Saturday, October 10, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker (Fictional): Gandalf


"Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

Gandalf, a.k.a. Mithrandir, The Grey Wanderer, Olórin, Tharkûn, and many other names. Another character whom it would be pointless for me to say much about; anything I could say you probably already know.

Gandalf picked up pipe-smoking from the hobbits of the Shire, and enjoyed the past-time immensely when he had enough time to relax with a pipe. He was an expert at blowing smoke-rings, able to command them to float about the room and even change color. Whether this was due to his Wizardly powers, or perhaps a power he gained as a side-effect of wearing Narya, the Ring of Fire, is unknown.
At last Gandalf pushed away his plate and jug--he had eaten two whole loaves (with masses of butter and honey and clotted cream) and drunk at least a quart of mead--and he took out his pipe. "I will answer the second question first," he said, "--but bless me! this is a splendid place for smoke rings!" Indeed for a long time they could get nothing more out of him, he was so busy sending smoke-rings dodging round the pillars of the hall, changing them into all sorts of different shapes and colours, and setting them at last chasing one another out of the hole in the roof. They must have looked very queer from outside, popping out into the air one after another, green, blue, red, silver-grey, yellow, white; big ones, little ones; little ones dodging through big ones and joining into figure-eights, and going off like a flock of birds into the distance.

--excerpt from The Hobbit

In the illustration above we see him from a detail of An Unexpected Party by the Brothers Hildebrandt, smoking a fairly large but conventional pipe with an apple or perhaps acorn bowl and a slightly bent stem; the kind of pipe that could be stored safely and retrieved easily--ideal for a wandering Wizard who might have to pick up and leave at a moment's notice. Bilbo's pipe, on the other hand, is obviously a "house pipe," not meant to be used while traveling, which is a reasonable pipe for Bilbo since Hobbits generally didn't like to travel too much. Elegant, perhaps, at first glance, but try to imagine how it would look if he actually had the bit in his mouth. Without a bend in the end of the stem this pipe would be extremely difficult to smoke and probably impossible to light in the first place. The Hildebrandts did an excellent job with this piece of art; however, I don't think they gave much serious thought to the mechanics of pipe smoking.

Above is the full illustration (click to enlarge). This is one of my favorite scenes from any of the four books, and is filled with activity and things I enjoy: good company, a roaring fire, pipe smoking and music. Here we may also see some dwarfish pipe smoking. Thorin (if I'm not mistaken) on the left, managing to play his harp and smoke a pipe at the same time. On the right we have Balin (or possibly Dwalin), according to my sources, who is smoking his pipe while (incredibly!) simultaneously playing the cello or bass viol.

For other LotR-related pipe smokers, see Bilbo Baggins, Gimli, son of Gloín, and J.R.R. Tolkien. For more pictures of Gandalf and a discussion of them, please click on PowerOfBabel: Gandalf.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful post. I am constantly reading this book, and start it again the moment I finish it (if not the next morning). I just finished reading the unexpected party again. It's hard not to envy anyone who could live in a world that is greener and less busy than our own. More time to enjoy good pipes and good beer. Also, I'm really impressed with your cellar!