Is Lord of the Rings' Pipe-Weed actually middle-earth's Marijuana?
The Lord of the Rings makes no attempt to conceal the Hobbits' love of smoking, but is their pipe-weed actually Middle-earth's version of cannabis?
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic trilogy know that Hobbits -- and Gandalf -- love to smoke pipe-weed. Of course, director Peter Jackson made sure to include the halflings' love of smoking in his The Lord of the Rings films. However, his interpretation left audiences joking and wondering whether pipe-weed is actually Middle-earth's version of marijuana.
While the idea of pipe-weed being marijuana may seem silly, it isn't that far-fetched. After all, Hobbits are a peaceful race known for enjoying their gardens. Along with their green thumbs, their elaborate eating schedule of seven meals a day -- which famously includes second breakfast, elevenses and afternoon tea -- suggests they may have a bad case of the munchies. However, as funny as marijuana in Middle-earth sounds, Tolkien confirms that pipe-weed is tobacco, not cannabis. Still, The Lord of the Rings' text leaves a little wiggle room for interpretation.
Tolkien Compared the Hobbits' Beloved Weed to Tobacco, Not Cannabis
In The Lord of the Rings appendices, Tolkien details the Hobbits' love of pipe-weed, stating, "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." Nicotiana, of course, is a genus of plants that includes tobacco. Tolkien himself was an avid tobacco user and, particularly, enjoyed smoking his pipe. While Tolkien's own habit was likely an inspiration for the Hobbits' beloved herb, this quote also creates room for interpretation by saying, "a variety probably of Nicotiana"
The "probably" suggests pipe-weed could be another type of "herb," like marijuana. Jackson's film adaption clearly hints as much, with Saruman condemning Gandalf's smoking by saying, "Your love of the halflings' leaf has clearly slowed your mind." The Return of the King movie also includes a scene of Merry and Pippin puffing on pipe-weed with crescent eyes while eating and giggling. Although Tolkien's use and stance on marijuana use haven't been confirmed, Jackson went with a playful interpretation of pipe-weed nonetheless -- though his viewpoint makes sense.
Gandalf Recommended Pipe-Weed's Mind-Altering Effects
In Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories and notes published by Tolkien's son, Christopher, Gandalf's description of pipe-weed suggests the herb produces mind-altering effects and euphoria. Following criticism from Saruman, Gandalf replies, "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." Although tobacco could produce a "mind-clearing" quality for some, many attribute that sensation to marijuana use.
While The Lord of the Rings novels blatantly compares pipe-weed to tobacco, one could argue the text hints at a sneaky marijuana metaphor, too. Jackson seemed to think so, and so do many fans. As noted by Leafly, cannabis breeders have gone on to use alternate names for pipe-weed, like Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby and Southern Star, for their strands. So, no matter whether Gandalf is actually the stoner that Saruman seems to think he is, pipe-weed remains an iconic part of The Lord of the Rings universe and the cannabis community.