Posted by: Tommy | August 29, 2011

A day in the life of a hobbit.

Jack had one thing he really wanted to do, more than anything else, in New Zealand.  His favorite movies are the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  If you see him reading a book, it’s either Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings.  And so, of course, the thing he most wanted to do in New Zealand was visit Hobbiton, the combo sheep farm/movie set that hosted Peter Jackson, Orlando Bloom and the rest of the LOTR crew for the filming of all scenes set in the Shire during the first trilogy, as well as the new Hobbit movie (coming to a theater near you in 2012).

(Funny aside: Jack was very defensive about Hobbiton.  Jerry called it Hobbitown (town, rather than ton) one too many times and got corrected.  The rest of us took great pleasure, for 2 weeks, in mispronouncing Hobbiton as egregiously as possible, eventually settling on Obeetone as the best way to irritate Jack.)

A few days before our scheduled visit to Hobbiton, Jack came up with a challenge for the two of us: on Hobbiton day, we’d eat like hobbits.  For those unfamiliar with the books/movies, hobbits are small creatures with enormous appetites.  They eat 7 meals in a standard day – First Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Lunch, Afternoon tea, Dinner and Supper.  I’m always up for an eating challenge, so we decided to go for it.

Unfortunately for this post, Peter Jackson doesn’t want anyone seeing the new Hobbiton set before the new Hobbit movie comes out, so we are prohibited from putting any of our pictures on the internet. Fortunately, though, there are tons of people on Flickr who don’t feel as bound by their secrecy agreement – so if you are Peter Jackson’s lawyers, please note that none of the below photos were taken or published by me.  I’m merely linking to content already available online.  And don’t worry – all pictures of Jack and I eating obscene quantities of food are readily publishable and can be found below.

The Shire - not my photo.

We started off the day with First Breakfast – Sally made a copycat dish of something she’d eaten the day before.  Toast with a piece of NZ bacon (New Zealand had the best bacon I’ve ever tasted) and a poached egg.  We’ve got 6 meals to go, so we each ate only one.

First Breakfast

After a mad hunt for our camera (and a quick trip back to the Zorb – we’d left it there), we were on our way.  For Second Breakfast, Jack made us each an oatmeal to take in the car.  Unfortunately, Jack made 3 times the normal serving amount – but he made up for it by filling it full of chocolate chips!  I choked the thick, chocolatey porridge down.  Jack ate three bites before giving up.  In fairness, it was a LOT of oatmeal.

Meal #2: Second Breakfast. Jack was all smiles before realizing just how much oatmeal was in that cup.

Upon arriving at Hobbiton, we signed the aforementioned secrecy contract before being ushered by van onto the sheep farm that serves as The Shire. There are sheep everywhere – though none of them appeared in the movies.  The movie is set in England, where they have black-faced sheep, rather than the white-faced sheep found in New Zealand.  Apparently they flew over untold thousands of sheep, trees, flowers, etc. to make the details right.  Which is one of the reasons Jackson blew out the budget, to the tune of $770 million.  But the attention to detail is also one of the reasons the movies made back $8 billion.

See Peter Jackson, that's definitely not me. But it is the entrance to Hobbiton.

Carolyn, our fantastic guide to Hobbiton, showed us around for a couple of hours.  She called us hobbits, rather than people (which was weird, but kind of fun for a while) and was clearly very excited about her job.  She let us look inside one of the hobbit holes – bad news, they are about 6 inches deep, the doors are entirely for background shots.  With the exception of Bag End, Bilbo’s hobbit hole.  Bag End can legitimately fit 40 people – actors, cameramen, crew etc.

Sadly, this is the best shot of Bag End I could find online. I have a much, much better picture, but, well, you know...

Bag End today is actually amazingly green and has a giant, fiberglass tree standing atop it.  In the Tolkein books, Bag End is described with the giant tree on top of it.  In real life, that was impossible to find.  So in the LOTR movies, a tree from England was uprooted, cut into small pieces (you can’t bring live trees into New Zealand – they have very strict biological import laws) and reassembled with screws atop Bag End.  Students at a local university spent hundreds of hours gluing plastic leaves to the first tree.

That first version of The Shire, while set in exactly the same place, was destroyed after the filming ended on the trilogy.  What we saw is the new, identical set for The Hobbit.  For this new Bag End, the setmakers made a replica tree out of fiberglass.  Jack and I found some plastic leaves on the ground (there are 300,000 or so on the tree and the wind gets some of them) that Carolyn allowed us to take.  Jack has them.

After Bag End, we headed downhill to see the Party Tree and the space where Bilbo’s birthday was filmed.  This was the most naturally beautiful part of the tour, with the huge, round tree sitting in the middle of an open field, next to a lake and surrounded by picturesque hobbit holes.

The Party tree

And that was pretty much the tour.  But the fun didn’t stop there.  Jack and I still had to eat like hobbits for the rest of the day.  We opted to eat Elevensies at The Shire’s Rest – the restaurant at Hobbiton.  We ate an unhobbitlike 1 hotdog apiece.

Elevensies: Hotdogs

After Elevensies, Jack and I’s eating schedule diverged somewhat.  I had a leftover ham sub from Subway that I ate as soon as we arrived in Auckland (we drove there, uneventfully, after leaving Hobbiton).  Not so much because I was hungry but because I needed to space it out before afternoon tea.  Jack didn’t have an old sandwich and wasn’t hungry, so he didn’t eat lunch right then.

Lunch: 3 day old ham sub from Subway

As soon as I finished the sandwich, Jerry decided that we should all go to lunch.  Great – I’d just eaten an old sandwich.  But we’d heard about a fantastic, cheap Chinese spot nearby, so I reasoned that I could get my afternoon tea there.  I ordered tea while everyone else ordered one dish apiece.  But when they brought out the food, it was clear that the 5 of us could have shared 2 dishes – they were huge!  Jack ordered shrimp-fried rice as his lunch, staying on pace.  Anna ordered her favorite, laksa.  I talked Sally into duck noodles and Jerry got something else.

You gotta have cookies with afternoon tea. Jerry snuck these into the restaurant.

Unfortunately for my stomach, I don’t like to see food go to waste.  But no one could eat even half of their order.  So I decided to have my dinner at 5pm, close on the heels of lunch and afternoon tea.  Even I was impressed by the amount of Chinese I packed away.

Jack, going to town on some fried rice for lunch.

Later that day, we went out to a restaurant in Auckland.  Jack, Jerry and Sally ordered dinner.  Anna and I did not.  I was having a not-insignificant amount of stomach pain at that point in time.  But I was still at only 6 meals.  Sally had made a large batch of her famous chili in Queenstown (and I’d carried it on the plane to Auckland, rather than waste it).  So I ate two bowls of chili, just before bed, to complete the hobbit challenge.  Jack, who usually eats 2 small meals a day, had impressively answered the bell 5 times already (his oatmeal consumption that morning was questionably a meal, and certainly not impressive).  But he just couldn’t do it for chili that night.  A good effort by both of us, I’d say.  My stomach would disagree – I was ill for 2 days afterward.

Meal #7: Chili for dinner. Bad call - I had heartburn for 2 days.



  1. When Jack made Hobbiton his top pick of the trip, we had to do it. But I have to say I was a lot less excited than Jack to go there. Was I ever wrong! We were the first tour of the day and like the Opera House, it was a very good thing. It was amazing and we would have never seen the amazing NZ scenery in that area without taking the detour to go to Hobbiton. Beyond that, the place was magical. The attention to detail that Peter Jackson has truly transports you to another place. I cannot wait to see the movie. Thank you Jack!

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