What Do Elves Eat, Anyway?

It's no accident that we've skipped most of the "meals" associated with elves in Heroes' Feast, but we finally came around to make one: bacon and asparagus. The bacon surprised us because we don't associate meat with elves.

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Not Just Vegetables​

Heroes' Feast says a lot about elven cuisine by what it doesn't include. Of the elven recipes in Heroes' Feast, two involve seafood (shrimp and Dragon Salmon), one involves eggs, and only one involves meat: Greenspear Bundles in Bacon. Why was it included? Because it's actually made by half-elves:
Greenspears, also referred to as asparagus or "sparrow grass" by humans, is a perennial flower plant that has ascended to staple-status in many elven diets. While elves consume greenspear raw, seasoned, roasted, or steamed with herbs, their half-elf brethren--liberated from certain culinary taboos--have developed an additional preparation technique. In an irreverent touch, but one that flavorfully complements the greenspear, half-elves add salted and cured pork into the mix, in deference to their half-human taste buds. Regarding bacon, the thicker cut is always the better!"
This is the first meal we served with guests and they found it surprisingly delicious. It's the sort of meal that's different enough to introduce as an appetizer but flavorful enough that it gets eaten quickly. I'm not fond of asparagus or bacon, but the combination is delicious.

It's also a meal you can feasibly make for your players with a very short baking time (15 minutes or longer if you prefer your bacon crispier).

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Tolkien's Elves​

The association of elves with vegetarianism is likely due to their affinity with nature, established in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. There's much discussion of elven lembas, a kind of travel ration, but little else. The association with elves avoiding meat likely stems from the inspiration for wood elves, the Green Elves of Ossiriand, who decided that men as "hewers of trees and hunters of beasts" were no friends of theirs.

Still, there is enough evidence throughout Tolkien's works to indicate that meat was present when elves served a meal or when they ate at a table, and the fact it wasn't mentioned that an elf skipped the meat portion of the meal argues that they were not vegetarian.

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D&D Elves​

But what of elves in Dungeons & Dragons? Here's what Heroes' Feast has to say on the subject:
Because they place such a strong value on life, a high percentage of elves stringently exercise food restrictions, and a great many would fall into the category of vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian--little that bleeds ends up on elven plates.
Ironically, D&D wood elves seem to be different from their Tolkien-inspired brethren:
High elves tend to align their diets most closely to their values, and prefer fruits, vegetables, and grains to meat and poultry. By contrast, wood elves are often wanderers and adventures and, consequently, more disposed to hunting and foraging.
So it seems that at least some elves eat meat after all. But you wouldn't know it from the recipes in Heroes' Feast.

Your Turn: Do elves eat meat in your fantasy campaign?
 
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


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Wolf72

Explorer
One of my early 3e game's player had a great quote (can't remember the adventure ... updated Keep on the Borderlands?) ... anyway they came across a barrel that was labeled "Elf Pudding", the Half-Orc Barbarian said "Is it made from real Elves?"

I always assumed Elves were fairly omnivorous ... They have a god of hunting, Solonor Thelandira.
 


Elves would eat meat as they know they are part of the circle of life. I don’t think they would overhunt but be very aware of the balance of nature
I can definitely see this. I get the sense that elves would be maybe more along the line of what they tell us about Native Americans and 'use the whole buffalo', but that also I think depends on where you are. You may have been in a tribe not anywhere near buffalo and had to resort more to fish nets and catching big, fat juicy salmon.

I wonder if the elf = vegetarian comes not just from vagaries in Tolkien's writing, but maybe at the time D&D was created a sense about dirty hippies and their (percieved) oddities and the percieved effeminist value of eating just veggies. But that's for a completely different discussion.

Bring on the meat!
 

MGibster

Legend
I wonder if the elf = vegetarian comes not just from vagaries in Tolkien's writing, but maybe at the time D&D was created a sense about dirty hippies and their (percieved) oddities and the percieved effeminist value of eating just veggies. But that's for a completely different discussion.
There is a long history of occupations associated with meat being base and dirty. So if there's a portrayal of elves as near angelic beings I can see them being vegetarians because who among them is base enough to slaughter an animal?
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
There is a long history of occupations associated with meat being base and dirty. So if there's a portrayal of elves as near angelic beings I can see them being vegetarians because who among them is base enough to slaughter an animal?
I see it exactly the opposite. Removal from order of god.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
I agree that any perceived elvish preference for vegetarianism stemming from Tolkien is not borne out by the text. The elves as a race were instructed in their infancy by the vala Orome, who is a great hunter and left his mark on their culture. In light of this and other considerations, I think of elves as subsisting as hunter-gatherers. I would not imagine them engaging in settled agriculture, which seems a particularly mannish activity.
 

I agree that any perceived elvish preference for vegetarianism stemming from Tolkien is not borne out by the text. The elves as a race were instructed in their infancy by the vala Orome, who is a great hunter and left his mark on their culture. In light of this and other considerations, I think of elves as subsisting as hunter-gatherers. I would not imagine them engaging in settled agriculture, which seems a particularly mannish activity.
My Tolkien experience is primarily from having read the Silmarillion (I'm weird - I can't get into the other works, but I can totally grok the Silmarillion) but I think I can see your point. I feel like the elves art for non-meat products comes from being connected to the Song and all the Work, that they don't NEED to have settled agriculture if they just know the woodcraft to know every plant and herb and when the best seasons for each are.
 

My Tolkien experience is primarily from having read the Silmarillion (I'm weird - I can't get into the other works, but I can totally grok the Silmarillion) but I think I can see your point. I feel like the elves art for non-meat products comes from being connected to the Song and all the Work, that they don't NEED to have settled agriculture if they just know the woodcraft to know every plant and herb and when the best seasons for each are.

There are words for farmer in Gnomish from Tolkien's early period (nandor or nanweg), but he seems to have dropped the idea later and there's no word for farmer in Quenya or Sindarin.

There are a lot of words around bread/loaf/cake/bake/knead: Bread - Parf Edhellen: an elvish dictionary but I prefer to think that maybe the elves gathered wild grains rather than planted big wheatfields.

There is a word for cheese in Quenya - tyur.

The words for "meat" and "food" are cognate in elvish: Meat - Parf Edhellen: an elvish dictionary which would suggest to me that Tolkien's elves are primarily carnivorous.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
Vǫlundr is identified as a Norse elf. He hunts nocturnally. Possibly this is typical for other Norse elves, when they descend from the sky to manifest on land.
 

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