Tolkien’s hallowed mountain
I’m the ignoramus among half-a- dozen ardent fans of The Lord of the Rings making a pilgrimage to “Edoras”.
Someone’s booked the tour for me and I’m thinking: “This could be a long day.”
The others — in their 20s and from the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan — are aching to walk about on Mt Sunday in the middle of Rangitata River valley.
It was on the outcrop that a crew spent nine months building the set for Edoras, the capital of Rohan and location of Meduseld, the hall of King Theoden — used in The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
The Golden Hall and surrounding buildings were at the top, with the gatehouse and more buildings at its foot.
Anything removed from the site, including tussock grasses, was recorded, stored and returned to its exact position after the sets were taken down.
The then-owner of the site, a farmer, became instantly wealthy from the leasing agreement.
I find the environment breathtakingly dramatic but have no idea if it is faithful to Tolkien, so I seek the opinion of a more reliable critic — the Brit, who seems the keenest fan of a very keen lot.
He’s Samuel Swift, a 22-year-old medical student who tells me he’s “the original Lord of the Rings fan”, having first discovered author J.R.R. Tolkien’s magic in print and on film at age nine.
I learn that in his search for the right site, director Peter Jackson needed to find landforms that were faithful to those that had come from Tolkien’s imagination.
“It’s just incredible seeing the locations in real life — it feels like I am in Middle Earth itself, ” Samuel says. “Everything’s here — the rocky outcrop, the windswept valley, the enclosure of mountains and the silver streams.”
In this environment, he sees shades of his home, the Lake District.
“But here it’s more spread out, rugged, windswept and empty — which is exactly why this landscape works so magically well in the film.
“It’s almost as if Tolkien had imagined this very place.”
But what about the person dragged along? Well, as it turns out, the ignoramus loves it, and I’m now open to the books and films, for a couple of reasons.
The scenery is amazing, and worth the trip for that alone.
The enthusiasm, knowledge, anecdotes and insights of the engaging guide — an ex-pastor — on non-Rings matters make the trip to and from “Edoras” fascinating.
During the trip back to Methven, the guide puts on a video with clips from Lord of the Rings. This means even I can appreciate how the setting is just perfect.
• For a down-to-earth New Zealand winter experience, go no-frills outdoor ice-skating at Stavely, which is 20 minutes from Methven.
There are no walls and no rails for beginners, just old sled-like contraptions and wheelchairs that you can hold on to for support. You can use the fire next to the rink to toast marshmallows or to dry off a wet rear end.
Skates can be hired in Stavely while the rink is open on Wednesday nights, weekends and school holidays.
• Prices are $245 (adult) and $172 (child) including Christchurch or Methven pick-ups and a picnic lunch with champagne. The tour is 8 1/2 hours from Christchurch and 5 1/2 hours from Methven. hasslefreetours.co.nz/tours .
With the final installment of the Middle-earth fanchise about to be released there is more reason than ever to have your own Middle-earth experience.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in theaters Boxing day.
© The West Australian
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