March 31, 2018
November 24, 2017
The famous “Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) and “The Hobbit” trilogies were filmed in New Zealand. I’m not the biggest fan of the movies, but I have seen them all once and, since they are such a phenomenon of nowadays’ pop-culture, I was curious to see some of the locations where they were filmed. One location that I was genuinely excited to visit was the hobbit village called Hobbiton, which appears both in LOTR and “The Hobbit”.
Although Daniel is a much bigger fan of the movies than I am, he decided to not visit Hobbiton, because of the steep price of the tickets (about 70 CHF), because you are only allowed to go in as part of a group of 30-40 people with a guide, and because online reviews of the tours said that the whole thing is too touristic and there are too many people visiting it at a time. While I understand his argument, I still preferred to go see Hobbiton – I had heard from others that they still enjoyed the visit, despite having to always be with the group and despite the big number of people in their group. So I went there on my own, while Daniel kept himself busy with other things.
Hobbiton is set on the cattle and sheep farm of a local family, and the farm still operates. Peter Jackson, the director of the movies, found it while he was scouting locations for LOTR from a helicopter and he instantly loved the landscape. After signing contracts with the owners of the farm, the hobbit homes were built there for the LOTR movies. Once filming was finished, the whole movie set was destroyed. A few years later, Peter Jackson got the approvals to film “The Hobbit” movies, so everything had to be rebuilt again. This time, they decided to build the hobbit homes to last, from real wood, iron, etc., to maintain them after filming finished and to allow people to visit them.
Right now, I assume that the visitors of Hobbiton such as myself bring in a lot of money, because groups of up to 40 people go in in 10-minute intervals from 9 AM to 5 PM. Tours tend to sell out, so it’s highly recommended to book a ticket in advance. In the 2 photos below, you can see parts of the Hobbiton area with some of the tourist groups that were there at the same time as mine:
Despite this sort of mass processing of the visitors, I enjoyed the tour a lot. The whole area of Hobbiton is quite large – there are 44 hobbit homes there. Everything is set up with very high attention to detail: there are chimneys of the hobbit houses coming out of the ground, there are the hobbits’ clothes hanging on drying lines outside their houses, some houses have the hobbits’ work tools casually lying in front on the doorstep. In short, the village looks like it’s indeed inhabited. The whole setting feels really idyllic and you half expect a hobbit to come out of one of the houses at any time.
The guide gave us all sorts of interesting information about how they filmed everything there and how much attention was given to detail. For instance, in the books there is a plum tree orchard in the hobbit village. On set though, they couldn’t plant plum trees, because they tend to grow quite tall and they would have looked out of proportion to the hobbits. So they instead planted apple, pear and quince trees, but when they actually filmed movie scenes there, they attached plums to the tree branches, to make them look like plum trees.
Naturally, “the houses” are only the outside – all scenes taking place inside were filmed in the studio. There is only one hobbit house that you can go into, and that’s only for taking a photo. All other houses are only facades. Nevertheless, you can go into the Dragon’s Inn, in which there is now a cafe, serving drinks to the tourists.
All in all, I really enjoyed visiting Hobbiton. It’s indeed a bit annoying to always have to stay with your group, to have to wait for your turn to take a picture of something, to try to take photos that have just the hobbit houses on them, not tens of tourists… But despite that, the village itself and its location are very pretty, and you do get the feeling of walking around in a part of the LOTR world.