This is it! We’re making a journey Southeast to Rotorua. On the way, we stopped by Hobbiton!
I’ve been to Hobbiton before, pre-blog, but I was glad to have the chance to go again. My girlfriend is not a big Tolkien fan (or really a Tolkien fan at all), but she still wanted to go see it. She didn’t have to ask me twice!
(She asked very astute questions about some of Tolkien’s writings and geography so I thought for a moment she might actually be showing an interest in the Legendarium, but unfortunately no dice. She’s quite content to have me tell her what she wants to know and remain blissfully ignorant of the rest!)
I was worried that traveling further South would mean it would be colder (because that’s how it works in the Southern Hemisphere), but thankfully we got a warm and occasionally sunny day for our Hobbiton exploration. (I hear my girlfriend’s voice in my head correcting me that it was not a warm day, just not as cold as it might have been. I happen to like the cold more than she does.)
Hobbiton is many things. A tourist center, certainly. But it’s also a movie set, as well as part of a functioning farm! As a side note, the last time I came to New Zealand a few bits of Hobbiton were closed off by New Line Cinemas because they were finishing up work on some of the Hobbit trilogy (this was late 2014 so I’m assuming it was either photography or reshoots by that point).
Coming in Winter means fewer people, but it also means there’s renovations and upkeep going on. Bag End is covered in scaffolding and there’s a definitively non-hobbit-sized stepladder intruding on the shot.
There are two different sizes of hobbit holes: big ones, for the hobbit actors to stand by so they look small, and small ones for the non-hobbit actors to stand by so they look big.
There are also ones like this, small enough to be (pardon the expression) dwarfed by any of the adult actors. I’m assuming that these are just used as part of the background and are sized in such a way as to promote some sort of size illusion or another.
I briefly thought about trying to use forced perspective to make the ducks seem enormous relative to the hobbit hole behind them, but the tour guide was bustling us along and the ducks weren’t cooperating anyway.
This is the Party Tree, which you will recognize if you’ve read the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring or seen the movie. Apparently the presence of a suitable tree was one of the criteria for choosing the location for Hobbiton, and this one fit the bill.
For all their flaws, the Hobbit movies definitely excelled in the set design department. Tourist area or no, Tolkien fan or no, it’s just fun to walk around the set and see how much thought and imagination went into turning Hobbiton into what feels very much like a real community of sorts.
This is my favorite shot of the day, though less because of my skill as a photographer and more because the light actually cooperated and the subject lends itself to great shots.
That’s the Green Dragon there across the lake, home of the finest brew for the brave and true, etc. :)
On the first photo, I love the lighting but don’t love the scaffolding. On the second, the opposite. The struggle is real. Maybe you can combine them in your head into one well-framed and also well-lit photograph :)
Hobbiton is full of signs like this pointing the way to various fictional Shire locations. I suspect Tolkien’s Shire was fairly light on such signs, for the same reason that pre-industrial agrarian villages tended not to have them: the presence of people who didn’t know their way around was so rare that making them would be a waste of wood and paint.
A fun piece of set dressing.
Delving & Oatlock is entirely fabricated. There are a few places in the shire with Delving in their name (Michel Delving being the most prominent), so presumably these are place names and not hobbit names. Oatlock is, to be fair, an entirely reasonable-sounding name for a place in the Shire, so clever work on someone’s part to make something plausible-sounding yet original.
I don’t know if this water wheel is connected to anything, but I would not put it past Peter Jackson to have his set designers build a fully-functional barley mill so it can look authentic when it appears in a shot for three seconds.
This cat is called Pickles and has the honor of keeping the Green Dragon free from four-legged pests. Cats are canonically present in Middle Earth, but Tolkien was not a cat person (he admits as much in letter 219 of The Letters of JRR Tolkien) and thus, were Pickles canon, Tolkien would likely have had him belong to the Sackville-Bagginses.
Leaving the Green Dragon, we can see that some hobbits managed to score lakefront property.
Q: How did Bilbo keep in touch with his friends and relatives?
A: He sent them wee-mail!
I’ll see myself out now.
I hope you enjoyed our trip to Hobbiton as much as we did!
Next time, get ready…things are going to get a little explosive!