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View Full Version : Hobbits are Halflings, Ents are Treants... why is "Orc" okay?



kwanzaabot
2009-09-03, 06:32 AM
This has always struck me as odd. If I recall correctly, 1st edition D&D used "Hobbit", "Ent" and "Balrog" (relying on stuff I've read, being far too young for 1E, so please correct me if I'm wrong), but the names were changed to "Halfling", "Treant" and "Balor" because of legal reasons.

So... why is "Orc" okay? The word was invented by Tolkien, just like the others, but nobody has threatened to sue over its use. Why?

Farlion
2009-09-03, 06:38 AM
Try this! (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=orc+origin)

Orc is derived from old english in which orc meant some sort of demon.

So he didn't invent the word.

Cheers,
Farlion

Myou
2009-09-03, 06:39 AM
Well....


"the word is, as far as I am concerned, actually derived from Old English orc 'demon', but only because of its phonetic suitability"

"I originally took the word from Old English orc (Beowulf 112 orc-neas and the gloss orc = žyrs ('ogre'), heldeofol ('hell-devil')). This is supposed not to be connected with modern English orc, ork, a name applied to various sea-beasts of the dolphin order."

So I guess he didn't invent it. :smallsmile:

kwanzaabot
2009-09-03, 06:54 AM
Well....



So I guess he didn't invent it. :smallsmile:

It's kind of a roundabout way of naming something, though.

And Hobbit supposedly comes from the Old English "Holbytla" which apparently means "hole dweller" (according to Wikipedia, which is where you got your quote). So why is "Hobbit" taboo but "Orc" isn't?

HCL
2009-09-03, 06:56 AM
Intellectual property is a load of crap. The rules are entirely subjective.

Shademan
2009-09-03, 07:11 AM
It's kind of a roundabout way of naming something, though.

And Hobbit supposedly comes from the Old English "Holbytla" which apparently means "hole dweller" (according to Wikipedia, which is where you got your quote). So why is "Hobbit" taboo but "Orc" isn't?

because frodo is a hobbit not a holbytla. but a orc is a orc, of course, of course

deuxhero
2009-09-03, 07:21 AM
Same reason Elf is, Tolkien ripped it from mythology.

You still know who you are taking it from though, so use some original races.

JeenLeen
2009-09-03, 07:34 AM
It's kind of a roundabout way of naming something, though.

And Hobbit supposedly comes from the Old English "Holbytla" which apparently means "hole dweller" (according to Wikipedia, which is where you got your quote). So why is "Hobbit" taboo but "Orc" isn't?

I was told, from reputable sources but feel free to refute, that while grading papers Tolkein wrote on one, "And in a hole dwelt a hobbit," (or whatever the opening line to The Hobbit is). His next thought was, "Well, I better find out what a hobbit is."
Perhaps the word came subconsciously or some such from his knowledge of Old English, but to his understanding (if the story is true) it was an original creation not a conscious augmentation of a word already known.

I recall he stated at least one something like that he felt like he was telling a story already existant, not creating a story. Like, tapping into a Platonic idea. (Platonic philosophy is a type I studied little, but I realize this analogy is flawed.)

Unwitting Pawn
2009-09-03, 07:40 AM
You still know who you are taking it from though, so use some original races.

Which is why I don't use hobbits, ents, or orcs in my homebrew.

Berserk Monk
2009-09-03, 07:42 AM
This has always struck me as odd. If I recall correctly, 1st edition D&D used "Hobbit", "Ent" and "Balrog" (relying on stuff I've read, being far too young for 1E, so please correct me if I'm wrong), but the names were changed to "Halfling", "Treant" and "Balor" because of legal reasons.

So... why is "Orc" okay? The word was invented by Tolkien, just like the others, but nobody has threatened to sue over its use. Why?

No he didn't. He just made them popular. Pretty sure the word orcs come from the Roman god Orcus.

Yora
2009-09-03, 07:45 AM
No, but they have the same origin.

Totally Guy
2009-09-03, 08:03 AM
Intellectual property is a load of crap. The rules are entirely subjective.

Appropriate comic. (http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1625#comic)

technophile
2009-09-03, 08:22 AM
IIRC Tolkein used the word "halfling" to refer to hobbits at least once (it was certainly used that way in the movies, it's been a while since I read the books).

Cyrion
2009-09-03, 08:51 AM
Originally, an orc is a kind of sea monster. Thus Orca for killer whale. I can only guess that Tolkein saw the word, liked the sound or feel of it, and slapped it onto his goblinoid.

deuxhero
2009-09-03, 09:14 AM
Which is why I don't use hobbits, ents, or orcs in my homebrew.

And what about Elfs?

Unwitting Pawn
2009-09-03, 09:30 AM
And what about Elfs?

Well, yes and no. Yes, in that they exist in the setting and they have mythological origins (like dwarfs and trolls) rather than being inventions of Tolkien. No, in that they aren't traditional D&D elves, and they aren't a PC race either.

Mark Hall
2009-09-03, 09:30 AM
Of course, "ent" is also a word for "giant", but because of Tolkien's specific use of it, the D&D version had to vary, a bit.

Cieyrin
2009-09-03, 12:05 PM
This has always struck me as odd. If I recall correctly, 1st edition D&D used "Hobbit", "Ent" and "Balrog" (relying on stuff I've read, being far too young for 1E, so please correct me if I'm wrong), but the names were changed to "Halfling", "Treant" and "Balor" because of legal reasons.

So... why is "Orc" okay? The word was invented by Tolkien, just like the others, but nobody has threatened to sue over its use. Why?

Nah, I have the Basic set of D&D and Halflings are still Halflings then. The Demons were all numbered and I don't recall what Treants were called. The Tolkien lawyers sued TSR over infringement earlier on than AD&D 1st. You have to look at the original White Box for ents and hobbits and even then the first editions before they were forced to change them.

Elfin
2009-09-03, 12:14 PM
Try this! (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=orc+origin)

Orc is derived from old english in which orc meant some sort of demon.

So he didn't invent the word.

Cheers,
Farlion

Exactly.
[filler]

Skorj
2009-09-03, 03:54 PM
I've heard the Tolkien Estate has made some sort of formal agreement that they won't sue anyone over "halfling", but hands off "hobbit". That strikes me as more real than any sort of linguistic argument.

Edit: The Hobbit is of course a book title, so the Tolkien Estate would naturally take steps to protect "hobbit" that it wouldn't need to for "orc", or even "uruk hai".

I think "treant" came from a phase when D&D was actively trying to be seen as not a Tolkien ripoff, even though the word is clearly "ent" with the serial number filed off. "Krellans" anyone?

Fitz10019
2009-09-03, 07:19 PM
In the early days of The Hobbit's popularity, a German publisher walked away when they found out that Tolkien had made up the hobbits. They were angry that the hobbits were not authentic mythology.

Brasswatchman
2009-09-03, 09:19 PM
Nah, I have the Basic set of D&D and Halflings are still Halflings then. The Demons were all numbered and I don't recall what Treants were called. The Tolkien lawyers sued TSR over infringement earlier on than AD&D 1st. You have to look at the original White Box for ents and hobbits and even then the first editions before they were forced to change them.

Huh. Wow. They moved on that one pretty fast.

Cieyrin
2009-09-03, 10:56 PM
Huh. Wow. They moved on that one pretty fast.

The Tolkien estate and their lawyers are not to trifled with lightly.:smallbiggrin:

arguskos
2009-09-03, 11:30 PM
The shift occurred in the 5th or 6th printing of the original rule set. I'd know, I have the "before" and "after" books themselves to prove it. :smallamused:

You know, in case anyone actually cared to know that. :smalltongue:

Archpaladin Zousha
2009-09-04, 08:25 AM
Actually, the word Tolkien used was orcneas. Same definition but slightly different word. Thank you, Tolkien class! You know what my professor told me? In a back room somewhere they found a manuscript for Tolkien's translation of freakin' BEOWULF! The Tolkien Estate is keeping it locked up until they can find someone they like to translate, transcribe and publish it. Can you imagine what it'd be like if that got published?! There'd be no other accepted version! I mean, one of the reasons my Survey of Brit Lit I class picked our particular textbook set was because they use Tolkien's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight! That's awesome!!!

Blackfang108
2009-09-04, 09:42 AM
Can you imagine what it'd be like if that got published?! There'd be no other accepted version!

Doubtful. Especially after the release of the Seamus Heany version.

Not everyone believes Tolkein is God. I will respectfully leave out my opinions on the matter.

Mark Hall
2009-09-04, 10:26 AM
Doubtful. Especially after the release of the Seamus Heany version.

Not everyone believes Tolkein is God. I will respectfully leave out my opinions on the matter.

While I love the Heaney version for it's readability (it's one of the few that I think most people will be able to sit and read like a novel), I have a particular fondness for the language of Rebsamen's translation. Good meter and rhythm, while fairly accessible. It stays fairly close to the Anglo-Saxon in that respect.

Burton Raffel should die in a fire. He has the poetic soul of a drunken marmoset.

Calmar
2009-09-04, 12:04 PM
This has always struck me as odd. If I recall correctly, 1st edition D&D used "Hobbit", "Ent" and "Balrog" (relying on stuff I've read, being far too young for 1E, so please correct me if I'm wrong), but the names were changed to "Halfling", "Treant" and "Balor" because of legal reasons.

Also they changed 'men' to 'humans'...

ericgrau
2009-09-04, 12:19 PM
Intellectual property is a load of crap. The rules are entirely subjective.

And Tolkein didn't care either. D&D originally used the Tolkein names. Then a 2nd gaming company tried to use them, TSR - the former owners of D&D - sued that company, then the Tolkein family got pissed and sued TSR.

shadzar
2009-09-04, 12:55 PM
Tolkien is given credit for coining the term hobbit, but didn't as it appeared in papers dating to 1859.

It is all about copyright and IP and such that should have been dealt with long ago. Like a patent, these things should have been checked to make sure the author did create the word prior to giving them total control over it, such WotC tries to claim total control over when someone uses their GSL in regards to public domain terms.

Hobbit I can choke back a bit because it is a book name, but the rest not so much since Tolkien stole it all from the Wagner opera Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Gelondil
2009-09-04, 01:31 PM
The reason orcs are orcs simply shows that the Tolkien estate did not pursue that name as intellectual property (or did and lost) - The case was made that Hobbits are a little more uniquely Tolkien.

While we're on the topic of intellectual property in D&D... Why are Ioun Stones Ioun Stones?
(hmm... And now I know the answer to this one, yay for the interwebs (http://www.dyingearth.com/files/GARY%20GYGAX%20JACK%20VANCE.pdf))

shadzar
2009-09-04, 01:35 PM
While we're on the topic of intellectual property in D&D... Why are Ioun Stones Ioun Stones?
(hmm... And now I know the answer to this one, yay for the interwebs (http://www.dyingearth.com/files/GARY%20GYGAX%20JACK%20VANCE.pdf))

Well I was going to say because something about Vancian magic, but the whole dying earth portion of the link gives it away quite quickly. :smallfrown: