What are orcs, exactly?

/What are orcs, exactly?

Think about that. Creatures that look like people, but aren’t really. Kinda-sorta-people, who aren’t worthy of even the most basic moral considerations, like the right to exist. Only way to deal with them is to control them utterly a la slavery, or wipe them all out.

Huh. Sounds familiar.

So maybe now you can understand why I’m not very interested in writing about orcs.

–N.K. Jemisin on orcing.

I don’t have orcs per se but I do have their mythological forerunner; the jötnar. One of the interesting things I’ve always found about the original Icelandic sagas, versus modern Tolkienian fantasy, is how… mundane the jötnar actually are. Yes some of them are monstrous and some of them are (a-har) giants… but just as many aren’t, and their relationship with the æsir is more like that of neighbouring tribes than The Heroes versus The Savage Horde. Sometimes they fight and sometimes they marry. Sometimes they offer each other hospitality and all the time they covet each other’s wealth. Ásgarðr itself has at least two within its walls (ski- and hunting goddess Skaði, and everyone’s favourite asshole, Loki), as well as numerous other residents who are, at minimum, “half-jötunn”, most notably Thor.

That’s how it was a thousand years ago. And then, somewhere along the line, that narrative got… lost. Simplified. And now we have the jötunn’s modern descendant: a rapacious sub-human saddled with all the baggage Jemisin talks about.

I can understand why someone wouldn’t be interested in writing about (or reading, for that matter) that particular trope.

2014-07-05T05:59:35+00:005th July, 2014|Tags: books, culture, n.k. jemisin|Comments Off on What are orcs, exactly?