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How ‘The Rings of Power’ Used Human Femurs and Other Bones for the Orcs to ‘Amp Up the Terror’

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Many Lord of the Rings fans remember how frightening the orcs were in director Peter Jackson’s trilogy. The creators of Amazon’s The Rings of Power wanted to bring the same level of fear to the orcs in the series. To create this emotion, composer Bear McCreary used human femurs, bones, and unique instruments to “amp up the terror.”

What are the orcs in ‘The Rings of Power’?

Orcs in ‘The Rings of Power’| Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

J. R. R. Tolkien fans know the orcs from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The orcs are the primary army that serves the Dark Lord Sauron. The Rings of Power explores the orcs in a time of weakness before they became the massive army fans are familiar with. The orcs are a terrifying group of monsters shrouded in darkness and unable to live in the sunlight.

The orcs were formed by Morgoth and are rumored to be elves who were kidnapped and corrupted into the wicked creatures they became. While the orcs aren’t the most intelligent creatures, they make up for it in their numbers and their brute force. In The Rings of Power, the orcs — also known as the Uruk — serve Adar and were successful in erupting Mount Doom onto the Southlands, leading to the creation of Mordor. 

Composer Bear McCreary used human bones for the orcs

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In an interview with Deadline, McCreary discussed how he created terror for the orcs through creative instruments. One way he hiked up the fear was by using human femurs and other bones and transforming them into flutes to create distinct sounds. He also would use instruments like Aztec death whistles to simulate screaming. 

“I wanted the orcs to feel primal and scary and I found some players that play woodwind instruments that are made from bones. And they’re not all animal bones. One of them is a human femur. And they’re bones that have holes drilled in them so they can be played like flutes. There’s antlers and conch schells, shofars. Just the kinds of things that look like an orc would pick it up and blow into it to call the army forth. 

“There’s an instrument called an Aztec death whistle, which is a whistle that is traditionally shaped like a skull, and you blow into it. It sounds like a human screaming, and that’s all over the score. Every time you hear that sound, you know orcs are coming. So, the sound of the orcs is brutal. I have these tribal drums playing. You know, hide skins and you hear the hands on the skins. And then you hear this ethereal, trippy, bone sound. This bone-flute sound. We called them the war-horns, because they’re terrifying. But that was the goal, right? To take the orcs and really amp up their identity as a culture and amp up the terror.”

Peter Jackson used New Zealand cricket fans to create noises for the orcs

Peter Jackson came up with his own unique sounds for the orcs while making The Lord of the Rings. According to Cricketcountry.com, Jackson went to a 2002 cricket match between England and New Zealand in Wellington, New Zealand. During inning breaks, Jackson would stand on the pitch with a microphone and get the crowd to howl, roar, and growl.

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The director used these noises to create the sounds of the orcs during the battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The sounds were used in other battle scenes as well.

The Rings of Power is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

RELATED: ‘The Rings of Power’ Budget Is Estimated at $1B — Here’s How It Affected the Music Production

Source: Cheat Sheet

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