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Thread: Taters in Middle Earth?

  1. #1
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    Taters in Middle Earth?

    Hello everyone,

    I'm probably the biggest Tolkien fan in Perú, South America. Having said that, I can't help but notice that there is something amiss in his references to potatoes in Middle Earth (cooked by Sam, and apparently eaten by Mim and Turin's band) because potatoes came originally from Perú; they were not found in Europe. Can anybody throw any light on the subject? I am aware that in Tolkien's conception all the lands of the world were originally in one piece; could the answer lie there? Then potatoes woud have had to disappear from ME (Europe) to be later reintroduced after Columbus 'discovered' America. What do you think?

  2. #2
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I've always thought that potatoes would have been introduced to the Northwestern parts of Middle-earth by the Numenoreans - much like Athelas and other herbs. The Numenoreans travelled extensively during their glory years - and they had plenty of explorers amongst them who could have found these taters and brought them back to Numenor from where they could then have been cultivated back on the mainland. Just an idea of course - I have no proof of this - but it seems the most logical reason.

    Welcome to The Tolkien Forum Neithan...
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  3. #3
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I like the idea of Numenorean mariners in the context of medieval European explorers.

    Turgon already gave the best-sounding explanation in my opinion (if we view Middle-earth as Europe and West as Americas), but it could be interesting to expand this thread to other 'foreign' plants, as well. Tea is what comes to mind first (although tea could be made of regular herbs), can anyone give any other examples of plants that 'shouldn't' exist in Middle-earth and possible suggestions of how they could have gotten there?

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    Quote Originally Posted by ltas View Post
    It could be interesting to expand this thread to other 'foreign' plants, as well. Tea is what comes to mind first (although tea could be made of regular herbs), can anyone give any other examples of plants that 'shouldn't' exist in Middle-earth and possible suggestions of how they could have gotten there?

    Tobacco (Nicotina spp.) is a big one! I mean, pipe weed could be anything (the Native Americans I've sat with have four plants they call tobacco) and I'm not sure if they reference it to be or describe it similar to tobacco, but what Tolkien was smoking when he wrote the books comes from the Americas too (and they caught on just like the potatoes )
    "Heed no nightly noises ... fear no great willow" -Tom Bombadillo

  5. #5
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I had never considered the Numenorean mariners as a possibility, thanks. That might account for the taters Sam cooked but not for Mim's earth bread which belongs to the first age. Actually, they are not called potatoes there but I am convinced that was what Tolkien meant.
    Regarding leaf, I love Gandalf and Saruman's argument over Gandalf's smoking and not saying much during the council (also in Unfinished Tales).
    By the way, Tevildo, there is quite a bit of interesting stuff there about Radagast (Yavanna's choice) and his losing sight of his real mission.
    Thanks for your comments.

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    Quote Originally Posted by Neithan View Post
    By the way, Tevildo
    I just got it!
    "Heed no nightly noises ... fear no great willow" -Tom Bombadillo

  7. #7
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    You mean Tevildo = Prince of Cats? I thought you had chosen the name and the picture because of that! Cheers!

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I thought Tybalt was Prince of Cats..
    Or are we talking about a different Prince of Cats?
    How many are there?!

    xo
    G
    "What are we holding on to Sam?"
    "That there's some good in the world, Mr Frodo, and that it's worth fighting for."
    --
    "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    We're talking Tolkien
    "Heed no nightly noises ... fear no great willow" -Tom Bombadillo

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    You have no idea how big a fool I feel right now.
    Forgive me. So many characters, so little brain space!
    "What are we holding on to Sam?"
    "That there's some good in the world, Mr Frodo, and that it's worth fighting for."
    --
    "When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I never assumed that Middle Earth was an exact replica of England. The maps are obviously different and while I would say it is "like" England, England is not connected by lands to any place with elephants and there are oliphants in Middle Earth (just by example). Middle Earth is whatever Tolkien wanted it to be, and he obviously wanted it to have potatoes.

    According to Tyler's "The New Tolkien Companion," Merry wrote a book researching the origins of pipeweed and stated within that it grew wild in Gondor and had probably been brought north (possibly by Rangers?).

    I looked up the "House of Healing" chapter in RotK just to find Strider's little rant about the herb master. I decided it wasn't worth typing out, but it pretty much proves that this plant was in the area, so to speak, and well known, if under appreciated.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    Yeah, but... Tolkien meant Middle Earth to be Europe, not England, and in that case it is possible to have oliphants coming from the Harad (South). Actually in one of his early conceptions England is what used to be Tol Eressea which was dragged back to the coasts of Middle Earth for the Faring Forth (somebody correct me if I am wrong).

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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    I wasn't aware that Tolkien meant ME to be Europe, but I haven't read the letters and only one biography, so you may very well be right. Maybe that's in there somewhere.

    However, rather than conform to any image I prefer Middle Earth to be exactly what my imagination makes it unless my imagination contradicts something I see in plain writing. In other words, I'd rather it simply be Middle Earth and a place where potatoes are native than a fictionalized Europe with a long explanation as to where Potatoes come from.
    Elgee! Meldomeoir-- Cat in LOVE!
    http://www.typativemamacat.com/
    That's pretty ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as Denise Richards playing a Nuclear Physicist named Christmas Jones in a Bond movie.--Shawn Spencer
    RX--Items in this post to be taken in small doses accompanied with a grain of salt.
    now "published"

  14. #14
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    You have probably read more than I have, but this notion of ME being Europe and Tol Eressea England appears in the Histories of ME (Book of Lost Tales I and II). Actually, when I read it, it was kind of disappointing; I would have prefered it to stay a place only in Tolkien's and my imagination.

  15. #15
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    Re: Taters in Middle Earth?

    Actually I have not read the majority of HoME. I have read the Unfinished Tales which makes up a little bit of that, I think, but I only own half of that even so it has been awhile.
    Elgee! Meldomeoir-- Cat in LOVE!
    http://www.typativemamacat.com/
    That's pretty ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as Denise Richards playing a Nuclear Physicist named Christmas Jones in a Bond movie.--Shawn Spencer
    RX--Items in this post to be taken in small doses accompanied with a grain of salt.
    now "published"

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