Do elves make pie?
June 4, 2013 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Tolkien elves, I mean... not, like, Keebler elves. Do they, at any point in Tolkien's works, make or eat pie? And if so, what kind of pie?

My sweetie and I watched The Hobbit last week, where actor Lee Pace (aka Ned The Pie-maker from the TV show Pushing Daisies) briefly appears as an elf king. I said "Is that the Pie-maker?" which led to a lengthy discussion over whether or not elves make pie. There's a lot of feasting in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and it seemed likely that pie made an appearance, but neither of us could recall any specific examples. My giant omnibus copy of Rings is in storage, and anyway, neither of us were big enough Tolkien fans to plow through The Silmarillion, where the pies (maybe) are. We want to know about elves and pie.

Three caveats:
1) We know hobbits have pie.
2) Tom Bombadil and Goldberry totally have pie, but they're not elves, they're gods or forest spirits or something.
3) The elves have to provide the pie. Merely consuming pie made by humans, hobbits, or, uh, unusually friendly orcs does not count.

There are no stakes. There isn't really even an argument. We just want to know if elves have pie. If they do, we will celebrate with... a cake! Just kidding, we will celebrate with a pie. Thank you.

P.S. Tarts basically count as pie.
P.P.S. If you know about historical/folkloric elves and their pies, feel free to enlighten us. About pie.
posted by Nibbly Fang to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
As far as elven baked goods are concerned, I think the closest you will find in the books is lembas, or elven waybread. It is a dry, slightly sweet, very dense, nutrient rich biscuit of sorts that keeps for an extended period of time and is apparently very filling. I don't recall any pie, but perhaps a better Tolkien scholar will correct me.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:53 PM on June 4, 2013

Best answer: I believe they do. In The Hobbit while Bilbo is riding the barrels but before the barrels leave the wood elves' kingdom, the following happens: "Very soon there was a fine commotion in the village by the riverside; but Bilbo escaped into the woods carrying a loaf and a leather bottle of wine and a pie that did not belong to him." (emphasis added)

It is evident from context that the village is an elf village, and so the pie must have been made by elves, given the fairly xenophobic nature of the wood elves and their limited commerce with Laketown. It is not until a little while later that "They had escaped the dungeons of the king and were through the wood."
posted by jedicus at 7:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [19 favorites]

According to this map, the village might have been outside of mirkwood. I'm not 100% certain that it would have been an elven village, necessarily. It's on the way to Esgaroth, certainly, which was occupied by men, not elves.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on June 4, 2013

The people in the lake town mentioned by jedicus are definitely mortal humans, not elves.

Tolkien's pretty vague on what most folks eat. The elves in Mirkwood hunt, so presumably they eat meat, but that's about all that's mentioned of their diet besides wine and apples (as provided in barrels by the lake men).

In Lord of the Rings we visit both Rivendell and Lorien without hearing about any food but lembas, as mentioned above, which is apparently only used as a kind of energy bar for travelling and not something they eat all the time. Elves have a nice eau-de-vie called miruvor. But pies, nope.
posted by zadcat at 8:21 PM on June 4, 2013

zadcat: “The people in the lake town mentioned by jedicus are definitely mortal humans, not elves.”
Yes, but the "people" mentioned tending to the barrels are wood-elves. The next paragraph says, "They were making up a raft of barrels, and the raft-elves would soon be steering it off down the stream to Lake-town."

So I agree with jedicus: Bilbo stole a pie from the village at the eaves of the forest. The people of that village are elves. Therefore elves make pie.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:30 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

A quick look through an, um, online version of the Silmarillion reveals no instances of the word pie. It's really not the kind of work where we get a lot of detail on the nitty gritty of people's lives, it must be said.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:42 PM on June 4, 2013

I agree that it sounds as though the village is populated by elves, as the only other "people" mentioned in the same area are the raft-elves. I think it's fairly safe to say that, yes, at least some elves make and eat pies.
posted by WasabiFlux at 10:35 PM on June 4, 2013

Pippin's description of the elf-feast in LOTR isn't very helpful, as he 'recalled little of either food or drink'. All he can remember eating is bread ('surpassing the savour of a fair white loaf to one who is starving') and fruit ('sweet as wild berries and richer than the tended fruits of gardens'). No mention of pie. However, the elves explain that this is 'poor fare' because they are 'lodging in the greenwood far from our halls', so perhaps they'd already eaten all the pies before the hobbits arrived.

Bombur's dream of the elf-feast in The Hobbit isn't much help either. as all he says before Thorin interrupts him is that 'there was a merry singing, and I could not count or describe the things there were to eat or drink'. When they finally encounter the elf-feast in the forest, all we learn about the food is that it includes 'roast meats'. But as Bombur specifically mentions the variety of different dishes, it seems a reasonable guess that pie was on the menu. Do elves eat pie? I'd say yes.
posted by verstegan at 3:36 AM on June 5, 2013

Now, we know from chapter 1 of The Hobbit that dwarves like pies, at least meat pies - both Bifur and Bofur request them. And the trolls they run into suggest baking them into a pie.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:21 AM on June 5, 2013

Best answer: Elves, given their extremely long lives, tend to perfect everything. If you lived to over a thousand years old you could afford to spend five years learning to make the absolutely best pie out there. In human timescale that is like spending 6 months to learn how to bake a pie, something many people do all of the time, even amateur pie makers. A professional pipe maker easily spends 30 or more years continuously improving the recipe, which would amount to over 300-400 years of improvement. Now if it weren't worth doing, the Elves wouldn't do it, but because it is pie and pie is good then yes the Elves make pies. Not only that they make the absolutely best pies that have ever existed. Wars would be fought by humans over who gets to eat an Elven pie. Humans would die of sheer bliss after eating the pie, but it would be worth it.
posted by koolkat at 6:03 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

jedicus, ob1quixote:
Hiding behind one of the largest barrels Bilbo discovered the trapdoors and their use, and lurking there, listening to the talk of the king's servants, he learned how the wine and other goods came up the rivers, or over land, to the Long Lake. It seemed a town of Men still throve there, built out on bridges far into the water as a protection against enemies of all sorts, and especially against the dragon of the Mountain. From Lake-town the barrels were brought up the Forest River. Often they were just tied together like big rafts and poled or rowed up the stream; sometimes they were loaded on to flat boats.
(Chapter 9)

Bilbo later describes how some Elves help the barrels along because they trade with the lake men, but they don't live in their towns:
They were making up a raft of barrels, and the raft-elves would soon be steering it off down the stream to Lake-town.
Lake Town is a human settlement. Mortal humans made that pie.
posted by zadcat at 6:17 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whoa, I think I just found the elf-pie mother lode. There is a whole category of fan drawings of Tolkein elves baking pies on DeviantArt/Tumblr.

For example.
Another example.

If that doesn't satisfy your elf-pie fixation, how about some fan fiction about Thranduil "enjoying a rare afternoon off after a council session" watching his son Legolas pretend to bake pies.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:28 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, re-reading your question I can see they've all sprung up because of the same Pushing Daisies connection you noted.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:32 AM on June 5, 2013

Lake Town is a human settlement. Mortal humans made that pie.

Bilbo, the dwarves, the barrels, and the elves tending the raft of barrels had not even gotten close to Lake-town by the point in the book in which the pie is mentioned. They were still within the wood elves' forest, and the only people whose race is specifically mentioned in that part of the book are elves. From a point after Bilbo steals the pie:
"No time now!" cried the raftman. "Shove off!"
And off they went at last, slowly at first, until they had passed the point of rock where other elves stood to fend them off with poles, and then quicker and quicker as they caught the main stream and went sailing away down, down towards the Lake.
Note three things. One, the "raftman" is clearly an elf, from earlier descriptions, indicating that generic references to "people" in this part of the book (e.g. "There were people on the look-out on the banks.") still refer to elves, not humans. Two, we are clearly still in an area populated by wood elves, as they do not coexist with other races at all. Three, we are clearly not at Lake-town or even close to it. Further reading (and a perusal of the map of Middle Earth) shows just how far Bilbo was from Lake-town at this point.

No, the pie was almost certainly made by wood elves in a wood elf village in a part of Mirkwood controlled by wood elves, some distance from Lake-town.
posted by jedicus at 7:12 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think this is a matter of interpretation. My impression has always been strongly that the elves lived in Mirkwood and chiefly within the king's fortress where the dwarves were imprisoned for a time. When they came out to trade for food, they would be doing business with human settlements along the river, including Lake Town. Tolkien always made it clear that elves didn't live like peasants, they were a kind of elite and wouldn't be living in muddy little waterside villages.

But as you will.
posted by zadcat at 7:25 AM on June 5, 2013

Tolkien always made it clear that elves didn't live like peasants, they were a kind of elite and wouldn't be living in muddy little waterside villages.

That's probably a little strong. The Teleri-which includes Thranduil's people-tended to be earthier and more nature focused than the other elf kindreds.

Fëanor (a Noldor) said to Olwë (a Teleri), "In huts on the beaches would you be dwelling still had not the Noldor carved out your haven and toiled upon your walls." Huts on the beach doesn't sound super different from muddy little waterside villages.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:05 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Teleri-which includes Thranduil's people-tended to be earthier and more nature focused than the other elf kindreds.

Yes, but were elves living in a scattered way like this in the Third Age? By this point, the remaining elves had withdrawn to Rivendell, Lorien and the Mirkwood realm ruled by Thranduil, and a small number at the Grey Havens.

Tolkien makes it clear that, in this age, elves were withdrawing to protected places and not showing themselves often to mortal men, if not leaving Middle-earth for good.

Most men don't even recognize elves when they see them: Éomer isn't sure what he's looking at when he runs into Aragorn's party in northern Rohan in The Two Towers: "Are you elvish folk?" he asks in confusion, and Aragorn has to explain that no, only one of the trio is an elf.

Tolkien never gets into all this in The Hobbit, but it's all sketched out elsewhere.
posted by zadcat at 9:12 AM on June 5, 2013

I detect bias in these answers. Bias in favour of pie. Comforting, but wrong.
Elves are a pie-less people.
posted by glasseyes at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Elves are a pie-less people.

That's not possible!
posted by mumimor at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2013

Best answer:
zadcat: “ Tolkien always made it clear that elves didn't live like peasants, they were a kind of elite and wouldn't be living in muddy little waterside villages.”
I don't really agree. It's just that most of the elves we spend any time with are nobility. Obviously there must also have been Elvish soldiers, smiths, cobblers, et cetera. In any case, the passage jedicus first mentioned and I linked to above makes it quite clear that, at least among the elves of Mirkwood, the people were not unaccustomed to labor.

As for living in huts, "The subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favorite trees."

Indeed, Tolkien himself made it quite clear that the elves that tended to the barrel-rafts lived in a village near the edge of the wood since he painted more than one picture by his own hand with the title "Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves."

The village was an elf village. Therefore the pie was an elf pie.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:03 PM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

There is a wikipedia page about food stuffs in Tolkien's writings.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:38 PM on June 5, 2013

Response by poster: OK... I think we have established that elves have pie. My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to respond, and I hope you have pie too.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:42 AM on June 7, 2013

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