A glossary of people, places & objects in Earthsea

Now showing glossary items relating to food & drink


See Beer

Barley gruel

See Gruel


Also known as: Ale, sour beer, brown ale

Beer is commonly served in inns and taverns in the Archipelago and the Reaches, being served by the pint. Beer is the normal drink served at feasts and parties. Sour beer is served to the Masters of Roke with breakfast

Sources: The Masters of Roke, FS; Darkrose and Diamond, TfE; On the High Marsh, TfE

Related entries: Beverages, alcoholic

Beverages, alcoholic

Beer is commonly served in the Archipelago and the Reaches. Wine is widely drunk both by country folk and by noblemen. No stronger alcoholic beverages are mentioned; perhaps distillation has not been invented in Earthsea

Beverages, non-alcoholic

Water, goat's or cow's milk, warm barley or oatmeal gruel, and rushwash tea and other herbal teas are the only non-alcoholic beverages mentioned

Dragon Year

A particularly fine vintage of wine from the Andrades; an old soft red described as 'a king's wine'a

Sources: Mice, T (a); The Dolphin, T


Dry red wine produced in the domain of Iria on Way. Ten-year-old Fanian is traded to destinations including Hort Town and is said to be valuable

Sources: Dragonfly, TfE


Typical main meal fare across Earthsea appears to be bread, cheese, fish and meat/fish/vegetable soups, with the wealthier eating chicken or other meat. A substantial meal on Gont comprises 'bread and cheese, cold beans in oil and herbs, a sliced onion, and dry sausage.'a A 'splendid repast' on Sattins island in the East Reach consists of 'roast goose, sparkling Andrades '639, and plum pudding with hard sauce.'b At the Havnor New Palace, a lunch of cold meat, smoked trout, lettuces and cheese is served to the king. Breakfast at the Roke School of Wizardry comprises 'milk, sour beer, bread, new butter, and cheese'c; curds are eaten for breakfast on Semel, pork pie in a wealthy household on Havnor, fresh fruit, bread and milk at the Havnor New Palace, warm barley gruel, a boiled egg and a peach on Gont, and buckwheat porridge at the Place of the Tombs on Atuan. Nuts, fruit and sometimes raisins are mentioned as snacks.

A variety of foodstuffs are mentioned. Meat products mentioned include roast or boiled chicken, roast goose, roast or smoked mutton, liver, meat or pork pie, meat soup, cold meat, roast kid, pork sausages, dry sausage and frogs' legs; beef cattle are mentioned, and their meat is presumably also eaten. Fish and shellfish are staples in coastal areas, including herring, sea bass, dried haddock, smoked trout, fish stew, fish soup, fish cakes, mussels, crabs, oysters and clams. Dairy produce mentioned includes cow's or goat's cheese, butter, curds and hard-boiled or fried eggs. Grain produce mentioned includes flour, bread, bannocks, hardbread, wheatcakes, cakes, shortbread, piecrust, buckwheat or corn porridge, barley or oatmeal gruel, lentils, millet mush and barley. While the bread used at the Place of the Tombs on Atuan is unleavened, reference is made to dough rising on Gont and yeast is used across Earthsea to make wine, so leavened bread is probably common. Vegetables and herbs mentioned include potatoes, onions, spring onions, scallions, beans, peas, cabbages, lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled beets, turnips, squash, vegetable soups, rosemary, mint, thyme and parsley. Fruit and nut products mentioned include apples, pears, peaches, plums, plum pudding, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes, currants, raisins, cantaloupe melons, walnuts and chestnuts. Flavourings mentioned include honey, oil, vinegar and salt.

No religious or other restrictions relating to food are mentioned, although fasting is a common practice in Atuan, and in the Archipelago, a fast is observed before the winter solstice Festival of Sunreturn

Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q (b); The Masters of Roke, FS (c); Hawks, T (a)

Related entries: Food preservation

Food preservation

Food is preserved by drying (apples, onions, fish, meat), smoking (fish, meat), salting (meat), pickling (beets) and preserving in oil (beans). No other methods of food preservation, such as refrigeration or canning, are mentioned. A cool-room is mentioned for food storage on Gont; also a larder or pantry, which might be situated so as to keep food cool. Food appears to be eaten close to the source; trade in foodstuffs (apart from wine) is not mentioned

Sources: Iffish, WoE; Dreams and Tales, ToA; Sea Dreams, FS; Ogion, T; Mice, T; Hawks, T; Home, T


Also known as: Barley gruel, Oatmeal gruel

Warm barley gruel is drunk by country people of Gont, and Tenar makes oatmeal gruel there as a breakfast drink

Sources: Going to the Falcon's Nest, T; Mending the Green Pitcher, OW

Related entries: Beverages, non-alcoholic

Oatmeal gruel

See Gruel


Poison is an acknowledged method of disposing of enemies in the Kargad Lands. Kossil, High Priestess of the Godking on Atuan, is said to keep boxes and phials of poisons to introduce into food or water, as well as poison dust which can be blown into the air. The father of the Godking reigning during The Tombs of Atuan is alleged to have refrained from poisoning the last descendants of the House of Hupun merely on grounds that they are of royal blood. Poisons aren't limited to Kargad: environmental mercury poisoning was an occupational hazard in the Samory roasting tower on Havnor during the Dark Years, and fatal neurological damage is the consequence of chewing the poisonous psychoactive herb hazia, used in Hort Town. Various witches' potions of evil intent are mentioned, and it seems possible that unscrupulous wizards, sorcerers and witches put their herbal knowledge to use in poisoning

Sources: Warriors in the Mist, WoE; The Great Treasure, ToA; The Finder, TfE

Rushwash tea

Herbal tea; the main hot beverage mentioned, it is drunk on Gont, the Ninety Isles & Sattins, and presumably elsewhere in the Archipelago & Reaches

Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q; The Dragon of Pendor, WoE; The Hawk's Flight, WoE

Related entries: Beverages, non-alcoholic


Water is commonly drunk by people of all classes and regions, being served, for example, at the River House on Havnor and by the Children of the Open Sea. Many towns, villages and some larger houses have wells, and pumps are also occasionally mentioned eg on Semel. Fresh water from springs or rivers is also commonly drunk, usually without boiling or mixing with wine; resultant water-borne disease generally appears uncommon. Water on the High Marsh of the island of Semel, however, isn't safe to drink without boiling for an hour; water-borne marsh fever and murrain are mentioned as causes of death of humans and cattle. Rainwater is also collected, especially perhaps on islands with no freshwater spring. Piped water is not mentioned, and fetching water would be a significant chore where there was no convenient well. Water is carried on boats in waterskins or water casks, though sea water can easily be freshened by magic; water bottles or flasks (sometimes called skin bottles) are commonly carried by travellers

Sources: The Hawk's Flight, WoE; The Wall around the Place, ToA; On the High Marsh, TfE; The Dragon Council, OW

'…to fetch water in summer when the wells ran low. That was a dreary business, to trudge through the searing white heat a half-mile down to the river, fill the two buckets on their carrying pole, and then set off as fast as possible uphill to the Place. The first hundred yards were easy, but then the buckets began to grow heavier, and the pole burned on your shoulders like a bar of hot iron, and the light glared on the dry road, and every step was harder and slower. At last you got to the cool shade of the back courtyard of the Big House by the vegetable patch, and dumped the buckets into the great cistern with a splash. And then you had to turn around to do it all over again, and again, and again.'

[The Wall around the Place, ToA]


Wine is drunk both by better-off country folk such as Ogion and by noblemen, being served at the courts of Enlad and Havnor City, and also at the Godking's feasts on Karego-At. Fine red and white wines are exported from the Andrades, including vintages known as the Dragon Year, Late Harvest and '639, but vineyards are also found on other islands including Gont, Enlad and Way (producing wine called Fanian). Ged gives Lebannen heated wine on Lookfar as a restorative. Hurbahberry wine (described as thin) is served in the inn on Lorbanery in the South Reach. Wine is carried in bladders, transported in barrels or halftuns, sold by wine merchants and stored in wine cellars; fine wine is described as a valuable commodity

Sources: The Rule of Names, W12Q; Lorbanery, FS; Mice, T; The Dolphin, T; Winter, T; Dragonfly, TfE

Related entries: Beverages, alcoholic



WoEA Wizard of Earthsea
ToAThe Tombs of Atuan
FSThe Farthest Shore
OWThe Other Wind
W12QThe Wind's Twelve Quarters
TfETales from Earthsea

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