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Dragons, Drakes, Worms
J.R.R. Tolkien - Dragon.jpg
General Information
MembersGlaurung, Ancalagon, Scatha, Smaug
Physical Description
Lifespan"Long and slow"[1]
GalleryImages of Dragons, Drakes, Worms
"Never laugh at live dragons."
Bilbo Baggins[2]

Dragons were created by Morgoth out of fire and sorcery sometime before the First Age of the Sun, when Glaurung first appeared.



Scouring the Mountain by Ted Nasmith

The origin and early history of dragons

Seeing the strength of the Noldor in battle, Melkor realized that orcs alone were not sufficient to defeat his enemies. He therefore began to breed a new race of monsters: the dragons.[3]


At the Fall of Gondolin, Morgoth's foul host included dragons, "many and terrible".[4]

The re-emergence of dragons

[...] In the Third Age, before the War of the Ring a battle for riches was stirring between the Dragons and Dwarves. Dragons like Smaug and Scatha challenged the Dwarves for their hoard. The Dwarves won the war only because they were aided by Elves and Men. They didn't like the Dragons or Dwarves but their treasures were also stolen at times, their city raided, and kings killed, by some of the dragons so in those instances they might fight with the Dwarves out of sheer revenge. Smaug is famous for having destroyed and raided Esgaroth, a laketown of men. The angry men shot arrows at the fire drake and he fell into a lake of spikes and died.


Although Smaug was the greatest of the dragons of his day,[5] he seems not to have been the last of his kind as Gandalf told Frodo that "there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough [to melt the Rings of Power]",[6] indicating the presence of other, lesser dragons. This might have also indicated that Gandalf was actually ashamed that Smaug was killed as they could've formed an alliance with him in the War of the Ring. Just as both the Free Peoples and Dark Powers had been trying to track down Smeagol/Gollum for information about the ring, perhaps they could try to compete for Smaug's alliance in the war as well.


Means of locomotion

Some dragons (Glaurung) walked on four legs, like a Komodo dragon or some other lizard.

  • A second type (Ancalagon, Smaug) could both walk on four legs and fly using wings. Winged-dragons only first appeared during the War of Wrath, the battle that ended the First Age, so all dragons introduced before the end of the First Age couldn't fly (such as Glaurung), although breeds of wingless dragons did survive into later ages.

Fire breathing

  • The Urulóki (singular Urulokë, Fire-drakes) could breathe fire. It is not entirely clear whether the term "Uruloki" referred only to the first dragons such as Glaurung that could breathe fire but were wingless, or to any dragon that could breathe fire, and thus include Smaug.
  • The Cold-drakes could not.

Other characteristics

The dragons also shared a love of treasure (especially gold), subtle intelligence, immense cunning, great physical strength, and a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell". The best way to talk to a dragon under the circumstances of this spell (when it was questioning you) was to not directly give it the information it wanted, as this would compromise you and your friends, but not to flat out deny it an answer, because this would anger it to violence. Therefore, the best way to talk to the dragon is to be vague and speak in riddles- apparently dragons find it hard to resist wasting time with riddles.

Dragon-fire (of the Urulóki) was hot enough to melt Rings of Power: four of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves were consumed by Dragon-fire, although it was not powerful enough to destroy the One Ring itself.[6]

Individual dragons

Smaug by John Howe.
  • Glaurung — Father of Dragons, slain by Túrin Turambar. First of the Uruloki, the Fire-drakes of Angband. He had four legs and could breathe fire, but didn't have wings.
  • Ancalagon the Black — first and mightiest of the Winged-dragons, slain by Eärendil in the War of Wrath.
  • Scatha — Slain by Fram of the Éothéod. Apparently a cold-drake. Described as a "long-worm", although this imparticular term seems to be more of an expression rather than a separate taxonomic group.
  • Smaug — the last great dragon of Middle-earth, slain by Bard of Esgaroth. A winged Urulokë.
  • An unnamed dragon appears in Hobbit verse, said to have had red eyes, black wings and teeth like knives.[7]


The dragons were known by many different names: drakes, worms, long-worms, serpents.

Other tongues

Words denoting "dragon" in Quenya are lókë and angulóke. Sindarin has lhûg and amlug.


Dragon is derived from French; drake is an English word, from Old English draca (derived from Latin).[8]

Obsolete tongues

In Gnomish, "dragon" is fuithlug ("a dragon who guards treasure"), lingwir or ulug (plural ulûgin; "she dragon" is uluch, uluchnir or ulugwin).[9]

Other fiction

A dragon named Chrysophylax appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's story Farmer Giles of Ham.

In the story Roverandom, white dragons are among the creatures living on the moon. A dragon, called the Great White Dragon, attacks Rover and the moon-dog, and is said to be the origin of all white dragons. In Merlin's time, this dragon had been to the earth, and fought with the Red Dragon in Caerdragon. The Great White Dragon has wings and can breath fire.[10]

Portrayal in adaptations

Portrayal in games

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Apart from the type of dragons created by Tolkien, additional races include Rain-drakes, Light-drakes, Ash Drakes and several others.[11]

2001-: The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game:

The Dragon, which can have the ability to breathe fire and fly, is a powerful enemy of the Good players.[12] The game also includes the subterranean Cave Drake, a large but agile monster and natural enemy of the Dwarves.[13]

2007-: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Dragon-kind include several type of drakes: Cold-, Fire- and Shadow-drakes, Fire-worms, Rock-worms, and many more. A related beast is the salamander or eft, a weaker and simpler breed of dragons.[14]

See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §115
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Durin
  6. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Shadow
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Hoard"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Short Glossary of Obsolete, Archaic, and Rare Words", p. 350
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), pp. 36, 54, 74
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (eds.), Roverandom, "[Chapter] 2"
  11. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  12. Dragon at (accessed 23 September 2011)
  13. White Dwarf, issue 371 (November 2010), p. 42
  14. "Dragon-kind" at Lord of the Rings Online: Lorebook (accessed 28 October 2010)