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  • Updated 14 May 2020
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Earth-bread

The staple diet of the Petty-dwarves of Amon Rûdh

When Túrin and his followers first encountered Mîm the Petty-dwarf, he and his sons were out in the wilds collecting sacks of 'earth-bread' for their stores. This was the main, and perhaps only, food of the Petty-dwarves of Amon Rûdh, and also of Tûrin's Gaurwaith after they settled within that hill. Little is said of the nature of earth-bread, though the brief description we do have makes them seem to be some kind of wild potato.1


It is an odd and unexplained mystery that, when he was first encountered by the Gaurwaith, Mîm seemed to place great value on his sack of earth-bread, far more so than one might expect for a collection of vegetables. The outlaw Ulrad observed that there were other things in his sack, like the roots of earth-bread but tougher and heavier, which were presumably what the Petty-dwarf was so eager to protect. The nature of these strange objects is never explained.


Notes

1

In Unfinished Tales Part One II, Narn i Chîn Húrin, earth-bread is described as being '...white and fleshy within their skins, and when boiled they were good to eat, somewhat like bread...' This certainly sounds like a description of a potato, or at least of something very similar.

This raises the question of how potatoes could have been found east of the Great Sea during the First Age, when long, long afterwards they would have to be imported from the New World. Mîm gives a hint about this, saying that the Petty-dwarves kept earth-bread a secret because Men '...would not spare till all the plants had perished...' (ibid). Perhaps we're to take it from this that earth-bread was indeed something like a potato, but became extinct in Middle-earth at some point, so that it had to be re-introduced from the Americas millennia later.

This would also help to explain how the Shire-hobbits (long after Mîm's time) could have been familiar with potatoes, which theoretically should not have existed in Middle-earth during their period of history. The implication seems to be that potatoes, or at least earth-bread, disappeared from Middle-earth at some point during the Fourth Age.

See also...

Potatoes

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  • Updated 14 May 2020
  • Updates planned: 1

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