holiday gift issue 2023

What I Got a Nonsmoker Who Wanted a Pipe

Illustration: Pete Gamlen

In the summer of 2021, my boyfriend, Alex, and I watched The Green Knight, A24’s adaptation of an Arthurian legend. The online screening came with a bonus feature: Ralph Ineson, the actor who plays the Green Knight, reads aloud from J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” while smoking a pipe. Delightfully, the bowl of the pipe appeared to be carved in the shape of the Green Knight’s head. Alex turned to me and said, “That pipe would be an amazing gift.”

Alex doesn’t smoke. He does, however, love movies, excess, and whimsy. I added “Green Knight pipe” to the note on my phone labeled “Alex presents,” excited to crush his holiday gift. So began my hunt. I searched for “Green Knight pipe” on Google and Twitter — nothing useful — and scrolled through dozens of Etsy listings for handmade Green Knight merch and green-glass pipes. The holidays passed, but for a year and a half, I repeated this search every few months. Two weeks before Alex’s birthday this year, I vowed to try harder. First I sent an embarrassing email to an A24 publicist asking if she had any intel on the pipe. (No reply.) Then I decided that if I couldn’t find the actual pipe, I would commission a similar model, like some deranged patron of the arts.

Obsession breeds madness — or genius. While perusing a wood-working website, I found an artist who specialized in carvings of the “Green Man,” a motif depicting a man made of leaves. Had I been using the wrong search term this whole time? I plugged “Green Man pipe” into Google and there it was: a pipe just like the one I was after, available for purchase on a website called Meerschaum Market. I reached out and asked if the site had sold Ineson’s pipe. A few hours later, I received a response, later corroborated by A24: It had. Before Alex had even opened the pipe’s bulbous leather case, he knew what his present was. He loves it, even though he has never used it, but I think I love it more.

Editor’s note: The Green Man pipe is currently unavailable, but you can find many other pipes of mythological figures, like this Zeus pipe, on Meerschaum Market’s website.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

What I Got a Nonsmoker Who Wanted a Pipe