“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Now that my life is officially complete, I have to share my experience visiting the Shire. The timing really couldn’t be better, with yesterday’s release of The Battle of the Five Armies in New Zealand (Saw it last night… WOW). This may take two posts because I really can’t narrow down which shots to post any more than I already have. Everything was just so fantastic, really beyond words. When Peter Jackson prepared the set for filming, he had people come in and walk across the lawns each day to hang hobbit-sized laundry, ensuring they took the same exact path day after day. That way, Hobbiton would truly look like it had been lived in for years. They even painted yoghurt on different props to encourage moss to grow and lend authenticity. I can’t imagine a better person to bring Middle Earth to life than Peter Jackson. His attention to detail was really just the icing on the cake.
Hobbiton is located in Matamata, a rural farming community about an hour outside Rotorua. My tour departed from town, and I was lucky to make friends with another Tolkien fanatic, Steve, while we waited for the bus. Neither of us could wait to get to Matamata and finally see the Shire, having waited years for this day. Luckily, fate smiled down on us and provided a lovely spring day with warm weather and sunshine. As we got closer, the anticipation was palpable. It was hard to wait for everyone to have a bathroom break before the tour could begin, but even the toilet sign was Shire worthy.
Understandably, everyone wanted to take photos in front of the welcome sign, so I really had to be quick about jumping in for my own shot, something that would come in handy throughout the tour. Again, great to have a buddy to take all the obligatory nerdy shots of me.
Our tour guide gave a brief intro (he must know by now what people really want), and finally, we were off!
I have to be honest and say I teared up at this point. Ever since I was about 13, I’ve dreamed of coming to this place. It truly felt like coming home.
Everything was better than I could have dreamt in my wildest dreams. It felt like the hobbits had just stepped away for a moment.
Even the garden looked recently tended, perhaps by Samwise? Our tour guide provided brief anecdotes, but mostly let people run around to take pictures.
Many of the hobbit holes are truly hobbit sized, so you can see how well I’d fit in one if they really were habitable. I’m sure I could make it work, though…
There are 44 hobbit holes in Hobbiton, and each has its own character. You could tell just which type of hobbits would dwell inside.
I’m glad I visited in springtime, because the gardens just made everything that much more gorgeous and realistic.
The hobbit chimneys and mailboxes (I could go on) were so perfect.
Unfortunately, I did get humans in some of my shots, but it was entirely unavoidable. I would really love to have the run of this place, but I am so lucky just to have been there.
You can see Bag End at the top left of that shot, below the artificial oak tree created just for the set.
Just look at those gardens! Who wouldn’t want to live here? Can’t we just build a real community of hobbit holes for humans somewhere?
These hobbits are beekeepers and left their wares out for passerby.
I wish we could really have grabbed some honey.
Hobbiton is surrounded on all sides by farmland, since the land owners still run a working farm, although I imagine they are getting a nice chunk of change from the set tours.
Finally, we came to the one hobbit hole that we were told we could pose inside. Not much in there, but what a photo op!
You can’t make me leave!
We began our ascent up the hill to Bag End. You can easily tell which one it is at a distance by the crowd of people around the gate. I managed to keep them out of my shots.
Ah! Words can’t even describe the feeling of being right in front of Bilbo and Frodo’s home. Although all the internal shots were filmed on a constructed set, the door seemed like it could swing open at any moment to reveal a Baggins.
Of course, I had to buy a copy of this sign in the gift shop.
I pictured Gandalf and Bilbo sitting there, smoking some pipe weed and blowing rings and ships as they watched dusk settle in over the Shire.
Their view was precisely as I imagined.
Middle Earth is real. I always knew it!
I finally moved on from Bag End when I realized I was surrounded by another tour group, mine having moved on when I was lost in Middle Earth dreams.
This hobbit hole was one of my favorites, surrounded by green pastures and sheep grazing. The signs were great, too.
More hobbit wares and incredible details awaited me around every bend. I was hurrying to catch up to my tour group as I snapped pictures left and right.
Then, I came upon the party grounds!
What I wouldn’t give to throw a party here!
I’ll leave you with two hobbit holes and the promise of another post. The next one will feature the mill and my visit to the Green Dragon pub, where they brew real beer and cider.
That last one is Sam and Rosie’s. You can see their hobbit laundry in the top right corner. More soon…