Almanac: "Hobbit" creator J.R.R. Tolkien

"Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien in a 1967 photo.
AP Photo

(CBS News) And now a page from our Sunday Morning Almanac . . . September 2, 1973, thirty nine years ago today - a day of mourning in the imaginary world of Middle-Earth.

For that was the day that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..." J.R.R.Tolkien wrote.

And so began a fantasy novel about a small creature with furry toes who embarks on some dazzling adventures in the company of dwarves, wizards and elves.

Tolkien was a professor at Oxford when he wrote "The Hobbit," which is said to have been based on a story he told his children. First published in 1937, it became an instant classic.

"The Lord of the Rings" followed, a sequel that would take more than a decade to complete and became one of the bestselling books of all time.

In 2001, the first book in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring," directed by Peter Jackson, came to life on the big screen.

It was followed by two other films, all box office hits, earning nearly $3 billion worldwide.

The movies received a combined total of 30 Oscar nominations and 17 wins, including one for Best Picture.

A new trilogy of "Hobbit" movies is set to hit theaters starting in December.

Tolkien, meanwhile, is still a part of pop culture - spoofed in shows like "The Big Bang Theory."

And just last month, the late British author was honored with his very own crater on the planet Mercury - a place very far indeed from his mythical world of Middle-Earth.

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