What’s in Popeye’s Hookah?

|| Popeye smoking a hookah ||Dana Larsen posted a link to this comic book cover in a comment to my recent post about her story on Alternet. In her story she points out many drug references in the Popeye stories and argues that “Popeye’s strength-giving spinach is meant as a clear metaphor for the miraculous powers of marijuana.” Here is her comment:

I am Dana Larsen, the author of the article you linked to about Popeye’s spinach being a metaphor for marijuana.

I thought your readers might like to see this Popeye cover from October 1939, drawn by Joseph Musial. I only came across this cover recently, after I had written the original article posted on Alternet. The comic cover shows Popeye lounging among pillows in an Arabian sort of tent, smoking out of a hookah labelled “Spinach.”

This cover illustration shows that, to at least some people involved in the early formation of the Popeye comics, the spinach/marijuana connection was obvious, and not something they were ashamed of, as King Comics put it prominently on the cover.


Thanks for the update, Dana. The hookah-smoking-Popeye cover is great. I do not, however, quite get the Arab-Marijuana connection. Maybe this a cultural perception of 1930s Americans? Most Arabs I’ve met were devout Muslims and quite opposed to any form of drug use.

2 Responses to “What’s in Popeye’s Hookah?”

  1. rasheed Says:

    I guess it is a cultural perception of the 1930s. I’m arabic and I know as a fact that Marijuana use is less spread among the arabic culture than other western cultures. The use of the hookah, however is popular, but it is used to smoke flavored tobacco. You can find more information about this at http://www.thehookahstore.com

  2. Dana Larsen Says:

    Europeans associated cannabis with Arabs because it was popular among muslims in Egypt during the 1700s and 1800s. In the early 1800s, Napoleon’s troops picked up the hashish habit while they were in Egypt, and brought it back to France.

    In the mid-1800s, the French “Hashish Club” – made up of the era’s best writers – would dress up like Arabs and eat hash-infused jam.

    Interestingly, hashish is still popular among many muslims in Egypt today.