A Long-expected Party

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The name A Long-expected Party refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see A Long-expected Party (disambiguation).
A Long-expected Party
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
Information
Number1
Synopsis
EventBilbo Baggins throws his 111st birthday party; Gandalf the Grey arrives in Hobbiton.
Date22 September 3001
LocationThe Shire
Navigation
Followed byThe Shadow of the Past

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.

The title of the chapter refers to (and contrasts with) the first chapter of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Party.

Summary

Bilbo Baggins is about to celebrate his eleventy-first birthday, announcing that he will shortly be holding a birthday party of special magnificence, causing much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. This is followed by a brief explanation of Bilbo Baggins's peculiar history and character. Frodo Baggins is also introduced as Bilbo’s cousin and heir, who lives with Bilbo and calls him "uncle". They happen to share birthdays, and Frodo is about to turn thirty-three.

At the Ivy Bush, Gaffer Gamgee has a conversation with Old Noakes of Bywater, Daddy Twofoot, and a few other interested Hobbits. He comments on how gentlemanly a fellow Bilbo is. Though he agrees with his audience about the queerness of the Brandybucks (Frodo's relatives on his mother's side), he lauds Bilbo for taking Frodo away from them to live among "decent folk". The Gaffer recounts the story of the drowning of Drogo Baggins and Primula Brandybuck - Frodo's parents - rebuffing the dislikable Sandyman for suggesting that it was more than an accident. When a stranger bring up the old legend about Bag End being stuffed with gold, silver and "jools" ever since Bilbo's disappearance and return, The Gaffer openly doubts the legend, recalling that he saw Bilbo return with only a few big bags and chests. In the course of his narrative he mentions his son, Samwise Gamgee, who has been 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 too big for you, I says to him. And I might say it to others.

The Gaffer doesn't convince his audience, however. Sandyman reminds the listeners of how dwarves and Gandalf come to visit Bilbo from time to time, and concludes by stating that Bag End is simply "queer". The Gaffer brushes this aside with a retort complimenting Bilbo's generosity.

If that's being queer, then we could do with a bit more queerness in these parts.

As the day of the Party approaches, dwarves arrive at Bag End in a wagon laden with packages. They are followed by Gandalf bringing his famous fireworks. Gandalf dismisses a group of excited children with the promise that they would get to see plenty of fireworks during the party. Afterward, Bilbo and Gandalf sit in Bag End, discussing the upcoming event. Gandalf tells Bilbo to stick to his plan, and wonders aloud who will laugh at Bilbo's "joke".

A large pavilion is erected over the ancient oak behind Bag End. The party finally occurs on 22 September, T.A. 3001. There are presents, dancing, songs, games, music, three meals, and Gandalf's marvelous fireworks. To signal supper at the pavilion, Gandalf fires off a particularly large firework that explodes in the shape of a dragon, commemorating the defeat of Smaug.

After the supper, Bilbo gives a speech to the guests. He starts out short, simple, and obvious (as is customary among Hobbits), but then turns enigmatic:

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.

With his audience thoroughly confused, Bilbo adds that Frodo is coming into his inheritance. He then insults his listeners by calling them "one gross", explaining that he'd invited exactly 144 guests to match his and Frodo's combined total of years.

Finally, Bilbo declares that he is leaving. He slips on his magic ring, turning himself invisible as Gandalf triggers a bright flash. The Hobbits, alarmed and annoyed, finish the party and leave.

Bilbo quickly 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 ever 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 while singing a song.

Frodo returns from the party too late to say goodbye to Bilbo. He has a brief talk with Gandalf, who assures him that Bilbo will be all right. Gandalf tells Frodo that Bilbo has left him the ring. However, he warns Frodo to keep it secret and safe.

The next day, Frodo lets Hobbits into Bag End to collect presents left to them by Bilbo. Most presents are given out of kindness or where there is 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 Frodo puts his friend Meriadoc (Merry) Brandybuck in charge while he rests. The Sackville-Bagginses find Frodo nevertheless, and scrutinize Bilbo's will in the hope of finding a larger inheritance for themselves. They find it flawless in every respect, and leave in disgust.

As the day ends, Frodo and Gandalf talk once more. They discuss Bilbo's peculiarities with regards to the ring; especially how he invented the false story of how he had acquired it. Gandalf leaves Frodo with another warning about the ring, the reasons for which he cannot give, but states that his suspicions are aroused. He bids Frodo farewell and departs, not to be seen in Hobbiton again for a long time after.

Background

I have written the first chapter of a new story about Hobbits – 'A long expected party'. A merry Christmas.

Tolkien started writing the opening chapter of the Lord of the Rings in December 1937, with the above quote being from a letter written on 19 December.

In the very first draft, consisting of five pages, Bilbo, around 70, has depleted his treasure, and stages his party and disappearance because of his desire to travel again. In a second draft Gandalf is introduced.

In the following draft Bilbo has already departed, and the party is organized by Bilbo's and Primula Brandybuck's son, "Bingo Baggins", who has inherited the Ring as a parting gift. In the next draft, he becomes his adopted cousin, now called Bingo Bolger-Baggins.[2] With Bilbo mysteriously disappeared, Bingo is afraid to go look for him, but keeps the Ring will lead it to him. Gandalf had advised Bingo to stage a dsapearance and departure so that the Ring will guide him to a similar path and eventually to Bilbo, hence Bingo's farewell party. Bingo's friends, Odo, Frodo and Marmaduke, are introduced.[3]

References