Chocolate pudding at Edoras
Through a combination of good timing, happy coincidence and a solid dose of good luck, we found ourselves on Monday September 18 in the fair land of Rohan.
The wind howled, as we drive up the tussock-covered hill in a mud-splattered 4WD. At the top we caught our first close-up glimpse of Edoras, capital city of Rohan. The Great Hall towered to our left, grandiose and imposing. Ancient blackened wood, rich with weather-worn gilt in beautiful intricate detail met our eyes. It is totally convincing. My foot-steps seemed to echo as I tread the weathered stone at its grand entrance, but we were told it's all polystyrene.
We stepped inside the hall, but instead of imposing pillars, flaming torches and the odd golden throne, the magnificent ancient hall was filled with plywood trestle tables, plastic chairs and tea and coffee urns. Welcome to the lunch-room.
The other buildings are equally multi-purpose. A peasant house is stuffed with props. Peter Jackson has made his office in a stable. In a meat-store on stilts hangs a dead chicken, feathers and all, and I have to sympathise with the lowly crew-member whose office that might be.
The dirt in the town canter is real enough, as is the tussock, and the horse-shoe marks on the ground. The horse theme in the architecture is subtle yet persistent. The horses in the fields seem totally at home. There are gorgeous views of rivers, plains and mountains 360 degrees round the set - these landscape shots aren't going to need to rely on special effects.
The smaller buildings share the gilt and intricacy of the hall, but are of course less imposing. Again and again, the attention to detail amazed us. A delicate hanging lamp with textured glass has a tiny little engraved door that has a tiny little latch and it looks like it actually opens. Yet a thick black electrical cord is wound through the chain. This is clearly designed only for a distance shot, but even from close-up it looks like a beautifully-crafted antique. Similarly, the spears are delicately engraved with relief maybe 4mm high. No one will see it in the films, but it makes it real for the person wielding it.
It was time for some filming and we galloped back up the stairs to the hall and tried to stay inconspicuous and out of the way. AAAAc-tion! We waited with bated breath as the short but dramatic scene unfolds. And then unfolded again. And again. And yet again. I lost count. "Do you always need to do that many takes?" I asked a nearby crew member. "That wasn't many!" he says, surprised.
Meeting Peter Jackson, albeit briefly, was a great honour. I shook his hand with vigour and caused him to spill coffee down his front. Just a little bit, and he didn't seem to mind. A quick photo of him with us before lunch make our day. Shortly afterwards, when I shook his hand goodbye, he'd just been handed a plate of food. I remembered to be less enthusiastic this time.
Then it was off down the hill to scavenge some rations. Lunch in Meduseld was sorely tempting, but we heard that star-spotting was likely to be better down below. So it was down to base camp and a large temporary shed. Gandalf sat wearing an incongruous baseball cap at the table next to us. He still managed to look wise and learned. Next to him sat Legolas, looking gentle, young, good-humoured and almost beautiful, though definitely not feminine. He looked Elvish! Aragorn, looking slightly grim, very masculine, and quite the romantic hero, strode purposefully past.
A couple of plastic tables away Rohan soldiers sat carefully in their exquisite - but not necessarily comfortable - armour, while peasants in their satisfyingly grubby garb sat close-by. Eowyn looked graceful and slender.
We settled down to our delicious lunch and tried to ignore the waves of conflicting realities washing over us. Two servings of sticky chocolate pudding helped to anchor us back to earth, literally.
The extras were herded together, and headed out into the howling wind and up to the set. But for us time had run out and we had to reluctantly head back to reality. The landscape changes very quickly round these parts and we soon re-emerged back in civilised Mid-Canterbury, a land of sheep, crops, and sensible houses. A JAMB sign assures us we weren't dreaming. "That would make a great souvenir," we agreed, but we didn't like the thought of the cast and crew missing their lunch because of a lost catering truck.
What a day. We were wind-burned, half-frozen and ecstatic. Everything we had seen and heard is better than we could ever have dreamed. These people really know what they are doing, and these films couldn't be in safer hands. Rest easy; everything is perfect. We are content.
Thanks to Sharon for doing the write up of our small trip.
Company of the Ring exclusive
(Thanks to Beren and Sharon for this wonderful report!!!)