Milford Sound in New Zealand. Can’t you just picture the Fellowship of the Ring there? By Wikikiwiman at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.
Today’s prompt is to write about a place that you would go if you had the power to travel at the speed of light. Obviously, there are about a million places I want to see and visit, so it’s difficult to choose. However, the whole “light speed” thing brings to mind two things – someplace that’s extremely far away and would take hours and days to get to normally, or someplace that’s perhaps not all that safe, and from which I would like the option to depart at light speed if things went badly. So now, there are only about a thousand places to choose from. We’re making progress. Potential destinations now includes several ancient sites in the Middle East as well as the Hermitage, Tsarskoe Selo, and St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia. I also briefly contemplated Easter Island. However, my final answer is… New Zealand.

I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand. I’ve been collecting newspaper articles and other information about such a trip for quite some time now, but I simply haven’t had the resources (time, money, and wherewithal for the ridiculously long plane ride) to actually plan a visit. A large part of the appeal is definitely to see the many locations used for the filming of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. There are a large number of Middle Earth-themed tours that operate in New Zealand.* Pretty much anywhere that any part of the movie was filmed, you can find a tour to take you there. The most exciting, of course, is the section of the Hobbitton set, including Bag End and the Green Dragon pub, that is still in situ in the countryside like a real-life Shire. There are museums, tours of the workshops that produced the films’ design elements, and trips to some of the more remote locations like those of Lothlorien and Minas Tirith. Several Middle Earth travel guides were published during and after filming of The Lord of the Rings, and more have come out or been updated after release of The Hobbit movies.**

I know that this sounds a bit like a far-off and glorified theme park, and maybe it is. I really don’t know. Maybe that’s why I haven’t done anything towards actually going – because I’m afraid that I’ll be disappointed. Maybe I’ll realize that the small pieces left of Hobbitton aren’t satisfying, and that the beautiful vistas seem empty without the wrought-iron balconies of Rivendell or the thatched halls of Rohan. After all, some of the sets never actually existed in the landscape or were never even constructed in full. Maybe it’s just best to let the magic take place on screen and not question it too hard by looking behind the curtain. However, I think there’s more about wanting to visit New Zealand than simply to see a movie set. From everything I’ve seen, heard, and read, New Zealand seems like an entire world apart from most of the Americas or Europe. Clearly the scenery is beautiful, and it seems like the culture and way of life are quite different, too. I can’t help but feel that New Zealand is a world apart as much as Middle Earth would be, and that’s why it made such a great stand-in for Tolkein’s fictional realm. The sets might not actually be there, but I can’t imagine that walking through the forests or looking up at the mountains would be anything short of magical. I would definitely be willing to risk disappointment for the opportunity to find out it that “magic” is really true.

Please don’t get the idea that I think New Zealand has nothing to offer except for hobbits and elves. I am very much interested in the art, history, and culture of the country, particularly the ways in which European-based culture and native culture co-exist there. As of right now, I simply don’t know much about it; that’s all.

* The original and best-known is Red Carpet Tours.

** Several good ones were written by Ian Brodie.

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