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The Fellowship, a group of hobbits, humans, a dwarf, an Elf, and a wizard, seeks to prevent the evil being Sauron from gaining control over Middle-Earth by destroying the Ring he uses to wield his power and restoring the rightful king of Gondor to his throne. Morality in Tolkien's books is generally black and white, and largely based on a character's race or species. Hobbits, Elves, dwarves, Men, wizards, Ents, and certain animals (such as the gigantic sentient eagles who live in Middle-Earth) are far more commonly good than bad, while Orcs and goblins are always evil. That being said, there are exceptions to this rule. The character of Saruman is a wizard who was good, but has turned to evil; Gollum, the character with the greatest moral struggle between good and evil, was once hobbit-like before the evil influence of the Ring turned him into a slimy cave-dweller obsessed with his "Precious"; the human Denethor, whose sons are one of the Fellowship's members and one of their closest allies, is blinded by his own greed and thirst for power; even Elves, generally the wisest and most incorruptible characters, can be tempted by power or precious jewels.

Each race has its own culture, and several have unique foods, though there is also overlap. So, for example, dwarves like meat and ale and grand feasts. Hobbits prefer to drink beer and eat simple, wholesome food made from ingredients they have grown or raised themselves. Elves eat richer food, and drink a lot of wine. Orcs eat raw flesh. Foods that are unique to a specific race include lembas bread, which is basically magical Elf energy bars; ent-draught, which is the water (from a specific spring) that provides sustenance to the Ents, a race of tree-people; or pipe-weed, which is grown and smoked by hobbits in the Shire, where they live.

We noticed that food was often discussed in great detail, and it makes sense that food would be important in Lord of the Rings, since this is a story that takes place almost entirely on the road, with the main characters moving from place to place constantly and having to find or bring food and water. It is common for the Fellowship's allies to host a feast for them or offer them provisions for their journey, and meals are often accompanied by the singing of a song (sometimes a drinking-song, sometimes one that tells a story, sometimes just a philosophical observation about life or home or adventure). Because of this, it occurred to us that we might be able to use the type of food that is eaten and the songs that are sung in different places as a mapping device for where and when alliances are formed, and to determine whether or not there is any discernible pattern to the formation of those alliances.