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It seems that a lot of emphasis is given to both the Hobbits and the Dwarves in regards to their diet, but I don't recall much being said about the Elves. (It has been about 15 years since I read LOTR and the Hobbit, and I've never read any of the other works in the Legendarium) Other than Lembas what do Tolkien's Elves eat?

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    In the movie version of The Hobbit, The Dwarves are seen eating vegetabes served to them by the Elves. They complained about their not being any meat. – jacen.garriss May 28 '13 at 1:46
  • And is the Elvish Diet anything like Slimming World? – Valorum Feb 15 '14 at 0:54
  • I don't agree with the suggestion that we hear more about the Dwarven diet than the Elven diet. The only thing I can recall hearing about Dwarf food is that Gimli assumed Lembas was "Cram", a Dwarven waybread made with honey, but otherwise apparently similar to hardtack. – Wad Cheber Jun 22 '15 at 2:05
  • Cram is made by the men of dale, not the dwarves – user46509 Jun 22 '15 at 7:47
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I'm not sure if a whole diet was specified in detail, but one question that was answered conclusively (here) was whether Elves were vegetarians: no, at least some of them[1] ate meat:

Tolkien's Elves appear to eat meat according to the earlier stages of the legendarium. From The Lay of the Children of Hurin, for example:

On a time was Turin at the table of Thingol there was laughter long and the loud clamour of a countless company that quaffed the mead, amid the wine of Dor-Winion that went ungrudged in their golden goblets; and goodly meats there burdened the boards, neath the blazing torches

This also indicates mead and wine as drinks.

As an additional evidence, we see in The Hobbit as the party witnesses the Elves cooking meat in Mirkwood:

The smell of the roast meats was so enchanting that, without waiting to consult one another, every one of them got up and scrambled forwards into the ring with the one idea of begging for some food.

However, there's no direct indication in LOTR itself of Elves ever eating meat.

[1]Green-elves of Ossiriand seemed to frown on hunting, as discussed in the last 2 links of my answer, and therefore may have been vegetarian:

... these folk [Men] are hewers of trees and hunters of beasts: therefore we are their unfriends,... (Silmarillion )



As a side note, if you're interested in food in LOTR in general, Michael Martinez used to have an interesting essay on the topic (archive.org copy), a bit thin on canon quotes, but for example specifically mentioning elves eating apples and some fruit.

Another good discussion is to be found here.



Also, Lembas was not an everyday Elvish food.

"This food [lembas] the Eldar alone knew how to make. It was made for the comfort of those who had need to go upon a long journey in the wild, or for the hurt whose life was in peril. Only these were permitted to use it. The Eldar did not give it to Men, save only to a few whom they loved, if they were in great need. ... (for good reason - DVK)

Source: The Peoples of Middle Earth, volume XII in C.J.R. Tolkien's History of Middle Earth series. Chapter 15, Of Lembas, via elendor.org

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    just because they don't hunt doesn't mean they don't eat meat. They may have been fishermen, or farmers. And their dislike for men may have been because of the seemingly wanton destruction they do, rather than the harvesting of trees and hunting of animals for attaining timber and food and leather that elves might do. – jwenting May 28 '13 at 6:05
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    @jwenting - correct. Which is why I said "may have been vegetarian" and not "are/were". – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 28 '13 at 14:05
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    The Lay of Leithian also mentions Huan hunting hart and boar in Valinor, so even if the Elves didn't eat meat, they certainly did hunt for sport (and doing the latter while being a vegetarian would seem quite odd). – user8719 Jun 9 '13 at 12:15
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    The notion of Elves (and Maiar who have no need to eat) hunting (presumably immortal) beasts for sport -- in the Undying Lands where all things are hallowed -- does generate cognitive dissonance. Presumably they were "sacred" animals bred for the hunt, or who would otherwise overrun Valinor (just imagine all the rabbits!) – Ber Sep 26 '16 at 2:22
  • @Ber animals would not be immortal. You've made a common in-universe mistake. They're called the Undying Lands because immortals live there, not because they make you immortal. – OrangeDog Sep 6 at 11:42
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In general, they eat very well, and seem to have a very diverse diet. As far as I can recall from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, the only thing they are explicitly said to have farmed is the grain used to make Lembas. But Bilbo compliments their food, and hobbits are connoisseurs of fine food and drink. Here is what others have to say about the Elven diet:

From "The Silmarillion Writers Guild", this passage is based on an investigation of the Elvish languages; the idea being that if the Elves had a word for a particular food, they probably ate it:

What do Elves eat? Are they vegetarian?

Short answer: no. Elves are not strictly vegetarian.

That said, the secondary answer is: yes. Some Elves are vegetarian. In fact, a word for 'vegetarian' exists, as does a word for 'food made from plants'. But 'food made from animals' is right up there as well. We also have words for domesticated cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, etc., and barn fowl and chickens, so it makes sense to assume Elves ate all of those. And preserved, salt meat, too, in case you thought they kept all that livestock just for fun.

So what else? If they ate domesticated livestock, they ate wild game. There's a word for that, and words for specific animals. Deer, boar, rabbit, goose, duck, fish, and more all appear. Eel? Sure. You can even try some camel for an exotic feel. And let's not forget other, non-meat foods that come from animals, such as eggs, milk, cream, butter, cheese, and honey.

Everyone can imagine Elves eating fruits and vegetables, but it's important to note that they didn't necessarily just pick their food from plants that happened to be there (though they may very well have happened upon random berries, mushrooms and nuts, and fruits such as apples and pears). They made vegetable gardens for produce such as potatoes, cucumbers, and peas. They harvested crops, including corn, rye, and oats, which they used to make porridge. They baked bread and cake, and made wine from grapes.

Really, Elves can eat anything. Even if you disregard the words that could be viewed as something other than food, we still have examples from every food group that can be interpreted as nothing else: salt meat, cheese, produce, and bread. Elves raised and hunted animals for food, and did have an agricultural system in place to grow (most of) the rest.

And finally, just because 'the morning meal' has always bugged me, there is a word for 'breakfast'.

From "Ask About Middle-earth" (in response to a question about whether Elves are vegetarians):

I think this is a common belief among many fans, since the elves are in many ways close to nature (and the fact that they pack lembas bread for travelling, instead of, like, jerky.) But there is no evidence in Tolkien’s works to suggest that elves were vegetarian. In fact, there’s a good bit of evidence to suggest that they did eat meat. There are several mentions in all three stories of elves hunting (and I find it hard to believe that they would do so purely for sport, without eating the meat of the animals they killed.) During The Hobbit Bilbo and the dwarves smell roasting meat coming from the elf feast in Mirkwood. Meat is served at the feast in Rivendell, and animal skins are offered in Lothlorien to sleep on.

Furthermore, Tolkien mentions a few characters that are vegetarian (which suggests that, were all elves vegetarian, he would have said so as well.) Beorn, from The Hobbit, is a vegetarian. And in The Silmarillion it’s said that Beren became a vegetarian while wandering the wild since he became friends with many of the animals he met.

Then there’s the case of the Green-elves of Ossiriand (the Laiquendi.) I think it’s possible that they were actually vegetarians. In The Silmarillion, when describing their encounters with the first men to enter Beleriand, they say “And these folk are hewers of trees and hunters of beasts; therefore we are their unfriends.” If the Laiquendi refused friendship with men because they cut down trees and ate animals, then I think it’s reasonable to assume that they were vegetarians themselves. Not many of the Laiquendi survived the First Age, but those that did mostly moved to Lindon, Lothlorien, or Mirkwood in the later ages.

Various quotes, related to the Elven diet, taken from Tolkien's works:

"...a clearing where some trees had been felled and the ground leveled. There were many people there, elvish looking folks, all dressed in green and brown and sitting on sawn rings of the felled trees in a great circle. There was a fire in their midst and there were torches fastened to some of the trees round about, but most splendid sight of all: they were eating and drinking and laughing merrily. The smell of the roast meats was so enchanting..."
-The Hobbit, Flies and spiders, p143

There in the king’s dungeon poor Thorin lay and after he had got over his thankfulness for bread and meat and water..."
-The Hobbit, Flies and Spiders, p 158

“Then he bade them drink and drew from his belt a flask of leather full filled with wine that is bruised from the berries of the burning south and the gnome folk know it, and the nation of the Elves and by long ways lead it to the lands of the North There baked flesh (i.e., roasted meat) and bread from his wallet they had to their hearts’ joy; but their head were mazed by the wine of Dor-Winion that went in their veins, and they soundly slept…”
-The Lays of Beleriand, p 11, 223-231

“His meats were sweet, his dishes dear … and wine and music lavished free.”
-The Lays of Beleriand, p 157, l 4,7

“There did all the people flock to meet them when their approach was noised among them, and some bore them meat and cool drinks and salves and healing things for their hurts…”
-Book of Lost Tales 2, p 39

"Now it came to pass, when three hundred years and ten were gone since the Noldor came to Beleriand, in the days of the Long Peace, that Felagund journeyed east of Sirion and went hunting with Maglor and Maedros, sons of Feanor."
-Later Quenta Silmarillion II, War of the Jewels (The implication here being that they eat what they killed in the hunt.)

And finally, I won't quote it here because it doesn't limit itself to Elven food, but "The Middle-earth & J.R.R Tolkien Blog" has a lengthy article on the foods of Middle-earth.

  • Very well researched answer -> +1 ;) – Often Right Jun 22 '15 at 8:04
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    @N_Soong I'm a chef. Food is in my blood. Or maybe just my stomach and intestines. But in any case, food is in me. – Wad Cheber Jun 22 '15 at 8:08
  • Might want to add another example, the only food mentioned when Gildor holds his feast are bread and fruits and drink – user46509 Jun 22 '15 at 8:16
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In the Hobbit there is a reference in chapter 3 to woodfires burning for the elves' cooking, it may be assumed, because you don't generally roast vegetables on a spit, that it points to some type of meat, though it never gives a specific type of food cooked over that open fire. In chapter 9 ("Flies and Spiders") there is also a reference of the woodland elves hunting.

After a good deal of creeping and crawling they peered round the trunks and looked into a clearing where some trees had been felled and the ground levelled. There were many people there, elvish-looking folk, all dressed in green and brown and sitting on sawn rings of the felled trees in a great circle. There was a fire in their midst and there were torches fastened to some of the trees round about; but most splendid sight of all: they were eating and drinking and laughing merrily.

The smell of the roast meats was so enchanting that, without waiting to consult one another, every one of them got up and scrambled forwards into the ring with the one idea of begging for some food.

3

At first glance, you might think Elves ate the same things as everyone else did but the LOTR is very short on culinary and dining habits of Elves in particular and the Silmarillion didn't shed much more light on their eating habits. In the LOTR, there are almost no mentions of Elves eating meat...

Of note: The Silmarillion teases with the idea that Elves may have eaten meat since Feanor and his sons were known to be great hunters among all the other things they were great at.

"Now it came to pass, when three hundred years and ten were gone since the Noldor came to Beleriand, in the days of the Long Peace, that Felagund journeyed east of Sirion and went hunting with Maglor and Maedros, sons of Feanor." ~ Later Quenta Silmarillion II, War of the Jewels

I question whether they needed to eat given the description of Legolas in this text:

’He was tall as a young tree, lithe, immensely strong, able swiftly to draw a great war-bow and shoot down a Nazgûl, endowed with the tremendous vitality of Elvish bodies, so hard and resistant to hurt that he went only in light shoes over rock or through snow, the most tireless of all the Fellowship.’ ~Christopher Tolkien, The Book of Lost Tales 2, p. 333.

As the First Race, they seem just slightly shy of the Maiar, themselves, virtually immortal, fantastically strong, fleet of foot, absolutely incredible warriors; it is safe to assume Legolas was an example of a quality Elven soldier.

But let's assume they did eat...

  • Elves, being the amazing hosts we know they were at Rivendell for example, probably ate with their guests and were certainly the kind of people who would eat what their guests ate within reason. Assuming they needed to eat, at the very least they were vegetarian, since there were forest elves who did not like humans who hunted in their forests.

  • Elf diets probably varied regionally, so they ate what was closest to them and most easily available. Being environmentally conscious, being vegetarian made the most sense, but those that ate meat probably didn't over-fish or over-hunt an area. They were also known to dislike people who did abuse the land or its animals.

  • I don't remember reading about Elven farms, but if they had populations that were dense, they may have farmed the land in a limited fashion. Since they had cheese, meats, bread and other varieties of food, they may have traded for those things as well. Those foods may have also been saved for guests.

  • I suspect they would have been considered food snobs since they would have had lots of time on their hands to become better chefs, and in the presence of better chefs, they would have developed sophisticated palettes as well. They also had foods that were superior to anything made by humans or dwarves such as Lembas.

  • Others eating their foods may have considered them quite extraordinary in comparison to the foods of the less experienced shorter-lived races.

  • Well they must have had some source of cloth for clothing, wool from sheep or cotton, as well as a source of material for bow strings, and possibly feathers for arrows so there must have been elven farmers. – Monty129 May 28 '13 at 11:59
  • @Monty129 not necessarily, but likely. Conceivably that could all have been attained through gathering/collecting in the wild and through trade (e.g. elves loved mithril but did not themselves mine it, they traded for it with the dwarves, feathers can be collected readily from sheds from birds, or even from birds found dead or abandoned bird nests, etc. etc.). – jwenting May 29 '13 at 5:31
  • There is no question that they ate and had to eat. The whole lembas bread proves that. – Joe C Sep 6 at 3:39
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The passage that resonates most in my mind is from the hobbits' wondrous, first glimpse of elves in "The Fellowship Of The Ring" (chapter, 'Three is Company'). the food's description sounds as pure as song, as beautiful as poetry:

".. he remembered that there was bread, surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving; and fruits sweet as wildberries and richer than the tended fruits of gardens; he drained a cup that was filled with a fragrant drought, cool as a clear fountain, golden as a summer afternoon."

1

Wine, and lots of it. Also beef and butter. From the description of the Elvenking's realm in The Hobbit:

There stood barrels, and barrels, and barrels; for the Wood-elves, and especially their king, were very fond of wine, though no vines grew in those parts. The wine, and other goods, were brought from far away, from their kinsfolk in the South, or from the vineyards of Men in distant lands.

When it is time for the Elves to cast the Dwarf-filled barrels into the river, the handlers notice the extra weight.

"On your head be it, if the king's full buttertubs and his best wine is pushed into the river for the Lake-men to feast on for nothing!"

The Elves' merry barrel song suggests that the barrels are returning to the sources of their food, which includes beef and "berries" (grapes?).

Back to pasture, back to mead,/ Where the kine and oxen feed!/ Back to gardens on the hills/ Where the berry swells and fills

-1

I think that elves just eat less meat and more vegetables. They probably are not entirely vegetarian but more on the herbivore side. On the fellowship of the ring the hobbits were cooking sausages and Legolas may had to eat them. They eat a low amount of so that the animals can still reproduce and more vege cause it grows faster.

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    Do you have canon evidence? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 8 '15 at 20:46

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