How to Make Lembas, and Other Gifts Both Useful and Pointless

For those who follow the blog regularly, you’ll notice that this post seems to jump ahead in time. It was just the last post when we entered Lothlórien proper! Why are we leaving so soon? What about all the wonderful Galadriel stuff?! Good question, and all that will come. But first, to keep with the narrative, let’s look at how all of the Lothlorien happenings ended.

The Fellowship had spent nearly a month in Lórien, but now it was time to leave. Celeborn weirdly allowed any who wished to stay behind to do so. But there was a catch – they would be drafted into his army for the obviously-coming war. This is a strange notion, since there was no talk of war among the Elves when the Fellowship arrived. Over the month, things had changed and gotten far worse.

There was some question about which way to go. They knew that they’d have to go down the Anduin, but would it be down the east bank or the west bank? Boromir wanted to go to Minas Tireth, and Aragorn was pretty keen on that idea, too. Since it was on the east bank, they seemed to be leaning in that direction. But Frodo’s quest – the whole point of all of this – was to go to Mordor. And for that, they’d have to go on the west bank. There were no bridges or fords until they reached nearly to Minas Tireth.

Celeborn gave them boats, and thankfully the question of which bank to use could be put off for at least 400 miles (you know, so they thought).

The morning they were to leave was February 16th (they had arrived in Lórien on January 17th). They were given lembas, or waybread (not wheybread, mind you). This, according to Tolkien, served as a “device for making credible the long marches with little provision.” This just makes sense. With only a nibble of lembas, even a Dwarf could romp about all day long without the pangs of hunger. Later in the book, it will take on a bit more significance. “It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”

Oh hell, so let’s just get into it. In an essay written between 1951 and 1959, Tolkien went on and on about lembas. Here are some choice cuts:

“This food 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 of 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.”

He also gave the history of lembas. The Elves first got it from the Valar during the Great Journey to Valinor. It was made from “a kind of corn which Yavanna brought forth in the fields of Aman, and some she sent to them by the hand of Oromë for their succour upon the long march.”

This was, as you can imagine, no ordinary corn. It had in it “the strong life of Aman, which it could impart to those who had the need and right to use the bread.” So it seems as if the bread was conditionally “magical.”

But this magical corn bread wasn’t exactly easy to grow, though it could be done on Middle-earth. And though it would grow in any season but winter, and didn’t need much sunlight, it couldn’t survive in the shadow of other plants, and it “would not endure winds that came out of the North while Morgoth dwelt there.”

“The Eldar grew it in guarded lands and sunlit glades; and they gathered its great golden ears, each one, by hand, and set no blade of metal to it.” The Elves would then weave the stalks into baskets. The straw made from it was impervious to worms, insects, rot and mold.

Just how to make lembas was a secret known only to elven-women. If mortals were given this bread too often, “they become weary of their mortality, desiring to abide among the Elves, and longing for the fields of Aman, to which they cannot come.”

So giving the Fellowship, especially a Dwarf, waybread was a pretty big deal. Each were also given cloaks, which had been woven by Galadriel and her maidens. This was the first time that the Elves of Lórien had ever given strangers such cloaks.

After a walk of ten miles, they came to their boats on the Anduin River. Sam was beside himself with delight when he discovered rope. “I came without any, and I’ve been worried ever since.” As it turned out, Sam missed a golden opportunity to learn how to make Elvish rope – if only he had spoken up about his love of rope before hand!

After a bit of paddling practice, Celeborn offered some advice (such as the heeding of old wives tales), and Galadriel Claus handed out some gifts.

Aragorn received a sheath for this sword and the Elftone of the House of Elendil! If you remember, Aragorn’s grandmother had predicted that he would wear a green stone – and now he had one!

Boromir got a belt because everyone was tired of seeing him show his arse. Merry and Pippin also got belts, though probably not for the same reasoning. Legolas got a bow, which was better than those nasty and stupid Mirkwood bows.

Sam got an ominous box with a silver “G” stamped on the lid. G was for Galadriel, but also Garden. It was soil from her orchard and would do nothing at all to help his journey, but everything once it was time again to rebuild.

Gimli wasn’t going to get anything at first, but asked for a single strand of Galadriel’s hair. He got three, and a kick ass prediction. She said that she no longer foretold the future, but that if they won then “your hands shall flow with gold, and yet over you gold shall have no dominion.”

Frodo’s gift will take up another post in and of itself. She took some water from her Mirror, caught the light from Eärendil’s star (Venus) within it, and put it in a bottle. “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!”

And then, after a song or two, the Fellowship was off! It was 400 or so miles to Minas Tireth, and certainly nothing would go wrong before that, right?

Quick note about stuff:
In this project, I try to cling to the narrative as much as possible. It was started as a year-long exercising program to elliptical the distance from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Due to an injury, I had to take a long pause and now the once-daily sessions have lessened to three days a week.

So then, for example, when I had gone 468 miles, I wrote about the Fellowship’s trod along the Bruinen, which happened (approximately) 468 miles into Frodo’s journey. Now, however, I’m 924 miles in – the mile marker (more or less) when Frodo and company left Lothlórien.

Camera: Arguc C3 Film: ORWO UN54

Camera: Arguc C3
Film: ORWO UN54

A Few Notes

  • The ‘Of Lembas’ essay appears in The Peoples of Middle-earth. Because of the broad dates (1951-59) given, it’s not possible to tell whether this was originally to be included in the Appendices or whether it was just some bit of extra writing.
  • Seriously, if you love rope (and I know you do), it’s a good policy to mention it as often as possible. You never know when someone might pipe up and say, “well hey, I’ve got some hithlain, let me show you how to make a pretty bitchin rope!”
  • That the name for the marshy lands south of the cataracts of Rauros was called “the Wetwang” is just ridiculous. Cut it out.
  • Galadriel’s gift to Sam is – by far – the most awesome gift ever. See? I don’t always hate on Galadriel! I think I’ll talk more about this sometime soonishly, maybe.
  • Ever notice that right before making a prediction, Galadriel says she doesn’t make predictions anymore? You can almost hear Boromir’s eyes rolling.
  • Next time, we’ll start digging around Lothlórien to see what we can find.

About the Photo
I don’t really have many photos of boat launches, but it’s what I wanted to use here. It should probably be all green and beautiful, but it’s gray, like the journey ahead. Dun dun duunnnnnnn…


  • Miles today: 10
  • Miles thus far: 924 (10 from Lothlórien)
  • 849 miles to Mt. Doom

Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lórien. Leaving Lothlórien, February 16, 3019 TA. (map)

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8 thoughts on “How to Make Lembas, and Other Gifts Both Useful and Pointless

  1. I love the Gimli Galadriel thing. I love the bet he has with Faramir about her. Gimli gets one of the best lines in the entire book about her, comparing Arwen the evening to the morning of Galadriel. I love Poet-Gimli.

    • ‘You have chosen the Evening; but my love is given to the Morning. And my heart forebodes that soon it will pass away for ever.’

      It’s really really great stuff.

    • Well, he did also come up with Terion on Tuna, so….. When he was making up words, he reeeeeeaaaaaaaally didn’t care how they related to popular words.

    • Hehe! I know! I didn’t even have to mention this. It plays no role in the post. I will mention this as much as possible. Though, it mostly reminds me of Numberwang.

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