The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring starts, we hear the connection between the Hobbit and the trilogy to come. It discusses Bilbo and the theories and conspiracies that came about throughout his time up until the Lord of the Rings starts. (Considering the length of this first chapter, I am going to split it in half.)
People had believed that Bilbo was far too rich and forever young. They thought it unnatural and would reap great consequence. From this we can see a little of what Shire life is like.
Hobbits never left Hobbiton, much less return with great wealth and treasures after such a long time. It just wasn’t natural, especially considering the amount of dwarves that visited at first and the world renowned Gandalf the Grey. It also shows us how small their society was. Everyone knew everyone, everyone knew each other’s business and wanted to take part in the gossip. That is quite like what small towns are.
Bilbo’s strangeness was forgotten by many because of his generosity with his money. He had also developed many close friends. One of those being his young cousin, Frodo.
Bilbo adopted Frodo when Bilbo was ninety-nine. That means Frodo only lived with Bilbo for twelve years. That’s actually a bit longer for Hobbits than for men, considering they become adults when they are already in their thirties. Being in their twenties was considered their teenage years.
We soon learn that Bilbo and Frodo have the same birthday (which is what Bilbo says is his reason for wanting Frodo near). Their birthday is September 22nd (this is why that day is considered Hobbit day, so mark your calendars! 😀 ).
This particular birthday was a big one for both Bilbo and Frodo. Frodo was to become an adult, thirty-three; and Bilbo was turning 111, which Tolkien writes as “a curious number,…” That meant something big was planned.
We are soon introduced to Ham “Gaffer” Gamgee and his youngest son Sam. These two had both tended the garden at Bag End. Gaffer had done it for forty years. Sam took over. We also learn that Sam and Frodo are close friends.
A good majority of this first chapter is a discussion among Gaffer and his neighbors. They discuss Bilbo, Frodo and the death of Frodo’s parents.
We hear the story of Drogo and his wife, who went out fishing one night, and both drowned. Few of the others say what rumors they heard, some being nasty bits about Drogo being pushed and his wife pulling him after her. They also discuss how and why Frodo was taken in, how Frodo is related to Bilbo on both sides and the generosity of Bilbo doing such a deed for an orphaned Hobbit. The group also discusses how the Sackville-Bagginses will never get Bag End now, and that it is a good thing. (It seems that no one rather likes those people).
A stranger joins in on the talk of Bilbo and he states the theory that Bilbo has tunnels filled with gold and treasure. Gaffer does not believe the tales, he was even there when Bilbo’s stuff was being auctioned off. Bilbo only returned with a few chests. Some others retort saying Bilbo is off and gone very often and wouldn’t doubt he returns with more treasure. They discuss the many visits from dwarves and Gandalf.
Then Gaffer continues by stating how great a man Bilbo really is. He says that many rich people wouldn’t even offer a drink to a friend, whereas Bilbo is inviting all to his party and even giving them all presents. If that’s weird, Gaffer could do for some more of it.
On the chapter goes, discussing the preparations being made for the big party. Dwarves show up with tons of things and then so does Gandalf. All the children know of his fireworks, though they had never even seen them and Gandalf never stayed long. Everyone knows that there are to be fireworks at the party.
Then there is a little piece of the chapter with a very short conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo. Bilbo says he means to follow through with his plan, of which we don’t know what it is at this point. Gandalf tells him to follow through with all of it and then Bilbo says he will have quite a laugh at his joke at the party. I wonder what this little joke is?
Thousands of invitations were written and given out. Bilbo became buried in acceptance and thank you letters for the invites. What’s great is that Bilbo really did have a sign on his gate that said No Admittance Except on Party Business.
A whole field was filled with tents and gates. An entire tree was covered by a pavilion and lanterns were hung from all the branches. Then the day finally arrived.
On birthdays in Hobbiton, the one having a birthday gives presents to everyone else. Usually they aren’t too expensive or big, but Bilbo’s were huge, some even magical, and sent from the Lonely Mountain or Dale themselves, hand made by the dwarves.
The party was huge. The fireworks, hand made by Gandalf, were beautiful, magical and amazing in every way. There was food everywhere. Bilbo and Frodo had a special family dinner that included some close friends such as Gandalf. Even the Sackville-Bagginses were there. It was a party not to be missed.
Then Bilbo gives a speech. A speech which everyone had been dreading up until he actually gives it, at which time they are content to hear it. Tolkien is even very specific about the position in which Bilbo stands. (One hand waving, the other in his pocket. We can guess why he would have his hand in his pocket.)
Bilbo gives a speech much different than expected. He says his famous 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. My favorite part of that being how Tolkien writes, “…but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a compliment.”
Everyone gets bored very quickly. They are ready to move on and are expecting some sort of boring poetry or song. But Bilbo does not sing or recite. He pauses for a moment. Then he says he would like to make an announcement, which he speaks so loudly everyone is startled.
Then he says:
I regret to announce that–though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you–this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!
And this is where I end this section. And this is when Bilbo disappears into thin air.