|"Conversation with Smaug" by J.R.R. Tolkien|
|Other names||Smaug the Golden|
Lord Smaug the Impenetrable
|Hoard||Treasure of Thrór, including the Arkenstone|
|Appeared||Presumably born in the early Third Age |
|Death||T.A. 2941 |
|Slain by||Bard the Bowman|
|Gallery||Images of Smaug|
Smaug was the greatest fire-breathing dragon of the Third Age. In T.A. 2770 he attacked the Lonely Mountain and the town of Dale. He claimed the treasure of the mountain for himself and forced Thrór, King under the Mountain, and his people into exile. Thorin's quest - with the help of his burglar Bilbo Baggins - to reclaim the treasure ended in success when Smaug was slain by Bard in T.A. 2941.
When Bilbo Baggins first encounters Smaug he can hear his snoring - "like the noise of a large pot galloping in the fire, mixed with the rumble of a gigantic tom-cat purring" - but is most of all struck by the reddish glow and heat that Smaug gives off, both of which travel up the passage-way so Smaug is felt long before he is seen. His flames are green and scarlet.
There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light. Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed.
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
Sack of Erebor
- See also: Sack of Erebor
Smaug was perhaps one of the dragons that infested the Grey Mountains. Details of his origin are unknown, but he apparently was considered still "young" by himself and Gandalf when he first appeared in Middle-earth's history in T.A. 2770, and as having transitioned to become "old and strong" by T.A. 2941. Hearing about the wealth of the Dwarves of Erebor, Smaug flew south "like a hurricane coming from the North" and attacked the wealthy Dwarven kingdom of the Lonely Mountain and its adjacent lands: he first landed upon the mountain before going down the slopes and setting the woods on fire. When the dwarves came running out of the front gate Smaug killed them all before turning his attention to the men of Dale, also killing most of their warriors including Girion, Lord of Dale (but his wife and child safely fled to Lake-town). Returning to the mountain, he crawled into the front gate and left no dwarf he found alive.
Only Thrór, King under the Mountain, and his son Thráin II managed to escape by using the secret side-door (Thrór later gave the key to the secret door and a map of the Lonely Mountain to Thráin). Smaug claimed the treasure (which included the Arkenstone and a mithril coat) for himself and laid there upon a bed of gold, for the next two centuries only occasionally leaving the mountain to carry away people (especially maidens) and continue the destruction of Dale. The area surrounding the mountain became known as the Desolation of the Dragon as "there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished".
Quest for Erebor
- See also: The Hobbit
In T.A. 2850, Gandalf, whilst spying on the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, found a Dwarf imprisoned; near death, the dwarf gave Gandalf a key and a map. Unbeknownst to Gandalf at the time this dwarf was Thráin, King of Durin's Folk, who had been captured by the Necromancer in T.A. 2845. Having discovered that the Necromancer was indeed Sauron, Gandalf was very concerned that Sauron could command Smaug's allegiance, using him to a devastating effect. It is for this reason that Gandalf sought a plan to neutralise the threat of Smaug and limit the growing power of Sauron in the north of Middle-earth.
By chance on 15 March 2941, Gandalf met Thorin Oakenshield in Bree (although another source states that they met when Thorin overtook but started to talk to Gandalf on the road). They discussed their desire to destroy Smaug and retake the Lonely Mountain; they later met in Thorin's Halls in the Blue Mountains to develop a plan. Gandalf wanted Thorin to take the hobbit Bilbo Baggins as a burglar on their adventure to retake Erebor; this took considerable persuasion.
Later in T.A. 2941, at the home of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf presented Thorin with the map and key, and accompanied them on part of their quest. The party reached the mountain later that year on Durin's Day. They sent Bilbo in through the secret door to carry out his duty as their burglar; as Smaug lay dreaming of greed and violence, Bilbo stole a heavy two-handed cup from the dragon's vast hoard of treasure (which he used as a bed) and went back to the dwarves. Meanwhile Smaug had an uneasy dream:
Upon awaking Smaug felt the draught from the tunnel which led to the secret door (from which he had previously heard untoward knocking). Already suspicious, Smaug noticed that the cup was missing. This enraged Smaug beyond measure, causing him to leave his chamber and scour the mountainside for the intruder; remembering hearing strange noises from the passageway he failed to find the entrance, only eating their ponies.
Remembering a saying of his father's, "every worm has a weak spot", Bilbo offered to return to the dragon's lair - the Dwarves ardently accepted and, putting on the ring, off he went. Bilbo believed that the dragon was fast asleep and that his presence would remain unknown to the dragon, however, Smaug was pretending to be asleep. He then spoke to Bilbo:
Well thief! I smell you and I feel your air. I hear your breath. Come along! Help yourself again, there is plenty and to spare!
—Smaug to Bilbo Baggins.
But Bilbo was more shrewd than Smaug gave him credit: Bilbo praised the dragon and made sure that he did not reveal his real name, speaking only in riddles. Smaug could not resist the fascination of what Bilbo had said (although he did remind him that flattery would not save his life) and needed to understand it, so they continued to talk; he was also intrigued to smell something new being puzzled by the never-before-encountered "hobbit-smell". Bilbo grew more and more uncomfortable in the presence of Smaug, but plucking up courage he revealed that he had not come for the treasure alone: Smaug laughed and mocked the notion that anyone could steal from him and get away with it. Bilbo eventually revealed the true purpose of his mission to Smaug, that of "revenge" - Smaug burst into a devastating laughter, shaking Bilbo to the floor, mocking the suggestion that anyone could achieve revenge, boasting about his achievements and strengths. Bilbo then suggested that dragon's were softer underneath, particularly in the chest: in response, and in an act of sheer vanity, Smaug rolled over and claimed that Bilbo's information was false and outdated. But Bilbo, while loudly praising Smaug's jewel-encrusted underside, saw something crucial, thinking:
Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!
—Bilbo, to himself.
Bilbo had obtained the information that he had needed. He fled up the passage, leaving behind a dragon infuriated by the notion of "revenge", and had the hair on the back of his head and heels singed off. When Bilbo returned to the door-step he regaled the dwarves with the story of his conversation with the dragon whilst the thrush was listening. Smaug left his lair once more and smashed the mountainside with strikes of his tail, trapping Thorin and Company inside the secret passage.
Death and aftermath
Realizing that the Lake-men of Esgaroth must have helped the intruders - reinforced by Bilbo calling himself the "Barrel-rider," Smaug resolved to attack and destroy the town as a punitive measure. He approached it in a rage. The waters around it turned red but Smaug dared not get too close as the water would quench his fire; as the Lake-men had cut the bridges, Smaug flew above attacking and setting the town aflame, destroying the Great House with a swipe of his tail. The dragon's scales were impervious to the arrows of the defenders, but the thrush had flown to the town and informed Bard - a descendent of Girion, Lord of Dale - of the bare spot in Smaug's armour. He was then able to kill Smaug by firing the Black Arrow directly into the vulnerable spot of his left breast. As Smaug fell he crashed into and destroyed Esgaroth.
After Smaug's death, Thorin and Company claimed the treasure as theirs by birthright. This created a conflict with Bard and the Elvenking of Mirkwood, who each wanted a portion of the treasure as reimbursement for huge damage that Smaug had inflicted upon them. Thorin refused to share the treasure and had every intention of going to war with the Elves of Mirkwood and men of Esgaroth to defend his right to the treasure. However the sudden attack by the armies of Bolg brought the forces of the free peoples of Middle-earth together in the Battle of Five Armies. After the Battle, Bilbo's fourteenth-share of the hoard was given over to Bard who sent some to Lake-town to aid its rebuilding.
Following the death of Smaug a new Lake-town was built further north; Smaug's bones could be seen from the shore but the people were always fearful of it and no one dared go in the water to retrieve the gems or gold.
I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong strong, Thief in the Shadows!
—Smaug to Bilbo.
Like all dragons, Smaug - described by Thorin as "a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm" - loves to hoard gold with a meticulous knowledge of his own collection as evidenced by his immediate spotting of the missing cup. Whilst being quick to anger in defence of his own wealth, he also exhibits a fierce intellect (as well as a curious fascination) in guessing/deciphering Bilbo's cryptic origins, a pride and vanity in his own armour, an arrogance in his own invulnerability (laughing at the suggestion that the dwarves would be able to have their revenge), and an ability to question Bilbo's loyalty to the dwarves. These qualities would have made Smaug a perilous servant for Sauron, should the Dark Lord have made him his vassal.
In Letter 122, Tolkien noted his lack of enthusiasm for the dragon in Beowulf. Instead he stated his preference for the dragon-like creature Fafnir from the late Norse versions of the Sigurd-story. Indeed Tolkien wrote that Smaug's character owed much to Fafnir.
Deriving from the same Old English and Germanic roots as smial and Smeagol, the name Smaug is "the past tense of the primitive Germanic verb Smugan, to squeeze through a hole". It has been suggested that Tolkien likely thought of Old English smeag, a word used to describe a "worm".
In the conversation between Smaug and Bilbo, Bilbo calls him "Smaug the Tremendous", "Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities", "Smaug the Mighty", "Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy", "Lord Smaug the Impenetrable" and "Your Magnificence", and later Bilbo refers to him as "Smaug the Terrible" and "Smaug the Dreadful" and Balin calls him "Old Worm". When the dwarves learn of Smaug's demise they grab their harps and sing, referring to Smaug as the "Worm of Dread". Appendix A uses the popular name "Smaug the Golden", whilst in "The Quest of Erebor" he is simply referred to as "The Dragon".
Other versions of the legendarium
In a very early manuscript of The Hobbit, Smaug was known as Pryftan. Indeed John D. Rateliff refers to this manuscript as The Pryftan Fragment. Pryftan is a simple Welsh compound that literally means "Worm of Fire."
Portrayal in adaptations
|Smaug in adaptations|
1966: The Hobbit (1966 film):
- Smaug is named "Slag", the Ancient Monster.[source?]
1977: The Hobbit (1977 film):
- Smaug was voiced by American actor Richard Boone. In this version, Smaug is broadly similar in size and colour but his shape is less elongated due to being more weighty. Smaug's face is rounder, possessing more mammalian traits - resembling a mix between a cat and a bat - having bat-like ears and fur around the face and down the back. Also, his armour is never mentioned to be strengthened by lying on the treasure, but more resembles an extra padding of skin/scales, minus the bare patch.
- Original title: Сказочное путешествие мистера Бильбо Беггинса, хоббита, через Дикий край, Черный лес, за Туманные горы туда и обратно. Smaug was created by a puppet.
- Animated unreleased Russian Hobbit short film. During the destruction of Dale Smaug darkens the sky. Children are flying kites (paper dragons) which are consumed by a dragon of fire. original posting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hWwu17udnI and here with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzoRd14L7AQ
- Smaug is a CGI-motion capture creature produced by Weta Digital, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. He is shown with no front legs but walking on the wrists of his wings.
- Smaug's sack of Dale and Erebor is shown briefly during the prologue. During a meeting of the Wise, Gandalf reveals his fear of Smaug the Terrible being swayed by Sauron, as a a "dragon could be used to terrible effect". Saruman dismisses this, stating that the Dark Lord had been vanquished. The film ends with a glimpse of the Dragon's eye as he wakes, though he is buried under the treasure. In addition, movie Smaug was over 140 metres (462 feet) in length, or “twice the size of a 747”.
- The Dragon makes his full appearance in the second part. Thrain confirms Gandalf's fears of Smaug being a servant to an unseen evil force, later revealed to be Sauron. In fact, Smaug himself confirms this, saying in his conversation with Bilbo, he shows an awareness of the One Ring and the nearby presence of Thorin and Company, as well as giving hints on Sauron's return (and his intention to bring the Dark Lord's dominion, certainly for a rich reward). It is also observed by Bilbo that the Lake-men's legend of Girion having loosened and removed a scale from the Dragon's breast was in fact true. When the Dwarves enter the mountain, Smaug chases them, finally catching up to them in the forges, where the Dwarves stage a counterattack, tricking Smaug into relighting the forges with his fire. They manage to cover Smaug in hot molten gold, but he sheds it off without difficulty. Smaug leaves them and flies off to Lake-town to seek revenge for what he perceives to be their part in Bilbo and the Dwarves' attack.
- After destroying the majority of Lake-town, Smaug sees Bard attempting to take him on. He taunts the bowman, and, then, while charging him, Bard shoots his Black Arrow into the fire-drake's vulnerable spot. While in the throes of death, Smaug flies up into the sky, where he takes his last breath and then falls to his watery grave in Long Lake (taking the Master of Lake-town in his boat with him along the way).
- Francis de Wolff provides Smaug's voice.
- Smaug is played by Benno Kusche.
- The voice of Smaug is provided by Ján Mistrík.
1982: The Hobbit (1982 video game):
- The goal of this game is to plunder the treasuries of Smaug's Lair in the Lonely Mountain. While the computer is loading the game it shows a picture of Smaug with the Lonely Mountain on the background.
- In this supplement to the 1st edition of Middle-earth Role Playing, Smaug is put forward as a potential enemy should the gamesmaster wish to include the dragon in his or her story. Another dragon, Utumkodur, is described as Smaug's elder sister. 
- In this supplement to the 2nd edition of Middle-earth Role Playing, Smaug is described in some detail and given a brief history before his coming to Erebor. Smaug survived the destruction of Angband at the end of the First Age and settled at Anvilmount in the Grey Mountains. Here he found and defiled a First Age Adan holy place, destroying tombs and stealing a modest amount of treasure. Smaug was upset by his lack of wealth. Therefore when he heard the tale of the Dwarves of Erebor he knew that the great treasure should be his. Creatures of Middle-earth also describes Smaug as being the son of Ancalagon, being one of a number of siblings including Throkmaw, Ruingurth, and Utumkodur.
2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):
- Smaug was voiced by James Horan.
2018: The Lord of the Rings Online:
- Smaug has a sister, Etterfang Foulmaw. Both of them slept in the cavern called Glimmerdeep in the Grey Mountains until Etterfang was disturbed by dwarves and fled into the deeper Caverns of Thrumfall; Smaug was unable to find her again when he awoke. It is revealed Sauron attempted to recruit Smaug to his side but was refused. His servants then provoked his rage by slaying many young drakes and placing them at the front of Smaug's lair alongside dwarven weapons. This caused Smaug to attack the Lonely Mountain, which was part of the Dark Lord's design. The Quest for Erebor complicated the Sauron's plans, as Smaug was slain before he could be called to Mordor.
- Smaug does not make a physical appearance, but his bones are still found around the watery ruins of the old Lake-town (known as Esgaroth-of-old). Bandits pillage the ruins and the bones for some unknown purpose.
- "The Quest of Erebor", a chapter of Unfinished Tales which provides more background information
- Chrysophylax, the dragon in Farmer Giles of Ham
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Fire and Water"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names", entry Urulóki: "Quenya word meaning 'fire-serpent', dragon"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
- Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "Smaug"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "On the Doorstep"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Not at Home"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Gathering of the Clouds"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Thief in the Night"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 122, (dated 18 December 1949)
- Peter Gilliver, Edmund Weiner and Jeremy Marshall, The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary, pp. 190-1
- J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 25, (dated February 1938)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "II. The Appendix on Languages", p. 54
- J.R.R. Tolkien, John D. Rateliff (ed.), The History of The Hobbit, Mr. Baggins, The First Phase, "The Pryftan Fragment", passim
- Mark T. Hooker, Tolkien and Welsh, pp. xxv, 36
- Peter Jackson, "The Hobbit Casting Update" dated 19 June 2011, Facebook (accessed 23 December 2011)
- The Hobbit (1979 radio series), "Inside Information"
- "J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord Of The Rings & The Hobbit", Discogs.com (accessed 23 December 2011)
- Phil Garratt, "Software Review: The Hobbit", WorldOfSpectrum.com (accessed 23 December 2011)
- Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr., Creatures of Middle-earth, 1st edn, pp. 51-52
- Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr., Creatures of Middle-earth, 2nd edn, pp. 112-115
|Glaurung · Gostir · Ancalagon · Scatha · Smaug|