Certainly the poster child for drug reference fantasy stories, did Lewis Carroll ever reveal just what his 3 inch long blue "Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar" character smoked in his bubble pipe while giving advice to Alice in 1865's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", or was it left up to our collective imagination?


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    He was probably smoking hookah. – OghmaOsiris Jul 16 '12 at 3:27
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    The purest Afghan Opium... Duuu! – Mark Rogers Jul 16 '12 at 15:26
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    you might also be interested in the answers to this question I asked over on History-SE – DQdlM Jul 16 '12 at 19:19
  • @DQdlM Nice. A +1 comment if I ever saw one! – Major Stackings Jul 16 '12 at 20:04
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    He's actually smoking an anti-psychotic making him the only sane creature in the drug trip that is Wonderland. – IG_42 Jul 10 '18 at 21:55

Your question sent me off to read about the history of marijuana smoking in England, though I haven't found much reliable information. From Wikipedia I could find a study, prompted by certain phrases used by Shakespeare in the 16th/17th century, finding traces of cannabis in pipes buried in Shakespeare's home town:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
Shakespeare, Sonnet 76

However, even if this does indicate that marijuana consumption wasn't unknown in England before Carrol's days (which it does very weakly) it still doesn't imply that Lewis Carrol himself smoked marijuana (despite extremely flaky claims such as the fifth paragraph here), or that he was familiar enough with the habit to insert it into his rather hallucinogenic fantasy world.

Some googling for "lewis carrol marijuana" and variants thereof led me to many "Was Lewis Carrol advocating marijuana usage?" pages, but nearly all were on marijuana and cannabis advocacy sites that don't even try to present any evidence (see here or here).

In short, since tobacco smoking was well-known and popular in Victorian England, and the hookah was becoming known after the conquest of India, I see no reason to assume cannabis was in the caterpillar's hookah.

That is not to say that evidence for other hallucinogenic drugs can't be found. This is just my 15 minutes' worth of research. :)

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    "Weed" used to be a slang term for tobacco, so it is not evidence of marijuana use. – Martha Jul 17 '12 at 14:01
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    @Martha: the "weed" reference was what prompted the study. The evidence itself is remains of cannabis found on pipes. And for the down-voters - could you be more explicit in your feedback? – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Jul 18 '12 at 17:49
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    Smoking pure marijuana from a hookah is very difficult cause the burning process is very different. It must be mixed with lots tobacco anyway. – Sulthan Jun 5 '14 at 15:29

Hookahs are designed different than bongs. Rather than lighting the substance on fire you use coals to heat the substance.

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Most hookahs are used to smoke flavored tobacco rather than marijuana, but due to the chemicals and the shear volume of smoke a person can consume over smoking a cigarette, the effects are quite different than regular smoking. Although my "stoner" friends say it was "pot" the caterpillar was smoking, I have no reason to think it was anything other than the normal substance they used in a hooka back then and today.


Lewis never said. The illustrator in the original Alice In Wonderland put tobacco plants - you can tell by the flowers - next to the caterpillar. I don't think there was any intention to suggest anything else.

(What Disney may have intended to suggest - who knows. First ask why they made him blue...)

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    excellent point that Disney may have intended something Carroll didn't. – FoxMan2099 Dec 26 '13 at 20:37

Opium I bet.
I've been watching Alice: Madness Returns and it's a very Chinese oriented, and in the Eastern regions in general it was produced a lot, and of course it started in England.

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    What are you basing this on? Can you offer any actual evidence? – Valorum Jun 5 '18 at 13:29
  • In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her gang fall asleep after the smelling the sent of Opium Poppies. But that movie is not very Chinese orientated, is it not? – Mr Pie Jul 11 '18 at 6:42

he was either smoking Shisha (flavored hookah tobacco) or a variety of Marijuana of some sort. it is known that Carrol was a known Marijuana and Opium user, which is where the creativity for the story came from. i should expect that it would be Shisha but we will never really know

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    Do you have any references? I for one believed that the drug induced creativity was in fact a myth, and the story was inspired more by the changing nature of mathematics in his time... – Mac Cooper Jun 5 '14 at 14:45

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