I first read The Hobbit over 20 years ago, when I was still a child. I remember it as an extremely cozy and "non-epic" story about a bunch of dwarves, a wizard and of course Bilbo. In particular, I remembered the part when they took the "barrel ride" from some kind of house for some reason, and the dragon in the end was a big deal with a lot of trickery and talking and running around and scheming.
Now, I'm re-reading it (modern copy) and there are only a few pages left. The five-army battle has just begun.
I realize that, in the original version, there were "some changes". In particular, Gollum was just some crazy, creepy individual who actually was prepared to give away the Ring to Bilbo if he guessed the riddles correctly, which of course had to be rewritten by Tolkien once he had made The Lord of the Rings, which clearly made this utterly impossible.
However, I don't remember if my first copy had Gollum gambling with his ring or not. It was borrowed from a library, and it didn't seem like it was from the 1930s, so most likely, it was the revised version. It's frustrating to not know for sure, though.
What shocked me was how short the interaction with Smaug was. Basically, all this build-up just for a very short talk session between invisi-hobbit and him, and then he just flies away and they never see him again? And some entirely separate person shoots him down after the bird gives him Bilbo's tip? That... was unexpected. An anticlimax if you will. I kept thinking that the dragon was going to rise from its watery grave, until the narrator started talking about it decaying. I felt almost cheated somehow. Most of all, it perplexed me.
Could it really be that my memory had muddled up the story to the point where I really did think that Bilbo and the dwarves spent a long time with combined efforts to trick the dragon somehow, all by themselves, in the treasure chamber, and that it was Bilbo who used his elf-sword to finally slaughter the beast? Or was this how it happened, and Tolkien decided that since he changed the Gollum part, he might as well also add an epic battle in the end to make it work better with LOTR, no longer just a plain "dragon slaying adventure" for children? While unlikely, I wouldn't be surprised.
I remember them killing the dragon there and then, not barricading themselves and sitting around like greedy dwarves when they didn't even do anything and just released the dragon to kill and destroy the city. Granted, I've not read it all the way to the end yet, so please don't spoil it if Smaug does indeed return somehow, or they all become friends after the orc battle (which I strongly suspect).
I suppose it's good that the story isn't completely predictable, but this final battle made it far more "epic" than I both remembered, wanted and expected. Could it be that this was actually added in later, and it wasn't part of the original The Hobbit? Did Tolkien make such drastic changes to the story? Or is this just another case of my memory getting mixed up with fantasies and expectations and possibly those (mostly) deadly dull movies?