“You shall not pass” beyond the doors of the hobbit holes at the Hobbiton Movie Set — until now.
It’s been more than 20 years since Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films put New Zealand on the map of Middle-earth, and now you can finally open the iconic round doors and explore the dwellings for yourself.
Two of the hobbit holes on Bagshot Row at the Matamata film set are opening to the public tomorrow, and the Herald got the chance to go behind the scenes for a sneak peek ahead of the opening.
So before you go on an adventure to see them for yourself, what can you expect to find inside?
From the moment you enter, you’re immersed in the world of the films. We all know it’s a dangerous business, going out your front door — and arriving at Bagshot Row, it’s easy to see why hobbits love to stay at home.
Inside, the atmosphere is warm, cosy and welcoming, thanks to a crackling fire, with all the familiar details you can see in the movies and more. The furniture is all hobbit-sized, of course, though it’s sturdy enough for humans to perch on, and the pantry is overflowing with enough food for seven meals a day, including second breakfast and elevenses.
In each hobbit hole you can explore winding hallways, two bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area, including a pantry, and a parlour. If you’re over 3ft 6 (106.68cm) — the average height of a hobbit — you’ll need to watch your head to avoid hitting it on the door frames and low ceilings in the hallways, though there’s plenty of space once you reach the living area.
While the interiors look very similar to Bilbo’s home in the films, there’s actually a whole new narrative behind this set. One of the two homes open to the public belongs to the Proudfoot family, relatives of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and one belongs to the Twofoot family.
From the clothes hanging in the wardrobes to the books, ornaments and knick-knacks on the shelves — including handwritten pages from The Fellowship of the Ring — no detail has been left out, ensuring you’ll want to go there and back again.
Until now, the 44 hobbit holes from the original film set on the 505ha Alexander family farm have been able to be viewed only from the outside.
They’ve been under construction since March this year, while the interiors — floors, ceilings, beams — were made in warehouses in nearby Matamata.
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours general manager of tourism, Shayne Forrest, explains that visitors will now be able to go inside one of the two hobbit holes as part of their tour of the film set.
Each guided tour group of 40 people will be split into two, with 20 going into each hobbit home to ensure there’s enough space to move around.
“We wanted to make sure people had enough room to explore and have a good look around to, to figure out a little bit more about how the hobbits live,” Forrest tells the Herald.
“The nice thing about the interior hobbit holes of Bagshot Row is these little Easter eggs for all levels of fandom,” he says, noting that many who visit haven’t actually seen the movies or read the books.
“They’re just coming for that Middle-earth experience because they know New Zealand is Middle-earth.
“They can walk around Hobbiton and then into these hobbit holes and it’s just a beautiful little cosy, charming spot that you can imagine that there’s a real family living here and you can walk into a room and see a hobbit at any minute.”
Set decorator Catherine Lim, who worked on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, was in charge of furnishing the interiors, and says a lot of the furniture was made especially for the set.
“And there are some that we bought from antique shops, op shops, and then we modified them — adding things on, carvings and things like that,” she tells the Herald.
“As there is no hobbit shop, we had to make a lot of our things.”
Lim hopes fans get more than they expect when they visit.
“I like to think that even the super-fans, if they look closely and they look for long enough, will have all the answers that they need and more,” she says.
And for those who haven’t seen the films, she hopes the experience will give them “a real sense of hobbit life”.
“And maybe it gives them the impetus to watch the movies and read some books, and just find out a little bit more.”
Bethany Reitsma is an Auckland-based journalist covering lifestyle and entertainment stories who joined the Herald in 2019. She specialises in telling Kiwis’ real-life stories, money-saving hacks and anything even remotely related to coffee.