A Long-expected Party
|The Fellowship of the Ring chapters|
A Long-expected Party is the first chapter in The Fellowship of the Ring and thus in the entire The Lord of the Rings. It details Bilbo's Birthday Party, Bilbo Baggins's departure, and Gandalf's farewell to Frodo.
Part I - Introduction
The chapter begins brightly with "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton." Then, a brief explanation of Bilbo Baggins's peculiar history and character is given. Frodo is also introduced as Bilbo’s cousin and heir who lived with Bilbo, whom he called his "uncle". They happened to share birthdays, and Frodo was going to turn thirty-three.
Gaffer Gamgee enters in a conversation with Old Noakes of Bywater, Daddy Twofoot, and a few other interested Hobbits. He comments on how gentlemanly a fellow Bilbo is, and agrees with his audience about the queerness of the Brandybucks, Frodo's relatives on his mother's side, before lauding Bilbo for taking him away from them to live among "decent folk". He tells the story of Drogo Baggins, Frodo's father, and how he and his wife were drownded, rebuffing the dislikable Sandyman for suggesting that it was more than an accident. He responds, too, to a stranger who recalls the old legend of Bag End being stuffed with gold, silver, and "jools", ever since Bilbo's dramatic disappearance and return. The Gaffer openly doubts the legend, remembering the amount of wealth that Bilbo returned with. In the course of his narrative, he brings up his son, Samwise Gamgee, who was inclined to believe Bilbo's fantastic tales.
- " Elves and Dragons! I says to him. Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll land in trouble to big for you, I says to him. And I might say it to others. "
- ― Gaffer Gamgee
The Gaffer doesn't convince his audience, however, and Sandyman reminds the listeners of how dwarves and Gandalf come to visit him from time to time, ending with the statement that Bag End is simply queer. But the Gaffer brushes this aside with a retort complimenting Bilbo's generosity, ending the conversation.
Part II - The Party
As the Party approaches, dwarves come to Bag End with a wagon laden with packages, followed shortly after by Gandalf and his famous fireworks. He is helped to unload by Bilbo and the dwarves, and dismisses the excited children with the promise that they will see plenty of fireworks at the time of the party. Afterward Bilbo and Gandalf sit in Bag End, discussing the upcoming events. Gandalf tells Bilbo to stick to his plan, and wonders aloud who will laugh at Bilbo's joke.
Excitement mounts among the Hobbits, and the party is prepared with tents and lanterns and, of course, culinary arrangements. At last, on September 22nd, Third Age 3001, the party begins. There are presents, dancing, songs, games, music, three meals, and Gandalf's marvelous fireworks. The festivities are punctuated by a particularly large firework of a dragon as a signal for supper in the pavilion, to which only 144 hobbits were invited.
After the supper, Bilbo begins his speech. He starts out just as Hobbits like: short, simple, and obvious. But then he turns enigmatic, saying that he has brought them there for Three Purposes, before launching into his comic halving line.
- "I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."
- ― Bilbo Baggins
Getting this over with and leaving his audience thoroughly confused, he adds that Frodo is coming into his inheritance, before insulting his listeners by calling them One Gross, and saying that they numbered 144 to match his and Frodo's combined total of years. Then, at last, he declares that he is leaving before slipping on his magic ring, making him invisible, while Gandalf causes at the same moment a bright flash. The Hobbits, alarmed and annoyed, finish the party and leave as they can.
Part III - Post Party
Meanwhile, Bilbo returns to Bag End where he is greeted by Gandalf. As he gets himself ready to travel, he admits to Gandalf that he feels stretched and old, and that he doesn’t believe he'll return to the Shire. Gandalf promises to look after Frodo, and then suggests that Bilbo leave the magic ring behind. Bilbo becomes defensive, then angry at Gandalf's insistence. At last Bilbo trusts Gandalf's judgement and releases the ring, before leaving with three dwarves down the road and singing a song. Frodo returns from the party too late to catch Bilbo, and has a brief talk with Gandalf, who assures him that Bilbo will be all right, and telling him that Bilbo has left him the ring. Gandalf warns Frodo, however, to keep it secret and safe.
The next day, Frodo lets hobbits in to collect presents left them by Bilbo, mostly out of kindness or where there was need, but often with a joke or point of sarcasm, such as in the case of relative Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. The afternoon gets hectic, and at last he puts his friend Meriadoc Brandybuck in charge while he rests. The Sackville-Bagginses find him nevertheless, and scrutinize the will to find it perfect in every respect. They leave in disgust.
As the day ends, Frodo and Gandalf enjoy another talk, in which they discuss Bilbo's peculiarities in relation to the ring, especially how he invented the false story of how he got it. Gandalf leaves Frodo with another warning, the reasons for which he could not give, but his suspicions were aroused. He bids Frodo farewell and departs, not to be seen in Hobbiton for a long time yet.