Orcs, also called Orsimer or "Pariah Folk" in ancient times, are sophisticated, beastlike people of the Wrothgarian Mountains, Dragontail Mountains, and Orsinium (literally translated as "Orc-Town"). They are noted for their unshakable courage in war and their unflinching endurance of hardships. In the past, Orcs have been widely feared and hated by the other nations and races of Tamriel, and were often considered to be goblin-ken. However, they have slowly won acceptance in the Empire, in particular for their distinguished service in the Emperor's Legions. Orc armorers are prized for their craftsmanship, and Orc warriors in heavy armor are among the finest front-line troops in the Empire, and are fearsome when using their berserker rage. Most Imperial citizens regard the Orc society as rough and cruel. The Orcs of the Iliac Bay region have developed their own language, known as Orcish, and have often had their own kingdom, Orsinium.
The Orcs were supposedly created when the Daedric Prince Boethiah defeated the Aldmeri god Trinimac, transforming him into Malacath and his faithful, the Orsimer, into Orcs. When the transformation occurred is unclear, but Orcs have been inhabiting the Iliac Bay region since the early years of the First Era. Some reports say Orcs were in Morrowind acting as raiders and mercenaries as early as 1E 700. It is known that the Aldmer had already colonized the mainland of High Rock during the Merethic Era before Orcs emerged. They were viewed as a constant threat to the other races, especially after the Ra Gada drove many Orcs out of Hammerfell and greatly strengthened Orsinium. Several kingdoms banded together in High Rock and destroyed the first Orc kingdom in 1E 980. Without a home, prejudice against them was even greater.
Gortwog gro-Nagorm created the second incarnation, sometimes called Nova Orsinium, in 3E 399. He gathered enough power to force Emperor Uriel Septim VII to formally recognize Orsinium as an equal of the other lesser kingdoms of the Iliac Bay region. During the Warp in the West, Orsinium was one of the four kingdoms to gain control of the Numidium, conquering the surrounding kingdoms and baronies and swearing loyalty to the Emperor. Early in the Fourth Era, Orsinium was once again sacked by the Redguards and Bretons and presumably eliminated, and many Orc refugees were escorted to Skyrim by the Imperial Legion. The kingdom later re-formed in the mountains between Hammerfell and Skyrim.
Orcish religion centers around the worship of Malacath, Daedric Prince of Outcasts, also known as Mauloch or Malak. The stories recount that Boethiah "ate" Trinimac and excreted the dung that is Malacath, although Malacath derides the story as being too "literal-minded". The Orcs have considered themselves outcasts like their deity ever since, and this is reflected in much of their culture. For instance, unlike other races, the Orc tradition is to have weddings take place at midnight. Near the end of the Third Era, Gortwog gro-Nagorm promoted the idea that the Orcs worship Trinimac again instead of Malacath, a proposition which the majority of Orcs within Orsinium agreed with, while the majority of them outside Orsinium considered it blasphemous.
Traditional Orcish society is centered around stronghold settlements, each one striving for complete independence in all matters. Orc society is based on polygamy - a stronghold's tribe is controlled by a chieftain, who is the literal alpha male: no other males are permitted to take wives or father children. The chieftain is replaced by whichever one of his sons grows strong enough to challenge and kill him. The strength of a tribe (and the favor granted to it by Malacath) depends heavily on the personal strength of the chieftain.
The law of the Orcs is based on the Code of Malacath, an unwritten law. The Code prohibits things such as theft and unwarranted violence, but also places heavy emphasis on honor and personal strength in resolving conflicts. Orcs do not use imprisonment as punishment: those who violate the code must either pay material compensation or pay a "blood price", which entails allowing the one they offended to spill their blood until the price has been satisfied.
Orc women are expected to contribute to the strength of the stronghold just as men, as warriors, hunters, herbalists. Traditionally, the Orcish art of smithing is done by the women, and a chieftain's second wife is called the forgewife for this reason. A wise woman handles a tribe's spiritual matters and healing needs. However, Orcish society is still very patriarchal. All stronghold women are either the wives or daughters of chieftains, with the exception of the wise women, who are the mothers of chieftains. Daughters of the chieftain are usually traded to other strongholds to marry other chieftains.
However, many Orcs seek to escape traditional life in the strongholds. Orc women may want to escape being "just another wife" to the chieftain. They leave to join the Imperial Legion, see the world or otherwise seek their fortune; some eventually return to the strongholds, but many do not. Orcs who do not live in strongholds are derisively called "city Orcs" by those that do, and are considered soft outsiders just like non-Orcs. Given their history of provincial homelessness, frequent military service, and the demand for their craftsmanship, it's not surprising that Orcs have traveled all around Tamriel and are now a commonplace sight in cities throughout. Still, Orcs who live in the cities with other races are likely to face prejudice. Their appearance makes interbreeding with other races of Tamriel so rare that it is commonly thought impossible.
Orcs are famed for their skill in smithing, particularly with the metal called Orichalcum, which they use to forge armor and weapons. The resulting armaments are heavy and require great endurance to wield, but offer peerless strength and durability. They also work with ebony, and have unique skill in tooling leather for exceptional flexibility and toughness.
 See Also
- For game-specific information about playing as an Orc, see the Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, and ESO articles.
- Orcs also appeared in the games Arena and Daggerfall, but as monsters rather than a playable race.
- Civility and Etiquette: Wood Orcs I by Coristir, Sage Sojourner — An Altmer guidebook outlining the correct social protocols when dealing with the Wood Orcs
- The Code of Mauloch — A description of the unwritten rules of the Orcs
- In the Company of Wood Orcs by Sisarion — Extract from a Bosmer's journal recounting his experience with Wood Orcs
- From a Breton travel journal — An observer's notes on Orcish battle preparation
- How Orsinium Passed to the Orcs by Menyna Gsost — The story of how Gortwog won the land to the north of Wayrest
- An Orc's Guide to Tamriel by Luruk gro-Bozgor — A guidebook for Orcish travelers to Tamriel
- Orcs: Monsters or Misunderstood? by Taleon Mythmaker — A brief essay on the creation and virtues of the Orcish race
- Orcs? Could Be Worse — A Breton's thoughts on the benefits of having Orcish allies
- Orcs of Skyrim by Thora Far-Wanderer — A history of the Orcish settlers and strongholds of Skyrim
- Orcs of Tamriel, Volume 3 by Grassius Vilco — A treatise on the Iron Orcs of Craglorn
- The Pig Children by Tyston Bane — Discusses the history of the Orcish threat in the Iliac Bay
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: Orsinium — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- The Red Paint — How Orcs make their war paint
- Return to Orsinium by Immigration-Wife Uulitag gra-Orsinium — A rallying pamphlet urging Orcs to return to Orsinium
- Sayings of the Wise — Orcish proverbs
- The True Nature of Orcs — Book detailing the Orsimer race and their origin
- Varieties of Faith: The Orcs by Brother Mikhael Karkuxor of the Imperial College — A summary of the religion of Orcs
- ^ a b The True Nature of Orcs
- ^ a b c Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: The Wild Regions — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- ^ a b c The Pig Children — Tyston Bane
- ^ a b c Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: Orsinium — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ The Five Songs of King Wulfharth
- ^ a b Father of the Niben — Florin Jaliil
- ^ The War of the First Council — Agrippa Fundilius
- ^ The Real Nerevar
- ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of our History — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- ^ A History of Daggerfall — Odiva Gallwood
- ^ Sixteen Accords of Madness, v. XII
- ^ How Orsinium Passed to the Orcs — Menyna Gsost
- ^ The Warp in the West — Ulvius Tero
- ^ a b Lord of Souls — Greg Keyes
- ^ Loading screen in Skyrim.
- ^ The House of Troubles
- ^ Varieties of Faith in the Empire — Brother Mikhael Karkuxor
- ^ The Wraith's Wedding Dowry — Voltha gra-Yamwort, translated by Apthorne
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j The Code of Malacath: A Sellsword's Guide to the Orc Strongholds — Amanda Alleia, Mercenary
- ^ Dialogue of wise women in Skyrim.
- ^ Guide to Cheydinhal — Alessia Ottus
- ^ Guide to Bravil — Alessia Ottus
- ^ Guide to Skingrad — Alessia Ottus
- ^ A Dance in Fire, Chapter 2 — Waughin Jarth
- ^ Notes on Racial Phylogeny — Council of Healers, Imperial University
- ^ Journal of the Lord Lovidicus — Lord Lovidicus
- ^ The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Northern Bangkorai and the Mountains — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581