October 23, 2001
The Fellowship of the
In early 2000, young Jonny Grindlay and his dad drove down to the studio backlots of Wellington, New Zealand, to see what they could see. The 15-year-old was fascinated by Kiwi writer-director Peter Jackson's production of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings, one of the most loved - and most purchased - books ever. That morning, peering through a fence, Grindlay spied a large spiked wheel sitting in plain view, and he snapped a shot of the prop with his dad's digital camera. The boy soon posted the image on his fledgling Web site, the Realm of the Ring, one of hundreds of fan sites devoted to tracking Jackson's opus.
And so began the mystery of the "wizard-kabob."
Halfway around the planet, in Raleigh, North Carolina, Matthew Bass was scouring the Net for fresh news about the three movies that Jackson was concurrently shooting, the first of which, The Fellowship of the Ring, will premiere on December 19. Chancing on Grindlay's snapshot, he immediately reposted the image on his more established TolkienMovies site. Even the blurriest spy photos were valuable in those days, when Jackson's shoot had just begun, but Bass recognized that Grindlay's image was something special. Avid Tolkien readers know LOTR the way preachers know the Bible, and nowhere in the Oxford don's dense and detailed 1,200-page trilogy is there any mention of a spiked wheel.