Background: my persona of choice is that of a Man living along the banks of the Anduin in the period between the Quest of Erebor and the War of the Ring. I was giving thought to the question of whether or not this fellow would be a practitioner of the art of smoking pipe-weed and so wondering if I should include a pipe in my gear for this persona. Of course it'd be easy to just say Yes, since smoking (in the pre-Columbian world that it is) is one of the things that makes Middle-earth distinct, setting it apart from other medieval-ish settings. However, I like to overthink things and take a Scholarly-Primary-Documents-Living-History approach to Tolkien.
Ringulf wrote:The lower Anduin and the Gladden fields were supposedly the cradle of the Stoor population at one time, it seems o me as though the hobbits there may have already had the habbit, though they were considered to be less agrarian and more hunter/gatherer" types, even though you might not pick that up from the Smeagol and Deagol scenes in the movies. Perhaps they did not pick up the "hobbit habbit" until after they found themselves in the midst of Ereidor and its fertile feilds ripe for agriculture.
For me to be able to confidently say a late Third Age Anduin Man was a smoker of Leaf would require evidence of three things:
1) existence of the plant in the area,
2) knowledge of cultivation of the plant, and
3) knowledge of the art of smoking it.
The first two could possibly be combined into 'means of obtaining leaf' should the land turn out to be unsuitable for cultivation.
Unfortunately, there are too many big gaps in the Wandering Days for me to be comfortable making assumptions regarding Stoorish proto-Hobbits and pipe-weed around Anduin, (especially since there's nothing to suggest the plant was known to grow wild north of Rauros).
From what I can tell, the Stoors originated in the Anduin Vales in the first third of the Third Age. They then moved (centuries after the Fallohides and Harfoots, perhaps 1300 TA at the latest) through the High Pass west into Eriador, some settling in the Angle but mostly in Dunland. The rise of Angmar (1300-1400s TA) caused the Angle-Stoors to go south to Dunland where some stayed (Nazgul later searched their deserted settlements for signs of the Ring), while others went back east to their original Gladden homeland. Deagol & Smeagol, descended from these returning-to-Gladden Stoors, pop into the history around 2400 TA--270 years before Tobold Hornblower.
With all that in mind, I want to ignore Rhovanion for a moment and focus our three requirements with regards to Eriador:
Meriadoc's research in Herblore of the Shire concludes that pipeweed grew as a weed in Gondor but "came northward from the lower Anduin", probably "carried up the Greenway" to the crossing at Bree. From here Tobold encountered it, brought it to Longbottom (existence: check!) and grew the first true Leaf in 2670 TA (cultivation: check!). Finally, Merry then suggests that from its epicenter at Bree, smoking was "spread in the recent centuries among Dwarves and such other folk" (smoking: check!).
Now, the idea that the art of smoking Leaf began at Bree is especially intriguing to my inquiry. Let us remember that Bree lies on not only the North-South road which linked Arnor and Gondor, but also the East Road from Ered Luin across Eriador to Wilderland and Erebor. Combined with the above suggestion that the art of smoking was spread by Dwarves and other travelers, I think it is not unlikely that a village of Men living along the Great River near the Forest Road would have come in contact (sometime during the 300+ years between Toby's Leaf and the War of the Ring) with some merchants or traders (Khazad likely) who smoked.
Therefore, it's believable that a common Man at this time/place could have been exposed to the art of smoking (third requirement: check!). Now we just have to figure out what he smoked, and where he got it.
So, could the Gondorian 'westmansweed' be found east of the Misty Mountains at slightly-north-of-Shire latitudes? Meriadoc seems to think not--while it grew "abundantly in Gondor", "it is never found wild [in the North]”. Although his very next sentence claims that it "flourishes only in warm sheltered places like Longbottom", I cannot tell if this is referring to the wild or cultivated variety. I suspect the latter, and think it would be safer to say that, given what we know, pipe-weed would not be growing wild in the upper Anduin Vales.
Therefore: could it be intentionally grown there? I'm afraid that while the deep Misty-foothill valleys on the west bank of the River would provide plentiful 'sheltered places' with well-drained soil, such locations would be ill-suited to cultivating Leaf, which requires full sun to grow (the sun, as it sinks behind the Mountains, would leave such an area in shadow the latter part of the day). The east side of this "green vale" might fare better, as the plain between the river and Mirkwood would receive more sun, and while I believe the area is stated to be rather flat, (lacking the shelters in which pipe-weed "flourishes"), I have seen modern tobacco successfully grown exposed in flat areas.
Can the plant be found—either wild or cultivated—in the upper Anduin valley? Not wild I think; possibly cultivated. If it could, for some reason, not be grown here, the next question presents itself: what options might a Man of this area have for obtaining pipe-weed to smoke?
Here I draw a blank. We know Longbottom Leaf was sent along the North-South road to Saruman at Isengard, but if there is any reference to pipe-weed going East along the road towards Dale, I cannot think of it. The Shire-Saruman arrangement always seemed distinctly under-the-table, and Aragorn states that "neither goods nor folk have passed [through the lands between Rohan and the Shire] for many a long year." The East Road, however, seemed a bit more 'open' to me in terms of trade, especially after the Quest of Erebor.
If there are no other known examples of the Shire engaged in exporting pipe-weed, I suppose the "Dwarves, Rangers, Wizards, or wanderers" who smoked must have been limited to refilling their smoking-pouches when passing by Bree? Or is it possible that the Bree hobbits (the true discoverers of smoking, after all) did some business in exporting Leaf to the East?
If we go back for a moment and assume that the eastern Vale between the eaves of Mirkwood and the River is in fact suited to growing Leaf, where would one acquire the seeds (as it does not grow wild there, remember)?
Knowing that Bilbo passed east to Dale one final time following his Disappearance from the Shire, I wonder if he might have brought seeds to Wilderland?
More likely, I think, are the “light boats” known to have traveled between Wilderland and Osgiliath until shortly before the War of the Ring. As pipe-weed grew wild in Gondor, perhaps an enterprising individual—with prior knowledge of smoking and some knowledge of the herb—could have been a part of one of these ventures, and returned to his Rhovanion farmstead bearing seeds or a sample of that esteemed plant?