During my three days in Rotorua, I took the opportunity to visit Hobbiton, near the town of Matamata. For any fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit, Hobbiton is a must-see. Since it is Peter Jackson movies which gave me the idea of visiting New Zealand, I would not miss that (despite the fairly substantial ticket price).
Meeting then at 8am, Tuesday, June 14, at the official Hobbiton store of Rotorua. Waiting for the shuttle bus, I appreciate the derived objects and replicas of the movies and the beautiful statue of Gandalf. (Ohlala if Gandalf’s pipe was cheaper, it would have ended right in my pocket!). And I take the opportunity to look at a book listing all the movies sets in New Zealand (inspiration for my future trips!). A bus with the colors of the Shire (so green dominance for those who don’t follow) arrives and the driver takes us to the location, telling us stories about the area on the way. After 1 hour of bus through the Waikato region, the village reveal itself behind rolling hills. We meet our guide and the tour group begins. (Yes, Hobbiton can only be visited with a guide and in a limited time. Really not what I prefer. But this is the only way to counter the accessories thieves !).
Hobbiton village of the Hobbits is situated in the Shire, which according to the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien is like rural England of the Middle Ages. Peter Jackson then looking, in 1998 for the film sets of Lord of the Rings and loving his country (I understand perfectly), find the perfect place on an isolated farm of the Alexander family a few km from Matamata. Some discussions with owners and contracts signed later, construction begins in 1999. Yes, Hobbiton had to be built from scratch! 37 hobbits holes, the Green Dragon Tavern, the bridge and the windmill are built according to preliminary sketches. With as keyword, “old”. As Tolkien wrote, Hobbiton is supposed to be hundreds of years. Everything must appear old enough. False lichen on fences, cracks in beams … Last detail, a tree is missing above Bag End, the home of Bilbo! A tree nearby is then uprooted and replanted. But it does not have enough leaves according to the vision of Peter Jackson. Hop hop hop, nevermind, plastic leafs are purchased, painted by hand and then stuck on the tree. Lights, camera, action! 5 seconds on the tree in question. Good work guys!
The tour continues full of interesting anecdotes about the attention to detail of Peter Jackson and the will to transcribe the vision of Tolkien into reality. The question about perspective is very important, hobbits being much smaller than humans. So there are different sizes of hobbit holes and accessories for the purpose of filming. Each house has its own atmosphere and I marvel as I stroll through the village and garden. It’s just like in the movies! I tread on the ground of the Shire! Big emotion in front of Sam Gamgie’s house and course in front of Bag End and the sign “No admittance except on party business”.
After shooting the trilogy Lord of the Rings, Hobbiton is half destroyed and neglected! Accessories are repatriated in the studios of Wellington and the holes become sheep shelters !! Fortunately the success of the films result in the production of the Hobbit trilogy. And in 2011, Peter Jackson and his team come back to Hobbiton. This time, the location is fully preserved and tours are set up to show to the world how a village of hobbits looks like in reality.
Last stop of our journey, the Green Dragon Tavern where a drink (alcoholic or not) is waiting for us. As I walk inside, I see Pippin, Merry, Frodo and Sam dancing on the tables at the beginning of the first film!
Unfortunately we must already go back to the bus, our time in the village being finished. I leave the Shire unwillingly. Especially as the sun finally cleared the clouds and illuminate the beautiful rolling green meadows on which is built Hobbiton.
Back in Rotorua, with a very strong envy to see again all the movies. On the other side, I can not help but to be a little disappointed with my visit. First the weather was gray (even foggy and rainy when the bus dropped us) and it was full of people! Even in winter, there are plenty of groups! So, not much time to stroll around the village, it is like a race to see everything and it’s noisy. I struggled to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the place and as we can’t even enter the holes, I left with a mixed feeling, cursing against the ticket price. Now that I am writing these lines, several days later, the disappointment has disappeared and I tell myself that it was really good to be able to stroll in the Shire! So, I recommend this tour if you’re a fan of the movies and preferably on early morning or late evening tours!
Note: All pictures published in this article are my creations. They are not royalty free. Thank you not to use them without permission.