Question: The Dark Lord Sauron forged “One Ring to rule them all.” How many were actually made in Nelson, New Zealand?
When director Peter Jackson announced that he was going to film the movie versions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand, people were pretty excited. Jens Hansen, a gold and silversmith in Nelson, was especially thrilled, as a fan of the books. But his enthusiasm skyrocketed when he got an unexpected call: Jackson wanted him to the make the central icon of the story, the One Ring.
Hansen represented the third generation of jewelers in his family and his sons worked alongside him as the fourth. Between them, they came up with 15 different prototypes to show Jackson. Sadly, Hansen himself died just as filming started. His sons finished the work, with Jackson choosing the specific model that has ever since been featured in the trilogy. They crafted a total of 40 replicas, in a variety of sizes to be filmed from different angles, including an 8-inch version that spins in the opening scene.
Lord of the Rings fans from all over the globe seek out the store to have personalized replicas made. When Sir Ian McKellen, the acclaimed Shakespearean actor who plays Gandalf in the films, was in Nelson to perform his one-man show, the brothers made him a ring of his own. He had only one request: “Don’t make me Frodo.” Sir Ian actually helped hammer the metal for his own ring, which he debuted the next night onstage.
Despite having created the most famous ring in the world, the Hansens still work in a modest corner shop, with only 13 employees. If you stop by, you might well find Jens’ oldest son Halfdan himself hard at work in the cozy onsite studio, carefully re-making the One Ring that really did rule them all.
Lord of the Rings in New Zealand: 7 Places to Get Your Hobbit On
- Mount Victoria, within walking distance of the heart of Wellington, was used for filming Hobbiton Woods, the hideout for frightened hobbits when the Black Riders approached.
- Hutt River, which flows into Wellington Harbour, is the stand-in for the River Anduin, which the Fellowship sail by Elven boat for nine days.
- When traversing the Franz Josef Glacier Valley, you can’t miss Mt. Gunn, upon which beacons were lit to summon aid to Gondor and Rohan in the film.
- Kawarau Gorge in Queenstown was already famous as the world’s first bungee jumping site before the film immortalized it as the location of the towering Gates of Arnonath.
- Outside Glenorchy, discover Paradise, the verdant setting that stood in for Isengard, where Gandalf sought out Saruman.
- You can see Mt. Earnslaw from Glenorchy, rising above Lake Wakatipu, instantly recognizable from the opening of The Two Towers.
- The woods of Fiordland, on the shores of Lake Te Anu, became the film’s Fanghorn Forest, home of the memorable tree people, the Ents.
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