On Friday, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" premieres as the latest in the blockbuster movie franchise chronicling J.R.R.Tolkien's beloved characters Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Frodo and the gang. With the newest entry in the series (plus two Hobbit sequels in the works) this could propel Tolkein's tales into one of the highest grossing franchises ever.
This renewed interest in Hobbits might make 2013 a busy year for The Hobbit House of Montana, which is a custom guest house built into the sloping ground on a 20-acre plot.
Surely this inspired tribute is the work of a major Tolkien fan?
"Not at all," said owner Steve Michaels, explaining that the Hobbit house began as a guest house for friends and family, and that it was underground for efficient heating and cooling. When the structure was being built in 2008, the carpenter's son compared it to a Hobbit house, which sparked the idea to use it as a rental property. Michaels studied for his project by reading the books and watching the movies, and snapping photos of the structures in the movies.
Michaels spent $410,000 building up his shire, which in addition to traditional guest house amenities like a raised deck with barbecue area, has many unique features like buildings for hobbits, trolls, and fairies.
"I just kind of went nuts, I have a good imagination," Michaels says, describing multiple lights that come up at night on the site, in the other hobbit houses, on the murals, and in a field of over 200 solar-powered color-changing dragonfly lights.
"We're not doing it for the money; I've got several other businesses. It's a labor of love."
So will there be more fantasy accommodations for people to rent? Michaels says he's considering adding a tree house. He adds that the attraction's name will be changing soon to The Shire of Montana, due to a cease and desist from the owner of the Tolkien characters. They can still call the rental house the Hobbit house, as long as they explain it's inspired by the Tolkien work. If anything, Michaels feels this frees him up to get more creative with future additions to his shire.
Click on the slides ahead to see inside the hobbit house and just a few of the whimsical touches around the grounds.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 13 December 2012
"Some people think they have to crawl through a hole to get in, but once they're in, it's really nice," Michaels says.
The fully stocked kitchen has granite counters. The beds have 400 thread count sheets, the Blu-Ray player has Lord of the Rings and other movies, and the couch has dual recliners.
The Hobbit House has two bedrooms to sleep 3 adults (more on that in a bit).
The lodging also comes supplied with props—rubber feet with hair on them, a custom-made Gandalf hat made that goes up at an angle then curls, and a staff. There are some huge troll shoes made out of deer's hide. There's a couple of clubs.
Pictured at left is a fariy clothesline. While this whimsical getaway is sure to stimulate the imagination, no kids are allowed at the shire.
"We tried to go with kids, but there were so many small details," Michaels explains. "They see the fairy doors on trees and they pull them off—kids are kids, and they think it's a play land, but it's really made for adults. There are so many small details."
Pictured here is a standard-issue hobbit house in the shire. There are also cozy subterranean homes for Bilbo Baggins and Frodo.
This troll house was made from the stump of a 700 year-old redwood sequoia tree, and is big enough to go inside, where there's a mural of big and fat trolls eating chicken legs, and a lamp, a club, and a slingshot.
Also on the grounds are a troll bridge, a hut billed as the elf communication center, and a lawn ornament depicting Gandalf.
The Hobbit House is available for the next season of rentals starting May 1 through Home Away, the Austin-based marketplace of vacation rentals, for $245 a night or $1,365 per week.