One of the highlights of my recent trip to New Zealand was being able to visit the Hobbiton movie site. It was left as just a shell after the filming on LOTR finished but with the Hobbit production it has been restored to its former glory and left intact for visitors to flock to.
The attention to detail on the site is astounding. Every hobbit house is lovingly created with signs of habitation and use, even smoking chimneys and fresh baked bread. The walking tour is nice and leisurely with guides who are friendly and knowledgeable (although with hardly any new info for this die-hard Ringer), pointing out details that probably never even made it into the movies. The stopover at the Green Dragon was wonderful. So authentic and so many little touches, like a framed poem from the book, that made it quite enchanting. Still drooling over the huge cookie and ginger beer and cider on offer there.
Best of all was standing right in front of where it all begins, Bag End, with the door left invitingly open (despite the “no admittance except on party business” sign). The interior is unfortunately not there, as this was a separate movie set. I did learn that the tree on top of Bag End is not real! Could have fooled me! It is however painstakingly replicated from a real tree.
Then there is the party tree, which you can see right below Bag End, just like it appears in the movie, and this one is as real as it gets. Quite amazing that this location was found in the heart of a private farm. All that needed doing was remove the sheep and plant some greenery and you have Hobbiton.
The last hobbit house on the tour is Sam’s, with the bright yellow door. It’s just down from Bag End, as it is in the book. It is easy to imagine him running up to Bag End frequently as a youngster and later as gardener to the Bagginses. Of course in the book he ends up living in Bag End too but in the movie we see him returning to his own home at the very end of the movie. I must confess I got a little choked up standing in front of that door, thinking of Sam brokenheartedly returning home from the Grey Havens without Frodo, to be consoled by the warm welcome of his family and sighing “Well I’m back” as he enters through the door. And I thought of how, in his later life, after Rosie has passed away, he too would leave Bag End to follow Frodo into the West.
There are no hobbits left in Hobbiton, but it is easy to imagine them just out of sight or happily inside their homes as you wander through. If you ever get down to New Zealand be sure to visit Hobbiton in Matamata as part of your Middle Earth adventure.
More photos of Hobbiton can be seen here.
Great weekend to all!