Though in my heart of hearts, I know New Zealand was not the true inspiration for the Lord of the Rings series, I cannot get it through my brain that this gorgeous country of rolling hills, snow-topped mountains and ginger beer was not in mind when Middle Earth was dreamed up. For some reason it really bothers me that the series was created with Europe as a backdrop instead of the Land of the Long White Cloud. You see, it doesn’t bother me because of some belief that the movies weren’t accurate enough or whatever but rather because NZ is so obviously better matched for the story it angers me that Tolkien didn’t see it that way.
Of course, it’s not like NZ hasn’t gotten credit for this. Peter Jackson chose the country for the filming of the movies and Kiwi marketing teams have since run wild with it. Even the safety videos for Air New Zealand are now Middle-Earth themed. That much is awesome, and for some reason makes me want to exclaim ‘Take that Europe!’ though I doubt very highly that Europe actually cares. It’s very good at not caring, you see.
I suppose the whole point to this rant, if we wanted to get all deep and philosophical, is that New Zealand feels magical. The forests leave you waiting for elves to spring out of their depths and the oceans seem to be ready to spawn barrels of fat dwarves as soon as you turn your back. You feel the magic watching phosphorescent algae alight the water with sparkles. And standing beneath ‘Tane Mahuta ” in the Kaori forest has you all but ready to clap your hands chanting ‘I believe! I believe!’ in Disney-worthy devotion. It makes you fall in love and perhaps more dangerously, makes you believe that it too has fallen in love with you. Aotearoa is alive. It has a mind and heart of it’s own so much so it seems impossible to ever kill. We don’t have the power, much like Sauron could never successfully manage to gain control over Middle Earth. The green earth was too strong, the black smoke too weak. Nonetheless, you had to admire his determination. It takes a lunatic to desire to seize control of the world but it takes a brave one to actually attempt it. I suppose it takes a stupidly determined lunatic to attempt it twice.
There is a theory that J.R.R Tolkien (why he has so many initials nobody knows) wrote the story as one big 9,250 page metaphor for industrialization. Sauron with his big black, smoking zombie machines and all-seeing eye (insert NSA joke here) was designed to represent the big, black, smoking, zombie-run machines of the turn of the Industrial Revolution. Isenguard went from being a land of nature and forest to a barren wasteland with infrastructures pouring out smoke in but a year, much as some of the world’s corners changed during this time.
Anyways, according to the theory, the Ents personified nature and the hippies, the wizards were the activists and politicians, the orcs were the factory workers and the Hobbits were the farmers and country-men.So goes the theory anyway. And it’s with this theory behind me that I support The Land of the Long White Cloud instead of Europe.
Europe got beaten by the machines. That’s not to say the continent doesn’t have it’s fair share of gorgeous nature to this day, but it lost. The cities have shops and corporations as their backbones and everything from the architecture to the merchandise is in the process of westernizing. Not that that’s a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, after all industrialization has evolved the world into what it is today. And really, when it comes down to it, Europe’s folk is doing pretty darn well in terms of preserving nature and saving the world, but it’s a world that’s already been lost.
The Kiwis are different though, they love the gorgeous landscape the fates provided them with and that is not something they are going to let go of without a fight. And they’re still fighting. Hobbits flee the city in herds to join the forests and coasts come weekends. Their Ents have bound together to form the ‘Green Party,’ the country’s third largest political party and adventure tourism is one of the country’s biggest industry. And against all odds these sheep-loving land has managed to find a balance between the big, black smoking zombie land Sauron and the pure green breathing Ents. It’s remarkable, really. But than again, so is New Zealand.
It’s rare that you find a place that has it all. Beach, snow, water, city, gorgeous maggot-larvae caves (more commonly referred to as glow-worm caves because let’s be honest, that just sounds better), phosphorescent algae, fishing, kayaking, windy roads, crazy drivers, an amazing and ancient culture, all-you-can-see rolling green hills, crazy-awesome accents, sketchy libraries, color-coordinated sky towers (around christmas it becomes half green half red- isn’t that marvelous?), healthy food, amazing healthy food, ginger beer, delicious fizzy drinks, Tim Tams, Cafe- culture, cookie bars, huge Santas that sit on top of Whitcoulls, a gorgeous building that perches on the top of the city (Auckland Domain anyone?) French markets, a focus on the IRL and of course, friendly, witty inhabitants.
And really, there isn’t more that I could think of that a place worthy of Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimley and Bilbo should have. So, it is with determination and fond memories of sheep and near-death experiences that I write, J.R.R Tolkien, you got it wrong, New Zealand is and always has been the perfect Middle Earth and I think it’s time that we set you straight.