Tolkien, Hobbits, And Cannabis

Published :
Categories : Art & CultureBlog
Last edited :

Tolkien, Hobbits, And Cannabis

You might be aware of the hobbits' fondness of this leaf they like to call pipe-weed, with names like Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star. When Peter Jackson released the trilogy on film it gave rise to many fans wondering if it was really tobacco they were smoking in their pipes?

You might be aware of the hobbits' fondness of this leaf they like to call pipe-weed, with names like Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star. When Peter Jackson released the trilogy on film it gave rise to many fans wondering if it was really tobacco they were smoking in their pipes?

     

It doesn’t take a lot of looking to figure out that J.R.R Tolkien had tobacco in mind when he portrayed the hobbits merrily puffing on their pipe-weed. As a respected professor in English, and having written his stories of the middle-earth prior to 1949 it’s easy to imagine he probably wouldn’t have had the exposure to cannabis as we have today.

Furthermore, England followed suit in prohibiting cannabis in 1925 (at the Convention of Narcotic Control) alongside Egypt and Turkey. At the time, cannabis was a product of little significance in England.

1925 was a time when little was known about the dangers and health risks associated with smoking tobacco, and there is even enough vintage propaganda out there to suggest your doctor might have wanted you to smoke. It’s pretty obvious that the preferred accompaniment to your pipe in the early 20th century was tobacco.

 

J.R.R Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien was no different, born 1892 in England. Recreational cannabis use during this time was almost entirely unheard of and even its traditional medical uses were being replaced by new forms of medicine such as aspirin.

     

 

Wooden pipe tobacco

 

In the prologue to the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described pipe-weed as a "variety probably of Nicotiana" which is another name for tobacco. Tolkien likening of himself to hobbits also says a lot, "I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size) … I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking."

But perhaps if Tolkien were aware of the dangers of smoking tobacco as we are today, things might be different? The mass popularity of Tolkien’s writings and cannabis reached a peak during the 60’s and 70’s, but by the time the 60s rolled around, a copy of one of Tolkien’s books could be found in the hands of many students and young progressives across the globe.

"Perplexed by our nation’s carnage in Vietnam and by the ultimate threat of a nuclear inferno, a whole generation of young Americans could lose themselves and their troubles in the intricacies of this triple-decker epic," Ralph C. Wood, a theology and literature professor with an interest in Tolkien. "Indeed, the rumor got about – a wish seeking its fulfillment, no doubt – that Tolkien had composed The Lord of the Rings under the influence of drugs."

Tolkien’s books feature themes of environmental sustainability, anti-industrialism, 3-foot-tall champion underdogs and strong female characters.

"In the 1960s, Tolkien was taken up by many members of the nascent 'counter-culture' largely because of his concern with environmental issues," David Doughan of the Tolkien Society writes in his biography.

     

Of course, anyone who has indulged in the tales of middle earth while under the influence of cannabis would know that the pair works very well together. Tolkien’s books took on a widespread cult following because of their strong ties with civil rights, counterculture, and psychedelic drugs. Maybe this is why Peter Jackson’s film adaptations seem to depict a substance with effects more similar to marijuana.

In Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman gives Gandalf a judgmental sidelong glance and says, “Your love of the Halflings’ Leaf has clearly slowed your mind.” In Jackson’s first installment of The Hobbit, Radagast the brown can be seen rolling his eyes backward as he takes a big ol’ puff on Gandalf’s pipe. Jackson’s adaptations to Tolkien’s literary work could be seen as a playful look at what the hobbits might be smoking in their pipe had they been imagined into our lives in this time.

 

Hobbit cannabis

Perhaps Tolkien found some mind-clearing qualities in tobacco that many of us find with cannabis. Tolkien clearly entertains an appreciation for a pipe full of your favourite herb, nature and attention to detail. With a number of strains with names like, Old Toby, Gandalf OG, Longbottom Leaf, Green Dragon and Hobbit, there’s no doubt that the cannabis community has a fond appreciation of Tolkien’s work.

A hint is left in his book Unfinished Tales, a collection of notes and stories edited and published later by his son Cristopher.

"Both the silence and the smoke seemed greatly to annoy Saruman, and before the council dispersed he said to Gandalf: "When weighty matters are in debate, Mithrandir, I wonder a little that you should play with your toys of fire and smoke, while others are in earnest speech." But Gandalf laughed, and replied: "You would not wonder, if you used this herb yourself. You might find that smoke blown out cleared your mind of shadows within. Anyway, it gives patience, to listen to error without anger. But it is not one of my toys. It is an art of the Little People away in the West: Merry and worthy folk, though not of much account, perhaps, in your high policies.”

 

         
  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

 
 
      Find out about our writers  

Related products