Vittles, Verses, and Victory

A study of food & alliances in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

Rivendell -J.R.R. Tolkien

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Our Quest

This is a digital humanities project conducted by Ashley Necciai, Rebecca Wallace, and Anjuli Das for the University of Pittsburgh's course on Computational Methods in the Humanities, taught by David Birnbaum - who, like Elrond, sends us out into the wilderness of the Internet with a daunting task and some sage advice. Many thanks also to our Gandalf, Alexandra Krongel.

The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien; it comprises three books (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King). These three books, composed between 1937 and 1949, have influenced the fantasy genre in all its forms and still enjoy enormous popularity, with movies and video games based on the novels. The series has inspired many studies and projects as well. The books offer a huge amount of material to study, since Tolkien invented far more backstory for Middle-Earth than is included in the stories themselves. The appendices to the series include information on multiple original languages, a set of deities inspired by Norse mythology, and a complex history reaching back thousands of years.

For our own research, we sought to investigate with digital humanities technology the ways in which food and song represent the changing relationships between the members of Tolkien's Fellowship and the characters with whom they interact. We have also explored the implications of the food the characters eat regarding their changing locations as they travel across Middle-Earth, the difference between hosted feasts and everyday meals, and the songs the characters sing in relationship to the meals they eat.

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