Neandertal's? 'dem dere's orcs!!!
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  1. #1
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    Neandertal's? 'dem dere's orcs!!!

    While watching the History Channel's Ape to Man special the Neandertals they presented struck me as awful... uhm...

    Orc - like.

    And earlier today there was a special on dragons during which it was postulated that those creatures of fantasy may have had their roots in our ancestral genetic fears of our three primoridal predators - snake, big cats and birds of prey (apparently eagles have attacked and killed children as old as 6 before - did not know that).

    Anyway, put my mind to wondering what other fantastical creatures have their roots in our ancestral experience and ancestral failure to recognize phenomena for what they are.

    For instance, Griffons (and many other ancient mythical beasts) may have their origins in vastly misinterpreted dinosaurs.

    Maybe our legends about orcs and the like contains some tiny remnant or our experiences and battles with Neandertals to conquer Europe.

    Has anyone ever thought about have neandertal *be* the orcs of their campaign? It's an interesting thought.

    Also, how far apart *really* should the fantasy races be? In particular - what of elves, who are normally held to be more noble and - in some ways - human than ourselves (indeed, in many campaigns elves are merely idealized humans rather than a race unto themselves).

    Ok - there's my blather - discuss, but please remeber to be careful with your posts in this thread. It touches on the subject of evolution - and we all know how that particular scientific concept can go south in a hurry. Please do not steer it anywhere ugly.

  2. #2
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    I doubt it. At least the D&D, Lotr, warcraft or shadowrun orcs don't seem to have much in common with neanderthals except being not quite human and slightly dumber. Neanderthals don't have tusk, neanderthals aren't sensitive to light, neanderthals didn't have strangley colored skin, neanderthals aren't horribly barbaric (just uncivilized).

    Now I suppose neanderthals could have something to do with the original mythological orcs but I don't know where orcs originated from in mythology or what they looked like except for the fact that they are monsters.


    Some people think that the cyclops myth was started by greeks who saw the skulls of ancient elephants from what I understand.

  3. #3
    There is a sound that all mammals instinctively fear.

    It is the sound of a predator's breathing (it had a funny shaped nasal cavity) as it hunted the shrew-like ancestor of all mammals.

    Someone found the fossil of the predator (it is quite extinct) and made a tube from a cast of its nasal cavity and blew through it one radio.

    People called in to say that hair was standing up on the backs of their necks, that their cats had fled the room, etc.

    And of course there is the obvious (spiders and snakes).

    My random blather too.

  4. #4
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    The stuff I've read is probably somewhat old, but I was under the impression that Neanderthals were actually somewhat less war-like than Cro-Magnons, and thus was why they got killed off. Not so much the intelligence thing. (And that they look more or less human, that is, they could pass as a TV film critic or B movie actor. Maybe not normal looking, but not inhuman, either. )

    Actually, that could have been from a novel I read. I know there are a couple science fiction ones where Neanderthals play a role. One of Alan Dean Foster's, where aliens took them off of Earth to save them; another where they were recreated on a terraformed planet (and the protagonist was a Neanderthal).

  5. #5
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    For one thing, orcs don't really have a lot in the way of mythological roots. Until Tolkein, 'orc' was just a generic word for monster or demon. (hence orcus and orca).

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Morris
    Maybe our legends about orcs and the like contains some tiny remnant or our experiences and battles with Neandertals to conquer Europe.

    Has anyone ever thought about have neandertal *be* the orcs of their campaign? It's an interesting thought.

    Ok - there's my blather - discuss, but please remeber to be careful with your posts in this thread. It touches on the subject of evolution - and we all know how that particular scientific concept can go south in a hurry. Please do not steer it anywhere ugly.
    Orcs as we use them in D&D games come from Tolkien. Originally, an orc was a demon (the name is shortened from Orcus). The orcs in Tolkien and FRPs in general owe their origin to distorted stories of medieval Muslims (such as from the Song of Roland, where they're red-eyed beastmen), Turks, and Mongolians. Ogre, a related term, probably comes from Uighur: the name of a Mongolian tribe. The modern orc was probably bootstrapped from ancient religious and territorial conflicts.

    Neanderthals did, incidentally, have brains that were about 10% larger than premodern humans of the same period and probably had high-pitched voices. None of that is very orc-like.

  7. #7
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    I have actually considered it in the past, but I concluded that neanderthals are not necessarily prone to evil and wickedness, whereas orcs are.

  8. #8
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    The way I heard it is, the word 'orc' comes from proto-Germanic and was picked up by the early Romans when they came into contact with a proto-Germanic tribe invading from the Alps. Orc was the tribe's word for demon, and the Romans adopted it. Orcus is the Latinization of orc and came to be the name of the Roman god of the dead.

    Later orc was an epitath applied to a group's enemies. For example, the proto-Basque who ambushed Roland and the Frankish rear-guard in the eponymous Song of Roland.

    In Dragon Earth orcs are descended from neanderthals, much as ogres are. But orcs are gracile animals, whereas ogres are hyper robust. Since elves are descended from H. erectus, while orcs or descended from H. erectus via H. heidelbergenseis and H. neanderthalenseis respectively, the elves and orcs of Dragon Earth are relatively distant relations.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Morris
    Maybe our legends about orcs and the like contains some tiny remnant or our experiences and battles with Neandertals to conquer Europe.
    Well, there are no legends about orcs. This is just a Tolkien concept that has been universally adopted by fantasy rpgs. Then, back in prehistory there probably were some fights between Neanderthal and human tribes, but not to conquer Europe (just two groups of individals that fight each others because they happen to look different and be on the same hunting territory no larger than a dozen miles wide...).

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Morris
    Has anyone ever thought about have neandertal *be* the orcs of their campaign? It's an interesting thought.
    Yes, orcs being related to humans, as a former strain of evolution between ape and human (rather than elves mishapen by Morgoth).

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mythusmage
    The way I heard it is, the word 'orc' comes from proto-Germanic and was picked up by the early Romans when they came into contact with a proto-Germanic tribe invading from the Alps. Orc was the tribe's word for demon, and the Romans adopted it. Orcus is the Latinization of orc and came to be the name of the Roman god of the dead.

    Later orc was an epitath applied to a group's enemies. For example, the proto-Basque who ambushed Roland and the Frankish rear-guard in the eponymous Song of Roland.
    Isn't that from Orlando Furioso? I don't think that incident is in the original Chanson. Ariosto obviously meant the "orc" to be a sea monster there too, so it's probably not very directly related. Tolkien himself said he got it from Old English.
    Last edited by tarchon; Monday, 8th August, 2005 at 08:26 AM.

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