May 9, 2012
It was with “hack, burn, and ruin” that Saruman (and his minions) laid siege to the Shire, ransacking its hobbitholes and torching its grassy hills. Upon returning from their victorious quest, Frodo and the hobbits would find their homeland blemished and broken by the ravages of war and industry. Hobbiton lay in ruin, as it does today.
Granted, the lolling hills of Alexander Farm on the North Island in Matamata, New Zealand remain impossibly green, with not so much as a telephone cable in sight to spoil the lush antediluvian landscape. The hobbit holes, however, lay vacant, if not in a decrepit state, and are now the haunts of sheep grazing nearby.
The sets were constructed in 1999 when Peter Jackson began shooting the first footage for The Lord of The Rings films. Some thirty-seven hobbit homes constructed from untreated timber, plywood, and polystyrene were grafted onto the hillside, which was also planted with Barberry hedges and numerous varieties of trees and flora. Additional structures such as the Green Dragon were covered with roofs of thatch sourced from around the farm. The tree atop Bag End was removed from a nearby site, its contents parceled and numbered then surgically reassembled piecemeal on the set and embellished with artificial leaves imported from Taiwan. A team of 400 people, including members of the New Zealand Army, worked for nine months to cultivate the pristine grounds.
The sets lay dormant before being rebuilt for the filming of The Hobbit, the first part of which will arrive in theaters in December. The site is now maintained as a permanent exhibit as a testament to the mark that the films have left on New Zealand.
All photos via Amusing Planet