Hobbiton…The Shire!

Day 8 of our North Island holiday (April 7th, 2012)

“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 of lots of pegs for hats and coats — the hobbit was fond of visitors.” -The Hobbit

I was about to live out my dream; my dream that I had the very first time I watched as the camera was following behind Gandalf in his cart and as it peered over the hill; I gasped when I saw the Shire with its green hills, flowers, and hobbit-holes come to life onto the big screen. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to go to New Zealand one day and walk through the Shire. To know that someone had created this place–made what I had only imagined in my head and dreamed of a mythical land like this existing–and actually turned it into a tangible place you could see with your own eyes . . . that was truly amazing. I was in 10th grade when I had that dream, and the ten or so years that have passed since then have not diminished this desire, but it has stayed within me. I should have prefaced this blog with, “Nerd Alert!”, but I really find no sense in being ashamed in my zeal, so, I’m gonna lay it on thick and tell you all my imaginative thoughts; hopefully you won’t think less of me.

 

Josh had promised me we would go to Hobbiton and I had been anticipating this moment for, well, you already know, forever! As we left Rotorua on Saturday morning, I just didn’t know what to do with myself driving down the road, with each kilometer bringing us closer to my dream. The countryside brought peace to my anxious/excited self, and I thought that at any moment a hobbit might pop out from behind the fence. And, there were sheep, sheep, sheep everywhere! I was starting to feel very nervous. Josh thought this was funny, because he could tell I had butterflies in my stomach since I was being quiet, and, he likes to make fun of me for my obsession. At last, we arrived at the quaint and cute town of Matamata. I can imagine how proud the townsfolk must feel that Bilbo’s house is right down the road. A few of the shops took advantage and milked it for what it was worth; I saw one shoe store called Strider. We drove up to the I-site visitor’s center that was painted and designed to resemble a hobbit hole with signs advertising the Hobbiton tours. We thought we were going to go to the later tour time, which is why we arrived about an hour and a half early, but as we walked in to sign up and pay for the tour, the lady asked if we wanted to go to the one that was leaving in ten minutes. I hate having to make split second decisions, and I didn’t know what to do as I wanted more time to prepare myself mentally and just make sure we had everything ready, but then again did we really want to wait that long and that might make me more nervous? We decided to go, but we had to run back to the car and get all our cameras ready…I was kind of freaking out and saying we should have waited. I had a few moments of being a pill, but I guess I’ll blame it on my nerves and what a huge deal this was to me and that I wanted it to be perfect.

 

So, Josh and I grabbed our cameras and our brochures, and walked up into the Hobbiton tour bus, sitting by our very short tour guide who could have been a hobbit himself. Wow, they really do make this an authentic experience! I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe I was on this tour bus! I don’t know if I can handle this, this is too much for me, I thought and wanted to just jump out the window. As the bus pulled out and we headed a few miles out into the countryside, I finally started gaining composure again and I looked happily at my brochure with a map of Hobbiton inside. Josh kept asking me, “Can you believe this is happening? Can you believe you are doing this?!”

 

Peter Jackson could not have picked a more perfect place. Apparently, he has scouts who go out across the country to find ideal locations for different scenes in the movie. I would’ve liked to have had their job! I don’t know who found this place, whether it was Peter or one of his scouts, but they must be commended. Just when I thought that the grass couldn’t possibly be greener on the other side, I found that over here, it was. The green color is hard to describe in words to really convey its vibrancy; it was so lively. The emerald grass just seemed to bounce and wave in the wind, as if it truly was alive. It seemed to possess life; like it had feelings, and that, out here in this beautiful country, ‘neath the shining sun and far away from any steel buildings or freeways or pollution or crime or wars or any danger, that it was happy and free. The grass was dancing.

 

We arrived at The Shire’s Rest, a café and gift shop, and a pick-up spot for other tourists. We were to trade buses and luckily Josh and I didn’t have to get on the overcrowded one, but into a small van named Frodo. I would say we lucked out, as we were with our tour guide and just a couple other guys and got to listen to their inquisitive questions. Our tour guide hopped out of the van and opened the locked gate. We are about to go where no man has gone before! I thought to myself . . . a forbidden land. Later, we learned from our guide that the fence blocking this real-life movie set is electrified in order to scare off any overenthusiastic fans (like me); when filming, they had guards set up along the fence as well. As we rolled down the gravel road, bumping up and down like we were truly off-roading, and I realized that I was where THE Lord of the Rings was filmed . . . oh man, there just aren’t enough words to describe how I felt. It took several minutes to get there, and I couldn’t wait! I gasped when I saw The Green Dragon, with the pond and watermill, but was sad to hear our guide say he couldn’t take us to that part yet. Oh well. We were getting lower down the hill, and we still hadn’t seen the movie set yet as the trees and hills were blocking the view. And then, at last . . . I saw the Shire.

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I had just entered magical, magical, fairyland, and, it is safe to say, I was off in la-la land for the next hour and a half. I was beaming from ear to ear! My favorite moment was looking up and, at the top of the hill, beside a flourishing tree, seeing Bilbo and Frodo’s house, with the green door and golden knob in the middle. I just could not believe it. It was real! The Shire really exists! We gathered around our tour guide, which, at the moment, I couldn’t care less about him, no offense, for I just wanted to run away and frolic through the flowers and chase the butterflies and make grass angels and sit on the porch of my very own hobbit hole and smoke a pipe. For the time-being, we had to stick fairly close to him, which was all right after all, because he was an excellent tour guide, providing great information I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and he was funny and good-humoured. The New Zealand accent, of course, was the cherry on top. I listened to him off and on, and sometimes wandered away a little bit, as I wanted to be alone so I could pretend! I had the video camera, and it’s funny listening to me, because I was talking very softly and quietly, almost like I was keeping a secret and didn’t want to disturb the peace of the Shire, and talking like I was really taking in the magical-ness of it all. Being there, amongst all the beauty and just how I felt, I knew there had to be a God, and that there is so much goodness and beauty in this world. Being there made me feel thankful for fiction; for imaginations, for our creative minds that God created us to have; and how some people use them to create an amazing story. A story that has affected throngs of people throughout the years and that will continue to until the end of time. I am thankful for this story, and I think God would like this tale told by J.R.R. Tolkien; in fact, God is probably quite impressed! The story has made me relate to God and Christianity, too, which is awesome, I think, that fictional characters and stories can do that, such as The Chronicles of Narnia.

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Those moments in the Shire could not have been more perfect; I know I keep using that word, but there’s no other way to describe it! The weather was absolutely gorgeous with the temperature being almost too good to be true, with barely a breeze, and the warm sun just felt so good and invigorating. It was so quiet except for the songs of a few birds and the soft hum of crickets. The sun was shining brightly with just a few clouds passing by every now and then, so that we couldn’t have asked for anything more as this was the best setting we could possibly have when taking pictures. As we approached the first hobbit hole, something moved in the grass, and what would you know, but one of my favorite things in the world? A CAT!!! A common housecat was living in the Shire. And it was a calico! Okay, what’s going on here? I was thinking to myself. I then started expecting the clouds to open at any moment and to hold out my hands to manna coming down from the heavens. Or lembas bread. In fact, that is the only suggestion I could give for this tour, is that they hand out elvish lembas bread, wrapped in a big leaf.
When I was face to face with our very first hobbit hole, I could barely contain my enthusiasm; I felt like I could jump up in the air and fly I was so happy. It was exactly how I imagined a hobbit hole would look like. A bright blue, round door built against the side of a hill and tiny wooden framed, rustic, earthen windows. I had never seen so many flowers; hobbits may be lazy, but not enough to tend to their gardens, creating a haven for butterflies. Wooden picket fences that were worn and looked like they had been there for centuries added to the effect. It was all in the nitty-gritty details, and our guide told us that Peter Jackson made sure of it. We noticed on the fence posts there was lichen moss, which Josh said that he bet they sprayed that on there, and sure enough, we learned about the lucky man whose only job was to spray the moss onto the picket fences. The windows even had curtains and a couple vases and jars in the windowsill so they looked lived in. Atop this home’s grassy hill was a brick chimney, and a wooden bench that would have been a good spot to read. We walked on some more and there was a young lady about our age with headphones in her ear watering the grass and gardens of the homes. Can you imagine being in her shoes, getting to come to the Shire every day and just watering the grass? How peaceful and amazing. Then we saw the stone road that Gandalf rides into town in his cart in The Fellowship of the Ring, and I walked down to the end and took the same path into town. I walked slowly and just wanted all the people to go away so I could take in these moments. Here I was, standing in the very place and beholding the scene that once caused my heart to leap up into my chest with glee many years ago, when I watched the film for the first time. The Shire was spread out before me and I was living in a painting, chimneys rising from the hills, and with Bag End being the center of the artwork. I was in the land of the hobbits; it was all real; I was walking through what my mind had imagined when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was all quite surreal, and those moments will be sketched in my memory forever.

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Our guide took us down to the lake where we saw more hobbit homes and one of the main backgrounds from the film. Behind the lake and in the distance, where we were not allowed to go, for some reason, was the Green Dragon. The stone building and thatched roof made me feel like we were in a village in Ireland. We walked by one hobbit hole with a bright yellow door and a hand-painted red mailbox with designs on it, and behind the fence, was our friend the Calico cat. The sun was shining on him as he stood statuesque on the front porch, as if it were his home. I even saw him smiling! You could see he was happy in the Shire, and enjoyed the attention. Our guide said the cat was so popular, it had its own website. I was lucky that earlier I had been able to pet the cat, which always brightens my world to pet a kitty cat.

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An elaborate garden lay in the center of the Shire, blossoming bountifully as the white butterflies had also found their heaven. A scarecrow stood tall and proud to protect from any unwanted guests. We took our time savoring the moments and I gazed in wonder up at the magnificent party tree. It was massive! The sun was shining through the leaves and it was so magical. So this is where Bilbo celebrated his one hundred and eleventh birthday. I imagined the scene at night, with the twinkling lights hanging from the boughs and Bilbo’s birthday cake covered in 111 candles. How I would have liked to have been at that party, eaten all the food and ate that birthday cake. Haha, what did I tell you? I was not on earth the entire time we were there. Looking at all the people around me though, laughing and as happy as little hobbit children, I knew I was surrounded by my fellow nerds. The tree was roped off, but I was tempted to sneak off and climb it and hide. Our guide mentioned that one old man had come for one of the tours and asked if the guide would kindly let this dear old sir sit beside the tree. Our guide said, “So I just let him”, and the old man sat with his back against the tree the entire time reading The Lord of the Rings. The old fellow was quite content and so the guide of course just let him be. I thought that was a cute story.

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As we stood underneath the party tree and the huge lawn, our guide said that this is the spot where some of the fans who come on the tour dress up like hobbits and start dancing around! As in, they really have done that! He said if you are keen on doing so, you are more than welcome to! That got a roaring laughter from the crowd. And then, I grabbed Josh’s hand and ran out onto the open field, clapped my hands in the air, and then we started dancing. Haha, not really, but that would have been funny.

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We went further down the pathways and came upon Sam Gamgee’s abode. It, of course, had the most beautiful and elaborate flower garden, and I had never seen so many butterflies in one place. This was the last scene of the entire trilogy, when Sam comes back from his sad farewell to his dear Mr. Frodo, and comes back to his hobbit hole with the yellow door, kisses his beloved wife Rosie, and says, “Well, I’m back.” I thought to myself, “Well, I’m here!”

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My other favorite part (can’t choose one I guess) was walking up the path to Bag End, and this made the whole thing complete, standing in front of Bilbo’s green door, the door that Gandalf tapped his staff upon. I was disappointed that Bilbo wasn’t sitting in his chair on the porch blowing smoke rings on his pipe. The door was cracked open, but a rope blocked off the few steps leading to the door. Bummer. I so desperately wanted to go and take a peek; how could we not go inside? I’m not sure what it would have looked like; I guess it would have been empty. I could only see in my head, though, the scenes from the film combined with what I have always envisioned the inside of a hobbit hole to look like and from the picture painted by Tolkien:

“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, diningrooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the lefthand 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.” –The Hobbit

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A hobbit hole means comfort, which is also how Tolkien described it, and this is why I love to imagine living in one of these. I like their lifestyle, too, relaxed, peaceful, and pretty lazy. I don’t imagine hobbits being stressed . . . Ever. How cozy a hobbit hole would be! I have often gone to bed dreaming of dwelling within a hobbit hole; sitting in a nice big chair, reading a book by the fire, listening to the crackling of the wood and smelling the intoxicatingly soothing smell of burning pine, my belly full after my six meals I had that day, and topping it off with dark rye bread with butter, a glass of milk and tea, a crumpet and scone and cakes, and perhaps a couple of grapes. I would soon go to bed in my hobbit hole bedroom, that overlooked the Shire, with the faint lights of the Green Dragon pub still burning brightly as the diamond stars above. My bed would be as luxurious and fit for the King of England, and I would sleep with such peace in my soul as the wood burning in my fireplace in my room slowly went to sleep for the night. Until the next day, when I would eat a breakfast that could have been spread upon the banquet table of a King and Queen’s castle, and then tend to my garden, talk to the neighbors, and sleep in the grass after watching the clouds turn into different shapes for hours. I would be an artistic hobbit, and would be known for my poetry and stories I had written and was working on; the children would love to gather ‘round me at night and hear my tales.

Being there, in front of Bilbo’s home, looking out upon the land and the people, Er . . . imaginative hobbits in my head I mean, seeing the green hills, gardens, flowers, lake and mountains in the distance, I then knew why Bilbo loved the Shire so dearly. No bad thing, no evil could ever possibly come to this place; it could not even be imagined looking out from the hill of Bag End. And, like Bilbo and Frodo, I understood their need and passion to save the Shire.

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But, standing there, I also felt the same longings Bilbo had as he sat smoking his pipe. . . “What lies beyond these peaceful borders?” I’m sure he thought to himself. “I want to see the world, and have adventures!” As idyllic and perfect as the Shire seemed, and as comfortable as our homes can be, and safe, we sometimes are like Bilbo and cannot be confined, but must broaden our horizons, hunt for treasure, stumble upon the unexpected, become friends with dwarves, elves, and a wizard, climb towering mountains, and fight a dragon.

 

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” –The Hobbit

I did not want that moment to end, looking out upon the Shire.

 

Along the tour, and gazing at each door and garden, I tried to think which hobbit hole would be mine…where would I like to live? I thought long and hard about it, but Bag End definitely took the cake. Our tour guide was watching out for all of us, especially when we were at Bilbo’s door, as I’m sure he could sense the plots of the nerds planning their subtle sneak-off. Josh asked if anyone had ever tried to be left behind, and he took a second, smiled and said, “Yep.” I thought that was hilarious and Josh really laughed loud. If only he knew what I was thinking . . .

 

I did not rebel, however, so you should be quite proud of my self-control. The tour was better than I could have dreamed, and I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough time, which of course we all wanted more, but realistically, we had plenty of time to listen to our tour guide and had several chances to have moments to ourselves and wander off not too far. Josh and I did get “gotten onto” once, along with a couple other people, because we got a little too excited and started going ahead and he told us to wait. Oops! Haha. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world that day; how many people get to do that? And did I ever think I really would be in the Shire? I also felt lucky because, after The Lord of the Rings film, this land was owned by a farmer, and as New Zealand has had the rule to bring everything back to its original state and Jackson had to take down his movie sets on location after filming was done, well, they had to take Hobbiton apart, too. The only thing that was left was the white walls and doorframes, so you just had to really imagine. The tour was like that for years, and when I first learned about that back in the day, I was quite disappointed because I wanted it to look like it did in the movie. Well, the timing was providential, because, after filming The Hobbit, they left it exactly the way it was. Woo hoo! Our guide said that this is going to be here forever, so we can bring our children, grandchildren, and just keep coming back. I thought that was awesome, and I already plan on our kids being LOTR nerds, whether they like it or not, and we will come back here as a family one day! I could have learned a lot more things from our tour guide, but I did wander off quite frequently. One interesting fact I did overhear, however, was that the tree on top of Bag End was FAKE!!! As we had stood at the lake, he said that if you look closely, and the wind blows, the branches don’t sway. Crazy!

 

There was another busload of people; that place is busy as the tours overlap each other. Being Easter weekend too, I’m sure this helped with the influx as well. I did not want to leave, and was very sad to say goodbye to my dear Shire. I said goodbye several times.

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We rode back to the Shire’s Rest to buy souvenirs. As if my Hobbiton experience couldn’t have gotten any better, there was a fence filled with hungry sheep, and when I walked out there I saw my husband feeding a sheep with a milk bottle! I let out a shriek and ran over there and took over the bottle and laughed as the cute as a button young sheep sucked on the bottle dramatically and loudly. It made my heart melt and made me even happier. Who could ask for anything more?
“Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.”

~The Hobbit

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The Hobbit

“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

I still remember that day clearly, as though it were yesterday, yet it is still almost merely a dream-like memory. I was in the fourth grade, and I loved to read. We had a program at our school called Accelerated Reader, which awarded you for reading lots and lots of books. To participate in this activity or game I would like to call it, you had to take a test on the computer after reading the book to see if you actually read it or not; how well your comprehension was. On the test, it also told you what level of reading the book was. The more books you read, the higher the score, of course, and then you could also get a prize! Two ladies who would often dress up as characters from books would wheel a cart down the hallways and come into our classroom on Fridays and with such enthusiasm that kids adored, announced the winners and hand out prizes for the student’s high scores. This was certainly a huge incentive to me, but even without this bribery, I would have been no stranger to the walls of my school’s library. This place fed my love for stories; of fairy tales and adventures, of romance and tragedy, of animals and nature. My imagination could run wild because of this place and when reading a book that was well written, I was there; it became not words on paper, but reality; I was there running alongside the characters and facing the monsters and bad guys they fought, and falling in love with the brave knight who came to my rescue.
One day, a young girl in the fourth grade I was, I walked into the library and scoured the shelves in search of a good book and new adventure. I do judge books by the cover. At least I did then, and pretty sure now, too, as I have found myself putting back a book or two at Barnes & Noble in disgust if I don’t like the picture on the front, shame on me, I know! I was browsing that day when I saw a BIG—and I mean especially big for the little fourth grade girl I was—book that was tall and thick and yellow golden in color. I pulled the heavy thing off the shelf and I know my eyes just lit up and got wide with wonder and excitement. A painted illustration of a great big, scary and formidable dragon with fire breathing out of its angry mouth, guarding its bed of brightly colorful red rubies, and green emeralds and golden treasure. In big letters, a simple, yet intriguing and captivating title, it read, (you can read the title out loud, and be very dramatic when you say it, for emphasis and to imagine how I felt in that moment) . . . “The Hobbit”. Woah! You don’t have to tell me twice; I was sold! What in the world is a hobbit? I thought. Oooh, I couldn’t wait to go home and read it and find out. What thrilled me to the core was looking in the back and seeing what the teachers had decided what the grade level of reading this book was… “9th Grade”!!! I felt so proud of myself, I was about to try reading a book that the big kids read in their English classes…what a High Schooler reads! I went home and read that book, and have had a love for hobbits ever since. Call me a nerd if you want, but I even wished that they were real and I probably might have imagined they were J I took the Accelerated Reading test later, and passed with flying colors. Yay! That book captured my attention wholeheartedly and fueled my adventure-hungry mind and inspired me all the more to create my own stories; in my head and on paper. You see, Bilbo, the main character, or, the hobbit . . . he and I have a lot in common. At first, he thought he had no need for adventures in his life; for, after all:

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” (Gandalf the Wizard)
“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!” (Bilbo)

And yet, there was a fire, a longing that grew stronger each day in his heart, to leave his comfortable hobbit hole and set out on an adventure. And what an adventure he had, and he discovered something along the way that set the stage for an even greater tale and the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, by the same author J.R.R. Tolkien. A funny thing about that . . . after I read The Hobbit, I was slightly confused because of how it ended. I was kind of like, that’s it? Like there should have been more since it thrust me into this great tale with all these characters and Bilbo finding a ring, and a great war, but then it just ends with really no resolution, just like it’s hanging there. I always thought that a little strange and I found myself a bit disappointed, yet I still loved the book.
Imagine my surprise and understanding when three years later, I was in the library and saw another book, three in fact, to make up a trilogy called The Lord of the Rings. After reading the back of the books, it was like a light bulb went off and I had to slap myself in the face for being so dumb, I felt like an idiot! Of course The Hobbit left you hanging, because that wasn’t the end; that was just the beginning, the prequel to the biggest story of all time! As you can see, I am quite a fan, and highly recommend all to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. In junior high, two of my best friends, Jade and Kiri, were also fans and were currently reading the trilogy. I checked the books out, but I never got very far in the first, The Fellowship of the Ring. I kept re-checking it out, but it was such a hard read; a lot more advanced than The Hobbit. It was kind of frustrating. I still hadn’t forgotten about the trilogy, and was encouraged all the more to pick it up again and read the whole thing when Peter Jackson began filming and brought The Fellowship into theatres my sophomore year of high school. That same year, I finally read through the whole trilogy; I wanted to finish it before all three of the movies came out. Tolkien’s story has impacted my life tremendously and I am so glad that the story was brought to the big screen. Throughout high school, I continued to be best friends with Jade and Kiri, and we were OBSESSED with the movies and the book. It was a big part of my life and every year we had a special bond together as we made it a tradition to go to the theatres and watch each film together for the first time. It was perfectly set up since the first one came out our sophomore year, “The Two Towers” our junior year, and the final film at the end of our high school days; senior year brought us “The Return of the King”. It came out around Christmas time each year, so it was our reward and treat, after our finals were over, to go eat at Olive Garden and then watch our favorite stories played out for us with the characters we envisioned in our minds when reading now real characters that we could really put a face to. The final film is gut wrenching to the fans, and to anyone with a heart. That’s what I love about the story; all the themes that we as people can easily relate to. Themes of hope and friendship and loyalty, and Good vs. Evil. It’s awesome! The story was also about saying goodbye to friends, and the tears flowed like a river from me and Kiri’s eyes as we watched the film; knowing that this was the end of our tradition and nearing the time when we were all three going to have to part ways to our different colleges and say goodbye.
My love for this literary masterpiece carried with me on to college as well, and I spent my whole senior year in the library engrossed in books and research writing my senior thesis on “Christian symbolism in ‘The Lord of the Rings’”. I would sit in the library many days listening to all three of the movies soundtracks on my I-Pod to stay motivated, haha. You can laugh at me, I know, that is kind of embarrassing. But I am so grateful for this story, and it honestly even helped me in my Christian walk, especially writing my thesis, using a story I love and being able to relate it to God.
Well, as you can guess, if you know any thing about those movies, you probably know that it was filmed in, none other than where I am right now. New Zealand. And thus, back in high school, my love for this land that was Middle-Earth began. I have to go there! I told myself. I dreamed of going on my honeymoon with my husband. I did think it would even be cool to possibly live there one day if I were brave enough. Funny how life works out.
And, like Bilbo, I am on an adventure now. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings also inspired me to have my own adventures. I guess life itself is an adventure too, when you really think about it, and like the wise and insightful Helen Keller observed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” At times, and before coming to New Zealand, in fear I thought about staying in my little hobbit hole, comfortable, warm, and safe, surrounded by all things familiar. And yet, the same fire and longing in my heart to be part of a grand adventure calls me to look out the window at the mountains in the distance and at new roads I must tread, pick up my walking stick, and carry my little (but not hairy) feet down the dusty road, thinking, “Still round the corner there may wait, A new road or a secret gate.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

Currently, while we are residing in New Zealand, Peter Jackson is filming “The Hobbit” here, again in the land that became known as Middle Earth to many people. I keep hoping we will come across them filming one day as they shoot throughout the North and South island.

Well, the day came that I heard some news and learned something even better than coming across them filming . . . I could actually BE in the movie!!! I could be a hobbit! Thanks to Antony who saw the ad on TradeMe and told me about it, they were having an extras casting call in Wellington! With this long intro of my history with The Hobbit and LOTR, you can only imagine my reaction. This was like the most exciting, best news in my life! Haha. So, that is what I mentioned in the previous blog, that Josh and I did on Saturday morning, January 28th, the day after moving into our flat.

I knew I didn’t quite fit the requirements listed on the ad, but I didn’t care and knew it was worth a shot and to be able to say I at least went to the casting call to be in “The Hobbit”, in New Zealand! It don’t get much better than that! I never thought I would be able to say that. The ad said they were looking for extras to play hobbits, being shorter than 5’ 1. They were also looking for tall, slender people to play elves, being at least 5” 5’ if you were female. If you didn’t fit that, they said they were also looking for people with character faces . . . which I think that means you look kind of ugly, haha. Oh, great! I don’t think I have a character face to be an Orc or a woman of the wild. And, I am too tall to be a hobbit, and too short to be an elf . . . I’m right in the middle, being 5” 3, I think. I was always pretty short in school and I guess about average now, but I actually didn’t prefer to be a hobbit (though I would still take it!) but was so excited to think maybe they would choose me to be an elf. And then I could star opposite Orlando Bloom! I wore a green and blue and white dress that I had worn for me and Josh’s engagement pictures, and put part of my hair back to make my ears stick out more and I straightened my blonde hair. I would be the perfect elf! I was going to wear my high heels but Josh was smart and told me to just wear my flats because they would most likely make us take our shoes off anyways. We woke up early that morning and I got all ready. I was so nervous I almost felt sick! Haha. I was like, what if I really get it? Oh, I would be so nervous! And what if they make me try out by doing a speaking part, reading from a script? We were like, nah, they wouldn’t do that to be an extra.

The casting call was at a school hall in Lower Hutt, an outlying suburb of Wellington, at 1:00 p.m. I knew there would be a huge line, so we left early though I was afraid we might not be early enough. We left our flat at about 11:00 and arrived between 11:30 and 11:45. There was a long line all right! Driving over there and arriving and seeing the long line of people, nerds like me, hopeful of being chosen, I just couldn’t believe I was doing this. Josh was excited for me and kind of making fun of me too, haha. But hey, he was alongside me and said he of course was going to try out too! I was like, “you’re gonna get picked and be an Elf, and I’m not gonna be in it! I will be SO mad at you!” We had to park pretty far away next to a river, and then walked down the road to get to the end of the line. I was still pretty nervous. So, we waited in the hot sun for quite a while, but then the line started moving before 1:00 which was good, so we really only stood out there for almost an hour. Some guys came around while we waited handing out information sheets that we had to fill out with our measurements, talents, where we live, and availability. When Josh read that you had to be available on 9 hours notice pretty much any day of the week, for the filming that would occur between February and June, he knew he was going to have to pass. I already knew he probably wouldn’t be able to with his full-time job, but that just confirmed it. I’m sure he would have gotten chosen if he did try out, because he really would be the perfect elf, which would have been pretty dang cool to say my husband was an elf in one of my favorite books turned into a movie!

With each step that got closer to the front door, the more anxious I felt and my stomach was filled with not butterflies, but birds, angry birds. What if I really did have to act out a part? Or what if The Peter Jackson was in there, along with Frodo and Bilbo? I was hoping Gandalf was in there with his white staff, so he could make me grow just a few inches taller and I could fulfill my dream of being an elf. At last, Josh stepped out of the line, and I was on my own and alone to walk in the doors of that little school hall. The guy at the front, who was kind of big compared to me and intimidating, separated us into two lines. He told me to go left. I wonder what that means? I thought to myself. As predicted by my husband, I had to take off my shoes. I had noticed a lot of girls wearing stilettos and clomper heels, so I’m glad I didn’t look like an idiot doing that after all. I didn’t see Peter Jackson in there, which I was a little disappointed, just normal people. Lucky them, though, they get to work on this film. I felt like I was shaking as it was finally my turn to hand the girl my piece of paper and stand against the wall as she measured my height. She yelled it out to the other lady sitting at the front table, I’m not sure what it was though I don’t remember plus I think she was using the metric system. The lady handed me my paper back after she had written a note, “blonde hair, green dress” I guess for when the reviewing panel would look at the pictures later. I wished I had a pen to scribble another note saying, “Pick this girl!” I was motioned to another line where we stood against another wall and a lady took a picture of each of us. I was watching all the other people in front of me, and even asked the couple in front of me, “Are we not supposed to smile, or do you know?” because they were all straight-faced and almost frowning. I want to smile! I thought. They said just be serious, I guess. Hopefully that was the right thing to do, because that’s what I did. It felt weird and awkward as all the people in line were just staring and the girl took two or three pictures, full length and up close, and I stood there trying not to smile. And then, that was it! I walked out of there and instantly felt my nerves calm again and relieved that that was over. I don’t know if I could handle being a movie star, with all those flashing lights.

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I walked out and found my husband, who I was very glad to see again. We were astounded by the long line of people…it was outrageous! We had gotten there in the nick of time. It was stretching far down into a park and almost all the way out to the busy highway. Which, by the way, when we had been waiting in line outside, it was right by the super busy motorway and the traffic was jamming up as everyone was in the turning lane to get into the parking lot. We drew a lot of attention to passerby’s as they honked and waved and just stared at us weirdos. It was a tight squeeze in our car and we almost got scraped by trying to get out of there, but eventually, we made it out.

Well, I had done it! I had tried out to be in “The Hobbit”! Who gets to say that? Haha. Never thought I would.
We later learned that I was quite lucky, because the turn out was so phenomenal and exceeded expectations and became dangerous due to the highway, that they had to shut down the casting call early. They were only expecting 1,000 people to show up, but over 3,000 are estimated to have shown up. Only 800 people, myself included, got to make it in the doors and have a chance. In fact, it made international news! You can read a couple of those articles here:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/culture/6283608/Hobbit-casting-call-in-capital

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/culture/6331323/Wannabe-hobbits-turned-away

http://www.buzzbox.com/news/2012-01-31/peter-jackson:rings/?clusterId=8297790

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It was an amazing day and experience to say I got to be a part of; whether I get to be an extra in the movie or not. Who knows if I would get a call, as the selection process is still underway; I have a long time to find out or not whether I would make it. Either way, I cannot wait until the first part comes out (they are making The Hobbit into two films) and the world premier is set for Wellington in November. I’m not sure the date yet, but we are staying until it premiers. I want tickets and I want to go to the event that they supposedly bring the red carpet out for in the streets of this city I now live in. Boy, I’d go bonkers, and I will be that screaming fan that nearly passes out that they show on TV. And I will meet Peter Jackson, and Elijah Wood, and Orlando Bloom. I might even have a cup of tea and eat lembas bread with them, too. It’s on my bucket list anyway.

I shall leave you with the trailer for “The Hobbit”. When I first watched this online a couple months ago, I was by myself, I wish Josh had seen me, but I literally screamed and really squealed with delight when I watched it and clapped my hands. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe I was living where they are currently filming it and I have already seen some of the landscape! The music, the dwarves singing their song; I can tell it’s already an amazing soundtrack and just seeing the background, it was all almost just too much for me. Somebody might need to sedate me before I go see that film in theatres. And I want to watch it here. How cool would that be? Man, this trailer gives me goose bumps watching it, too. I’m a big fan, can you tell?