Friday, December 28, 2012

There's even a credit for 'leather stitchers'

Seen The Hobbit yet? I have, as of this afternoon, and am taking it easy for the whole of the evening in order to recover from the exhaustion. So much work by so many people (hundreds of names in the credits)! So much to look at! So much energy! (Also, so much fighting and falling down cliffs, all with a curious lack of blood or serious injury.) It was all very impressive: both the original by Tolkien, and the super-faithful HFR 3D movie version by Peter Jackson et al, replicating every obsessive detail. It's years since I read the book, which I galloped through for the story, without properly registering the OCD-ness of Tolkien's creation. I mean, what was this man on? The languages, the peoples, the depth of the history of his imaginary civilisations...

In Oxford, our Alice in Wonderland tour guide couldn't help including other writers and works too, pointing it out, for example, when we were following the lane that Tolkien and CS Lewis took walking back home from the Eagle & Child pub where they'd been, no doubt, comparing magical kingdoms. Philip Pullman was an Oxford man too - another creator of an intricate fantasy world for children; ditto Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Penelope Lively, Diana Wynn Jones. I really wonder what it is about the city that inspired them all in that particular direction. Maybe it's all those carved stone gateways with glimpses through to enclosed and exclusive communities, each with its own style, traditions and rules? It's certainly something all visitors to Oxford do, peer through the railings and wonder about what goes on beyond those immaculate lawns, inside those ancient buildings.

It was good to see Hobbiton looking so green and pretty, and pick out the path we followed through the village - though it was a scandalous waste of all that finicking work, building it in such elaborate detail when it was seen so fleetingly. Of course I was checking out the locations all the way through, noting the tui singing, the native bush, the mountains and grassy hills and river valleys of the South Island - was that the Hollyford at one point? - as well as watching the movie. I was envious of the actors and the crew, though, being helicoptered onto remote mountain ridges for wide shots of the dwarves and Bilbo trailing through some truly spectacular scenery. If I want to experience that sort of view, I'm going to have to hit up Ultimate Hikes again, for the Routeburn tramp this time...

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