Visiting the Shire
We visited the Shire (www.hobbitontours.com) on a mostly cloudy day and left just as the rain arrived. In between, we glimpsed part of the fantasy world J.R.R. Tolkien created and Peter Jackson brought to life in The Lord of the Rings movies. Here’s “The Reveal” as Gandalf and Frodo ride into the valley.
To create Hobbiton, they trucked-in dirt and dug out hillsides to build 37 separately-designed houses and gardens for the exterior scenes. (Interior scenes of these places were filmed in Wellington.) Each Hobbit hole took about 6 months to complete because everything was created on site: windows, doors, fences, garden items…. To supplement native rocks, they spent 7 months constructing artificial stones from concrete.
Jackson went to extraordinary lengths to be true to the text. For example, Tolkien spoke of children eating plums under the trees, but plum trees grow too tall for the scale the movie needed. Instead, they transported Gala apple trees, stripped all the leaves, and wired plum leaves to the branches. Also, any native NZ trees were camouflaged to fit the English setting.
The houses were built to different scales. We’re not used to feeling big.
Details abound, from vases in the windows to trellises for flowers to garden implements.
This house reminded us of the Comberton house whose painting hangs on our living room wall.
We’re not positive, but we think this next one is the house of Old Gaffer, the grumpy guy who objected to Gandalf setting off fireworks to thrill the children on the way into town.
On the prime real estate at the top of the hill sits Bag End, home to Bilbo Baggins.
Here’s Bilbo’s view:
Bag End is one of the full-scale houses. It had to be large enough to fit cameras inside for views of the shire in the background when the door opened. (Two, different sized, interiors were built in Wellington, one for Gandalf and one for Bilbo.)
The tree overhanging the house was built on the site. A tree was cut down into pieces, stripped of its leaves and put back together here to create the oak tree described in the book. Workers hand-wired thousands of individual leaves to the branches. Ironically, only brief glimpses of the tree appear in the films. Nonetheless, Jackson wanted the scenes and actors to feel its presence: the shadows, the sounds of the wind in the leaves.
If you squint a bit, perhaps you can imagine the people in the shot below as Hobbits gathering for Bilbo’s birthday party. Peter Jackson chose this site after spotting the “Party Tree” from the air. He originally intended only to use the tree for the party scene, but upon looking around could see the potential for creating the Shire amongst these hills.
The Wellington studio housed a duplicate of the tree’s bottom section. Bilbo’s birthday speech was filmed there. The scene then shifts here, where he disappears. Interior scenes after that were back in Wellington.
The Green Dragon is in the distance across the lake. Originally, the stones in the bridge were fabricated polystyrene. They’ve now been replaced with real stone and there’s a plan to open the Green Dragon as an active pub.
Sam and Rosie look forward to a happy future in this home.
The path below may figure in the opening to the forthcoming movie of “The Hobbit,” as Gandalf and Bilbo ride out to begin that adventure.
Gollum’s statue waited for us at the end of the tour.