Tales of the Obsessed: Working in a Lord of the Rings Shop in New Zealand

by Kelly on November 24, 2010

If I Ever Took Up Smoking
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andersedin

“So, uh, do you loooove Lord of the Rings?”

At this point, I had been working in a retail shop specializing in Lord of the Rings tours and merchandise in Queenstown, New Zealand, for the past few months and there’s only so many times one can be asked the same question.

“Oh, yea. It’s like my favorite movie ever. I’ve seen it like 40 times,” I reply.


When I decided to sell everything I owned and move to New Zealand, I never, ever, ever in a million years would have predicted I’d end up working retail in a shop in which the window displays are covered in fake moss and life size cut outs of Gollum and Aragorn.

In fact, up until the day of my interview I’d never even seen the Lord of the Rings. I never read the books. I thought that people who did were dorks. I actually only ever watched the movies to prepare for my interview.

And yet, through a turn of events, I found myself behind the counter of a store that played the soundtrack to the movies, loudly,  all damn day.

Dragon*Con 2008 - Parade 14
Creative Commons License photo credit: LaMenta3

It started like this:

I was working in a hostel in Dunedin, New Zealand, feeling utterly and completely lost and homesick, and yet reveling in the joy of being able to be completely free, and the maker of my own destiny.

It’s funny how sometimes the intoxication of being in a foreign city seeps into you so that you no longer feel, say–cold, or scared. You just feel alive.

Anyway, I was feeling the pull to move to a new city. I set my sights on Queenstown where I had some friends. I came across a posting on TradeMe, New Zealand’s version of Craigslist, for the LOTR job and I applied, and headed down for an interview.

After a killer interview, I thought I was a shoe-in for the job, but it turned out I didn’t get it. I decided to move to Queenstown anyway, convinced by a girl I met in the Christchurch airport who later became my very good friend.

One day, I was walking past the Lord of the Rings shop when I saw a sign in the window calling for workers. I went in and talked to the girl I interviewed with and she said:

“Yea, it didn’t work with the girl we hired, so we’re re-hiring.”

To which  I said: “Well, I’m re-interested!”

The next morning she called and offered me the job.

I tell you this story to illustrate the power of taking a leap of faith. When we jump, the universe catches us.

My job at the shop turned out to be one of the most fun and most amazing jobs I’ve ever had. I got to go on all the off-road and quad bike tours, get my friends on them too, and I got to do almost every “extreme” activity in town for free since I was a frontline worker. Plus, I got paid really well.

That being said, I saw a lot of crazy Shhht. A lot of it, which I will now share with you.


  • Die-hard fans who come to New Zealand ONLY to do Lord of the Rings tours and then do them all at least twice so they can try it with different guides.
  • Fans who would drop thousands upon thousands of dollars on swords from the movies (granted, swords are pretty sweet)

    32/365 - HOME SWEET HOME (VII): Do you feel as Damocles?

    photo credit: El Bichólogo Errante

  • An Asian man who showed up dressed as Gandalf  (one of many!)
  • Fans who loved to “quiz” me on how well I knew Lord of the Rings (I always failed)
  • A girl who wandered around the shop speaking Elvish. Yea, ELVISH.  (okay, I didn’t see this, but my amazing boss and co-worker Emma did!)

The All-seeing Eye
photo credit: jamarmstrong

If you’re a fan of the movie and you’re looking for something fun to do in Queenstown, I totally would recommend doing a LOTR tour. Actually, it’s a really fun activity, one that differs from a lot of more extreme activities in Queenstown like rafting or bungy jumping.

And, if you’re looking for a fun place to people watch, head over to Nomad Safaris Lord of the Rings Shop. Or better yet, apply!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca November 24, 2010 at 12:37 am

Ohmigod, that sounds nuts (and kind of fun!).

After working for New Line Cinema (post LOTR) and living in NZ for 16 months, I still have no interest in seeing the movies (and proudly wear that badge!) but that job sounds kind of fun, especially doing all the extreme sports for free! And if living in NZ isn’t for all of that (LOTR included!) I don’t know what is:-).

Cathy Sweeney November 24, 2010 at 12:40 am

Fun story of your Lord of the Rings retail experience! Glad you ended up enjoying it so much. I’m just surprised that you didn’t learn to speak Elvish for the job.

I like your comment about taking a leap of faith “When we jump, the universe catches us.” — that can be so true.

John in France November 24, 2010 at 1:59 am

But at least the LOTR tourists who come to NZ happen to see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world!! So maybe they’re not that mad after all!! But speaking elvish…. that’s a worry!

The NVR Guys November 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Awesome. We love that you took that “leap of faith” and that it turned out to be such a positive step. This is one of those stories / experiences that you will always have.

John makes a good point, too. You would see a LOT of NZ if you went around visiting LOTR sites.

Norbert November 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Ha! Really cool! I had a good laugh reading your post. I like LOTR but I can’t consider myself a crying fan… lol Though, it has crossed my mind a couple times visiting all those places where they filmed all three pictures. Yeah, I admit sometimes I’m a geek too. :s

Kirsty November 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

Wow sounds like a pretty interesting job! And you had some cool extras! I got a bit bored Reading the books I just wanted to know the ending (I got a bit impatient!)
Lookinging forwarding to going to NZ, although with no gandalf costume

Amy November 29, 2010 at 8:24 am

Hilarious post!

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler December 10, 2010 at 8:57 pm

That is hilarious that some people only come to NZ to do those tours! I love this post, Kelly! I love the positivity about how taking risks can lead to really great things. That has been my experience in life as well. 🙂

Michael Figueiredo December 10, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Congratulations on the re-design of your blog–it’s beautiful!

Jim December 11, 2010 at 5:21 am

Hey Kelly, I’m another ‘shoe-in” ….
I made a lot of the boots for the LOTR trilogy.
Gandalf, Aragorn, Arwen, etc all wore my shoes and boots. Quite a story about doing them I probably should blog about that episode in my custom shoemaking life.
Are you still in NZ? Gonna be around Jan 18th as a few TBXers are at my place for a barbie?

Amanda December 11, 2010 at 6:37 am

Haha, I’m totally one of those people who went to New Zealand for the first time 5 years ago to go on a Lord of the Rings tour around the entire country. (I don’t speak Elvish, however…) Even though parts of the tour were geek-tastic, we got to see SO much of the gorgeous NZ countryside, and stay in some amazing places.

I fell in love with NZ so much that I returned 3 years later to live and go to school in Wellington for 5 months. It was great, and I can’t wait to get back there someday! My love of hobbits grew into a love for all of New Zealand. Which, if you ask me, is a pretty good result!

inka December 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm

What an amazing and hilarious tale of faith. Yes, I loved that remark about the leap of faith. It takes courage but thr rewards can be so big.

Andi December 14, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Haha what a crazy place to work!!!

Kelly December 14, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Thanks guys for all of your comments! I don’t blame you, Amanda! The tours are really pretty awesome! I wonder if you ever went to Queenstown.. maybe you took one with my company? Gah New Zealand’s just such a wonderful place to live! I miss it so much!

Kyle December 15, 2010 at 7:10 am

Oh my gosh, that’s too funny! I’ve never seen LOTR either, but I think you’re pretty much living my husband’s dream 🙂

Kelly December 15, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Haha Kyle, your husband probably would’ve loved this store! It’s taken me almost a year to get the songs from the soundtracks out of my head! Thanks for stoppin in!

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