Weekly Lore #9 — On Pipe-weed

Pipe-weed is an herb popular with many of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. It is also known as leaf, westmansweed, sweet galenas, and Nicotiana. It is referred to as tobacco in The Hobbit, and is also described as such in the text of the Lord of the Rings, though it is never referred to as such by characters in the latter book. The first true pipe-weed was said to have been grown by Tobold Hornblower of Longbottom in the Southfarthing, in around the year 1070 Shire-reckoning (roughly 350 years before the primary events of the Lord of the Rings).

While Tobold (or Old Toby) is considered the first to have grown proper pipe-weed, it is considered that the first variety of leaf originally came from across the Sea and was discovered by the Númenoreans. However, it was the Hobbits of Bree who first thought to smoke it in pipes. Aside from Hobbits and the Men of Bree, the smoking of pipe-weed was said to be popular amongst Dwarves, Rangers, and Wizards. It is not known if any elves smoked pipe-weed, however, the elf Legolas was known to be uninterested in pipe-weed and consider those who smoked it to be “strange folk,” implying that it was at least uncommon amongst the elves.

In LotRO:

Several varieties of pipe-weed may be grown by farmers, across all crafting tiers. For the most part, pipe-weed merely makes amusing smoke shapes, although Shire Sweet-leaf is used by Loremasters for the skill “Back from the Brink.” While most pipe-weed is consumed upon use, one can also obtain a pipe with infinite uses and a one-hour cooldown from the quest “Missing the Meeting,” given by Ronald Dwale. There are also numerous quests involving pipe-weed. Most take place around the Shire or Bree, although one involves a barrel which has managed to make its way to the Trollshaws.

[Spoilers Follow]

In the Lord of the Rings, aside from being smoked by several main characters, pipe-weed also functions as foreshadowing of the Scouring of the Shire, indicating that Saruman had dealings with the Shire. Merry Brandybuck would also later go on to write a book called “Herblore of the Shire,” which covered most of the history of the smoking of pipe-weed.

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