So this is a minor nitpick, but it's been bugging me for a little while now.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, we can see that Gandalf is a casual pipe smoker; he seems quite adept at it, even able to create a ship with his smoke. Even Saruman calls him out on his "love for the halflings' leaf", so we can imagine that Gandalf is used to smoking.

However, when we see him smoking at Minas Tirith, he has a coughing fit with the first or second puff, and he seems to be showing some discomfort.

Why is that? Were any explanation given (in or out-of-universe) to why Gandalf coughs at this point?

  • 3
    I thought it showed he was uneasy in himself, and even a pipe of leaf couldn't settle him, but good question . . . Nov 30, 2022 at 16:17
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    Is this the first time Gandalf the White has smoked pipeleaf in the movie?
    – chepner
    Nov 30, 2022 at 16:22
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    @chepner- yes it is, something to do with his new "purity" so it's not something he can enjoy anymore
    – Radhil
    Nov 30, 2022 at 17:41
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    Don't all smokers cough?
    – Chenmunka
    Nov 30, 2022 at 20:20
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    Maybe the tobacco is some poor Gondorian brand rather than Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby or Southern Star. :-) Nov 30, 2022 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


Described by Sir Ian as "anti-smoking propaganda" in the Cast and Crew extended Edition Audio Commentary

IM: We do, for those who are rabidly anti-smoking, put in enough anti-smoking propaganda and one of them is the 'catch in the throat' that Gandalf has during this scene with Pippin [coughs dramatically] and water had to be brought and we integrated it into this scene, as if Pippin didn't quite approve of the rate at which Gandalf smoked.

The implication is that Gandalf is stressed and smoking more than usual, hence his smoker's cough.

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    Notably, there's nothing in the script direction about what Gandalf is doing at the start of this scene.
    – Valorum
    Nov 30, 2022 at 21:01
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    I also note that there is at least one production photo of Ian McKellen in costume as Gandalf smoking a cigarette —and he was, and it seems, still is, a long-time smoker, which would explain the "anti-smoking propaganda" line. Dec 1, 2022 at 3:03
  • Well then, this settles it. Thanks Valorum, nice catch.
    – Orlahm
    Dec 1, 2022 at 8:21
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    And as though Pippin does not also smoke heavily!
    – Lexible
    Jul 15, 2023 at 1:41

I like to think it's because Gandalf was smoking inferior Gondorian pipe weed.

After all, I think we can assume that Pippin- who smokes too much, according to Merry- would gladly have been having a smoke if it was any good. I would also point out that Gandalf looks at the pipe with disgust before tossing it away, which seems like the kind of reaction you might expect from someone who is used to smoking the fine pipe weed of the Shire.

  • 1
    A good answer should be based on evidence from an official source, not just one's own personal headcanon. Jul 15, 2023 at 0:27
  • @LogicDictates I cited internal evidence. It's thin, but it's evidence. Downvote if you wish.
    – Rick
    Jul 15, 2023 at 1:39

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