A Long-expected Party

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This article is about Chapter1 of The Lord of the Rings. For the first chapter of The Return of the Shadow, see A Long-expected Party (chapter in The Return of the Shadow).
Inger Edelfeldt - A Long Expected Party.jpg
A Long-expected Party
Chapter of The Fellowship of the Ring
EventBilbo Baggins throws his 111st birthday party; Gandalf the Grey arrives in Hobbiton.
Date22 September 3001
LocationThe Shire
The 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 contrasts the first chapter of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party.


Part I - Introduction[edit]

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 entered in a conversation with Old Noakes of Bywater, Daddy Twofoot, and a few other interested Hobbits. He commented on how gentlemanly a fellow Bilbo was, and agreed 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 told the story of Drogo Baggins, Frodo's father, and how he and his wife Primula were drownded, rebuffing the dislikable Sandyman for suggesting that it was more than an accident. He responded, too, to a stranger who recalled the old legend of Bag End being stuffed with gold, silver, and "jools", ever since Bilbo's dramatic disappearance and return. The Gaffer openly doubted the legend, remembering the amount of wealth that Bilbo had returned with. In the course of his narrative, he mentioned his son, Samwise Gamgee, who had 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. "
Gaffer Gamgee

The Gaffer didn't convince his audience, however, and Sandyman reminded the listeners of how dwarves and Gandalf came to visit him from time to time, ending with the statement that Bag End was simply queer. But the Gaffer brushed this aside with a retort complimenting Bilbo's generosity, ending the conversation.

Part II - The Party[edit]

As the Party approached, dwarves came to Bag End with a wagon laden with packages, followed shortly after by Gandalf and his famous fireworks. He was helped to unload by Bilbo and the dwarves, and dismissed the excited children with the promise that they would see plenty of fireworks at the time of the party. Afterward, Bilbo and Gandalf sat in Bag End, discussing the upcoming events. Gandalf told Bilbo to stick to his plan, and wondered aloud who will laugh at Bilbo's "joke".

Excitement mounted among the Hobbits, and the party was prepared with tents and lanterns and, of course, culinary arrangements. At last, on 22 Septembernd, T.A. 3001, the party began. There were presents, dancing, songs, games, music, three meals, and Gandalf's marvelous fireworks. The festivities were 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 began his speech. He started out just as Hobbits liked: short, simple, and obvious. But then he turned enigmatic, saying that he had 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 added that Frodo was 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 declared that he was leaving before slipping on his magic ring, making him invisible, while Gandalf caused at the same moment a bright flash. The Hobbits, alarmed and annoyed, finished the party and left as they could.

Part III - Post Party[edit]

Meanwhile, Bilbo returned to Bag End where he was greeted by Gandalf. As he got himself ready to travel, he admitted to Gandalf that he felt stretched and old, and that he didn’t believe he'd return to the Shire. Gandalf promised to look after Frodo, and then suggested that Bilbo leave the magic ring behind. Bilbo became defensive, then angry at Gandalf's insistence. At last Bilbo trusted Gandalf's judgement and released the ring, before leaving with three dwarves down the road and singing a song. Frodo returned from the party too late to catch Bilbo, and had a brief talk with Gandalf, who assured him that Bilbo would be all right, and told him that Bilbo had left him the ring. Gandalf warned Frodo, however, to keep it secret and safe.

The next day, Frodo let 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 got hectic, and at last he put his friend Meriadoc Brandybuck, usually known as Merry, in charge while he rested. The Sackville-Bagginses found him nevertheless, and scrutinized the will to find it perfect in every respect. They left in disgust.

As the day ended, Frodo and Gandalf enjoyed another talk, in which they discussed Bilbo's peculiarities in relation to the ring, especially how he had invented the false story of how he had gotten it. Gandalf left Frodo with another warning, the reasons for which he could not have given, but his suspicions were aroused. He bid Frodo farewell and departed, not to be seen in Hobbiton for a long time yet.


"I have written the first chapter of a new story about Hobbits – 'A long expected party'. A merry Christmas."
― J.R.R. Tolkien to C.A. Furth[1]

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]