April 13, 2001

Sir Ian McKellen's Latest E-Post
Ian McKellen

Q: It has always seemed to me that the progression in Lord of the Rings equates to a geographical progression away from pastoral England (the Shire). If you look at the landscapes in the great Tolkien artists, they always seem quite "pastoral" and English, but become progressively less so as the Fellowship moves towards Mordor.  In that respect, it must be difficult to overcome the essential non-Englishness of the New Zealand bush, which has such a unique character (esp. with its tree ferns). What steps, if any, are being taken to give the New Zealand bush a more "England-like" appearance?

A: I agree that Hobbiton and the Shire fit the middle-English countryside around Oxford, where Tolkien lived and wrote. Yet Middle-earth is its own place, less cultivated than England. The rolling green hills in New Zealand's North Island are reminiscent of Oxfordshire yet have their own personality which doubles well for the Shire. Elsewhere the varied landscapes match the demands of the story. As for the bush, there is a magical, long-lost wildness that the native vegetation enhances. I think, in one of the indoor sets, I did spy an imported English oak amongst the ferns. Equally, the film's Treebeard would look at home in the woodland with which Tolkien was familiar.

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