The great wizard - and mythic clincher of very long Churchwardens - Gandalf the Grey is returning to the big screen next week, and he is bringing with him a troop of rowdy dwarves and a slightly reluctant hobbit - all of which come equipped with plenty of pipes and halfling pipeweed.
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey guarantees to bring a grand adventure of sword fights, fire-breathing dragons, conjurers of cheap tricks (okay, maybe not those), heroes, villains and... like in his previous Middle Earth journeys, plenty of Churchwardens and tobacco. This is a rare thing. Good guys - leading heroes and not just a gruff sidekick or bit player - enjoying their tobacco with no admonishing “You need to quit; it’s bad for you” or other negative connotations.
So we have the host of heroes in the first Lord of the Rings movies (and books, of course), Sherlock Holmes, Santa Claus, Popeye and Frosty. Of course, I can’t recall any of the last two actually using their pipes. If you read fantasy, you could add Elminster and his floating, capped Oom Paul and a host of other mages you’ll find hiding out in the Fantasy section. But mages of various varieties aside, there is not much else. I seem to remember the old Darrin from Bewitched and a few other father/husband figures from early television, or more recently a couple of characters from Mad Men, but I don’t see them as very inspiring heroes that you might cling to and seek to emulate in some way.
I cannot speak for every pipe enthusiast, but my interest in pipes came from literary heroes, like those mentioned above, particularly the mages and Holmes. I toyed often with the idea of picking up the pipe whenever one of them would come to the foreground of popular culture or my readings. However, it wasn’t until recently that I finally made the leap, with the modest purchase of a Savinelli “Qandale” Churchwarden (a series dedicated to the Grey Wizard of Middle Earth -- Yeah, I’m a bit of a fanboy. I accept this).
And I think several other modern pipe smokers probably find themselves picking up the pipe for the similar reason. They see a powerful fellow like Gandalf puffing on a Churchwarden and think to themselves that is pretty cool, and go to the web to see where they can get one. The last time Peter Jackson took us on a journey to Middle Earth, the pipe industry jumped on board with licensed reproductions of the movie’s props, articles in industry magazines and every other marketing technique to make sure those seekers find what they are looking for. I have little doubt we will see a similar occurrence with The Hobbit.
I have already seen people reaching out to the Internet for answers to their desire for a “hobbit pipe” or “halfling pipe weed” or “a wizard’s pipe.” There will be more after the movie premiers. In all likelihood, most of these new seekers will move on to the next big thing, say speculating on Disney’s Star Wars VII, without ever getting a pipe. A few will get a licensed prop replica, stick it on their mantle and forget about it until a wild New Year’s Eve party leaves them with a spinning head, a near empty pack of cigarettes and the sudden idea that will probably not end well. Finally a few will get a pipe--maybe not a licensed reproduction, maybe not even a churchwarden--and some good pipe tobacco, pack the bowl, light up...and fall in love.
To those of you that made it that far, welcome aboard, and may you enjoy many long cool smokes.
Eric Squires: Copywriter