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Tolkien most likely based lembas on bread known as ''hard tack'' that was used during long sea voyages and military campaigns as a primary foodstuff.  It was little more than flour and water which had been baked hard and would keep for months as long as it was kept dry.{{fact}}
Another inspiration is, perhaps, the cakes made in 1 Kings for Elijah. These were presumably made by the angel who wakes him, and these cakes kept Elijah on the road for forty days and nights. Given Tolkien's religious background and the clear parallels he drew between the elves and angels, this source is not altogether unlikely.
The name "Waybread" resembles in a way the [[Old English]] name for the herb [[Wikipedia:plantain|plantain]], which was ''wegbrade''.<ref>{{webcite|articleurl=|articlename=Tolkien Society Anglo-Saxon Study Pack 2|dated=2006|website=[ The Tolkien Society]}}</ref>
The name "Waybread" resembles in a way the [[Old English]] name for the herb [[Wikipedia:plantain|plantain]], which was ''wegbrade''.<ref>{{webcite|articleurl=|articlename=Tolkien Society Anglo-Saxon Study Pack 2|dated=2006|website=[ The Tolkien Society]}}</ref>

Revision as of 21:54, 13 February 2019

This article is about the food. For the journal of Unquendor, see Lembas.
John Howe - Lembas

Lembas, translated as waybread in the Common Speech, was a special food made by the Elves.



Lembas was made first by Yavanna from special corn that grew in Aman, and Oromë gave it to the Elves of the Great Journey. For this reason, it was an Elven custom that only women should make lembas; they were called Yavannildi who knew the secret of its recipe. Also, the custom requested that only an Elven Queen should keep and distribute the lembas, for this reason she was called also massánië or besain.[1]

Only on rare occasions was it given to non-Elves, because it was believed that mortals who ate it would become wary of their mortality and would desire to live among the Elves.[1]

The corn itself was an enduring plant that needed but a little sunlight to ripen and could be sown at any season and then sprouted and grew swiftly. Yet it was prone to north winds, while Morgoth dwelt there. The Eldar grew it in guarded lands and sunlit glades. The ears were harvested without scythe or sickle but each one was gathered by hands and the white stalks were drawn from the earth and used to weave baskets in which the grain was stored.[1]

Alan Lee - Lembas

Melian, as the queen of Doriath, was one who held this recipe from Yavanna. By giving lembas to Beleg for Túrin[2], she showed great favor because never before lembas was given to a Man and seldom it was again. Later it was passed to Galadriel and other Elves.

The Galadhrim had a large store of Lembas in Lothlórien. Galadriel gave some of it to the Fellowship of the Ring upon their departure. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee subsisted on it through the majority of their journey from there into Mordor.[3]


The cakes were very nutritious, stayed fresh for months when wrapped in leaves, and were used for sustenance on long journeys. Lembas had a brownish colour on the outside and a cream colour on the inside.

According to Gimli it was similar to Cram, although one of the Elves of Lothlórien commented that it was more pleasant, and more strengthening than any food by Men.[4]

Like other products of the Elves, it was offensive to evil creatures; Gollum refused outright to eat of it.[5] When Frodo was captured by orcs in Mordor, the orcs hated the look of the lembas even more than Gollum.

Etymology and Names

Lembas is Sindarin and derived from the older lenn-mbass which means "journey-bread". As a rough translation of this term it was also often called Waybread.[1]

The Quenya word for lembas is coimas which means life-bread.[1]


The name "Waybread" resembles in a way the Old English name for the herb plantain, which was wegbrade.[6]

Portrayal in adaptations

2001-03: The Lord of the Rings (film series):

The redundant term "lembas bread" is occasionally used as the gift of lembas at Lothlórien is not included in the theatrical release of The Fellowship of the Ring. The term "lembas bread" was probably chosen in order to immediately identify the substance to filmgoers at the beginning of The Two Towers.
"Lembas, Elvish waybread. One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man."
Legolas, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XV. Of Lembas"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Túrin Turambar"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Farewell to Lórien"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers
  6. "Tolkien Society Anglo-Saxon Study Pack 2" dated 27 February 2006, The Tolkien Society (accessed 27 February 2021)