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Why Do We Love Orc Romance?A Deep Dive Into a Popular Sub-genre

How did we get here?

Today, we're talking about a particularly confusing subject and analyzing where it came from, where it went, and where it is now.

It's no secret that romance books these days have evolved well beyond what they used to be. With internet and current resources making it so easy for people to self-publish and promote their own work on their own terms, romance has become something quite interesting. I, myself, have been known to indulge in some very strange books that i never would have been able to experience were it not for the ease of publishing your own work. And, being a self-published author myself, I think it's amazing that you can write to your heart's delight and still find your crowd.

While the old days were filled with these wonderfully classic takes of highlanders and lords and knights and fair maidens, today we find books delving into some truly twisted (and dare I say tasty) avenues. We have tentacles, monster, aliens, dark romance, taboo, omegaverse, and ghosts. Faeries (not the kind we grew up with), vampires, werewolves, dragons, gods, demons, angels, and centaurs. And yes, a very popular sub-genre in this spread of obscure romance is orc romance.

If you're not familiar with romance, then you might not realize that orc romance indeed is a popular genre of romance and erotica. if you're a fan of size difference, lots of fluids, tusks, huge muscles, and a lot of "tough her and die" elements, maybe give orc romance a try.

the lady and the orc by finley fenn

My first introduction into orc romance was "The Lady and the Orc" by the lovely Finley Fenn and at the time I had no idea orcs existed in romance or why. Because to me, orcs looked like this...

Which brings me back to the beginning.

Where did orcs originate? Well, this was harder than i thought to get to the bottom of. My first experience with orcs was probably the same as all of yours and that was through J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings series.

When I decided to dive down this little rabbit hole, i was actually surprised to see that it didn't go very far. See, I thought orcs had to originate somewhere long before Tolkein tossed them into Middle Earth, but alas, I was wrong.

In the Tolkein universe, orcs are a humanoid race of monsters, which are also called goblins. They're brutish, aggressive, ugly, and just generally disgusting creatures. I won't get too into it because I'm not an expert in Lord of the Rings lore, and don't want to risk getting something wrong, but from what I know, they're a corrupted race of elves.

Tolkein did state that he adopted the word "orc" from old English literature. Mainly, the epic

beowulf and grendel art

poem, Beowulf. The poem was produced somewhere between 975 and 1025 AD and since the author is unknown, scholars began to refer to them as "the Beowulf poet." The actual story takes place in pagan Scandinavia in the 6th century and follows the epic journey of a hero called Beowulf.

In Beowulf, there are references to the "orcneas," which is a tribe belonging to the decedents of Cain. The meaning of the word is still a bit of a mystery, but it's been thought to roughly mean "demon-corpses," implying perhaps that they were the monstrous products of necromancy.

Orcs from the lord of the rings movie series

Jump forward to 1937 when The Hobbit was introduced to the world. Although, at the time, the orcs were still being referred to as goblins. It wasn't until the Lord of the Rings that the word "orc" was introduced to the universe.

Orcs are human-like and vary in size. They're ugly, filthy, and have a taste for human flesh. They're small, disproportionate, and fanged. Later, a new breed of orc emerged called the uruk-hai. They're larger, more powerful, and are not afraid of the light like their smaller predecessors.

Yes...I can see how these things could fit perfectly into a romance novel...

I digress. I have learned that anything can become sexy in this new age of "anything goes" romance and especially written by the right author.

world of warcraft battle for azeroth

Let's jump forward in time again to something a little more palatable in my opinion and that is World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft is a popular MMORPG game that began simply as Warcraft in 2004. Since then, it has evolved to be the most popular MMORPG game to date with millions of players experiencing the open world and lore at the same time. There is thousands of years of history attacked to WOW and a very large part of that history revolves around orcs.

Ok... ok, maybe I can get behind these orcs.

Orcs are a powerful race originally from the world of Draenor. Before being corrupted by a demon lord, they were a very primitive, shamanistic, clan-based people. After their corruption, they formed the Horde and became bloodthirsty warmongers. This corruption also turned many of the orcs' typically brown skin green. While a few orcs escaped the corruption, most fell victim to it and became a powerful race of warriors set on conquering other worlds.

There are plenty of stand-up heroes in the Horde like this guy. Thrall is the epitome of "good"

thrall from world of warcraft orc

in the WOW universe. So much so that players quickly began to refer to him as "green Jesus." After escaping slavery from the humans who forced him to fight in gladiator matches along side many other starved and abused prisoners of war, he eventually becomes warchief of the Horde and starts a long and tedious process of trying to show his people a better way. He led his people and was willing time and time again to make peace with their enemies in order to end the war.

If you know anything about WOW, however, you know that peace never lasts long if it happens at all.

So, in World of Warcraft, unlike Middle Earth, orcs are extremely redeemable in many cases. They have a strong sense of honor and though there are MANY bad eggs, we still have characters we can love and respect. And we even almost had ourselves a little friends-to-lovers romance between Thrall and a long time human friend who he met during his time in slavery. She helped him escape and once he was able, Thrall returned to take her away with him only for the entire situation to end tragically.

Aside from LOTR and WOW, orcs also began appearing in other franchises such as the very

illustration orc dungeons and dragons

popular roll playing universe of Dungeons and Dragons and the video game of the same universe, Baldurs Gate, which began to push the idea of having actual relationships with green beasts with tusks. And, lets not get orcs confused with the lovable character,

shrek ogre

Shrek! Who was actually an ogre.

At least now I can see how the evolution of orcs in literature throughout the decades could have led to this...

Now, I did a little survey on Instagram a while back asking people why they love orc romance so much seeing as I'm not really the right person to answer that. I have yet to find an orc romance that truly vibes with me and doesn't end up as just another "it was ok" read. But I know there are a lot of die-hard fans out there and I wanted to know the appeal. See, every time I've picked up an orc romance, they always share at least two things. Size difference and an outrageous amount of fluids.

So, maybe they're kink based?

Well, after a fair amount of people answered my question, I started to understand that people read these books because there is usually another common trait they all share that I think escaped my notice, probably because it isn't something I particularly look for in books. I'm more of a dark romance, extreme sexual tension kind of girl. Anyways, the trait is that the orc is big, he's strong (but gentle) and will protect his mate at all costs. In fact, there are tons of orc romance books out there where the orc isn't even referred to as attractive, but his protective instincts and his ability to nurture a woman (or man) and pleasure her like seven times in a row makes him a heartthrob.

So, in that sense, I think it's completely understandable that women enjoy these books. We like the idea of being picked up like we weigh nothing no matter what size we are. We like the idea of being told we're beautiful and dainty no mater what we look like. And above all, we like the idea of being protected and worshiped. Books are a separation from reality and if it makes you feel great to read about a giant green orc who wants nothing more than to love on their mates, I think that's pure gold. I mean, I wouldn't say no to a few of these monsters in WOW...

Before you go, here are a few orc romance books I found to be quite sweet and good for people looking to dip their toes in before they dive right into the... massive amounts of fluids trope.. Oh, goodness...

Her orc protector by Zoe ashwood

Her Orc protector by Zoe Ashwood

When a woman is accused of witchcraft and left injured and alone in the woods to die, she's found by an orc. He offers help and she of course accepts, eventually accompanying him to an orcish town under a mountain. He's sexy, he's green, and he's looking for his fated mate, but fears she is not ready to accept him. It's a cute tale of two people getting to know each other with a cinnamon roll hero and a woman needing a place to belong, I found this story very sweet.

Bound to an orc by Erin Rookwood

Bound to an Orc by Erin Rookwood

While traveling to her former kingdom to take the throne she believes is rightfully hers, a woman and her band are attacked while traveling through orc territory. However, it was not the orcs that attacked, but they did show up to rescue the humans. When the orc's leader ends up getting between our FMC and an attack, he ends up bleeding for her and in turn claims a "blood debt." He demands the other humans leave his territory while he claims the FMC for one month. She thinks the worst, of course, but it turns out our orcs need her to break a curse. However, a woman trained all her life to be queen and a lady is shocked when she finds herself becoming attracted to her captor.

gentling the beast by LV lane and orc romance

Gentling the Beast by LV Lane

This book is a bit of a beauty and beast tale with a mute half-orc as our MC and a captive of war being his mate. Captured after orcs come through her village, Jasmine is forced to live in camps. In order to protect herself, she seeks the companionship of an "ugly" orc named Doug. He is quick to consider her his and protects her at all costs. With a bit of a past, however, Doug has a lot of pent up insecurities and it's sweet the way Jasmine can help him through them.


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