SMAUG (THE LORD OF THE RINGS)
Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Smaug was a fire drake of the Third Age, considered to be the last “great” dragon to exist in Middle-earth. Smaug was drawn towards the enormous wealth amassed by the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain during the reign of King Thror, and laid waste to the neighboring city of Dale and captured the Lonely Mountain, driving the surviving Dwarves into exile.
For almost two hundred years, Smaug hoarded the Lonely Mountain’s treasures to himself, staying within the mountain, until a company of Dwarves managed to enter the Lonely Mountain and awaken him from hibernation. Correctly believing that the dwarves had received assistance from the men of Lake-town in entering the Lonely Mountain, Smaug left the mountain to wreak destruction upon Lake-town, nearly decimating it before being slain by Bard the Bowman.
His origin was unknown although it was rather unlikely that he was one of survivors in the War of Wrath.
In TA 2770, Smaug came from the mountains in the north, drawn by great wealth amassed by the Dwarven kingdom of the Lonely Mountain, which included gold, gemstones, silver, pearls, the many-faceted crystals of emerald, sapphire and diamond, and the famed Arkenstone. He took the mountain, killing many dwarves inside it. Thrór and Thráin used the secret door to escape, and the dragon continued ravaging the surrounding countryside for a long time.
For two centuries, Smaug ruled the Lonely Mountain uncontested, lying within the great treasure hoard of the Lonely Mountain and ensuring that no one entered the mountain in an attempt to steal from him. The surrounding domain became a scarred wasteland known to the Dwarves and men as the Desolation of Smaug. Yet in the year TA 2941, a company of fourteen adventurers consisting of twelve Dwarves, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, and led by the heir of the Lonely Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield, entered Smaug’s mountain lair by a secret door in a daring attempt to reclaim the ancient treasure from the dragon.
Bilbo, the company’s appointed “burglar,” was sent into the treasure chamber alone in an attempt to stealthily gather information and steal what he can without waking Smaug. Once inside, Bilbo was surprised to find that Smaug was much larger than he had expected and covered in impenetrable armor, save for his underbelly. Aware of this vulnerability, Smaug deliberately had spent years sprawled on the wealth of his hoard, allowing diamonds and hard gemstones to be embedded into his belly, armoring his only weakness. However, while examining the dragon, Bilbo noticed a single bare patch on the monster’s left breast, nearest his heart. With this invaluable information, he escaped the dragon’s lair and returned to the Dwarves, sharing his discovery of Smaug’s weakness with them, unaware that he was overheard by a thrush, who carried the secret to Bard the Bowman in nearby Esgaroth, the city also known as Lake-town.
Returning to the treasure chamber, Bilbo attempted to steal a single cup, but its theft is immediately noticed by Smaug, who awakens from his slumber. Amused by the Hobbit, Smaug converses with Bilbo, attempting to deduce his origins and purpose in the mountain. He quickly surmises that Bilbo was aiding Thorin and the rest of the Dwarf company in an attempt to steal back the Arkenstone and reclaim the Mountain. Smaug flies into a rage, erupting from the mountain in a fiery wrath and loosening his flame upon the land. He flies to Lake-town upon the Long Lake and devastates it. In the midst of the wreck, Bard the Bowman, heir to the throne of Dale, does his best to rally men to repel the dragon’s assault. Bard, guided by his knowledge of Smaug’s secret weakness, fires a black arrow into the beast’s vulnerable spot on his belly. Roaring in fury and pain, Smaug falls from the sky and crashes into the flaming ruins of Lake-town, his death signaled the end of the presence of dragons in Middle Earth.
After Smaug’s death, Thorin and Company claimed the treasures of the Lonely Mountain as theirs by birthright. This created a conflict with Bard and the Elvenking Thranduil of Mirkwood, each of whom wanted a portion of the gold as reimbursement for all the damage Smaug had caused to their kingdoms over the years. Thorin refused to share the treasure and, as a result, they both declared war on him.
It is said that a vast fortune in gemstones lay with Smaug’s rotting carcass amongst the pilings of old Lake-town, but few had the courage to dive for them in later years. With no Dragon to contend with, the survivors of the town rebuilt on dry land next to the lake. Gandalf would later note the good fortune of the dragon’s destruction, as otherwise Smaug might have proved a continual menace.
Smaug’s actual size is unknown, as it is never explicitly mentioned in the The Hobbit. In The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad, Smaug is said to be about 20 meters (66 feet) in length. This measurement corresponds with drawings by Tolkien in which Smaug seems to be around 25 meters (82 feet).
It is unclear whether Smaug, the largest specimen in the Third Age, would compete in mightiness to his ancestors of average size in the First Age, though he was clearly smaller than Ancalagon, the largest known dragon to have existed.
Being a fully-grown dragon, Smaug was both massive and powerful, possessing physical strength capable of crushing stone with ease, as seen by his attack on the Lonely Mountain. He was able to fly thanks to his large wings, and had the ability to breathe streams of searing hot flame from his mouth. Some comments in The Hobbit imply that his entire body was imbued with fire, as he was seen to glow in the darkness of the Lonely Mountain’s depths, and his usual paths were said to have been “smoothed and slimed” (i.e. melted) by his passage.
Like many dragons of Middle-earth, Smaug’s monstrous appearance also belied keen senses and a dangerously sharp mind. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of his treasure hoard, immediately registering the theft of a single cup after Bilbo made his first visit to his lair. When the hobbit returned a second time, Smaug was already expecting him by feigning sleep, and immediately declared that he could sense the thief even if he could not see him. Although Bilbo was clever enough not to fall for Smaug’s attempts to trick him into revealing his exact position, the dragon used the resulting conversation to plant doubts in Bilbo’s mind, correctly guessing that the “burglar” had allied himself with the Dwarves and the men of Lake Town and asking if Bilbo had ever considered the logistical difficulties of getting his share of Smaug’s treasure back to his home.
Defensively, Smaug’s reddish-gold scales rendered him impervious to nearly all weapons, but his underbelly was relatively soft and vulnerable. To compensate for this, Smaug took to sleeping upon the gathered treasure of the Lonely Mountain, allowing bits of gold and jewels to embed themselves in his body. This “diamond waistcoat” was intended to cover Smaug’s only physical weak spot, but when Bilbo Baggins confronted the dragon in his lair, he discovered a bare patch on the left side of his chest. Bard was told this by an ancient thrush that overheard Bilbo relating this information to the Dwarves, enabling him to defeat Smaug by shooting his Black Arrow into the bare patch.
Smaug is portrayed as being psychopathic, extremely sadistic, confident, violent, cruel, arrogant, intelligent and greedy, possessing an unquenchable desire for gold. His most distinguishing characteristic (aside from his greed) is his arrogance, as Smaug proudly boasts of his superiority and impregnability to Bilbo during their encounter. However, this proves to be his downfall, as he unwittingly reveals the weak spot in his chest to Bilbo when showing the Hobbit how he had willfully coated his underbelly in treasure to protect it.
Smaug seems primarily motivated by personal greed rather than a desire to do evil, and does not seem to serve any allegiance other than his own. While he does ruthlessly destroy Dale and lays waste to the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain during his attack on the Lonely Mountain, once he has assumed dominion of the region he seems content to allow the rest of Middle Earth to go about its business, so long as he or his treasure remains undisturbed; although this could be because he feels that the people living in the region have nothing he wants. Highly intelligent, Smaug appears to possess a rather sardonic sense of humor, darkly mocking Bilbo while they converse within the Lonely Mountain’s treasure chamber. Smaug seems to dislike Dwarves, considering them to be weak and pathetic creatures far beneath him, making unfavorable comments about Thror and showing no remorse over his slaughter of their kind and claiming of their kingdom. While conversing with Bilbo, Smaug is also able to quickly surmise the reason for Bilbo’s presence in Erebor, and also correctly deduces that the Dwarves received aid from the men of Esgaroth in reaching the mountain.