In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a motley crew formed of humans, elves, dwarfs, and hobbits are tasked with saving Middle Earth. To reach their goal, they have to throw the One Ring into the fiery abyss of Mt. Doom but to get there they would have to walk all the way from Imraldis with lembas bread as their only source of sustenance. According to a new study published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics, the fellowship would have required hundreds of pieces of lembas.
The study was carried out by Skye Rosetti and Krisho Manaharan, both from the University of Leicester. To find out how much food the fellowship required, the pair calculated the total calorific consumption of the 92-day journey using the metabolic rates for each species.
The fellowship consisted of four hobbits (Peregrin Took, Meriadoc Brandybuck, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee), the Dúnedain ranger Aragorn, Boromir of the race of men, the Istari Gandalf, dwarrow Gimli and the elf Legolas Greenleaf. A previous study used animal analogues to determine basal metabolic rates for different species from Middle Earth, like foxes for humans, deer for elves and possums for hobbits. As such, a 34-year-old male of each species should expect the following daily calorie consumption:
Hobbits: 1818.61 kcal/day
Men: 1702.2 kcal/day
Elves: 1416.95 kcal/day
Though half the height of a man, hobbits burn a lot of energy. They’re always hungry, at least.
To compute the total number of calories consumed by the party, the researchers made a couple of assumption. In their ideal journey, the group doesn’t separate and Boromir is still alive and well for the whole duration of the trip. That’s because Frodo’s path beyond Imraldis is considered which means there are no skirmishes near Parth Galen. The researchers also assume Frodo isn’t captured by Orcs and Gandalf isn’t lost during the fight with Balrog of Morgoth.
With this in mind, the combined daily calorific consumption of the fellowship was determined to be 16,147.68 kcal/day
Concerning lembas bread, we know from reliable sources that a cake would satisfy a man for an entire day, which is equal to 2638.50 kcal. So, to support the fellowship on its journey to Mordor, the party would have had to carry a minimum of 675 pieces of lembas. Those are quite a few pieces of bread but fortunately, one lembas cake is very small and if wrapped in mallorn leaves can stay fresh for months. In other words, it’s totally plausible for the party to sustain their very long and arduous trip on lembas alone.
“Using hourly metabolic rates for the species, this is approximately 304 pieces for the hobbits, 214 for the ‘men’, 99 for Gimli and 60 for Legolas, assuming that they only eat their daily required amounts,” the researchers concluded.
This study answers some questions Lord of The Rings fans might have asked themselves but there are still many things we don’t know. For instance, does lembas contain gluten? Are there any side effects of eating only lembas for weeks? A follow-up would be gladly welcome. So, who wants to fund this?
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.