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Today we’re talking about something near and dear to every hobbit’s heart, the history and art of smoking pipe-weed. 

Obviously I want to be clear that this is something to be enjoyed in moderation by adults, and I know for many smoking can become an addiction so I just want to note that we aren’t endorsing illicit use of pipe tobacco and if you are prone to addiction or are struggling with addiction, this might not be a good episode for you. But because it’s such an important aspect of Hobbit history and culture, I did think it would be fun to have a chat about it. 

Concerning Pipe-Weed, from the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings

“There is another astonishing thing about Hobbits of old that must be mentioned, an astonishing habit: 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 peculiar custom, or ‘art’ as the Hobbits preferred to call it. All that could be discovered about it in antiquity was put together by Meriadoc Brandybuck (later Master of Buckland), and since he and the tobacco of the Southfarthing play a part in the history that follows, his remarks in the introduction of this Herblore of the Shire may be quoted…” - Concerning Pipe-weed

The smoking of pipe-weed, writes Merry Brandybuck, “is the one art that we can certainly claim to be our own invention.” 

Today we’re chatting with one of our patreon supporters, Timothy Martin! If you’d like to support Tea with Tolkien, you can learn more about our mission and the rewards here.

Highlights from this Week’s Conversation:
  • Pipe-weed obviously means a lot to Hobbit culture as a whole, so I wonder if Tolkien loved it as much as they did? Do you know what kind of tobacco he preferred? 

  • Tolkien refers to the smoking of pipe-weed as an “art” in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings. I feel like this ties in so well with the idea of Enchantment, the magic of the elves, which Tolkien also describes as an art. In what ways do you see it as an art-form?

  • You mentioned when we were talking before that you have built sort of an online community for Catholics who also enjoy smoking a pipe. What’s that been like and what fruit have you seen from that community? What was the inspiration for starting this community?

  • The Catholic Pipe Smoker’s Den Facebook Group

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