On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

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Udwin
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On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Udwin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:54 am

As I was pondering this issue in my kit thread, the ideas began to snowball outside the scope of a gear discussion and so I'm posting in the Culture forum.
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?

Whew! :mrgreen:
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Straelbora » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:12 am

Whew! is right! Great research and thought.

I think if one had acquired the habit of smoking pipeweed, so long as he lived along a major road or river where trade took place, it could be acquired.

For example: I spent 1982 in Paraguay, South America, as an exchange student. In Paraguay, parts of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, the tradition from the Guarani tribes came to the Europeans of drinking 'yerba mate,' also known as 'terere.' The leaves of the plant are dried, and then put in a gourd, cowhorn cup or other such vessel, along with, if you can imagine, a device that is like a metal straw with a spoon at the end, the spoon covered in a grate or mesh, so that the leaves stay out, but liquid can pass through. Water is then poured into the vessel with the leaves, and sucked through the spoon/strainer/straw. Especially in the hottest part of the year, literally gallons of water are imbibed via the yerba mate leaves. It's very cooling.

Since 1982, on a hit or miss basis, much moreso in the last 10 years or so, I am able to find yerba mate from South America. It's usually kind of stale, and often the leaves are crumbled to the point of powder, which clogs the strainer/straw. Nonetheless, I usually have enough to drink it on hot summer months.

So, I think your Man might get pipeweed, especially if he befriends someone who routinely trades a local product to Bree. It might not be the best, and it might be stale, but I think he could get his smoking in.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Udwin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:07 pm

That was my basic conclusion as well, Straelbora. If he wanted it, he could find a way to get it. Of course, fresh and local would be preferable to stale and imported, but I think either is feasible. The bit about Dwarves spreading the practice was the real key, when combined with my persona's proximity to a main (and recently re-opened) traderoute. That, and the line about river trading down to Gondor I find very intriguing.
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Ringulf » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:08 pm

Very nicely thought out. My original thoughts went along these lines for the most part, but I would say that your search for factual routes of aquisition may be a bit stringent. Great for proving the point, but not particularly taking into account the strong motivations or the nature of one who wishes to trade or use the product both socially or commercially.

As we said and has now been illuminated in your research, the leaf has two sources, in the time period you are considering. Let us for the moment focus on that time period alone.

A man in the Anduin Vales finds himself in a better situation at this point than he would have before the reclamation of Erebor and Dale. there is more trade, there is less isolation and the flow of trade has increased both North to South and East to West and vise versa.

This does open up the possability of these men "trying" the leaf and it becoming popular, even if it is not cultivated localy. We know the minds of Men are ever focussed on what they can't have and look at it as more of a challenge to obtain that which is difficult to obtain as a symbol of status and influence. "My he must be powerful and influential, he smokes Longbottom leaf right out of Eriedor! they say they role those packings on the creamy white thighs of Hobbit lasses!" Well now everyone needs to have a bowl and a small tavern propriator would be neglectful of his guests and foolish for not having the buisiness savey to include it in his offerings to boot.

The wandering dwarf making his way back and forth in these times from the Blue Mountains to Erebor and the Iron hills would see this opportunity as a cash crop worth investing in and spreading as a few small casks of the stuff carried with a merchants normal payload, might be well worth the trouble to parcel and sell as well as smoke and spread the recreation to a widening customer base.

So does it go North to South? Well let us remember that if only considering the Hobbit to Dwarf to Man triangle, or any combination there of, we have it traveling from West to East, and branching off that beltway of trade to the north and south of the East road, and seeing the Dwarves penchant for the stuff, The likelyhood of it's finding it's way into Dale and Esgeroth and then moving on down the Celduin trade route to Rhun and Dorwinian seems to be likely and perhaps even imminant.

From the other direction, you have an Easterling population that if paralleled with the real world, may have traded with the Gondorians early on (as is suggested by Tolkien, for you do not have wars with other cultures unless there is something of the other culture to have or not want to have, which precludes contact and commerce to establish these desires) and might even now have come into there own using Hookah like water pipes and such (conjectural of course, but again based as we do with weaponry upon the real world cultures that parallel Tolkiens created ones.) And finding the rare "Asdraig Blend" a major find to be bringing back north to Rhovanion and it's recreative smoking Dwarves by the Sindrian merchants and boat trading Dalemen.

So it might be that we have:
-Eastern smoking,
-Western leaf cultivation,
-Southern origins,
-lots of possibilities.

Now add to the mix that there may be a social desire for the substance and we wont even speculate on it's habitual or addictive properties that may go along with such implications made by PJ about the "Love of the Hafling's leaf!" and the addling of witts and all :wink:

I think we have a very strong case.
Now it is my hope that you would suffer my method as I would any other.
Of course it my method and is my opinion that there are two ways, at least, to go about figuring this type of question out. I think both are valid and need each other, but that is again just my opinion.

The way Udwin approaches it is scholarly and soscio scientific and gives us a very strong foundation. But let us remember that we do have a fictitious though cleverly and intricately devised world we are working with and we are often tricked by its' detail into making it absolute. So we need take into account the imagination of it's author as well as his knowlede and realize that Tolkien has written this into existance spotlighting certain areas with his words, but leaving the majority of it in the shadows uncertain.
I think like any good storyteller he does this for a reason. By doing so he leaves endless possibilities and does not paint himself into a corner. I feel we can benefit by that if we do not view Middle Earth and his creation through too powerful a looking-glass without the furtive imagination sitting on our shoulder to guide us. :mrgreen:
Last edited by Ringulf on Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Duathen » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:43 pm

Udwin, incredibly interesting topic - you certainly put a lot of thought into this! One would actually be surprised how long pipe tobacco will keep when stored in an airtight container, 10 years is not an unreasonable amount of time according to experienced smokers, so its very possible for sealed containers of pipe-weed to make rather long journeys.

That said I found this interesting article on trade: http://mindstalk.net/tradeInMiddleEarth.html. While it doesn't cite references, it makes some interesting assertions about trade throughout northeast Rhovanion and may suggest some areas where we might find further answers.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Udwin » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:03 am

That link is an interesting little essay, Duathen! I hadn't really thought about it before but as he points out, Gondor does seem a bit 'isolated' by the end of the Third Age, doesn't it? Then again, its greatest wealth seems to me to be 1) its heritage, 2) its relatively concentrated population, and 3) its fertile landbase (owing especially to the southern clime). Tolkien seemed to think he explained just enough about Gondor that the rest might be extrapolated:
"I am not incapable of or unaware of economic thought; and I think as far as the ‘mortals’ go, Men, Hobbits, and Dwarfs, that the situations are so devised that economic likelihood is there and could be worked out: Gondor has sufficient ‘townlands’ and fiefs with a good water and road approach to provide for its population; and clearly has many industries though these are hardly alluded to."
Letters, No. 154.


Michael Martinez's articles are also excellent secondary sources for 'filling in the gaps' of what Tolkien wrote. It was only after I'd decided on my Anduin persona and started doing more research that I realized I had read this piece long before (my subconscious must have filed it away until called upon)!
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Ringulf » Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:57 am

Excellent article!
I had not seen that one. I have convinced my gaming group to follow me into the RPG that is done by the One Ring. I love that it is centered around Rhovanion after the battle of 5 armies and before the fellowship. So it will be in the meat of this discusions time period. This has been a great thread and wonderful catylist for further thought, thank you Udwin! :mrgreen:
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Duathen » Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:45 pm

Udwin - that article was immensely entertaining, it reminded me somewhat of one of Howard's best Conan stories: Beyond the Black River. I'm adding Mr. Martinez's site to my list of bookmarks for further perusal. Also, I agree with Ringulf, thank you for sharing your analytical approach to research, I very much enjoyed it.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby herbcraft » Wed May 28, 2014 4:30 pm

I really think this is a pretty easy case to make.

1.) existance of the plant in the area


not necessary. Plants were the oldest and among the most valuable articles of trade in all cultures on the planet, and travelled immense distances. Tobacco (nicotiana rustica or N tabacum, the common smoking tobaccos), a new world plant, was very likely traded by some or another means across the atlantic between the americas and africa; traces of the plant having been found in Mummies in Egypt and in Sudan. While some posited that there's no evidence of transatlantic trade at that time and that perhaps the plants grew in eurasia and were collected to extinction, that seems far-fetched and really the only thing that supports that belief is ~disbelief~ in transatlantic travel. Tobacco, as far as any conculsive evidence shows, was native to south america and travelled throughout the western hemisphere via trade. So, proximity, in history, seems to have been a nonissue with regards to tobacco. Quite on the contrary, it may be the very archetype of the botanical article of trade.

2.) knowledge of cultivation of the plant


this as well seems an unnecessary prerequisite for smoking tobacco. Many plants throughout history and across cultures have been used - even extensively - without cultivation. Trade accounts for a lot of this, but we can also look at the use of wild relatives. Many wild nicotiana species were collected before (in most cases) there use was replaced by N. tabacum and N rustica, which were initially traded and then cultivated. But, ethnobotanically, it seems that most nicotiana species were smoked or used medicinally by whoever lived where they grew. It could very well be the case that just as several species of Nicotiana grew wild and were used in north america (to varying degrees), the same is true of nicotiana in middle earth. This, in my mind, would fit really well with the hobbits "discovering" and growing the first "true leaf"... which may mean that they created much more pleasant cultivars and perfected the curing of tobacco.

3.) knowledge of the art of smoking it


here, we should remember that tobacco is only one of literally thousands of plants that have been smoked, for a slew of reasons (http://www.amazon.com/Uses-Abuses-Plant ... 0195370015). The use of inhaled smoke, ethnobotanically, extends into prehistory. It's kind of a no brainer that when the use of fire was learned and people noted the differing smells and effects of various burning plants (some good, some bad), that the intentional inhalation of smoke would develop, in whatever world this occurred in. People would naturally discover some of the medicinal uses of smoke, and then from that recreational use would naturally develop. And while great debate exists about when "smoking" as we deem it - via pipes or other implements like phragmites reed - began, we can find evidence of the use of inhaled smoke from many plants throughout the world. So, ~smoking~ was a known entity, and if someone was presented with tobacco, it's entirely reasonable that they would try smoking it as one way of implementing it.

more concretely, there's a great paper that discusses the oldest tobacco pipe yet found in the pacific northwest:
` http://www.academia.edu/1946376/Hunter- ... th_America

this establishes tobacco as being smoked and likely cultivated by at least 860 AD, and shows extensive routes of trade.

That being the case, the spread of tobacco smoking through a much smaller middle earth is entirely feasible and probably likely.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby ineffableone » Wed May 28, 2014 5:35 pm

Herbcraft, you mention the burning and smoking of "other plants", the chillum is a smoking device that is known to be 3000-5000 years old. And while seemingly simple it is actually a pretty sophisticated device. And while the Chillum from India gets all the press, they have also been found in South America.
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Re: On pipe-weed in Wilderland (long and scholarly warning!)

Postby Ringulf » Mon Jun 02, 2014 2:40 pm

Herbcraft,
Very nice to see the subject laid out from the Herbal point of view! I was hoping you would chime in, with your knowledge of herblore I knew we could count on still another perspective. Well done.
Udwin every time I read this through I am more impressed with the scholerly treatise you have formulated as well, I love these sorts of threads, they really make you think and discuss, thanks! :mrgreen:
A heartening sight by Day or Night, Dwarven warriors bold! To add their Might to any Fight, Precious more than Gold! A Dwarven friend is to the end, Never shall they fail! Their word does not bend, wherever they wend,
through Cavern, Hill or Dale!"

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