Orcs At School by Virtuella

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Story Notes:

Middle-earth belongs to Tolkien. Thanks to Clodia and Finlay for beta-reading. I first conceived the idea for this story several months ago during a discussion on the forum Of Cabbages and Kings about what kind of culture and education orcs would have.

“Rotten morning!”


The snarl of the elderly goblin echoed along the tunnel.


“Rotten morning, Mr Shragnatz!” chorused the thirty-four orclings who stood queued beside the entrance to the class cave. One by one, in a crooked and jumbled line, they marched in while the teacher watched them with a wary yellow eye. It was the left one, a jagged scar occupying the place of the right. Nine years ago he had found out the hard way that teaching can be a more dangerous occupation than fighting when a pupil had stabbed him in the eye with a carefully sharpened piece of chalk.


The orclings glanced up at the timetable that was chalked on the only smooth bit of wall.






Tribal history


~ Lunch: maggot soup ~




Battle-cry practice


Black Time


“Oh, no, not tribal history!” moaned one little orc girl with greasy rat-tails. “I can never remember the names of all those chiefs.”


“Maggot soup again!” complained another orcling, a squint-eyed lad who was considered the most handsome child in his class on account of his black fangs and greyish complexion. “Why can’t we have heart and liver pie for a change?”


“Would you like to volunteer as a donor?” hissed the teacher. The other children roared with laughter. Mr Shragnatz tapped his scimitar on the teacher’s desk. The orclings hurried to get into their seats.


“Get out your reading books,” said the teacher. “Seniors, twenty minutes of silent reading while I hear the juniors.”


With much grunting and jostling and hitting other pupils over the head with blunt objects, the older orclings pulled out their textbooks and settled down to read. Meanwhile, the teacher gathered the younger children in a semicircle and listened to them as they took turns reading.


“This is Gûsh. Gûsh has a k-, k-, k-nife. It is a big k-nife. It smells of blood.”


“Awful. Next.”


“The blood is warm. The blood dri-, drips off the knife. Gûsh has stab-, stabbed his sister. Good job, Gûsh!”


“That was terrible. Your reading is certainly coming on. Next.”


“This is Dad. Dad has a bigger knife. Dad asks: Gûsh, wh-, where is your sister?”




The next orcling in line hung his head and pulled a face.


“I’m not doing it,” he said. “What do we have to learn to read for anyway?”


“Well?” The teacher looked at the other children. “Can anyone explain to Grîk why we have to learn to read? Yes, Snarik?”


“Because it’s part of our appalling culture.”


“That’s right.”


“And so we can read instruction manuals for siege weapons,” chimed in another orcling.


“Correct, Krûka. Badly done! So, Grîk, are you going to read for us now?”


“Shan’t,” said Grîk and folded his arms.


“Then go into the goodie corner and colour in some flower pictures.”


“Oh, no, please, sir! I’ll do my reading.”


He took the book and began to sound out word after word. Soon the group had finished their reading lesson and were set to work on sums while the teacher attended to the older pupils. The girl who disliked tribal history chewed on her rat-tails while she pondered on problems like If seven orclings go out to fight and three get mauled by wargs, how many come home for their rat casserole?


Minutes later, the teacher’s voice thundered across the cave.




“I’m sorry, sir,” whispered a scraggy orcling.


 “You will write a hundred times: I MUST NOT SMILE AT OTHERS.”


“Yes, sir.” Harak bent over his slate and began to scribble.


Mr Shragnatz turned his attention to the younger group again. He went from desk to desk marking their sums and slapped a couple of pupils round the ears for having completed them all correctly. Grîk, who had more mistakes than right answers, received a ladybird stamp in his jotter and promptly began to cry.


Unconcerned by his pupil’s misery, the teacher announced the beginning of the mallocution lesson. The orclings stood up, turned to the front of the class cave and chanted after him.


“You treacherous sloth!”


 “You treacherous sloth!”


“Foul, festering carcass!”


“Foul, festering carcass!”


 “You slimy, maggot-eaten piece of carrion!”


“You slimy, maggot-eaten piece of carrion!”


“Snooping, sneering, snatching sluggard!”


“Snooping, sneering, snatching sluggard!”


“Try that one again and make sure you give it a right hideous snarl.”


“Ssssnnnooping, ssssnnneering, ssssnnnatching sssluggard!” repeated the orclings. The teacher nodded and moved on to the next phrase. After another half hour spent on this edifying pursuit, he beckoned the orclings to sit down.


“That was atrocious! If you are bad orclings for the rest of the morning, you can practice disembowelling this afternoon at Black Time.”


A cheer arose from the class. Eagerly they opened their tribal history books, making sure to hiss and kick each other under the desks as much as possible. The teacher noted this with approval and began to speak about Ragzarg, the Great Goblin, whose folk were attacked by a group of brave and noble dwarves. The orclings wailed when they heard how Ragzarg was struck down by the sword Biter.


“And that fine warrior is still out there somewhere,” said the teacher, “wielding his bright sword Biter and killing orcs wherever he can. So you be careful whenever you leave the safety of these caves, lest Biter gets you. GRRRRRRAAWWWW!”


The orclings laughed at his growl and grimace, and then it was lunch time and they shoved and trampled through to the dining cave to receive their bowl of maggot soup from the vile orc dames behind the counter. When they had finished their meal (with much slurping and burping), they played at Pinchers and Slap-Slap and Stomp-The-Toe until the time came for their afternoon classes. The gong sounded and they all tumbled back to the class cave, apart from Brâkak, who had to be sent home with a split lip and knocked out tooth.


Mr Shragnatz had drawn a diagram of catapults and targets onto the wall, which the younger orclings were to copy into their books, while the older pupils had the task of calculating the projected line the stone would take and identify the weight to chose in order to hit a target at a given distance. More than one orcling broke into a sweat at this assignment. The teacher had a busy time going round the class, giving clues, pointing out mistakes and occasionally pinching a successful pupil in the arm. Eventually he came to the desk of a little orc girl named Trushgk. She looked at him meekly, a delightful sight in her neat clothes and tidy hair, and tried to cover her book with her arm. He grabbed it, scanned it and sighed.


“Now, what have we here,” he said and waved the book in the foul air. “Someone has drawn a butterfly in her jotter – again! How often do I have to tell you that is pretty! I will have to speak to your father.”


“Oh, no, please, sir - ”


Trushgk burst into tears. The other orclings laughed, all but Harak, who tried to give Trushgk an encouraging smile. The teacher glared at Harak, then he shook his head and dropped the book on the desk.


“I don’t know what to do about you, Trushgk,” he said and moved on to the next pupil, one he knew wouldn’t disappoint him. Indeed, Krûka had copied the diagram faithfully and adorned it with drawings of decapitated elves and mutilated dwarves. He punched her head.


 “Revolting, Krûka, absolutely revolting. This is easily the most horrendous piece of work I’ve ever seen from a junior.”


Krûka beamed with pride but swiftly removed the grin from her face when she saw the teacher’s stern glance.


Battle cry practice was a simple affair. The orclings had to scream and howl as loud as they could and the last one still in voice was the winner and got a special slap from the teacher. While the cries echoed around the cave, the teacher sat down at his desk and marked the geometry assignments. Every now and then he looked up to incite more noise. The orclings had strong lungs and kept it up for nearly an hour. Eventually only two pupils were left shouting at each other, and when Zâkra began to croak, Shrogzak gave one last howl and claimed the prize.


And then it was Black Time. Each orcling was allowed to choose an activity of their liking. Mr Shragnatz brought out the dummies for disembowelling practice and immediately more than a dozen orclings started fighting over them. He left them to it and took a look at the other pupils. Zâkra stood in the metal work corner working on his scimitar. Krûka was drawing a picture of the Battle of Five Armies. Her face was screwed up in repugnance as she rendered the figures of the elves. A group of orclings played a game of Stab-The-Dwarf. Others had brought out their designs for the siege weapon project. Everybody seemed awfully employed, apart from – oh, yes, of course. Trushgk and Harak sat together in a corner talking quietly. He shooed them away and made them join the group that was punching sandbags.


Ah, Black Time, everybody’s favourite! The school day concluded with a jolly singsong.


Shriek and snarl and punch your fellow orc!


We hate our school and we loathe our folk!


Pulling hair and slapping face,


Kicking shin and giving chase,


Throwing chalk around the place.


This is what the teacher says:


Shriek and snarl and punch your fellow orc!


We hate our school and we loathe our folk!


“That was gross!” said the teacher. “Now off you go, and I shall see you all tomorrow, grim and sullen.”


They left the room in noisy mayhem, kicking, shoving and snarling at each other. Only Harak and Trushgk marched out in silence, hand in hand. The teacher sighed. He’d have to speak to these two again about their behaviour, but it could wait till the next day. He was really worried about them. With an attitude like that, how could they ever become detested members of the community? But the others did him shame. His single eye wandered around the class cave and rested briefly on Krûka’s blood and gore pictures, on the abysmal collection of knives and on the catapult designs of the senior group. Oh, yes, they were as despicable a bunch of young orcs as anyone could wish for. The Great Goblin himself would have been sickened to see them.


The teacher sat down behind his desk and leaned back in his chair. His blackened heart was filled with disgust and abhorrence of those little blighters. Never would he want to be anything other than a teacher.

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