‘All the same,’ said Ransom, unconsciously nettled on behalf of his own world, ‘Maleldil has let in the hnakra.’
‘Oh, but that is so different. I long to kill this hnakra as he also longs to kill me. I hope that my ship will be the first and I first in my ship with my straight spear when the black jaws snap. And if he kills me, my people will mourn and my brothers will desire still more to kill him. But they will not wish that there were no hnéraki; nor do I. How can I make you understand, when you do not understand the poets? The hnakra is our enemy, but he is also our beloved.’
– From Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
This is an interesting idea, and one I find very attractive. I am not quite sure if it is heretical or not. Is there really such a thing as good, pure combat, even between a man and a beast?
I would like to think there is. I do not like the idea that competition is an inherently flawed idea. If Hyoi (who is not a fallen creature, and thus apparently speaks for Lewis himself) is right, combat is not evil in itself, we have merely perverted it.
The way in which we have perverted it is apparently by turning our weapons on ourselves, not on the hnakra. But is the problem that we have attacked and slain other hnau (=rational beings), or is it that our motives are not pure?
According to Hyoi, battles with the hnakra are different because he “is our enemy, but he is also our beloved”. I would interpret this as saying that they do not bear the hnakra any ill-will, they simply kill him because that is how the game is played, and they accept the risk to their own lives as part of the game as well.
Can this apply to men as well? Is competition between men inherently evil? If you approach battle the way the hrossa approach the hunting of the hnakra, and love your opponent even as you slay him, can you stop from committing sin? It’s a nice idea. It would mean that the great heroes of yore were not sinning when they slew one another on the battlefield.
This is where Orcs come in. Orcs are an interesting concept, literarily. They can be used in a number of ways. They can represent evil, and imply that even men and elves can act like orcs. As Tolkien said,
“I am not a ‘democrat’, if only because ‘humility’ and equality are spiritual principles corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize them, with the result that we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride, till some Orc gets hold of a ring of power–and then we get and are getting slavery.”
Orcs, for Tolkien, are merely corrupted men. And any man can, by sinning, become an orc.
But this is not how I want to use orcs. I use orcs to show that there is some good even in the most seemingly evil race of all. This is what the orcs of Orbivm show.
What “good” could there be in the orcs of Orbivm? I posit that it is the good of competition. Orcs understand, in a way that other races do not understand, what Hyoi is explaining to Ransom. They love competition for competition’s sake.
Yet, since they are a fallen race, they have perverted this (originally good) love. They have turned on the other races, and against themselves, fighting constantly, not because they hate the other races, but because they love to fight.
This means that even the “risen” orcs (=the ones who manage to act at least somewhat un-fallen) must have this intrinsic competitive outlook. And that this outlook is not fallen in and of itself.
So the Orcs of Orbivm are rather like the hrossa. Only fallen.
Oh, and happy new year everyone.