New Zealand: from the Antipodes to home of Middle-earth
“Welcome to Air New Zealand, the official Airline of Middle-earth”
(An Air New Zealand’s advertisement)
For us, the Old-World inhabitants, the Antipodes refer to Australia and New Zealand. Their inhabitants are “Antipodeans” when viewed from The British Isles or from the Old Continent. In language the antipode is direct opposite to something. In this case New Zealand is the direct opposite to the “centre”: to Western Europe, taken as the centre of our World in our centuries-old constructed Weltanschauung.
But, the World is changing, new place-making processes are adding new flavours to different geographies on the Planet. New Zealand is, now, home of Middle-earth, the central land of the beautiful universe of Tolkien (known as Arda) . New Zealand is where the trilogies of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, both inspired by Tolkien’s works and novels, are made. Since LOTR and The Hobbit are not “usual” movies but real great big-budget productions, the choice of place is not a matter of lottery or mere chance (Here should I think of Roland Barthes’ signified/signifier space?).
First of all, the production of LOTR and The Hobbit needs a special budget: a very big one given that New Zealand’s population is around 4.3 millions. Wellington decided to appoint a “Minister of the Rings”, that is, a minister in charge of the film’s budget. Pete Hodgson, Energy minister, was chosen for this mission . The big budget has, indeed, participated in a real invigoration of New Zealand’s economy.
Second, the important point for this article, is the image of New Zealand as a “Middle-earth”, as a land in the middle of the Earth! The films were followed by an outburst of tourists to New Zealand. After all, LOTR and The Hobbit reveal a scenery which is similar to Paradise. Altough it is in a different age, J.R.R. Tolkien says, Middle-earth is a symbol of the centre of our world, where all “important things” are supposed to pass or have come to pass. The director, Peter Jackson, was knighted in 2010 “for services to film”, and, I would add, for the symbolic bringing of New Zealand from the Antipodes to Middle-earth: from the farthest periphery to the very centre.
The best advertisements on the topic are Air New Zealand’s: Middle-earth is closer than you think. In the photo it is clear that New Zealand is associated with Middle-earth: the Antipodes become at the centre. Is not “closeness” an important feature of centrality?
This is the guide to safety aboard video, made completely out of Tolkien Middle-earth’s characters:
Sir Peter Jackson, dare I say it, is a geographer! Geographers interpret the world and actively participate in the processus of constructing, enhancing, reversing and changing our Weltanschauung. In this respect Sir Peter has, indeed, participated in a visio mundi change which fruits are to be seen in the future.
The post is supposed to carry scientific interest, with all incertainties science can cause. But two things are certain: first, I cannot wait to see The Hobbit: desolation of Smaug tonight. Second, I cannot wait to go to Middle-earth, that is, to see New Zealand and all the beauties it embodies and contains.
Image and Video Credit: New Zealand Air, Flickr.com
 For further information cf. The Encyclopedia of Arda, URL: http://www.glyphweb.com/arda
 For further information cf. The New Zealand Herald, Minister of the Rings, 7 September 2001, URL: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=215288
 For further information cf. The Official New Zealand Gazette, New Year Honours, 29 January 2010, URL: http://gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/2010-vr523
For further information on “antipodes” cf. A Dictionary of Geography (Oxford Paperback Reference), “antipodes”.
For further information on Air New Zealand and on New Zealand, home of Middle-earth cf. the following New Zealand official sites:
The site of The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug, with New Zealand Tourism as official partner: