After going under the earth in Waitomo, our next stop took us to see Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings enthusiasts already know this, but for the rest of my readers, Hobbiton is the permanent movie set location where all of the scenes from the Shire were filmed for director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. It’s actually located in the middle of a huge private family farm, and was originally intended to be torn down after the movies were completed. They had halfway completed tearing it down in the early 2000’s, but then rebuilt it permanently in 2011 for the filming of the Hobbit trilogy. It is now a popular tourist attraction that garners millions of dollars and visitors from all over the world every year.
Our tour guide, Dave, was full of fascinating stories about the making of the Lord of the Rings. One tidbit that stood out to me was the fact that about 1/3 of visitors to Hobbiton have never seen any of the movies or read any of the books – they are largely grandparents who go simply to make their kids and grandkids jealous, haha. I particularly enjoyed Dave’s explanations of how the creators of the movies used forced perspective to make it look like the normal-sized actors were actually Hobbit-sized, such as having small hobbit holes on one side of the road and large hobbit holes on the other, or making the hobbits walk several feet behind their human companions, to make it look like they were smaller.
Dave also had plenty of anecdotes about Peter Jackson’s directoral brilliance / insanity – at times it was hard to tell which term was more accurate. He told us about how they spent months constructing a large part of Hobbiton that only showed up for a couple of seconds in only 1 of the 6 films that were shot there. We heard about how Peter Jackson imported hundreds of black-faced sheep from Scotland, even though the farm already had thousands of white-faced sheep. Or about how he insisted on hand-wiring on hundreds of thousands of fake leaves to the oak tree above Bilbo Baggins’ house, and then decided that the leaves were the wrong shade of green, so the set designers had to unwire the leaves, paint them a different shade of green, and then re-wire them back. Dave even gave me a leaf that was partially painted with both shades of green as a souvenir :).
Our tour through Hobbiton concluded at the famous Green Dragon pub, where we got to spend some time enjoying our amber ale and ginger beer in front of the crackling fire and enormous hand-carved wooden dragon. We wrapped up right as the rain started coming down in torrents, so at least Michael and I had some fun stories from our time in Middle Earth to laugh about as we continued our drive through New Zealand, since there wasn’t much to see of the countryside through the pouring rain. Overall, it was a delightful little day trip that I throughly enjoyed and would definitely recommend, but probably would not go to again – I didn’t enjoy it quite enough to pay those overpriced admission prices a second time!