkein, though he did expand dramatically on them as a species just as he did with Elves and Dwarves, but like those two fantasy races, Orcs originally come from Norse mythology. Wait, it was actually a 17th century French writer. No wait, it was a 16th-century Italian poet. Nope, wrong again, Orcs are mentioned in Beowulf and Old English as a form of 'evil spirit'. Things are muddy regarding the specific origins, but from piecing together all the various sources, the monstrous, forest-dwelling savage Orc is very likely to be from the same Norse mythology that gave us Frost Giants, Dwarves and Trolls.

Tolkein's Orcs have long-arms, tusks and a taste for flesh. Orcs without a stronger leader are reduced to roaming packs of savages, little better then cannon fodder for the real threat in the horde. Despite Tolkein's influence on bringing Orcs to the mainstream of fantasy, despite Gary Gygax including Orcs in the first D&D Monster Manual, the modern Orc is derived primarily from the world of Warhammer.

In 1983, in an effort to paint Orks in a way that would make them stand out on the table, a Games Workshop painter used green for his horde, to say that this was immediately popular, would be an understatement. The next official Ork Armybook made constant reference to "Greenskinz", as the lore was twisted to justify the coloring. Orks were green because they are a type of fungus.

Yes, that's the actual, 100% official background of Orks in the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40k universe. Orks reproduce by 'shedding spores' just like a mushroom. These spores grow very quickly into a full-size Ork, but due to their unique make-up, Orks have to engage in physical battle and "work out" to get even bigger. That's why the biggest, baddest Orks are always the Warbosses. They've lived the longest, survived the most battles, so they are the toughest, roughest Orks in the horde.

So the direct answer to your question, is that Orks are green because they are plants in Warhammer Fantasy/Warhammer 40k. Warcraft Orcs are green because of "corruption", though the answer of "Well Games Workshop did it first and it worked for them...." could be just as valid, since the concept of non-corrupted Orcs in the Warcraft universe didn't come about until well after the launch of World of Warcraft in 2004.

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