Gather ’round, children, and hear the tale of Shrek.
New Zealand celebrity Shrek the sheep was a wily Merino sheep belonging to Bendigo Station, near Tarras on the South Island, that evaded shearing for six years, apparently by hiding in caves. After his capture, he was shorn on live TV by New Zealand’s top shearers, giving up a 60 lb (27 kg) fleece, which the linked article helpfully quantifies as enough for 20 large men’s suits. I am not saying that Shrek is the most famous and beloved native son of this country, but I am saying that Taika Waititi does not have his own museum.
Stop by the tiny town of Tarras and walk down this alley and you’ll find the House of Shrek, a two-room temple dedicated to this blessed icon of New Zealand industry. Here you will discover that Shrek’s massive fleece was not in fact turned into 20 men’s suits, but limited-edition sweaters auctioned off for charity by garment-maker Icebreaker. Icebreaker also made a coat for Shrek out of that fleece which sounds both reasonable and terribly weird for some reason.
Now why would a sheep need a sweater of its own? And why does Shrek appear to be taking an over-ocean helicopter ride in the first photo of this entry? Well, in 2006, small icebergs had drifted curiously close to the Otago coast, causing something of a sensation. Shrek was already raising money for Cure Kids via NZ$10,000 corporate appearances (he visited children and old folks’ homes for free). But there were other heights to scale. It was time for Shrek to get his second stunt shearing.
Now you might think that custom coat of his own fleece was the best accessory possible for Shrek on this visit to an iceberg, but I assure you it is not. The best accessory was the teeny crampons he had to wear to walk on the ice.
You can view part of this fleece at the House of Shrek, and if you are ever in Otago, I insist you do so.
Shrek’s charity work went beyond the hefty amount he raised for Cure Kids; he also raised money to save the local school. It was about to close in 2006, when the children wrote a book about Shrek as a fundraiser. That book was so successful that a second book was published the following year. Conquering the world of publishing was added to Shrek’s list of enviable achievements, and the school received over $100,000 and remained open. Shrek was very chill and excellent with children. One of his many photo ops with children is included in the House’s own photo op for visitors, where you might sit next to a pre-sheared Shrek in his cave.
The House has many artistic tributes done by children on display, and it is very sweet.
Shrek lived to age 16, and his passing was international news. He lives on in our hearts, however, and in the books written by the Tarras School students (available, along with postcards, at the wool store across the alley) as well as a biography, Shrek: The Story of a Kiwi Icon. The House of Shrek is free and open while the surrounding businesses are I assume (I don’t recall seeing a sign and it doesn’t have a website–just drive through Tarras during normal working hours and walk right in). At a minimum, everyone you know needs to receive a Shrek postcard.
As you leave the House and Tarras, try to remember to live in the spirit of Shrek: be kind to children, be charitable, hideout in caves to avoid anything you don’t want to do, and always look as unbothered as possible, even if you’re floating on a tiny iceberg.