by wjw on November 19, 2012

So our first day off the boat and we ended up in Middle-Earth.  Specifically Hobbiton, the set built by Peter Jackson for his Tolkien-based epics.

Hobbiton is near a town called Matimati, which is remodeling its information center to resemble a twee hobbit house.  The Maori carvings inside are now eclipsed by a statue of Gollum and official WETA scale models of Bag End.  Poor old Maoris.

It costs $75 for an adult to visit Hobbiton, which is about what y0u’d pay for a day at Disneyland, and at Disneyland there are more rides.  At Hobbiton you walk across a countryside that has been meticulously landscaped according to Peter  Jackson’s reading of Tolkien.

For instance, Tolkien describes Gandalf walking through a throng of hobbit children who are plucking plums from nearby trees.  Jackson planted plum trees on the route, but they matured too quickly, so they were replaced with apple and pear trees, which were then covered with actual plums hand-pasted onto the trees.  All this to fulfill a brief passage from Tolkien that the author himself probably never thought about after writing it.

There were twenty-odd hobbit holes constructed for LOTR, and now there are forty-odd after The Hobbit.  (I don’t know why more were needed, though Jackson seems to belief that more is better, and he was in charge, so why not.)  Each is different, each comes with a different set of front porch furniture, tools, gardens, and ornamentation.

In addition, there’s the Party Tree— which was so magnificent that it was actually a reason why the site was chosen in the first place— and the Green Dragon Inn by the lake, which is in the process being transformed into a real inn.   Above Bag End, seen here in the photo, is an oak tree that was sawn apart in its original location, then scarfed back together on the set, supposedly at the cost of a million dollar.  (I could have done it for less.)

Freezing rainstorms, wind storms, and hail come free with the cost of admission!  I would have paid extra for toilets, but none were available.

Is it worth the $75?  Probably not, unless you’re so die-hard a fan that you’d pay anything to walk in the sacred footsteps of Ian McKellan and Sean Astin.  (I freely confess that I went solely so that certain of my friends would be jealous.)

But it was a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon.  If you don’t mind the wind and the hail.

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