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The Shire Beckons

MATAMATA, NEW ZEALAND – A group of students from the United States started out a summer of intern work and study in New Zealand by visiting Hobbiton, the set of the Hobbit village in New Line Cinema’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. “The tour was awesome,” said Lisa Dunham, an engineering student at the University of Washington. “It made me feel better about paying the price for the tour when I found that most of the money went to the family that owned the property and the community, which is employed at the attraction.” According to tour guides, the original Hobbiton set was due to be destroyed per contract, but the weather was so bad the work could not be completed. The community asked New Line Cinemas if instead of destroying the prop buildings, the locals could keep them and turn the set into a tourist destination. After negotiations, a deal was reached. “The village is almost surreal, it is so picture perfect,” said Dunham. “There are hobbit holes of different sizes for perspective purposes. Each hobbit hole has the traces of the hobbit that lives in it and their profession.” The village opened to the public in 2008, five years after the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released. The set was also upgraded and used for the filming of the Hobbit trilogy in 2011. Visitors can book a tour in advance by going to hobbitontours.com.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

A group of students from the United States on summer study trips and internships in New Zealand pose in the doorway of a Hobbiton Shire house. Pictured are (back L-R) Rachael Lane, Lisa Dunham and Dan Miller; and (front L-R) Caitlin Jacques and Nick Robles.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

A sign welcomes visitors to a set from the Lord of the Rings movies that is now maintained by locals as a tourist destination. The set was due to be torn down, but a storm intervened. The locals negotiated with New Line Cinema to keep it as a tourist attraction.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

Objects from the set are still on display. The food items are all models, including recently picked apples in a bag artfully displayed on a fence. The scale of the objects depends on how they were used in the film, with multiple sizes available to the crew for different shots.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

Dan Miller, a geophysics student, poses outside a Hobbit hole to show the scale of the door. Because the movies required using perspective to make characters like the Hobbits smaller, the doors are different sizes.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

The Green Dragon Inn, as seen in the movies, is open for business and has regular meals as well as catered meals for tour groups.

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Photo by Lisa Dunham

While the Hobbit houses in Hobbiton look good enough to sleep in, they are mostly just exteriors and cannot be entered.

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