Please do me a favour and before you read anymore, start playing this song.
If within the first 10 seconds you’re not feeling anything, then perhaps this little old post isn’t for you.
Let me start off by saying what will become blatantly obvious: I bloody love Lord of the Rings.
I read The Hobbit when I was 10-years-old and I vividly remember how quickly I devoured that book and became captivated with Middle Earth. It may not have been my beloved Harry Potter, but good Lord I adored it.
It took me a fair few years before reading Lord of the Rings and admittedly I did watch the films before reading the book(s). I’m sorry, I know this could cause upset but I may as well be honest with you.
As an aspiring writer, particularly one with an interest in fantasy, I have so much admiration for JRR Tolkien. He created an entire world, an entire language and such a wonderful array of creatures. If I ever write my own book, his world building will act as a huge inspiration for me.
The person who introduced me to the films and lent me the books was my brother. Lord of the Rings reminds me of a him so much, and anytime I drive through scenic New Zealand, I think of how much he would love it out here – the real life Middle Earth.
When I first arrived in New Zealand, it was somewhat ridiculous how excited I would get if I saw anything that reminded me of Hobbiton. One of my first days in Auckland I stopped to admire this tree because it looked like it could be in The Shire. (That’s quite possibly one of the nerdiest sentences I’ve ever written.)
The number one thing I wanted to do in New Zealand was pay a visit to Hobbiton. However, I was based in Wellington and working full time to save up to see the country. It took me almost exactly a year to get to Hobbiton and it was so satisfyingly worth it.
During the drive from Waitomo to Matamata (home of Hobbiton) the sky was gloomy and overcast. I felt my heart sink slightly down my chest. I had been desperately hoping for blue skies. It doesn’t matter, I told myself firmly, you’re still getting to see it.
We drove through the rolling green hills with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack playing – for dramatic effect when reading this next bit, please feel free to listen to the song I listed earlier – grey sky aside, I was getting giddy with excitement.
We arrived at the gift shop and ticket office; there was by far the largest crowd I had ever seen since living in New Zealand. My friend’s scathing words of “It’s such a tourist trap,” came to mind, but were instantly followed by my own thought of “I know. I don’t care. I am a tourist!”
Was I tempted to buy the entire gift shop? Maybe. Am I writing this whilst wearing a t-shirt with a big map of Middle Earth on it? Possibly. I think I showed pretty good self-restraint.
Before I could buy Saruman’s staff, the group and I purchased our tickets and boarded the bus which would take us to the Hobbiton movie set. The driver played Lord of the Rings movie scenes enroute and I could not stop grinning.
We were at the entrance, the Hobbiton sign in sight and the gate so tantalisingly close. The sun burst out and the sky became a radiant blue. People hastily applied suncream and put on their sunglasses, the Brits in the group quick to comment on how bloody hot it was.
We walked through the gate on this brand new sunny day and Hobbiton was right there – my childhood love of fantasy, my love of this world, was right here in front of me. I was finally seeing it. My heart fluttered, my palms tingled and my grin got even bigger.
The attention to detail with this set was astounding. From the chimney pots in the hills, the miniature clothes lines, to the groomed gardens outside each hobbit hole. Some holes had the hobbit’s profession outside them. A beekeeper had a painted bee and honey pots. A fishermen had a fishing rod and fake fish. You get the idea. On such a beautiful day, everything practically glowed and was so delightfully colourful. It was literally just like the film. I couldn’t have been happier.
As we walked round, the guide told us behind the scenes story and how carefully crafted Peter Jackson created this place. For instance, a line in the Hobbit that caught Jackson’s attention described hobbit children playing in plum trees. He wanted to use this in the film, however human children don’t fit in plum trees, so Jackson got apple trees, made the crew pick off all of the leaves and replace them. The end result of children playing in a ‘plum tree’ is only in the extended edition and the shot lasts for two seconds.
Our tour guide was full of facts like that and they gave even more life to the vibrant set. Hats off for the people who organised these tour groups. Each group was shown around their certain route and there was little overlap between parties. It meant everyone had time to take their photos and admire the set, without it being overwhelmingly bursting with people.
Every so often, when walking around or stopping for a picture outside yet another adorable hobbit hole, I couldn’t help myself and would make a little “eeeep” of excitement. It was like getting to step into a fairy tale for the afternoon. A highlight was standing outside Bilbo Baggins’s hobbit hole on top of the hill. The sign ‘No admittance except for party business” was there. I tried and failed to keep my shit together.
Near the end of the tour, we walked across the bridge to get to the Green Dragon Inn and got given a complimentary beer or cider. Yours truly was unable to resist saying:
“This my friend is a pint.”
I looked out across Hobbiton, sipping my cider, taking in the fantastically green hills and the gloriously blue lake reflecting the sky. I never wanted to leave. I wish I could live here.
Of course, we had to go eventually. The day was so perfect, the grin stuck on my face for days.