By Jessie Voigts
Destination: New Zealand
Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Last summer, my students and I read The Hobbit together. It had been 30 years since I’d read it. I have to admit, I reveled in the classic story, long buried in my brain under years of reading. As you know, it is a classic tale of a quest; a long, life-changing journey. The travelers have to battle (and avoid) various creatures, traverse extraordinarily vast plains, wend their way through mountain paths, and pursue their quest across Middle Earth.
Then, there was a movie (isn’t there always?). Directed by Peter Jackson, this is the first installment of three movies based on The Hobbit. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a sweeping reintroduction to the lands (and characters) we loved in Lord of the Rings. Jackson’s passion for Tolkien’s books can be seen in the extreme care he takes in the films. For instance, Bilbo’s house is a work of art, beautifully created and shaped from Tolkien’s words. And, Jackson’s love for his country can be seen in the beautifully captured landscapes in the movie, as he introduces us to New Zealand.
If you, like me, love literary travel and want to visit Hobbiton and see the landscapes of Rivendell, get yourself to New Zealand.
- The film locations for The Hobbit are amazing.
- There’s even a self-drive tour.
- In Matamata (in the Waikato region, North Island), you can visit the Hobbiton movie set, which offers tours.
- Visit Mt Ruapehu (Mt Doom), or
- Queenstown (Pillars of Argonath, Eregion Hills).
- If you’re brave, you might visit Harwood’s Hole, on the South Island. It’s one of the deepest explored caves in NZ.
- Also on South Island, look for The Remarkables – a mountain range whose high point is Double Cone.
- If you’re in love with Rivendell, head to Braemar Station at Lake Pukaki.
- While you’re there, check out Mt Cook. It is New Zealand’s highest mountain – and Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on it, in preparation for climbing Everest.
- The scenery I was most impressed by in the movie, however, was Strath Tieri (central Otago), where the company was hunted by Orcs on Wargs. The wide, sweeping landscape, dotted by enormous schist rocks, is incredibly beautiful. While you’re there, take the Taieri Gorge Train to get a feel for the land.
While I usually prefer books to movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brought the book to life for me. It propelled New Zealand to the top of my travel list.
Whether you are discovering Rivendell or New Zealand, please remember, as Gandalf says to Bilbo, “You’ll have to manage without pocket handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, Bilbo Baggins, before we reach our journey’s end. You were born to the rolling hills and little rivers of the Shire. But home is now behind you. The world is ahead.”