A S'porean at the Shire

A S'porean at the Shire

Imagine experiencing a real-life Middle-earth adventure.

Well, that once-in-a-lifetime dream came true for one lucky JRR Tolkien fan here.

Miss Isabelle Wong, 20, was one of the 75 global winners of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest and they went on a five-day expedition to New Zealand for a Middle-earth experience.

"I jumped with glee when I found out I had won," said the Gerontological Management Studies student at Temasek Polytechnic.

Miss Wong, who has been a Tolkien fan since she first read The Hobbit book when she was 12, had to complete a series of Hobbit film-related challenges.

They included sending a postcard to director Peter Jackson explaining why she belongs in the Fan Fellowship, answering a Hobbit-themed quiz and making a video message expressing her passion for all things Hobbit.

The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest, a collaboration between Warner Bros. Pictures and its partners New Line and MGM, as well as Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand, ran from Aug 25 to Sept 22. It received more than 140,000 submissions from 30 countries.


Miss Wong found the postcard and the quiz easy, but the video message was almost her undoing.

"It was two days before the submission deadline and I had yet to do mine. I was panicking," she told M.

"The videos that were already posted on YouTube then were mostly of fans dressing up as their favourite character and explaining why they were the biggest Hobbit fans."

Miss Wong did not want to go that route, so she roped in her parents and two older sisters to help film her re-enact scenes from the movies The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation Of Smaug.

One of the scenes featured her as hobbit Bilbo Baggins, "dressed in hand-made costume minus the hair", running away from the dragon Smaug. The other was from An Unexpected Journey, where Bilbo was writing a letter to Frodo.

She merged them into a minute-long story to "show what Bilbo would do when he came back to the Shire after his adventures".

Her last-minute creation paid off and last month, Miss Wong was whisked away to Auckland for her dream vacation.

The trip included visits to the actual filming locations such as 12 Mile Delta in Queenstown, a tour of the special effects and props company Weta Workshop and the iconic Hobbiton Movie Set, the picturesque location that was transformed into the Shire home of Bilbo Baggins.

Miss Wong called the trip "incredible and memorable", but said that the best part was meeting Oscar-winning Jackson.

Fans here will experience a bittersweet feeling, when the final movie, The Battle Of The Five Armies, opens tomorrow.

"I've grew up with The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) characters since The Fellowship Of The Ring came out (in 2001)," said Miss Wong.

"I was seven and I remember watching it with my family at the former Prince cinema at Shaw Towers."

Miss Wong said she grew to love the "thick, dusty pages of the LOTR books" and has also watched the LOTR trilogy so many times that she can "quote the characters".

Miss Wong also identifies with The Hobbit trilogy.

"I am 20 years old and, like Bilbo, I am on my own unexpected journey, meeting new friends, going on an adventure in life, encountering difficulties and so on," she said.

"These movies have been an inspiration to me, as they have taught me a lot about courage, friendship, standing up for what is right and finding myself.

"The Middle-earth journey may have come to an end, but not in the hearts of the fans. No fantasy movie can beat LOTR or The Hobbit."

This article was first published on Dec 17, 2014.
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