Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Look Back on Middle-Earth

The possibility of The Hobbit being made into a movie got me thinking about my LOTR-inspired trip to Middle-Earth (New Zealand) last year. I realized I never shared any pictures from this trip with you, my dear readers. Now you can witness how truly crazy your blogger friend e is, as below is proof that I sought out movie locations all over the country during the two weeks I was there. I kept the most embarrassing photos (scene reenactments with other nerdy travelers) to myself though - ha!

The small town of Matamata is the home of the set of Hobbiton. Before the movies, the only people coming through Matamata were travelers "seeking out a bathroom," according to a documentary we watched while flying over on Air New Zealand. Now Matamata hosts a thriving visitor's center, from which Hobbiton tours depart.

When Peter Jackson originally negotiated with the government of New Zealand in order to film the trilogy there, it was decided that all sets must be returned to their natural states. When they were in the process of tearing down Hobbiton, a huge storm kicked up that lasted several weeks. During that time, so many tourists came by the farm on which the Hobbiton set was built, that the owners and Peter Jackson convinced the government to make an exception. So all of the hobbit-holes remain, though the decoration from them has been stripped. There was a rumor even when I was there last year that they could perhaps re-use this area for The Hobbit movie (if it ever gets made). Inside of Bag End (Bilbo and Frodo's home), where I am above, is just a small room. About 15 or so people could fit inside of it. They needed the room to be deep enough so that they could shoot the sequence where Gandalf shows up at the door - which is shot from the inside of the house. The Hobbiton set is the only remaining set from all three films. I personally would pay good money if they opened up a bed and breakfast there!

This is what you see when you are looking out from Bag End - that is the big tree that was prominent in Bilbo's birthday scene at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Isn't it gorgeous? All of that land, as far as the eye can see in all directions, is owned by the same family of farmers. Good investment, peeps!

If you look really closely, you can see little ol' e hugging Bilbo's birthday tree. The guide (who believed hobbits were real, no lie - he ROCKED!) claimed that this was the most famous tree in the world. I love this damn tree, so I agree with him.

Now we've left Matamata and are just outside of Wellington, where we were led by a guy whose brother was one of the top set directors for the trilogy, so he had a ton of cool inside scoop for us. Rivendell, home of the elves, was built in this small, not-too-well-known park. They had so many requests for where exact locations of the movie were that they had to put up little signs like the one above to point people to the right spots. All of my other pictures from here are too embarrassing, sorry!

A short walking distance from downtown Wellington lies the forest in which one of the most famous scenes in the trilogy was filmed. This is exactly the spot where Frodo stood and sensed something was wrong, warning Sam, Merry and Pippin to "Get off the road!!!" That forest was eerie, I tell you!

Now we've made our way down to the south island of New Zealand. A small farm on the outskirts of Queenstown, called Deer Park Heights, is where all of the Rohan scenes were filmed. This farm has also had to make a few changes because of the onslaught of LOTR tourists - they have a one-page printout with a map explaining which scene was shot where, and at the actual locations, as you can see above, there are little posts indicating what number on the map the spot corresponds to. Above is my husband yelling "RIDERRRRS OF THE ROOOHAN!!!" at the top of his lungs, which was one of our favorite things to do whilst in the park.

This picture actually has a funny story behind it. This is the spot where Aragorn fell off the cliff in The Two Towers. Quite a controversial scene since that never actually happened in the books - but a memorable scene nonetheless. Whilst the good news for me was that there is actually not a cliff but rather just a three foot drop in that spot, the bad news is that you have to go down a very steep hill and then up another hill to get to it. When we got there, I saw a few other tourists pull up and I wanted to get to the spot first to get a picture. So I started running down the hill. Unfortunately it had just randomly started hailing, as you can see in the shot above, and the grass was very slick. So I took a huge fall and twisted my ankle - I honestly thought I might have broken it. But I still made it to the spot before the other geeks arrived - though you can tell I'm not feeling too comfortable. Victory at all costs.

This is the "cliff" from afar.

And lastly, here is the area where Arwen raced on horse-back to escape the Black Riders, carrying an ailing Frodo with her. "The Remarkables" are the mountains in the background, which were used as a backdrop often throughout the trilogy.

Ahhhh, the memories. If only I had seen just ONE elf while I was there. The New Zealand tourism board really needs to do something about that. A lot more nerds would be making the trip to Kiwi-land if they could be guaranteed an elf sighting...

- e


Wanders said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing these! The photos are all amazing. I'd love to see more, but not at the expense of your own personal embarrassment!

Anonymous said...

I agree, we really need to see the other pictures. You have nothing left to hide from us as we all think your crazy anyway! Did they have any funny/strange souvenirs and how many did you buy?
Have you seen the short version of the trilogy on UTube? Its very funny. It has Gandalf riding on one of the birds he uses to save Frodo over the volcano and just dropping the ring in it! Made me step back and think!

Keep smilin'

maikib said...

this is amazing!! what great photos-- i can't believe that it's taken so long to share them! (the hail photo... too funny... i laughed outloud. not due to your spill... oh, okay, maybe a little bit. it was a good visual, outrunning the geeks. yay, e!!)

Alex Yates said...

You're a very entertaining and witty writer. I love your quirky updates where even minutia can be made a compelling read. Can't believe I found your blog thru LinkedIn.

Becky said...

"Victory at all costs", "Riders of Rooohhhann!" I love it. Glad you got to see these places. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.