In 1999, while Peter Jackson was scouting locations via air in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings (LOTR), he spotted a beautiful farm with The Shire’s “Party Tree,” a lake, and deep green landscapes. Peter Jackson immediately went to the farmer’s house to tell him about his plans for the movie and how his farm would become The Shire from Lord of the Rings. The farmer didn’t know who Peter Jackson was or what in the world LOTR was. Additionally, he was busy enjoying a rugby match and told Peter Jackson to go away and come back the next day during the day! Peter Jackson left, returned the next day and the farmer accepted Jackson’s proposal but on the condition that all “movie stuff” be removed and leave the land as they found it.
The Party Tree
Once the production for the first trilogy wrapped up, they were unable to immediately return the land to its natural form because it rained. So did the next day, and the next day. It rained for three weeks straight. During that time, friends of the farmer visited him to see the movie set that had been built. They all liked the sets and encouraged the farmer to keep the Hobbit homes and the rustic charm. The farmer and New Line Cinemas negotiated for months until they finally came to an agreement and the Hobbiton tourist attraction was born. Today, 200,000 tourists visit per day and 30%-40% of those visitors have not seen the movies or read the books.
Frodo’s Hobbit Hole
I knew nothing of LOTR when the first movie, Fellowship Of The Ring, came out. The trailers for the movie looked cool, so I saw it. I then decided to read the the trilogy and The Hobbit. I thought the first novel was enjoyable, the second one better—ignoring the tree folk section where I read over 45 pages that described a leaf—and the third book was awesome. The Return of the King is hands down the best book of the three. Later, of course, I went to see the other two movies as they came out. Then, when the extended editions came out, I bought them and ended up seeing the films on a boring Saturday. Yes: all three extended editions in one sitting. Part of my ass died that day. I’m deliberately not mentioning the other trilogy as in my mind, they never happened.
Where Gandalf slept
No, I do not own any Tolkien paraphernalia, though I did consider buying a replica ring once…. don’t judge me! But you can consider me an LOTR fan. Enough to be curious to visit Hobbiton while in New Zealand. Plus, everyone I had asked told me Hobbiton was worth a visit.
While I knew Hobbits aren’t real and what I was seeing was all fake, it was so beautiful I wondered… what if they weren’t? I played images of the movie and books and identified the locations in which they took place. The amount of detail put into the sets, convinced the child inside me that it was all real. However, the logical, adult-self tried to knock some sense into me reminding me it’s fake; it’s make-believe. But the experience of walking from hobbit-hole to hobbit-hole, taking in what my eyes could see, was surreal. Even the adult in me could appreciate the beautiful and remarkable craftsmanship that transformed that farm in the city of Matamata to look like The Shire. I know I did.