Hobbit fever

By | Category: Travel destinations

Last year's airline design

Today, the second Hobbit film, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, arrives at cinemas in the UK. Is there anyone who doesn’t know that the books are filmed in New Zealand?

Tourism New Zealand has been promoting its country for some years as J R R Tolkien country. A year ago Air New Zealand had dressed staff as characters from the books and also painted over one of its planes to coincide with the opening of the last Hobbit film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Another plane has had a new paintjob to match the release of the film and that flew to Los Angeles last week for the premiere of the film there. It also has a 150 second video on YouTube which has notched up nearly 2.5 million hits. You can see it by clicking here.

But its not just New Zealand and its airline promoting itself. The Imperial War Museum North (IWM North) has managed to combine the Hobbit and its WWI exhibitions by putting on display Tolkien’s revolver that he had at the Battle of the Somme.

Tolkien endured life in the front line trenches of the Somme throughout the summer and autumn of 1916 and the impact of the battle remained with him for the rest of his life and its influence can be clearly seen, so says IWM North, in his unique mythological creations. At the end of October 1916, weighed down by weeks of tension and wretched conditions, Tolkien contracted trench fever and was sent back to hospital in Birmingham. He remained unfit for the rest of the war. It was at this time that he began to write early versions of his ‘Middle Earth’ stories. Debate continues regarding the extent to which Tolkien’s war experiences influenced his literary work.

Back in New Zealand, holidaymakers can visit the ‘Shire’ – the home of the Hobbits – which is actually on a farm called Matamata in the North Island. Tours are available – as you might expect – to take you through some of the film’s settings and finishing with a stop at The Green Dragon pub. Rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy, the set is now a permanent tourist attraction. Tourism New Zealand has also revealed four new film locations for the latest film, including the Pelorus River in the Marlborough region of the South Island. Located half way between Blenheim and Nelson it is the setting for ‘Forest River’ in The Hobbit.

So is New Zealand gaining new visitors as a result of Tolkien? It says that just under 10% of all visitors say that his books and the films are one of the reasons for visiting.

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