LiterEature 101: J.R.R. Tolkien and Lembas Bread

Lembas stackedAs I write this I have five articles to read immediately, a few more sitting beside me to be started shortly thereafter, one paper to edit, one book review to shorten, a plethora of books (both school related and not-so-school related) accumulating on my desk, and well.. the list keeps growing. And growing.  Did someone forget to mention that to-do lists are sentient, organic beings that know when you are reaching a lull of security and suddenly explode, thereby obliterating all thoughts of a simple breath out of existence? Yes, someone indeed forgot to mention that, because I only just remembered a few more things I wanted (nay, NEEDED) to complete by this Friday. And then (oh god, and then!) when I start fumbling through thoughts of the upcoming and following year, I just shrivel a little bit. Does that happen to you? How do you make it through the days? I just started thinking about my thesis (yes, the one I will be working on NEXT year but no harm deliberating now, right?) and while it excites me I’m also left with an overwhelming burden of fright. Or something of the sort. So how to recover from that?

My most trusted recourse is sugar of course. La Dulce! Give me some sweet stuff and make me sane! Ok, sugar is not known to calm anyone down—in fact it has been giving me slight headaches lately (try to stifle that groan of horror)—but in decent doses it does distract me enough to resist succumbing to an overzealous heart breaking through my ribs. So… a decent dose… in the form of something nourishing, sustaining… tasty… made by Elves… Lembas Bread!trio of lembas

Ah, perhaps I don’t have any elves’ culinary feats at my disposal, but I do have the ability to search the internet and a strong desire for buttery sweets.  I also had a ChildLit discussion forum last week on J.R.R. Tolkien and his works so the need to bake was two-fold! So a little scavenging a bit of whippering up something fun and boom! Lembas Bread at your service to nourish you through any difficulty or pressure.

Perhaps you noticed this is not in line with my usual Litereature 101 posts.  I haven’t had the opportunity of late to reread The Hobbit or LOTR so I won’t go into ramblings about what I love, like, question, wonder about, and all that jazz. Instead, I’ll first direct you to a small recap of our discussion on the SDSU ChildLit Blog, where you can peruse my questionings about the nature of a linguistic aesthetic and what that means for literature, for fantasy, for writers everywhere. Next I will tell you that if you haven’t read Tolkien’s works, then do it. And if you have, then read them again. These are texts that deserve constant examination, the flourish under the eye of scrutiny and reward the reader with new discoveries. Case in point: my friend Z pointed out (during her yearly reread) the “Best contortionist feat in Middle-Earth: ‘Yrch!’ said Legolas, falling into his own tongue.” (How does one cite a Facebook post by the way? Modern times require such considerations).

Lastly I will say that I did read through Tolkien’s Letters (as you’ll have learned while reading the SDSU blog post of course) and among the many bits of information gleaned from it, one of my favorite aspects was seeing the earnest development of Lord of the Rings as it transpired as a simple sequel into something deeper, darker, dealing with death and mortality, the morality of a civilization, the heroics and failings of the hero, the all encompassing importance of forgiveness and pity. Ennobling the ignoble and vice versa. The reflections of two Great Wars intertwining into the text… It’s a worthwhile read and truly exposes the wonderful, witty, and sometimes biting nature of the philologist extraordinaire.

I’m currently beginning my own explorations on the roles of maps and narratives in Children’s Lit, of their effects on character (and reader) identity, on their many disguises and semblances, and Tolkien will certainly be considered during this exploration. More on that when I have something to share. The idea only blossomed today.

But enough of that, onto the (sugary butter cookie) Lembas Bread!

The idea of the cookie I found at Candy Bar Cupcakes. Feel free to flip back to her site for precise instructions on the cutting, folding and designing of Lembas Bread.lembas cut outfolded oange lembassweet lembas

For the dough itself I adapted a few different rolled dough recipes into my own, as follows:


  • ½ cup plus 4 tsp butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 white
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Zest of one orange
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F.  In a large bowl blend the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add in the eggs vanilla and orange zest, beating in until fully incorporated. Slowly work in the flour, baking powder, and salt. I tend to do this first with a spoon and then by hand to form it into one large ball of malleable but firm dough.

Cover it and let it chill for an hour at least. You could chill it over night but if you’re craving the cookie now, why would you do that?

IMG_3267On a clean surface, spread out some flour and with a rolling pin roll out the dough slowly and evenly until it reaches between ¼ to ½ inch width. You might need to flour the rolling pin a bit to keep it from sticking. Follow the  cutting and design instructions from Candy Bar Cupcakes, bunching up and rolling out excess dough as you cut out the shapes.

On an ungreased cookie sheet bake the folded cookie leaves for 6-10 minutes. They should reach a pale golden color, the edges browning considerably more. No more than 10 minutes in my opinion.

Remove, let cool completely and sprinkle with some powdered sugar! Voila! A treat fit for an elf!delicious!

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