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From Erewhon to Edoras: Tourism and Myths in New Zealand

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Abstract:

This article presents the case study of the Upper Rangitata Valley, Canterbury, where literary and film tourists meet in the high country of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. Both the literary myth of "Erewhon" and the film myth of "Edoras" are being used to promote the region and present important case studies for mythical tourism in New Zealand. Samuel Butler published his tale of the Utopian society Erewhon in 1872 after having lived in New Zealand for 5 years. The book became a best-seller and established a new myth that endures until today. Within weeks of publication a specific tourism to the high country of Canterbury begun that brought tourists to locations described by Butler. This early literary tourism was facilitated by the fact that Butler interwove existing geographical and botanical features with purely mythical ideas of a Utopian society hidden in the mountains. And while the tourists sought the farmed high country scenery described in the book, they also visited the property and the homestead of the author. A hundred and thirty years later this early literary tourism faces a challenge by an unlikely rival. The set of "Edoras" of the Lord of the Rings movies used another location in the Upper Rangitata Valley. And even though the set was finally disassembled, the location is now attracting film tourists. What are the characteristics of these special-interest tourism forms? Both support the claim that tourists are seekers of myths and challenge the notion that tourists seek authenticity in their experience. It is interesting to note that both myths incorporated already existing images and used existing physical features to heighten the reality aspects of their telling. And both forms of tourism bring characteristic challenges for the tourism industry and its stakeholders.

Keywords: EREWHON; FILM TOURISM; LITERARY TOURISM; LORD OF THE RINGS; MYTH MAKING

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3727/109830406778134090

Publication date: August 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.
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