“I should like to save the Shire, if I could - though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don't feel like that now. 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, The Fellowship of the Ring
We disembark our cruise in Auckland, NZ and after picking up our rental car, we leave immediately on our 2 hour drive to Matamata where we hope to go on a tour to Hobbiton, which can only be accessed via an organized tour. Only as we arrive do we consider that prebooking might have been advisable. Fortunately we do get a spot, albeit later in the day than we hoped for. (We actually had tour prearranged from a cruise stop in Tauranga, which had to be cancelled when the port master refused to let our ship dock due to high winds.) But, we weren’t about to miss an opportunity to visit The Shire, even though we had to forego our plans to experience Cathedral Cove on our first day on our own in NZ after the cruise.
I am a huge Tolkien fan. The first time I read “Lord of the Rings” I was a precocious 10 or 11 year old, and I have read it many times since. Nor was I disappointed with the movie series (although don’t get me started about “The Hobbit” movies, which don’t resemble the book at all! “The Hobbit” is a much gentler story than the “Lord of the Rings”.)
Anyway, we arrive in Matamata and discover that the i-site where we need to book the tour is very easy to locate, for obvious reasons. I am so excited! As it turns out, the long drive and expense are totally worth it. Visiting the shire was everything that I hoped it would be.
Hobbiton isn’t a city, or even a town. It is a fantasy, a dream, a wish that there really existed a place where people lived in harmony with each other and with nature – a place where conflicts could be settled over a pint of beer or a good party. – Diane Klettke
“The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were very rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
We will take a closer look at Bilbo’s house later, but lets take a look around the Shire first…
The attention to detail everywhere you look, is amazing. You can easily imagine that hobbits really live in this village. One thing that made it so authentic is that there is a lot that is real: butterflies, and birds, flowers, grass, and a garden producing real vegetables. (click on any of the pictures for a larger picture)
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“Good Morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat. “What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” “All of them at once,” said Bilbo.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!” said Gandalf. “Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
As we climb the hill we approach Bag End, Bilbo’s house. Notice the Oak tree right above his doorway. Not content with the already massive living trees on site, Peter Jackson wanted a particular tree above Bag End. This tree was taken, in pieces, from nearby Matamata and reassembled on site with bolts. Fake leaves were imported from Tiawan and individually wired on. When they began to fade, they were repainted by hand.
“It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Bilbo’s 111st birthday party starts out the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It is one of my favorite scenes in the story as it is the last truly light hearted one in the series (although there are moments of respite such as in Rivendell or after the destruction of Saruman’s Isengard when Merry and Pippen make merry with the spoils.) Bilbo’s party gives us one of the best insights into the personality of the hobbits with their love of drink, and food, and dancing, and sometimes mischievous merry making. Gandalf gets into the spirit of things and provides spectacular fireworks.
I don’t know half of you as well as I should like: and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
From the site of the party we look over to the Green Dragon. Like the hobbits, we are looking forward to a visit to the pub to enjoy a pint and a meat pie. But which way to go, let’s see…
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone.' I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
“We don't want any adventures here! You might try over the Hill or Across the Water.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit