New Zealand tourism board embraces its faux Tolkienian heritage

New Zealand

At the bottom of this post you’ll find an embedded video. It was created by the New Zealand tourism firm 100% Pure New Zealand in an effort to convince world travelers to visit the country for reasons that have little to do with its actual natural beauty and everything to do with the “natural beauty” director Peter Jackson thrust upon the small, relatively rural nation with his Lord Of The Rings films, and his upcoming Hobbit trilogy. Given the popularity of Jackson’s films, this “Tolkien as promotional travel guide” idea doesn’t seem too daft, and it’s hard to deny the natural scenic beauty of New Zealand, even if the Kiwis in charge would rather pull down tourist dollars by contrasting their land with an entirely fictional one.

We’ll get back to the existential crisis this may create for the population of New Zealand momentarily, but as for the video itself, we like it. Though we’ve never been to New Zealand, we’ve always viewed it as a country with gorgeous natural vistas and some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. It includes mountains, lush fields, dense forests and pristine water ways. As far as we can tell no actual hobbits have ever lived in New Zealand, but if it helps the country bolster its net gross domestic product, then we’re all for this literary bait and switch.

That said, we wonder how the average New Zealand resident feels about this clip. We assume that some of them must be rather psyched to have the tourism authority recognize their homeland as the closest analogue to one of literature’s most famous locales, though we also assume that there must be a sizable population enraged by this promotional stunt, if only because a trip to New Zealand is going to seem very dull for any travelers who lack the cosmopolitan sense to realize that, despite the claims made by 100% Pure New Zealand, the country is home to exactly zero Ringwraiths and the last Balrog was shot by poachers in 1951. Still, when you consider that New Zealand has long been competing directly with Australia for those valuable tourist dollars, it’s nice to see the country find a way to differentiate itself from the gorgeous-yet-deadly-spider-infested land of Oz.

As a quick aside, did any of you notice how this tourism ad, despite being an official product of New Zealand, never once mentions Peter Jackson’s films by name? We assume it has something to do with litigious copyright lawyers and 100% Pure New Zealand not wanting to be sued for infringing upon Jackson’s rights to the mythical New Zealand portrayed in his films. Still, it’s a bit odd to see a country attempt to capitalize on the most famous film export it’s ever seen, only to be hamstrung by legal rules that prevent it from actually mentioning said export. Fortunately for New Zealand, people like us exist to explicitly point this kind of thing out. As long as we don’t insult Mr. Jackson’s beard, he won’t have to summon his infernal horde of lawyers from the stygian abyss.


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