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WeedmapsNews Culture & industry

Gandalf and his pipe-weed ... is it actually weed?

June 17, 2020   7:00 am PDT | Updated 3 weeks ago

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.

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.

Featured image by Thomas Schweighofer on Unsplash