In The Lord of the Rings, the term Uruk-hai refers chiefly to those bred in Isengard, and in one context are alternatively called Isengarders, while Uruks from Mordor are called Black Uruks or Uruks of Mordor.
The Uruks first appeared out of Mordor, in TA 2475, when they assaulted and managed to conquer Ithilien and destroyed the city of Osgiliath. The Uruks in the service of Barad-dûr used the symbol of the red Eye of Sauron, which was also painted on their shields.
Uruk-hai were later bred by the Wizard Saruman the White late in the Third Age, by his dark arts in the pits of Isengard. In the War of the Ring, the Uruk-hai made up a large part of Saruman's army, together with the Dunlendings, man-enemies of Rohan. There are suggestions that the Uruk-hai were the result of crossbreeding orcs and men. There were other creatures in Saruman's armies, and under his command in the Shire, that appear to have been hybrids. "Half-orcs" were as tall as Men and are never described simply as orcs, as the Uruk-hai frequently are. Saruman's vast army of Uruk-hai fought against King Théoden of Rohan and his people at the Helm's Deep.
The Uruks of Saruman used an Elf-rune wrought in white metal on the front of their iron helms. It was clear this stood for Saruman, because their shields had a small white hand (the symbol of Saruman) centered on a black field. Aragorn commented that their gear was not in the manner of other orcs at all. Instead of the curved scimitar, they used short, broad-bladed swords. Their great bows were made of yew wood, of the same length and shape as those of men.
Saruman appeared to aid his orcs with his wizardry as well: when Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas followed the party of Uruks who had kidnapped Merry and Pippin, Saruman's will caused weariness of the heart for the pursuers and lent speed to the orcs. This was the group that slew Boromir, and was later annihilated by Éomer and the Riders of Rohan.
Uruk-hai was a Black Speech word that meant "Orc-folk". The name "Uruk-hai" has the element Uruk, a Black Speech word related to "orc" and to the (Valinórean) Quenya word urko (Ñoldorin Quenya: orko) of the same meaning. The element hai means "folk", so "Uruk-hai" is "Orc-folk". A similar term is Olog-hai ("troll-folk"), used for a breed of especially strong and vicious trolls capable of surviving sunlight.
Christopher Tolkien describes "uruks" as an anglicization of "Uruk-hai", and his father used the two terms interchangeably a number of times.
Portrayal in adaptations
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
- "Do you know how the Orcs first came to being? They were Elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life. And now, perfected. My fighting Uruk-hai."
In The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy by Peter Jackson, Saruman appeared to believe that the Uruks were his invention. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf mentioned Saruman breeding the Uruks to possess the traits of "orcs and goblin men" without the two races' weaknesses. However, the film-lore book The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare clears up this discrepancy by explaining that Saruman was in fact only replicating Sauron's method. Sauron's Uruks, seen in The Return of the King, have noticeably rougher features than Saruman's. Saruman's Uruk-hai are shown as being released from a kind of membrane in the mud deep under Isengard (special commentary on the DVD edition explained that they were trying to base the scene on an early description of Tolkien's that orcs "worm their way out of the ground like maggots").
- "This is no rabble of mindless Orcs. These are the Uruk-hai, their armor thick and their shields broad..."
- —Gimli to Théoden
Weaponry and army composition
His Uruks army includes pikemen, swordsmen, crossbowmen, sappers, scouts, and berserkers. The berserkers are even larger and more vicious Uruks. They shave their heads and fill their helmets with human blood, so that when they put on the helmets the blood runs down their backs and its scent sends them into a killing frenzy. They carry double-bent swords. These swords were feared by their Rohirrim enemies for good reason. First, they had double spikes on the end (used for hamstringing or disemboweling horses). Second, the tremendous strength of the berserkers could easily take the head off of any human. Last, they had a keen cutting edge that could easily cut through the leather armor of the Rohirrim (for the massive swords were powerful enough to cut through even steel armor). The sappers were responsible for crewing the ballistae, handling the ladders and carrying Saruman's bombs.
The army additionally had many hundreds of pikemen and a smaller count of deadly crossbowmen. Normal Uruk infantry wielded swords and shields. These swords would maximize the brute strength of the Uruks, being able to cut off limbs and heads very easily.
They also sometimes use bladed shields with the White Hand painted on them, as seen in Amon Hen during Aragorn's fight against Lurtz. These were broad shields, made of durable iron that could defend well against incoming attacks and would provide an alternative weapon by using the bladed side, should the Uruk lose his other weapon. Scouts wear light, leather armor and have leather helmets with no crests or brims, and wield short swords, axes, daggers, and powerful bows of yew with a tremendous draw weight. Their armor is grey and is made up of large lames and has a groin guard. Underneath is a layer of chainmail that covers the torso, half the arm and a small fraction of the legs. They also wear arm armor but they have bare legs. For footwear they have puttees and sandals that are covered by foot and leg armor.
As the Isengard Uruk-hai were an army that was being rapidly grown, mass production of arms was required to equip them quickly. The metal weapons used by the Isengard uruks, as depicted in The Fellowship of the Ring, are made from steel melted in a foundry, cast in open molds, then forged, and finally finished by sharpening on grindstones. Armor and helmets are also seen being hammered and shaped en masse. Though the weapons and armor were competently crafted, the quality is depicted as relatively crude compared to the more finely honed weapons of the elves, men, and Dwarves. This lack of quality is not shown as hindering effectiveness.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War
Uruk-hai, or "Uruks" as they are termed in the games, appear in both Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel Shadow of War as the games' primary antagonists throughout the land of Mordor. A wide variety of Uruks are depicted, including a hierarchy of captains and warchiefs within Sauron's army. Some are also shown to be necromancers, wielding dark sorcery.
Their appearances in these games do not resemble their film depiction.
- Uglúk - One of Saruman's Uruk-hai who commanded the scouts that attacked the Fellowship of the Ring and captured Merry and Pippin. Uglúk later died fighting Éomer when his band was slain by Rohirrim.
- Shagrat - Shagrat was a huge, tall and long-armed Uruk Captain in command of the tower of Cirith Ungol, which guarded a pass into Mordor. His company met another band of orcs coming from Minas Morgul and led by an old acquaintance of Shagrat, captain Gorbag. The two find Frodo and bring him to the tower. The two captains enter a heated argument over the hobbit's belongings and eventually a skirmish between their troops starts which ends with Shagrat killing his weakened rival. Shagrat later evades Sam and flees to Barad-dûr with Frodo's cloak, sword and Mithril shirt.
- Gorbag was an Uruk captain from Minas Morgul who commanded an orc company. His company met Shagrat's orc garrison from the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Shelob's lair, where they found Frodo. Gorbag's greed overcame his loyalty to their master Sauron and he claimed ownership of Frodo's belongings, thus starting a skirmish between his Morgul Orcs and Shagrat's Uruk-hai. After sustaining a few injuries, the wounded Gorbag sneaked behind Shagrat with a spear, only to be killed by his rival. In the film adaptation, he is a crook-legged orc instead and gets killed by Sam.
- Lugdush - He was one of Saruman's Uruks, and appears to be a trusted subordinate of Uglúk. He was tasked with guarding the captive Merry and Pippin. He was presumably killed along the other orcs by the Riders of Rohan near Fangorn Forest.
- Lurtz - Lurtz was a character created specifically for Peter Jackson's movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. He is the first Uruk-hai bred in Isengard, and kills the first thing he sees, strangling the orc who oversaw his birth. As the first Uruk made, he is shown to be the strongest Uruk, and his skin appears a muddy brown instead of the other Uruk-hai's more reddish skin. Saruman places him in command of the "Uruk-hai scouts" and sends him along with a company of Uruks to find the Fellowship of the Ring. He kills Boromir with a bow, shooting him three times, and then violently duels with Aragorn, in which he loses his arm, is impaled by Aragorn's sword, and finally beheaded. He was portrayed by New Zealand actor Lawrence Makoare.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Kazakh||Ұрұк-һаі (Cyrillic) Uruk-hai (Latin)|
|Serbian||Урук-хаи (Cyrillic) Uruk-hai (Latin)|
|Uzbek||Урук-ҳаи (Cyrillic) Uruk-hai (Latin)|
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow: