Many decades after I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit I was walking among the Hobbit homes (holes). And proving to myself that they were more than fictional little hairy-toed creatures.
After immersing myself in the grand trilogy of New Zealander Peter Jackson’s stupendous movies effort of the Lord Of The Rings – yes – all three mighty movies (seen several times over), I had been intrigued by the art direction and the glorious locations throughout New Zealand (with a healthy LOTR geeky obsession). I had visited a few (outside Christchurch and near Wellington) and while strolling around the area acting quite ladylike – I was happily squealing on the inside.
When I heard that Hobbiton was real real estate I was ecstatic.
When location scouts found the Alexanders’ spectacular 1250-acre sheep and beef farm in 1998, just outside of the town of Matamata (90 minutes drive south of Auckland), it was clear this would be the perfect setting for Sir (he is now) Peter Jackson’s adaptation of these classic works by Tolkien.
This bucolic setting for The Shire, home of the Hobbits, including Bag End, was right there, and just waiting for the magical director’s touch – and the work of hundreds in building, creating, painting, designing and bringing to life the wondrous place.
Earth moving equipment provided by the New Zealand army came in to do the heavy lifting in 1999. The army built a 1.km road into the site and undertook initial set development.
There were 39 Hobbit Holes created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata.
Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree. Thatch for the roofs of the Green Dragon Inn and The Mill were cut from rushes around Alexander farm.
When they were rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy in 2009,these structures were built out of permanent materials including an artificial tree made out of steel and silicon. This entire reconstruction process took two years.Today the set is maintained to keep the magic of The Shire alive.
If you believe all that, you’ll believe anything. Hobbiton is a real place where real Hobbits live, bake bread, eat cakes and drink wine and mead and tell fantastical tales of a time gone by about elves, orcs, wizards and brave knights . . .and jewellery . . . especially some ring.
Writer Bev Malzard met several Hobbits in New Zealand but has kept them out of this post to respect their privacy.
It cost NZ$79 for the tour of Hobbiton (worth every dollar).