Smoking with Tolkien: Capstan – Original Navy Cut


J.R.R. Tolkien wrote without an outline using only the thoughts gathered in his head over long hours of smoking his pipe and staring into a fireplace. Sitting at his typewriter, head wreathed in smoke, he pounded out a first draft of the Lord of the Rings mythos, and then discarded it, beginning again from scratch. As the story took form, it left behind a litter of empty blue-painted cans of tobacco.

The tobacco was Capstan Original Navy Cut. Members of his family remember the tins proliferating around the house and being used to store household items. When Tolkien and other members of his literary group The Inklings met, nicotine burned in abundance, and they could be found by following the trail of smoke. In his books, Tolkien inserted characters finding great comfort and wisdom in their pipes much as he did in his.


As part of a recent binge of writings by Tolkien and fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis, this writer has indulged in their favorite tobaccos. Capstan Original Navy Cut comes in “flake” form, having been pressed into table-sized cakes and then sliced into wafers about a third the size of a playing card. These are either stuffed into the pipe or “rubbed out” which converts them into ribbons of tobacco. Throughout this experiment, the thought lingers at the back of the mind: why this tobacco, and does it resemble the Longbottom Leaf or Old Toby of his legends?

Original Navy Cut is composed of pure Virginias, but the pressing and aging has converted some of their sugar and acid into a more hay-like flavor, the partial decomposition of the leaf having released its most irksome elements. What remains is a sweet smoke, with slightly more Nicotine (PBUH) than the average medium smoke, which burns evenly and rewards small “sips” or short slow puffs, as one might take while hammering out words on a typewriter. It also admirably complements the smell of typewriter ribbon, for whatever that is worth.

Virginia flakes such as this tend to appeal to either new smokers who want a blend that is sweet and strong like a cigarette, or to the experienced who can nurse a pipe for hours. Since Tolkien was a master pipe smoker, he fit the latter category, and apparently always kept a pipe going with this and other blends to power himself through late-night endurance test writing sessions. And we can enjoy the results, and the metal inspired by them.

Tags: ,

19 thoughts on “Smoking with Tolkien: Capstan – Original Navy Cut

  1. vOddy says:

    The Lord of the Rings is my favourite (fictional) book that I have read.
    I have read other good ones, but none have the mythical quality of The Lord of the Rings.
    I actually think that it’s under rated, despite its popularity and acclaim. People think of it as just a great fantasy novel. I think that it is so much more.

  2. vOddy says:

    It belongs somewhere in between other fantasy novels, and texts like the eddas.

  3. OliveFox says:

    Always wanted to try Original NC, but you seem underwhelmed by its lack of complexity, maybe I’ll pass on it unless I get on another Tolkien kick sometime soon.

    Have you ever read Till We Have Faces? Under-rated Lewis novel that always gets the short shrift in favor of Narnia, Space Trilogy, etc.

  4. Daniel Maarat says:

    The Lord of the Rings sort of stands on its own as a fictional mythological tale. The original Conan stories and novels actually have much better character development and plotting but are swords and sorcery pulp fiction. They’re different literary genres despite both being fantasy.

  5. jinko says:

    fuck yeaah. just loaded12 gauge spunkies in the dmt pipe.
    gonna teleport my ass str8t back 2 the middle-earth

  6. hhhhhh says:

    Tolkien was a fag and so are his fans. His books have absolutely nothing of merit within them. The time spent reading his aberrations might as well have been spent on fisting your ass or spreading breast cancer awareness.

    1. vOddy says:

      It’s not just about the book, it’s about the mythology.
      How many fun books are there about Scandinavian mythology?
      I would say, not that many.
      I’m sure that the poetic edda is cool in its original language, but translated and in modern swedish / norwegian, it’s kind of a mess.
      But that’s not the point. It is a gateway to a great world.

      1. hhhhhh says:

        I rather read actual books about Scandinavian mythology rather than ‘fun’ books loosely based on it. “Oh, but real books are hard to read! I have to learn new words, even in Old Norse!” Do you see the absurdity of your argument?

        1. vOddy says:

          My “argmuent” is very simple.
          The texts that contain knowledge of Norse mythology are not fun to read in themselves. Their value lies in the stimulation of imagination by presenting parts of an interesting world.
          It is the exact same with The Lord of the Rings.

          1. jinko says:

            vOddy were are you man, you remind me of my old friend from bulgaria?

          2. hhhhhh says:

            What you are implying is that reality is uninteresting, or in other words, you are uninterested in reality. My point that Tolkien is pure escapism stands. Do you read tolkien because you can pretend to have magic powers while in reality everyone shits all over you? Why don’t you actually read things that will improve you so then your life in reality will improve? Nah, fuck it. It’s just easier to take the soma.

    2. adrian jinko mcqueero says:

      hhhhhh must stand for hhhhhhater u no wut im sayin

      1. jinko says:

        haha u know it

        1. jinko says:

          but srsly why b haterrs?? sure we all got sum angst-demons swiming round our fuckin lonely pants, but you bruz’s gotta learn to RELEASE and belieeve in yo self. that’s why you should occasionally listen to a bit of rage against the machine, korn or something.. and dat smoke,, wat. you dont worry about yo fuckin lungs man??>? \m/

  7. AK-47 says:

    Also look up Lord of the Rings by Bo Hansson for some good Tolkien pipe smoking music.

    1. jinko says:

      man I hope this user isn’t who i think it is, cos I been missin yo ass. hows it been?

      1. AK-47 says:

        It’s been good. When are you coming back to Osaka?

  8. RW says:

    Not to be pedantic but Remember Tomorrow is actually about World War II. The All Seeing Eye refers to the searchlights. I wonder what tobacco Dianno’s grandfather (a WWII pilot) smoked– probably navy.

    1. RW says:

      Love the Metallica version of this song– they truly are the best cover band in the world. I wish they’d cover some of their own songs since 1990 and make them good.

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: