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1. Overview

In this tutorial, we'll talk about the MultipleBagFetchException. We'll begin with the necessary terms to understand, and then we'll explore some workarounds until we reach the ideal solution.

We'll create a simple music app's domain to demonstrate each of the solutions.

2. What Is a Bag in Hibernate?

A Bag, similar to a List, is a collection that can contain duplicate elements. However, it is not in order. Moreover, a Bag is a Hibernate term and isn't part of the Java Collections Framework.

Given the earlier definition, it's worth highlighting that both List and Bag uses java.util.List. Although in Hibernate, both are treated differently. To differentiate a Bag from a List, let's look at it in actual code.

A Bag:

// @ any collection mapping annotation
private List<T> collection;

A List:

// @ any collection mapping annotation
@OrderColumn(name = "position")
private List<T> collection;

3. Cause of MultipleBagFetchException

Fetching two or more Bags at the same time on an Entity could form a Cartesian Product. Since a Bag doesn't have an order, Hibernate would not be able to map the right columns to the right entities. Hence, in this case, it throws a MultipleBagFetchException.

Let's have some concrete examples that lead to MultipleBagFetchException.

For the first example, let's try to create a simple entity that has 2 bags and both with eager fetch type. An Artist might be a good example. It can have a collection of songs and offers.

Given that, let's create the Artist entity:

class Artist {

    @GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.AUTO)
    private Long id;

    private String name;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "artist", fetch = FetchType.EAGER)
    private List<Song> songs;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "artist", fetch = FetchType.EAGER)
    private List<Offer> offers;

    // constructor, equals, hashCode

If we try to run a test, we'll encounter a MultipleBagFetchException immediately, and it won't be able to build Hibernate SessionFactory. Having that said, let's not do this.

Instead, let's convert one or both of the collections' fetch type to lazy:

@OneToMany(mappedBy = "artist")
private List<Song> songs;

@OneToMany(mappedBy = "artist")
private List<Offer> offers;

Now, we'll be able to create and run a test. Although, if we try to fetch both of these bag collections at the same time, it would still lead to MultipleBagFetchException.

4. Simulate a MultipleBagFetchException

In the previous section, we've seen the causes of MultipleBagFetchException. Here, let's verify those claims by creating an integration test.

For simplicity, let's use the Artist entity that we've previously created.

Now, let's create the integration test, and let's try to fetch both songs and offers at the same time using JPQL:

public void whenFetchingMoreThanOneBag_thenThrowAnException() {
    IllegalArgumentException exception =
      assertThrows(IllegalArgumentException.class, () -> {
        String jpql = "SELECT artist FROM Artist artist "
          + "JOIN FETCH artist.songs "
          + "JOIN FETCH artist.offers ";


    final String expectedMessagePart = "MultipleBagFetchException";
    final String actualMessage = exception.getMessage();


From the assertion, we have encountered an IllegalArgumentException, which has a root cause of MultipleBagFetchException.

5. Domain Model

Before proceeding to possible solutions, let's look at the necessary domain models, which we'll use as a reference later on.

Suppose we're dealing with a music app's domain. Given that, let's narrow our focus toward certain entities: Album, Artist, and User. 

We've already seen the Artist entity, so let's proceed with the other two entities instead.

First, let's look at the Album entity:

class Album {

    @GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.AUTO)
    private Long id;

    private String name;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "album")
    private List<Song> songs;

    @ManyToMany(mappedBy = "followingAlbums")
    private Set<Follower> followers;

    // constructor, equals, hashCode


An Album has a collection of songs, and at the same time, could have a set of followers. 

Next, here's the User entity:

class User {

    @GeneratedValue(strategy = GenerationType.AUTO)
    private Long id;

    private String name;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "createdBy", cascade = CascadeType.PERSIST)
    private List<Playlist> playlists;

    @OneToMany(mappedBy = "user", cascade = CascadeType.PERSIST)
    @OrderColumn(name = "arrangement_index")
    private List<FavoriteSong> favoriteSongs;
    // constructor, equals, hashCode

A User can create many playlists. Additionally, a User has a separate List for favoriteSongs wherein its order is based on the arrangement index.

6. Workaround: Using a Set in a Single JPQL Query

Before anything else, let's emphasize that this approach would generate a cartesian product, which makes this a mere workaround. It's because we'll be fetching two collections simultaneously in a single JPQL query. In contrast, there's nothing wrong with using a Set. It is the appropriate choice if we don't need our collection to have an order or any duplicated elements.

To demonstrate this approach, let's reference the Album entity from our domain model. 

An Album entity has two collections: songs and followers. The collection of songs is of type bag. However, for the followers, we're using a Set. Having that said, we won't encounter a MultipleBagFetchException even if we try to fetch both collections at the same time.

Using an integration test, let's try to retrieve an Album by its id while fetching both of its collections in a single JPQL query:

public void whenFetchingOneBagAndSet_thenRetrieveSuccess() {
    String jpql = "SELECT DISTINCT album FROM Album album "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH album.songs "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH album.followers "
      + "WHERE album.id = 1";

    Query query = entityManager.createQuery(jpql)
      .setHint(QueryHints.HINT_PASS_DISTINCT_THROUGH, false);

    assertEquals(1, query.getResultList().size());

As we can see, we have successfully retrieved an Album. It's because only the list of songs is a Bag. On the other hand, the collection of followers is a Set.

On a side note, it's worth highlighting that we're making use of QueryHints.HINT_PASS_DISTINCT_THROUGH. Since we're using an entity JPQL query, it prevents the DISTINCT keyword from being included in the actual SQL query. Thus, we'll use this query hint for the remaining approaches as well. 

7. Workaround: Using a List in a Single JPQL Query

Similar to the previous section, this would also generate a cartesian product, which could lead to performance issues. Again, there's nothing wrong with using a List, Set, or Bag for the data type. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate further that Hibernate can fetch collections simultaneously given there's no more than one of type Bag.

For this approach, let's use the User entity from our domain model.

As mentioned earlier, a User has two collections: playlists and favoriteSongs. The playlists have no defined order, making it a bag collection. However, for the List of favoriteSongs, its order depends on how the User arranges it. If we look closely at the FavoriteSong entity, the arrangementIndex property made it possible to do so.

Again, using a single JPQL query, let's try to verify if we'll be able to retrieve all the users while fetching both collections of playlists and favoriteSongs at the same time.

To demonstrate, let's create an integration test:

public void whenFetchingOneBagAndOneList_thenRetrieveSuccess() {
    String jpql = "SELECT DISTINCT user FROM User user "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH user.playlists "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH user.favoriteSongs ";

    List<User> users = entityManager.createQuery(jpql, User.class)
      .setHint(QueryHints.HINT_PASS_DISTINCT_THROUGH, false)

    assertEquals(3, users.size());

From the assertion, we can see that we have successfully retrieved all users. Moreover, we didn't encounter a MultipleBagFetchException. It's because even though we're fetching two collections at the same time, only the playlists is a bag collection.

8. Ideal Solution: Using Multiple Queries

We've seen from the previous workarounds the use of a single JPQL query for the simultaneous retrieval of collections. Unfortunately, it generates a cartesian product. We know that it's not ideal. So here, let's solve the MultipleBagFetchException without having to sacrifice performance.

Suppose we're dealing with an entity that has more than one bag collection. In our case, it is the Artist entity. It has two bag collections: songs and offers.

Given this situation, we won't even be able to fetch both collections at the same time using a single JPQL query. Doing so will lead to a MultipleBagFetchException. Instead, let's split it into two JPQL queries.

With this approach, we're expecting to fetch both bag collections successfully, one at a time.

Again, for the last time, let's quickly create an integration test for the retrieval of all artists:

public void whenUsingMultipleQueries_thenRetrieveSuccess() {
    String jpql = "SELECT DISTINCT artist FROM Artist artist "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH artist.songs ";

    List<Artist> artists = entityManager.createQuery(jpql, Artist.class)
      .setHint(QueryHints.HINT_PASS_DISTINCT_THROUGH, false)

    jpql = "SELECT DISTINCT artist FROM Artist artist "
      + "LEFT JOIN FETCH artist.offers "
      + "WHERE artist IN :artists ";

    artists = entityManager.createQuery(jpql, Artist.class)
      .setParameter("artists", artists)
      .setHint(QueryHints.HINT_PASS_DISTINCT_THROUGH, false)

    assertEquals(2, artists.size());

From the test, we first retrieved all artists while fetching its collection of songs.

Then, we created another query to fetch the artists' offers.

Using this approach, we avoided the MultipleBagFetchException as well as the formation of a cartesian product.

9. Conclusion

In this article, we've explored MultipleBagFetchException in detail. We discussed the necessary vocabulary and the causes of this exception. We then simulated it. After that, we talked about a simple music app's domain to have different scenarios for each of our workarounds and ideal solution. Lastly, we set up several integration tests to verify each of the approaches.

As always, the full source code of the article is available over on GitHub.

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