Tolkien’s Azog vs. Peter Jackson’s Pale Orc

Diane asks, referring to the film ‘The Hobbit’: “one creature I don’t remember at all from the book was the Pale Orc on the White Warg who was responsible for killing Thorin Oakenshield’s grandfather and who is still hunting him.”

It is absolutely correct to say that Thrór was killed by by an Orc named Azog. This is established in both The Hobbit and in The Lord of the Rings.

“I did not ‘get hold of it,’ I was given it,” said the wizard. “Your grandfather Thrór was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin.”

“Curse his name, yes,” said Thorin.

Chapter I – An Unexpected Party, The Hobbit

Then Nár came up, and found that it was indeed the body of Thrór, but the head was severed and lay face downwards. As he knelt there, he heard orc-laughter in the shadows, and the voice said:

‘If beggars will not wait at the door, but sneak in to try thieving, that is what we do to them. If any of your people poke their foul beards in here again, they will fare the same. Go and tell them so! But if his family wish to know who is now king here, the name is written on his face. I wrote it! I killed him! I am the master!’

Then Nár turned the head and saw branded on the brow in dwarf-runes so that he could read it the name AZOG. That name was branded in his heart and in the hearts of all the Dwarves afterwards.

Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers – III Durin’s Folk, The Lord of the Rings

What is not accurate is to portray Azog as still being alive, let alone hunting for Thorin. In fact, Azog died roughly 142 years before the events of The Hobbit.* As Appendix A.III goes on to tell us, Thráin learned what had happened to his father from Nár, Thrór’s companion on the journey to Moria, and began the War of the Dwarves and the Orcs, “… which was long and deadly, and fought for the most part in deep places beneath the earth.” From the death of Thrór to the start of fighting was approximately three years, and then another six years passed before the Battle of Azanulbizar.§ It was in this valley, surrounding the lake of Kheled-zâram and standing before the great eastern gates of Khazad-dûm, that the ultimate battle of the war was fought.

The battle was long and hard fought, with advantage swinging back and forth between the sides until the Dwarves of the Iron Hills, led by Náin, arrived and drove the Orcs back toward Moria. It was then that Náin called out to Azog and challenged him to come out and fight. Azog did so and it is here that we see him described as “a great Orc with a huge iron-clad head, and yet very agile and strong.” (No mention of him being “pale”, or looking any different from any other Orc.) In short order Azog killed Náin and thought himself triumphant. But as he looked about he realized that despite his murder of one of their lords the Dwarves were quickly putting to route his Orcs. Seeing this he attempted to escape back into Moria but was caught before the gates by Dáin Ironfoot, Náin’s son and heir.

Up the steps after him leaped a Dwarf with a red axe. It was Dáin Ironfoot, Náin’s son. Right before the doors he caught Azog, and there he slew him, and hewed off his head. That was held a great feat, for Dáin was then only a stripling in the reckoning of the Dwarves. But long life and many battles lay before him, until old but unbowed he fell at last in the War of the Ring. Yet hardy and full of wrath as he was, it is said that when he came down from the Gate he looked grey in the face, as one who has felt great fear.

Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers – III Durin’s Folk, The Lord of the Rings

* § Appendix B: The Tale of Years – The Third Age, The Lord of the Rings
† ‡ ¶ Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers – III Durin’s Folk, The Lord of the Rings

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