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There and Back Again: A Return to Middle Earth, Part I

December 13, 2003 at 10:48 am by maegwen  - 

TORn’s very own Jedi Hobbit Pippin Skywalker writes in with the first of six reports on her trip to New Zealand:

Hello my dear hobbits, friends and general Middle Earth countrymen! If you will lend me your ears for a time many a joyous tale will grace your ear that hardly any elf would hope to tell. Here I will tell of my adventures in New Zealand the modern name of Middle Earth and what it was like for a hobbit like myself to travel home to the place of my birth.

Great joy came when I found out I would be able to attend the World Premiere of Return of the King in New Zealand, and to ride the venerable airline to Middle Earth, Air New Zealand. I start my tale by saying that a lot of love and sacrifice was involved in my attending this Premiere and once again I have BOTH my parents to thank for this wonderful and memorable trip that was only made imperfect by their not being able to make it themselves due to my mother’s health and other matters.

So it was arranged that I would have a friend of the family go as a guardian and protector on the trip — my very own Samwise Gamgee. With all these matters settled it was decided I would depart for Middle Earth the day after Thanksgiving with another hobbit companion. It so happened that around this time another friend had won a contest to go to the Premiere–Hilary, who was a finalist in the AOL Red Carpet Contest won it all becoming the youngest to win a contest like that. She is only 13 and she won the chance of interviewing the cast on the Red Carpet. We had worked it out that we would meet up in NZ since we were to be taking different flights.

On November 28th I took a flight from New York to LA with my Guardian and arrived in the evening in to LAX airport. To our surprise while getting the boarding passes to the next flight with Air New Zealand we saw Sala Baker waiting to get tickets in line. I did a double take. I’m a hobbit and there is the dark lord of Mordor! I decided not to bother Sala then since he was just trying to get his ticket.

Later on me and my friend met up with him and he was shocked for a second when we said his name (he doesn’t get recognized much), but then he turned out to be really nice and chatted with us a bit. We were all on the same flight so that was neat. He wanted to know where we were sitting which was unfortunately pretty far from him. It was still fun though…kind of the last VIP flight to do with the Premiere going out. He signed both our books and gave us friendly handshakes and bows and then we got ready to board the plane.

At this point before I got on one the people at the airport stopped me and said: “You have an important call to be answered before you board the plane.” So I was about to call my dad to see if he had called my cellphone. Sala saw the airport employee stop me and joked “Are you in trouble?” lol. As it turns out everything was fine… My dad had just tried to call earlier. So now finally I could get on board the plane! As I waited in line to enter the aircraft I see Sala heading back out of the line (probably forgot something) and I got him back for his joke earlier saying “Are you in trouble now?” 🙂

For Hobbits Only

At last all hobbits and Middle Earthlings were on board and were ready for the long journey towards the lost isles of Middle Earth (And to my relief Sala made it back on the plane). Now I must drop a word about Air New Zealand as an airline. This airline puts all other airlines to shame (sorry Delta) and is truly the airline to rule them all. On each and every seat in economy is a white cloth that says Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King- Air New Zealand- Airline to Middle Earth. Now that is COOL! Definitely the only airline that would do something like that.

The other marvelous thing I noticed was they feed you like a hobbit on those flights and the food? The food puts all other airplane food to shame (Are you listening other Airlines?). They give you a delightful hot meal (I had a Lasagna) and a five course breakfast (omlette and nice bacon weee!). And the people are so friendly and nice and they give everyone hard candies toward the end of the flight (what service! read and weep ye other airlines!).

To add to all these wonderful things they have some radio stations you can listen to on the plane and channel 8 is the Middle Earth channel! It is a little airline radio thing narrated by Ian Mckellan and talks about the making of Return of the King and the inspiration for the movies and the books. We hear Peter Jackson, Howard Shore, Phillipa Boyens,the Cast,and many others talking about the books and films–it was Awesome! And of course we can bear to listen to Gandalf narrating any time. 😉

New Zealand through the clouds

Overall it was a long but wonderful flight full of wonder and expectation. I felt like I was going to another world–a hobbit returning home again. The clouds passed by, night faded and day awoke and at long last the deathlessly fair, misty shores of The North Island of New Zealand began to appear and I began to be pierced by its beauty which was made stronger and more ethereal by the light of the early morning. It was like looking upon the shores of Valinor for the first time and I will never forget it.

I felt something like what Columbus must have felt seeing land in the West for the first time.

The plane landed in Auckland where we had to get on another flight to Wellington. I saw Sala again at the baggage claim, said hello, and after a short chat he was going to see if he could get on our flight (since his was much later). We boarded a 9:00 am flight to Wellington and got into the Wellington Airport at 10:00 am. I could almost make a separate report on what I saw at the airport but the pictures should tell the story.

Bag End Display at Airport LOTR Armor at Airport

I had already begun to see LOTR banners in Auckland but Wellington topped it all. They had statues of armour worn by various characters in the films (orc armour, easterling armour, hobbit clothes and the like). There was also a special place behind glass where props and certain rooms from the movies were on display. We saw the palantir on its pedestal, the inside living room of Bag End, an Elvish study and King Theoden’s throne. And of course no visit to the airport is complete without seeing Gollum grasping for the ring near where the planes are (he looks like he needs coffee BADLY).

After leaving the airport we went to the Inter-Continental Hotel to check in (and this happened to be where a lot of the cast were staying) and then proceeded on to the Chocolate Fish Cafe, a beautiful place on Wellington Harbor where the cast loved to eat while they were filming LOTR. So we got to the counter to order our goodies and I notice out of the corner of my hobbit eye Alan Lee sitting down at one of the tables. I tell my friend, who is a big Alan Lee fan, but didn’t want to bother him then. So we sat down and presently Alan comes out and my friend (who is a student film director) goes up to him and say hello. What a fun little adventure to start our day!

Later on, returning to the Hotel I hear screams erupt every five minute while I’m in my room — apparently that was the day of the press junket (held in the Inter-Continental) so the cast were all piling in ( the place was crawling with press too). It was something else. Later in the early evening we hop into a cab to head over to TheOneRing.net’s party at the Skyline Restaurant.

While we are in the cab on the way there my guardian Ben tells me he MET John Rhys Davies in the Lobby just then. Suddenly my heart stops. I remembered my wonderful meetings with him from two years ago and how kind he was. I told the cab to turn around and take me back to the Hotel… I had to seize the chance!

I walk back into the lobby and there in the lounge is the man himself! I boldly go up to him and tell him my name and that I met him twice to years ago. He remembered, and fondly taking my hand he recited a poem about the name Grace written by Ben Johnson which he did the first time I met him TWO years ago!

After this I still was not sure if he remembered and so said “I doubt if you remember me” to which he answered “How could I not remember you!” I was delighted. He is such a dear man and I felt so honored to meet him again. I asked if he was well, to which he was replied he was and he asked after my family and how I had come to New Zealand. He also introduced me to his wife and his assistant while I was there. After a short chat I got back in the cab without a picture or an autograph but filled with memory, that blessed thing which burns deeper than fire.

I arrived at the Skyline Restaurant and got in the long line into the building. About 95 percent of the people there were in costume and while we were waiting outside there were games afoot with men in full Rohan armour with swords dueling (probably to impress the fair maidens there).

Gandalf Parties

After about 20 minutes I was face to face at the ticket counter with my old friend Erica Challis who I was meeting for the first time in person. She is a delightful and sprightly person with a lovely kiwi accent and a tender heart who asked after my mother. She gave me and my friend free tickets since their previous owners were not able to attend, so I got these lovely blue tickets that said TheOneRing.net on them.

From here we went on in and what a sight met our eyes! A feast was laid out in Medieval style and dozens of hobbits, Rohirrim, elves (and a balrog!) were roaming the place. I stepped into another room and there saw Quickbeam (Cliff Broadway) standing and talking to someone. I went up to him and introduced myself as PippinSkywalker, not thinking he would know me (since we had rarely chatted online).

To my suprise, when the entishly tall and deep-voiced fellow heard my nickname he smiled, shook my hand, and gave me a hug exclaiming “PippinSkywalker!” To my surprise he did know me since I had sent him a few emails ages ago (which I didn’t even remember). He was very nice and courteous despite the fact he was very busy. A real gentleman of an ent if I may say so. 🙂

The night went on and to the surprise and wonder of us all Ian Mckellan, Sean Astin, Laurence Makoare, Bruce Hopkins and Richard Taylor all arrived to stir things up a bit. The greatest appreciation went to Sir Ian Mckellan as he did his fantastic Gandalf voice for us all and then said the TheOneRing.net gives the best parties!

Later on the magnificent and kind John Noble stepped onto the podium but sadly not as many people recognized him (you will NOT be able to miss him after you see the Third LOTR film). He has wonderful presence and a kind heart and led the auctions that were to raise money for organ donations. He was very passionate and led the auction well (he really stirred up the crowd!). Many items were sold including a broken Anduril, many signed books, and a new Zealand sweater done by a company called Lothlorian (hmmm 😉 ).

Overall it was a very enjoyable night and it was an honor for me to get to meet some of the fine people who run this site. Thank you Erica and Cliff for your kindness and courteousness.

So ends Part I of a Hobbit’s Tale by me Pippin Skywalker the Jedi Hobbit. Tune in next time for the wondrous tale of the World Premiere in Wellington and
a lots of photos!

PippinSkywalker

Posted in Old Special Reports on December 13, 2003 by
Thranduil Statue

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