by Varda-(Valar)
March 21, 2010

Tolkien Encyclopedia > Elves > Raft-elves

    In The Hobbit, Bilbo and the dwarves escaped from the Elf-king's halls either in barrels (dwarves) or on top of them more or less (hobbit) going downstream. These barrels were supposed to be empties returning to humans in the pier city of Lake-town with whom the elves traded for food stuffs such as wine, tubs of butter, apples, and many other good things. The barrels didn't have a straight trip, as the Forest River made a small bay cut into the shore where the barrels are caught. Elves came out to collect the trapped barrels, roped them together into rafts and, while standing in the shallow water, used poles to push them off into the next part of the river to continue the journey to Lake-town. Had the time not been so late, the elves would have checked the heavier barrels for items to scavenge. This means that this was not the only time of day (starry night) that barrels were known to arrive. The elves knew to be present as soon as the barrels arrived even though it was night, so either the time was pre-set or they were signalled.
    The raft-elves lived in a village by the river shore. Bilbo spotted their village (it is not said if there is more than one) at night by their fire and burgled a loaf, leather bottle of wine, and a pie from them. Although the One Ring made him invisible, his drippings of river water and sneezing caused a commotion and he had to leave as soon as possible.

Reference: "Barrels Out of Bond", The Hobbit

see also:
     Halls of Thranduil

Image : "Huts of the Raft-elves". Removed due to lawyers. Artist JRR Tolkien. Rolozo Tolkien page. Large pictures now down due to coding changes in their new server