There and Back Again: My Hobbit’s Tale

Having read a fair number of blogs, I know I’m not the only traveler inspired by The Lord of the Rings, but I think the number and extremity of decisions I have made based on the works of Professor Tolkien would rank fairly high on a list of ‘crazy.’

Yes, I like so many millions before me, picked up the book and became enthralled.

And I re-read it every year like Christopher Lee.

My room would more accurately have been described as a LOTR shrine (you’ll have to imagine it as the photograph is tucked somewhere in a book somewhere).

Unlike a majority of enthusiasts, I took it upon myself to learn the Tengwar Elvish script two years after reading the book for the first time.  Twelve-year-old me loved having a secret script no one was ever likely to be able to spy on to pour secrets into.

For years I dreamt of making the movie and then Peter Jackson happened. So I camped out by the theater when I was in middle school and gave lectures to the much older crowd around me about the history of Middle Earth from the First Age to the Fourth. Despite being robbed of my dreams of making the film trilogy, I went to film school in Los Angeles hoping I might be able to produce the likes of the Silmarillion.

Fast forward about ten years to late 2010 when I found myself on the brink of my final semester at The University of Southern California. I remember standing outside in the fairy-light illuminated front yard with a circle of my friends at the weekly Wine & Weed Wednesdays we’d created for ourselves and laughing when a friend joked that I was liable to follow the film crew around New Zealand now that, having endured years of pre-production gridlock, The Hobbit would begin shooting in the early months of the upcoming year. Probably a week or so afterwards I told my housemates that if they were okay with the replacement I found I would be be heading off to New Zealand. We had a giant blow-out party before I left. I didn’t know when–or if–I would ever come back. That’s what I told myself because it sounded like a romantic…

air new zealand plane

A month later I found myself stepping off a plane in Wellington, just a few miles from PJ’s production hub in Miramar, with no place to stay and knowing nothing about New Zealand beyond what I had absorbed from watching the films (and hours of DVD extra features) and eating the chocolate Tim Tam biscuits my one Kiwi acquaintance had introduced me. In the period immediately following my arrival I managed to give nearly everyone who knew me a heart attack by disregarding rational thought. I’ll spare the details, but it involved an ex-convict, the police, and a vast network of Mormons (set off by my mother and a concerned aunt) conspiring to rescue me from my ill-advised decisions. Luckily I ended up in the home of a very lovely Kiwi family, whom I still fondly refer to as my ‘fake family.’

In that that time I also made contact with the film’s art department, had various phone calls and meetings, submitted my Elvish script and was praised by their official calligrapher Daniel Reeve. These exciting events, however, occurred within the scope of a cursed production and when Peter Jackson got an ulcer and the production went on hiatus (and a hiring freeze) I went on a roadtrip that quickly ended with me nearly drowning, breaking my right elbow (my Elvish writing hand), and unable to walk. Hard to feel sorry for yourself when an earthquake brings the south island city Christchurch crashing down at the same time though. But when my mom asked me if I was going to come home now that my employment prospects on the film were at zero percent chance I flat out refused.

Nope. I was going to poke around the hills of New Zealand until I felt like I’d explored Middle-Earth properly. And so I did.

Three years later, I think it’s finally time to share the adventures of that year… before I forget them all.

Just one more reason I believe I could destroy Stephen Colbert in Lord of the Rings trivia.

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