Fictional food and drink in Middle-earth
Most of the cuisine found in the fictional world of Middle-earth is real food from Earth history. However, several key types of food and drink featured throughout J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium (Tolkien's works about Middle-earth) are fictional. These are described below.
Appearing in The Hobbit and mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, cram is a biscuit-like food made by the Men of Esgaroth and Dale, which they share with the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain. Very nutritious, it is used for sustenance on long journeys. It is not as appealing as and less tasty than the similar Elvish bread lembas; Tolkien describes it humorously as "more of a chewing exercise" than enjoyable to eat. Like lembas, it is probable that Tolkien modelled cram on hardtack, a biscuit that was used during long sea voyages and military campaigns as a primary foodstuff. This bread was little more than flour, water and salt which had been baked hard and would keep for months as long as it was kept dry.
Earthbread appears in some versions of the story of Túrin Turambar, as given in Unfinished Tales and The Children of Húrin. Túrin and the outlaws are sheltered by a petty-dwarf who gives them roots to cook. After being scrubbed and cooked, the roots are described as being fleshy and tasting like bread. The dwarf does not reveal what plant they are from, for fear of the plant's extinction, and refuses to teach the elves out of hatred. The "earthbread" is plainly a member of the potato family.
Appearing in The Hobbit and mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, a honey-cake is a twice-baked cake made by the Beornings (Beorn the "skin-changer" and his descendants), who were also beekeepers. Similar to cram and lembas, the cakes are sustaining and keep fresh for a long time. Although they are tastier than cram, they tend to make the eater thirsty.
Appearing in The Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion material, lembas is a special bread made by the Elves, also called waybread in the Common Speech. Shaped into thin cakes, it is very nutritious, stays fresh for months when kept unbroken in its original leaf-wrappings, and is used for sustenance on long journeys. According to Gimli the Dwarf, it is tastier than cram or the honey-cakes of the Beornings. It appears brownish on the outside and cream-coloured on the inside. The making of Lembas is a closely guarded secret, and only on rare occasions is it given to non-Elves. Like other products of the Elves, it is offensive to evil creatures; Gollum outright refuses to eat it, even when faced with starvation. Melian, the queen of Doriath, originally held this recipe. Later it was passed to Galadriel and other Elves. Galadriel gives a large store of lembas to the Fellowship of the Ring upon its departure from Lothlórien. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee subsist on it through the majority of their journey from there into Mordor.
As with cram, Tolkien may have modelled lembas on hardtack and some have noted that lembas has Eucharistic overtones in accordance with Roman Catholic teachings. Lembas literally sustains the hobbits' lives, strength and will, while the Eucharist is the spiritual "Bread of Life". Also, Gollum and other evil creatures cannot abide lembas, while Catholics are instructed not to receive the Eucharist if in the state of mortal sin. Further, the Eucharist is sometimes called viaticum, a Latin term meaning 'for the way,' literally the spiritual food for the Christian's arduous journey through earthly life to heaven. A synonym for lembas in the Common Speech is "waybread." The term viaticum was more commonly heard in Tolkien's day than today. In a private letter, Tolkien acknowledged that lembas bore religious significance.
In Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, the term "lembas bread" is occasionally used; because the gift of lembas at Lothlórien is not included in the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (though the scene is included in the "Extended Edition" DVD of that film), the redundant term "lembas bread" was probably[original research?] chosen in order to immediately identify the substance to filmgoers at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. In the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring Legolas says one bite of lembas "is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man" (while Tolkien says that one whole cake is sufficient for "a full day's march"). Pippin eats four - a reference to the large appetites of hobbits. Lembas is used as a plot device in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Gollum uses crumbs of the remaining waybread to frame Samwise Gamgee for consuming all the rations, contributing to his separation from Frodo Baggins prior to his encounter with Shelob. This sequence does not appear in the novel. In the DVD commentaries, director Peter Jackson notes that the prop lembas used in the trilogy was a sort of unsweetened shortbread. Actor Sean Astin also noted in the DVD commentary that while the prop lembas had to be technically edible (because actors eat it on screen), the main focus of the recipe's design was on the visual properties that the resulting bread cakes would have, i.e. how stiff it was and how easily it crumbled. As Astin pointed out, the result was that while lembas is supposed to taste very good within the story, the stiff prop-food actually tasted quite awful.
Appearing in The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers), an Ent-draught was an extremely invigorating drink of the Ents, brewed from the waters of the mountain springs on Methedras. These springs were the source of the river Entwash and the water had special properties. When Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took drank from the Entwash and bathed their feet they felt refreshed and their wounds were healed. When Treebeard brought Merry and Pippin to his home he gave them each a bowl of Ent-draught from a stone jar. The Hobbits found that it was similar to the water they had drunk from the Entwash, but it was even more invigorating. They felt its power coursing through their limbs and it felt like the hair on their heads was curling and growing. There was a taste or scent like a breeze from the woods. The next morning, Treebeard gave the Hobbits an Ent-draught from a different jar. This one was more filling and had an earthier, richer taste. So invigorating was the drink that the Hobbits actually grew taller after drinking it. Their exact height is not recorded, but it is implied that they surpassed Bandobras Took, who had been the tallest hobbit on record at 4'5".
In Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Two Towers, a scene in which Merry and Pippin drink Ent-draughts is included but only in the extended cut. At this point due to the Ent-draught, Pippin has grown taller than Merry, much to the latter's chagrin. In a later scene, Merry is heard saying, "The world is back to normal," after finding himself taller than Pippin once again. However, in the scene at Aragorn's coronation, all four hobbits are the same height.
Appearing in The Lord of the Rings, miruvor is a warm and fragrant clear cordial of the Elves, also translated as mead by Tolkien in Namárië. It gives the drinker renewed strength and vitality. Miruvor is used by the Elves at their festivals. They do not reveal how miruvor was made, but it is thought to come from the honey of the undying flowers in the gardens of Yavanna. Elrond gives a flask of miruvor to Gandalf when the Fellowship embarked on their quest. During the snowstorm on Caradhras, Gandalf gave each of the companions a sip of the cordial to revive their frozen and tired limbs. He gave them another sip when they stopped to rest, and a third sip when they first entered the Mines of Moria. At that point, the precious liquid had almost run out.
Miruvor was also mentioned in the lament Galadriel sang when the Fellowship left Lórien:
- Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier mi oromardi lisse-miruvóreva Andúnë pella ...
- (The long years have passed like swift draughts of sweet mead (miruvor) in lofty halls beyond the West ...)
The exact translation of miruvor or miruvóre, is not known, but Tolkien compared it to the Greek nectar, for which he gave "death-defeater" as a probable etymological meaning.
In The Two Towers, the orc Uglúk gives a liquid – referred to as 'Orc-draught' – to the captive and weak Merry and Pippin; the drink gives them strength during their journey to Isengard. Tolkien writes that it gives Merry a "hot, fierce glow" inside. It also dulls or diminishes Merry's bodily pain, enabling him to stand. Although invigorating, it is not very filling.
Uglúk also takes some "dark stuff" from a box, and smears it on Merry's headwound.
In Peter Jackson's film adaptation, an orc forces a similar drink – here referred to as 'grog' – down Merry's throat when Pippin asks for water.
Drink of the Elves which was very fragrant and not unlike Miruvor in its healing abilities. This drink is said to have been able to change a man into an Elf with one sip. Eriol is the only one known in history to do so.
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- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1937), Douglas A. Anderson, ed., The Annotated Hobbit, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 2002), ISBN 0-618-13470-0
- Foster, Robert (1971), The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, New York: Del Rey, ISBN 0-345-32436-6
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Farewell to Lórien, ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Birzer, Bradley J. (2002). J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth. ISI Books. ISBN 1-882926-84-6. Search this book on
- Greydanus, Steven. "Faith and Fantasy: Tolkien the Catholic, The Lord of the Rings, and Peter Jackson's Film Trilogy". Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- The word "draught" may confuse speakers of American English due to spelling differences between American and British English (i.e. as Tolkien was British the spelling "colour" is used throughout the text, not "color"). The American English version of "draught" is "draft", as in "draft beer" (i.e. "Ent-draft").
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "The Uruk-hai", ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien's "Notes and Translations" for Namárië in The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle, with music by Donald Swann
- Tolkien, John (1992). Book of Lost Tales. Ballantine Books. pp. 100–103. ISBN 978-0-345-37521-6. Search this book on
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