the mountains of the South


‘Before them stood the mountains of the South: white-tipped and streaked with black. The grass-lands rolled against the hills that clustered at their feet, and flowed up into many valleys still dim and dark, untouched by the light of dawn, winding their way into the heart of the great mountains. Immediately before the travellers the widest of these glens opened like a long gulf among the hills. Far inward they glimpsed a tumbled mountain-mass with one tall peak, at the mouth of the vale there stood like a sentinel a lonely height. About its feet there flowed, as a thread of silver, the stream that issued from the dale’ upon its brow they caught, still far away, a glint in the rising sun, a glimmer of gold.’

(Chapter VI ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien.)

The description would fit even better if I had been standing across the valley and facing where I stood when I took this photo. This valley is where the kingdom of Rohan was filmed in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I climbed to the top of Mount Sunday, the peak where Edoras stood, but there was no trace of the Golden Hall: the New Zealand government allowed Peter Jackson, et. al., to film here (and other places) on the condition that they would leave the area as they found it. Here, it meant GPS tagging every single bush in the immediate area, removing them to a specially made nursery with gardeners to tend them, and returning those bushes to their original places. Their incredible attention to detail was not only spent on constructing sets and costumes!

Photo: Rangitata River Valley seen from Mount Sunday, in the Southern Alps, New Zealand.