Column: A Visit to Middle Earth

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Many people are aware that the “Lord of the Rings” series was filmed in New Zealand.  Fewer know that one of its locations has become a popular tourist attraction.

In 1998, director Peter Jackson, a New Zealand resident, engaged a helicopter crew to find a site with topography matching his vision of Hobbiton, a village in the mythical Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. He selected a 1,200-acre sheep and cattle farm, with rolling grassy hills and a small lake, in the Waikato region in the upper North Island, about 100 miles south of Auckland. Workers transformed 14 acres of the farm into Hobbiton, building the exteriors of about 40 Hobbit homes of various sizes and colors from plywood and polystyrene and planting gardens and hedges. Workers constructed a huge artificial tree atop one of the hills and created the façade of the double-arched bridge and mill near the lake. When filming ended in early 2000, about half of the Hobbit home exteriors remained and visitors started coming to the farm to get a look at Hobbiton. In 2002, the family owning the farm began offering guided tours of the area.

Jackson and his team returned to the site in 2009 to film “The Hobbit” trilogy. This time, crews constructed the exteriors of 44 Hobbit homes from more permanent materials and added details that would withstand closer inspection. Because the interior scenes of the Hobbit homes were filmed in a studio, the interiors of the homes are not finished. In 2012, a replica of the Green Dragon Inn, serving refreshments, was added at the end of the 2-hour tour route. For Tolkien fans, a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set is a necessity on a trip to New Zealand.  For everyone else, it is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

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