From the moment I stepped onto the path leading into Hobbiton, I knew I was in for a treat.
Hobbiton is located on the Alexander farm, just outside of Matamata, New Zealand. This farm is home to around 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle on 1250 acres of gorgeous land. Peter Jackson was incredibly lucky to find this location on his aerial search of New Zealand. His scout knocked on the door during half-time of a game with the All-Blacks. Had it not been half-time, Mr. Alexander may never have answered the door…meaning there would not have been Hobbiton as we know it today. Frankly, I cannot imagine it any other way.
My day at Hobbiton began at the Shire’s Rest: the information centre, gift shop, and café. Here, I boarded a bus. Even as we were driving up to Hobbiton, I could not see a thing. We were dropped off at the entrance and still, I had not seen an inch of Hobbiton. We stayed at the entrance for a few minutes where the tour guide (incidentally, her name was also Jess and we were about the same height) introduced Hobbiton to us. She also asked the group a couple of questions about who had seen the movies and who had read the books. Her final question was about who read the Silmarillion. I was the only one to raise a hand, a fact that I am so proud of.
Not seeing Hobbiton as we approached on the bus turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. When we turned the corner on the path into Hobbiton, we were greeted with an amazing sight. I had gone from the regular world, straight into Middle Earth. Straight into the Shire.
Walking on the paths in Hobbiton was surreal. Everywhere I stepped I was greeted with amazing sights, from simple to complicated. Almost everything in the garden and on display in terms of food was actually edible (although we couldn’t eat it). Our tour guide said that they actually employed full-time gardeners to keep everything in check .
As I progressed through Hobbiton, I could see that where the richer hobbits would have lived, personalities sprung from those hobbit holes. Lumberjacks, bakers…a gardener. Hi Sam Gamgee. Gorgeous, every single one.
There are about 37 hobbit holes in Hobbiton. One very interesting fact about filming that we learned (and saw for ourselves) was about the size of the hobbit doors. There were different sizes and scales. The larger holes (about 90%) were used for actors like Elijah Wood, who were meant to be hobbits and therefore small. But there were also much smaller hobbit doors where they placed actors (specifically, Ian McKellen as Gandalf) so that they would look very tall compared to the others.
Before I went to Hobbiton my friends and I were making jokes about the fact that I am quite small and would fit into the hobbit holes. This is actually true for a few of the hobbit holes, but not for all of them.
One fact that should be clear is that you can only go into one hobbit hole (NOT Bag End) to pictures inside the door. It only extends a few feet back, a brief reprieve to the façades of the other hobbit holes. In the films, they shot all indoor hobbit hole scenes in the studio. Despite this, I was not disappointed at all, and I doubt that any Lord of the Rings fan would be.
As I approached Bag End, my attention was drawn from the gated entrance, to the door of the hobbit hole that was slightly ajar, and then to the tree that sits above the infamous hobbit hole. That tree is the most expensive prop that they have in Hobbiton. Yes, it’s a prop. This is mostly because they returned to Hobbiton to film The Hobbit after Lord of the Rings. In Tolkien’s world, The Hobbit is set about 60 years prior to Lord of the Rings, and as such the tree had to be younger. So they reconstructed it. Each branch of the tree was bolted together on top of Bag End, and it weighs about 26 tonne. The crew imported gorgeous and artificial leaves from Taiwan, and wired them individually onto the tree.
Each step that I took through Hobbiton was like walking through the pages of a book. Through scenes in a movie. The feeling that rushed through me was indescribable. At the end of the tour, our guide brought us to the Green Dragon. I tried their Sackville Cider—smooth, crisp, delicious.
Outside the Green Dragon Inn, I looked back. The hills of Hobbiton stared back at me.
I stepped out my door, and I knew where I was going. But I didn’t expect it to bring me here.