Hobbits are the heart of Tolkien’s stories in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Gentle creatures who mostly keep to themselves and enjoy gardening, food and a good ale (or a few) at the end of the day, they are the most unlikely inhabitants of Middle Earth to do anything remarkable. And that’s kind of the point: it’s the least who will be greatest in the end.
Creating Hobbiton to reflect not only the characteristics but also the heartbeat of the hobbits who live there was no small task but critical to setting the tone for the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Imagine you start watching a 3-hour fantasy movie, and the Shire scenes that take up the first 45 minutes (after the prologue) are cheesy and false. You probably wouldn’t finish the movie, much less the next 6 hours of the trilogy. Peter Jackson and the rest of the crew understood this and took seriously the challenge to faithfully recreate Tolkien’s world and make it as real as possible. The result is a pastoral wonderland that feels like you’ve both stepped back in time and been welcomed home.
As you walk through the Hobbiton set, there are fascinating details everywhere – some of them are straight out of Tolkien. For example, the Shire has plum trees. Unfortunately New Zealand does not. So Jackson had ornamental pear trees planted from which the crew stripped the native fruit and wired on plums for filming. Not kidding. Other details are just fun: the scarecrow in a field or a little waistcoat slung on a fence. Hobbiton has a cheesemonger, potter, and beekeeper: I know because of the artifacts displayed outside some of the various hobbit holes. Every hobbit hole has a hand-painted mailbox and lovely little touches that make it unique. Every building and prop looks like it fits there: all aged the same, all consistent with the way of life hobbits would have had, all demonstrating a great deal of thought.
Another challenge the film crew undertook was making hobbits look small and wizards big. To accomplish this movie magic, they used a variety of techniques, many of them quite simple. Forced perspective, for example, is just placing the wizard close to the camera and the hobbit far away or giving the hobbits giant versions of an object to hold while giving the wizard a tiny version of the same object. The size contrast between the two then seems much larger than in real life. In Hobbiton you can see this, too – some of the hobbit holes are intended to make the hobbits look small (so they’re built bigger than others), while others are intended to make the wizard look huge.
Check back tomorrow for a tour of the Bag End exterior and the Party Field.
Title quote: J.R.R. Tolkien as Samwise Gamgee, The Two Towers