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Exclusive interview with the Flintshire great-grandson of The Hobbit author JRR Tolkien

THE great-grandson of acclaimed fantasy author JRR Tolkien has made the long journey from Flintshire to Middle Earth for the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Royd Tolkien, who grew up on the family farm in Halkyn and still lives in the county, boarded the Air New Zealand plane – which is a flying billboard for the soon-to-be-released movie – in Heathrow and made his way to New Zealand’s capital city Wellington where throngs of fans turned out to see the stars of Peter Jackson’s film.

It took him more than two hours to walk the red carpet leading to Wellington’s Embassy Theatre – which was decorated for the premiere on November 28 with a towering figure of the wizard Gandalf.

Speaking to the Chronicle from LA, following a whirlwind four days in Wellington, Royd said: “I started walking the red carpet at about 4.30pm, it was insane. When someone shouts your name you think it must be your mate – but it wasn’t. It was a really bizarre feeling.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set 60 years before the Lord of the Rings. It was originally planned as two films before it was decided there was enough material to justify a third.

Royd described the first installment of the trilogy as ‘stunningly amazing’.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen it in full. I’d seen little bits here and there but only the stuff you can see on the trailers,” he said.

“I’m really privileged and honoured to do things like this,” added Royd, who also has a cameo role in Air New Zealand’s Middle Earth-themed safety video which has had 10 million views on YouTube.

“I don’t do this all the time. When I’m in Wales I go to the pub with my mates and play footy.

“I have a completely normal life but occasionally do mind-blowing things.”

This was Royd’s seventh trip to New Zealand. His first trip was when Lord of the Rings was being filmed and he landed himself a small role playing a Gondorian ranger in Return of the King.

“I got to hang out on set every day watching Peter Jackson work and direct. It was a superb experience then one day Peter said ‘it would be good to put a costume on you’, before he had finished I said yes!”

Royd has made a lot of friends during his trips to Middle Earth and says going back for the premiere was a ‘lovely little reunion’.

“Every time I go back it’s great – it’s like a home away from home.”

He describes himself as a fan of his great grandfather’s work and says he was gripped by his stories as a child.

“The Hobbit was read to me when I was a kid. I was about nine when I picked it up to read myself. There was never any pressure to read it, it was just a book on the shelf. I’m a fan as well and often re-read the book again as it’s so detailed and vivid – you get absorbed into it.”

He told the Chronicle he had no fears about The Hobbit being adapted for the big screen as ‘such a brilliant team put it together’.

He does however try to separate the films from the book.

“I still pick up the book and enjoy The Hobbit as it was originally intended by reading it, but I love going to the cinema as well.”

He also said he was pleased at the decision to make The Hobbit a trilogy. “If it means I can go back to the cinema two more times then brilliant!”

Looking back Royd, who is a founder of R and R Films and has previously worked in PR and marketing, says he has fond memories of life on the farm in Halkyn.

“We used to have Summer Moots there,” he said. “Members of the Tolkien Society would come and camp in the fields. Some would come in character. There was one guy who came as Gandalf on an old motorbike with a sidecar and he’d let off fireworks in the field. It was a lot of fun to be around as a kid.”

Royd’s grandfather, Michael Tolkien, was the author’s second son and although Royd cannot remember his great-grandfather, who died in 1973 when Royd was just four, he says: “I still get a buzz when I walk into a book shop and see a great display of his work. I get a warm feeling of pride to be related to him.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be in UK cinemas from next Thursday, December 13. Follow Royd Tolkien on Twitter @RoydTolkien