‘Flora of Middle-Earth’ Reveals the LOTR Series’ Biggest Letdown
Turns out pipe-weed was more brown than green.
There is a certain variety of stoner whose identity is inextricably linked to a love of Middle-Earth, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and all things J.R.R. Tolkien. This person spends lazy summer afternoons reading The Silmarillion, perhaps puffing on a long wooden pipe packed with sticky green cannabis flowers.
We have some bad news for those marijuana-loving Lord of the Rings fans: Pipe-weed is not weed, as many people вЂ” this reporter included вЂ” long assumed it was.
This bad news comes by way of Flora of Middle Earth, an actual botany text released by Oxford University Press on Tuesday. In the book, which explores the factual and fictional plants of TolkienвЂ™s world, author and University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, Ph.D. reveals that TolkienвЂ™s famed pipe-weed is a lot less exciting that fans might hope.
In the book, which also includes beautiful, wood carving-styled illustrations by Graham Judd, Walter Judd notes that TolkienвЂ™s pipe-weed was actually just plain old tobacco. He uses the word вЂњtobaccoвЂќ in the narrative voice in Lord of the Rings and even named the tobacco plant genus Nicotiana in the Prologue section вЂњConcerning Pipe-weed.вЂќ Furthermore, Bilbo explicitly mentions tobacco in The Hobbit, telling Gandalf that itвЂ™s вЂњa very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors.вЂќ
Despite these obvious textual clues, which would have been apparent to any fan who read the books closely, the pipe weed-marijuana connection has persisted for a long time, probably tracing its roots to dorm room stoner culture that rose around the same time as Dungeons & Dragons. The game draws significantly on Middle-Earth for mythology and characters, so itвЂ™s no stretch to say that the same people who spent their weekends engaging in D&D campaigns and smoking joints probably also loved Lord of the Rings. Be that as it may, though, TolkienвЂ™s original text, as Judd points out, does not support this interpretation.
While itвЂ™s possible that fans may have overstated the cannabis head-canon, itвЂ™s not all in their minds. Peter JacksonвЂ™s film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy heavily suggested that Gandalf and FrodoвЂ™s pipes were filled with something a little stronger than tobacco. You may recall the moment Saruman rebukes Gandalf for his smoking habits, hitting him with the wild side-eye:
It seems like a stretch to say that tobacco, a stimulant, slows a personвЂ™s mind. In fact, this is a sentiment much more commonly associated with marijuana. To further hammer home the degree to which Jackson implied hobbits liked to get lit, letвЂ™s recall the moment in which Merry and Pippin light up their pipes in the ruins of Isengard and sit around smoking, snacking, and laughing, their eyes narrowed in that characteristic way:
Whatever our wishful thinking вЂ” and Peter JacksonвЂ™s creative liberties вЂ” had us believe, the evidence cited in Flora of Middle Earth is fairly clear: Pipe-weed is tobacco. Bummer.
At least you can take comfort in the fact that next time a Tolkien-loving friend winkingly suggests you share a pipe of Longbottom Leaf or Old Toby, you can hit them with the вЂњWell, actuallyвЂ¦вЂќ
Turns out pipe-weed was more brown than green.
Gandalf and his pipe-weed . is it actually weed?
The Lord of the Rings saga might be a big-budget film classic today, but it has always had stoner ties — even when it was only in print. The tough, hilarious, and kind Gandalf, a wizard of Middle Earth, is a character most notable to the weed community, owed to his liberal use of what author J.R.R. Tolkien called “pipe-weed.”
According to the Lord of the Rings Fandom Wiki, it’s a plant with “sweet-smelling flowers” that the Hobbits, like main characters Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, cultivated, smoked, and traded with neighbors. To some, it sounds like a tobacco product, while others point to its floral description, hinting that pipe-weed might be more like our own weed, but the true definition may have been muddied by the movies.
Like any good fiction writer, Tolkien could have simply been making up his own plant altogether. However, considering his heyday took place during the mid-century era, tobacco is the more likely subject.
Pipe-weed from Middle Earth to Hollywood
It’s really film director Peter Jackson’s doing that so many thought of the “Halfling’s Leaf” as a fantasy cannabis analog. He plugged a quip from head wizard Saruman to Gandalf, alluding to “cloudy judgment” post-pipe-weed consumption in the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring.
But it’s the prologue of The Fellowship book itself that seals the canon argument. Tolkien writes of his beloved Hobbits:
“They imbibed or inhaled, through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of a herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana. A great deal of mystery surrounds the origin of this particular custom or ‘art’ as the Hobbits preferred to call it.”
Canna-fans need not despair. Just because the books hint at tobacco and the movies hint at weed does not mean that countless cultivators didn’t come through with their own homages to Middle Earth and the Hobbits’ love of pipe-weed.
Gandalf’s pipe-weed in cannabis culture
There are now a dozen or more strains named after characters, fictional pipe-weed brands from the Shire like Old Toby and Longbottom Leaf, and of course, the wizard himself has Gandalf OG.
It doesn’t take a wizard to figure how mystical the Gandalf Glass Pipe is. 🧙♂️ pic.twitter.com/0vwAjQMJts
Additionally, smoking cannabis out of a “Gandalf pipe” is something of a stoner rite of passage or bucket list item to be crossed off. Numerous glass pipes are shaped similarly to the Gandalf’s pipe-weed piece and are pretty easy to find in most glass shops.
If you’re a lifelong fan or just coming around to these nine-plus hour epics, pipe-weed is as integral to Hobbit life as it is to ours. No matter what effects you imagine come from a big drag of Gandalf’s pipe, you can enjoy the story behind the smoke rings, because he is hands down the Lord of those rings.
Pipe-weed from Middle Earth to Hollywood.