Hobbiton is a village along The Water in the Westfarthing of the Shire, a fictional description of Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit.
The Shire was settled by Hobbits in the year 1601 and was subdivided into four Farthings or "quarterings" -Eastfarthing, Westfarthing, Southfarthing and Northfarthing. If you're an LOTR fanatic, you know exactly what I'm talking about!
Although the Shire (Middle Earth) is said to be located at about the same position as England is on modern European maps, Hobbiton found its way in New Zealand when its son Director/Film Producer Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema did an aerial search of North Island. He spotted the Alexander Family Farm in 501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata as perfect setting for the filming of Tolkien's novels adaptation.
Major construction took place in March 1999 to make the farm closely resembles Hobbiton as described in Tolkien's books. Filming took place from December of that year and three (3) months thereafter.
But as part of the story line for the Return of the King, all the homes and trees have to be destroyed ("Frodo and his companions were stunned to see their homes, trees and hedges all torn up"). After the Scouring of the Shire, "Hobbiton was a peaceful and beautiful village once again".
|Behind the Lake are the pubs, market, & stable, the Bridge and the Mill|
So when I was invited to attend the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference in Hamilton, New Zealand and a visit to Hobbiton was part of the line up of activities, I jumped for joy and almost did a cartwheel! Before I knew it, I was off to New Zealand and then welcomed at the Hobbiton movie set.
Hobbiton is only 45-minutes scenic drive from Hamilton, passing through splendid views of Kaimai Ranges, the green hills, sheep and cows farms along the way. Our bus made a short stop at Shire Rest Cafe so a tour guide can accompany us to the movie set.
Our guide is very knowledgeable and had plenty of funny stories about the behind the scenes of LOTR and The Hobbit filming. She walked us through the movie sets inside the approximately 500 hectare property being farmed as a traditional New Zealand sheep and beef farm with about 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle.
Inside the village, there are 17 of the 37 original "hobbit holes" (or smials) that were used for the filming of both LOTR trilogy and the feature films "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" movies to be shown in December 2012 and in 2013 respectively.
Spectacularly scattered around a sheep farm setting, these "hobbit holes" are the "traditional underground homes of hobbits built in hillsides, downs, and banks with colorful round doors and windows".
I actually went inside the first few smials mostly used for the LOTR (since those of The Hobbit movies are only for viewing until the movie is shown). With my height, I felt like a real hobbit (who are usually between two or four feet tall), I'm just slightly taller haha. Like every hobbit-holes, there was nothing inside ...but comfort.
Bag End is maybe the most popular (and the most luxurious) of the smials (or hobbit - holes) in Hobbiton because this is where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings begin and end. When Bilbo Baggins adopted his cousin (nephew) Frodo Baggins (Elijah Woods), as his heir, Frodo lives there and became the Master of Bag End.
|Splendid view from The Hill next to Bag End|
I really had an enjoyable time during the tour! Not only I was surrounded by brilliant minds (with childlike hearts) attendees of the 2012 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference, but also I was with the company of people with whom I can easily understand J.R.R. Tolkien's concept of BIG People and little people in Hobbiton. (see the pic to know why!lol)
|With Craig Christensen, Area Legal Counsel for Australia/NZ|
And the timing of my visit was just right! I learned from our tour guide that this permanent movie set was rebuilt only last year for The Hobbit movies. Had I been in Hobbiton earlier like many of my colleagues, the experience will not be -as it is now - PERFECT!
Kudos to the organizers of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Asia Pacific Conference for putting that huge smile on my face - esp. Tom (and Lynn) Suthcliffe (my host!), Soraya Barker and Neville Rochow. Thank you and till we meet again next year in Adelaide, Australia!