And yet did you know that the 1937 edition of The Hobbit, should you be so lucky as to get your hands on a copy today, would bear a striking difference from the story you are most likely familiar with today? Tolkien's original publication, you see, was made quite before he had written his famous sequel, The Lord of the Rings. It wasn't until he began writing this sequel that he decided that Bilbo's magic ring - yes, the one he bested from Gollum - was going to play a major (and quite dark) role in the entire story.
This was going to prove to be a problem because in the original publication of The Hobbit, Tolkien had written that after winning the game of riddles, Gollum actually intended to make a present of the ring to Bilbo. The ring was just a silly magic ring of little consequence.
Uh oh. Those of you familiar with the plot of The Lord of the Rings (and is there anyone left on the planet who isn't?) knows that wasn't going to work.
So Tolkien actually had to revise The Hobbit to the version we all know and love today (Gollum is utterly devastated to lose that ring and for good reason!). This new version wasn't published until 1951. That's right, a full fourteen years after its original release.
The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954, three years after this new and improved Hobbit was in circulation.
What did readers of the time think of this major re-write? It's difficult to tell how many even noticed at the time. But given that a 1937 edition of The Hobbit currently retails for around $15,000, we can assume fans today are quite appreciative.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Tolkien. And thank you so very much.