Content Warning: Very racist claims, in quotation
This post is about the way features of D&D orcs and goblins – high fertility rates, dominant 'genetic' traits, and abundant population – replicate racist ideas. These ideas may be found in the writings of late-19th and early-20th century influential race 'scientists' – Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Madison Grant, and Lothrop Stoddard – and in Yellow Peril fiction and other popular fears about "Asiatic hordes". There are also similarities, though not as strong, with the present day far right "White Genocide" or "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory.
High Fertility Rates
AD&D 1e Players Handbook
(1978): "Orcs are fecund and create many cross-breeds." D&D 3.5e Monster Manual
(2003): Goblins have "rapid reproduction." D&D 4e Monster Manual
(2008): "Goblins breed quickly."
D&D 5e Monster Manual
Luthic, the orc goddess of fertility and wife of Gruumsh, demands that orcs procreate often and indiscriminately so that orc hordes swell generation after generation. The orcs' drive to reproduce runs stronger than any other humanoid race, and they readily crossbreed with other races.
D&D 5e Volo's Guide to Monsters
(2016): "Orcs breed prodigiously (and they aren't choosy about what they breed with, which is why such creatures as half-orcs and ogrillons are found in the world)."
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century
Generative power often stands in inverse relation to the nobility of the race… In Europe at the present day we… see the growing predominance of an alien race which… by animal force gradually overpowers the mentally superior race.
Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy
Treating the primary race-stocks as units, it would appear that whites tend to double in eighty years, yellows and browns in sixty years, blacks in forty years.
The black man is, indeed, sharply differentiated from the other branches of mankind. His outstanding quality is superabundant animal vitality... To it... is due his extreme fecundity, the negro being the quickest of breeders.
Dominant 'Genetic' Traits
AD&D 1e Monster Manual
(1977): "Half-orcs tend to favor the orcish strain heavily, so such sorts are basically orcs although they can sometimes (10%) pass themselves off as true creatures of their other stock (goblins, hobgoblins, humans, etc.)." AD&D 1e PHB
(1978): "Some one-tenth of orc-human mongrels are sufficiently non-orcish to pass for human." AD&D 2e Monstrous Manual
(1993): "Half-orcs tend to favor the orcish strain heavily and as such are basically orcs, although 10% of these offspring can pass as ugly humans." D&D 5e MM
: "When an orc procreates with a non-orc humanoid of similar size and stature (such as a human or a dwarf), the resulting child is either an orc or a half-orc."
Chamberlain: "The negro['s]… generative power and the predominance of his qualities in the descendants are all greater than those of the whites."
Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race
The result of the mixture of two races, in the long run, gives us a race reverting to the more ancient, generalized and lower type. The cross between a white man and an Indian is an Indian; the cross between a white man and a Negro is a Negro; the cross between a white man and a Hindu is a Hindu; and the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew.
Stoddard: "In ethnic crossings, the negro strikingly displays his prepotency, for black blood, once entering a human stock, seems never really bred out again."
AD&D 2e MM
: Goblins "would be merely pests, if not for their great numbers." D&D 3.5e MM
: Goblins have "great numbers." D&D 5e MM
: "Individually weak, goblins gather in large—sometimes overwhelming—numbers." "Occasionally, a powerful war chief unites scattered orc tribes into a single rampaging horde."
MP Shiel, The Yellow Danger
(1898): "The Chinese host was to resemble a flight of locusts, covering the entire sky from horizon to horizon… Yen How's army would consist of the 400,000,000 which formed the population of China."
Federation on Chinese Exclusion, Memorial to Congress
Civilization in Europe has been frequently attacked and imperiled by the barbaric hordes of Asia. If the little band of Greeks at Marathon had not beaten back ten times their number of Asiatic invaders, it is impossible to estimate the loss to civilization that would have ensued… Attila and his Asiatic hordes threatened central Europe when the Gauls made their successful stand against them… The free immigration of Chinese would be for all purposes an invasion by Asiatic barbarians.
Jack London, The Unparalleled Invasion
The real danger lay in the fecundity of her [China's] loins
China's population must be seven hundred millions, eight hundred millions, nobody knew how many millions, but at any rate it would soon be a billion. There were two Chinese for every white-skinned human in the world… and the world trembled
John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats, Yellow Peril!
[During the Korean War (1950-1953)] Newspapers across the nation ran headlines such as "Red Hordes Swarm South Korea!" as the Chinese pushed American troops back south. Popular press accounts claimed that the Chinese troops were mere cannon fodder, but their sheer numbers made them invincible.
The "White Genocide" Conspiracy Theory
Bridge Initiative Team, Factsheet: White Genocide Conspiracy Theory
Proponents of the white genocide conspiracy theory… claim that the "white race" is under threat due to falling birth rates among white women, the continued growth of "mixed race" marriages, and ongoing immigration of black and brown people into Europe and America. They allege that demographic change will result in white people becoming a minority in the United States in the near future
Brenton Tarrant… attacked two mosques in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand killing 51 Muslims. Tarrant explicitly referenced the white genocide conspiracy theory in his manifesto entitled: "The Great Replacement."
The parallels here are not as close as they are with the race 'scientists' and fears of "Asiatic hordes". But the general themes of the threat of higher birth rates, being outnumbered, and being replaced are the same.