We need to talk about dragons for a bit. Well, okay, we really only need to talk about a dragon. In particular, we need to talk about the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities, Smaug the Stupendous. You may know him from such films as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, or The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. If you have not seen any of the films or read the books on which they are based, then you had better steel yourself for some hardcore analytic Black Arrows. We?re gonna dissect this bitch and prove once and for all that Smaug really isn?t that bad.
Before immediately picking Smaug apart, we need to cover some ground first. This means we need to talk about other dragons in Middle Earth that aren?t Smaug the Tyrannical.
There are other dragons, you ask? (Or at least I?m pretending that?s what you would ask.) There?s a bunch, actually. What a lot of people don?t know is that Tolkien wrote tomes and histories detailing the entire backstory of Middle Earth. Almost everything is covered and canon, too. In these texts and letters, Tolkien talks about the beginning of time and all that good stuff.
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While Middle Earth is a magical realm of Elves and Orcs and Dwarves and walking trees, there is still a God. This God is named Eru Ilvatar and he is an infinite, shapeless void of good things. Like all benevolent and omnipotent forces however, Eru Ilvatar gets bored of sitting around in space and decides to make some cool shit. So with a flick of the wrist, BOOM! Space Angels.
These angels are known as Ainur, and they make their own servants because they can?t do everything themselves. So with the help of Eru Ilvatar, they create a whole bunch of different races. The Elves, Dwarves, and Tree Dudes are intertwined with the natural world created by the Ainur. Men and Hobbits, however, were fashioned by Eru Ilvatar himself and were his most cherished of creations.
But, like all good stories, there has to be one jerk to ruin everything. That jerk was named Melkor, an Ainur who challenged his kin and created his own group of servants. By corrupting some Elves, Melkor designed the Orcs. After a bunch of wars between Orcs and Men, Melkor eventually became known as Morgoth, who would later be remembered as the master of the Dark Lord, Sauron ? Yes. Fucking Sauron.
That?s a lot of names. The TL;DR version is as follows:
- Eru Ilvatar makes really cool space angels.
- One of these space angels started making his own servants.
- His servants were mean and bad.
- They all went to war, and war is not cool.
Some of these creations by the Ainur-Formerly-Known-As Melkor are dragons.
So there. Dragons were created by a mean space angel during the First Age. They were basically the heavy artillery used by Dark Lords to blow shit up. But dragons were more than mere killing machines. As it turned out, many of the beasts possessed some form of cunning and a lust for gold. They made their own homes and waged their own wars. There was Glaurung, the Father of Dragons and Ancalagon the Black. Then there was Gostir and Scatha.
And then there was Smaug.
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Smaug is the last living dragon when The Hobbit begins. He is described as a massive and terrible worm; a Fire Drake from the north with an almost insatiable hunger for diamonds and gemstones.
Some say that there are still Drakes living within Middle Earth, but this is pure speculation.
And do you blame him for wanting gold? He was born that way. He does not try to hide his love for shiny things, he embraces it.
One of the central themes to The Hobbit is that the most prized treasure of all is not an Arkenstone or a vast sum of gold coins. The real riches lie in the friendships forged throughout the journey to Erebor. Unlikely alliances are formed as old rivalries are set aside. Sort of.
SMAUG, THE BREAKER OF ALREADY SHITTY ALLIANCES
The relationship between Dwarves and Elves is tenuous at best. In the prologue to An Unexpected Journey, we witness the Elvenking Thranduil refuse to help the disenfranchised Dwarves when they lose the city of Dale. Sure, Smaug was the main reason for the whole Losing-Your-Homeland thing, but if not him, it would have been someone else? Someone like Sauron.
Yet the Dwarves and Elves are STILL at odds even in the later books and films when Sauron is, at that point, an actual problem for literally everyone who happens to be dwelling in Middle Earth. But that?s a different story.
So we have learned that all these races treat each other like shit even during the worst of times and having a giant mountain filled to the brim with gold doesn?t exactly help the situation since everyone suddenly wants money in the face of almost certain doom because reasons. It can most certainly be argued that while Smaug did shatter an already uneasy rift in the alliance between Dwarves and Elves, we all know that something else would have broken them up at some point anyway. Can we really get mad at Smaug for hastening the inevitable?
Maybe things would have been better if the Dwarves had a different king. Thrr was a mediocre ruler, and that?s putting it mildly. While he may have brought prosperity to his realm, he eventually went batshit crazy. All the wealth of Erebor consumed his mind and ate away at him like a parasite. Thorin Oakenshield himself saw what became of Thrr and it saddened him to see a once great king fall to the tragic illness of greed.
SMAUG, THE VICTIM OF DOUBLE STANDARDS
Does this sound familiar? A constant and voracious desire for riches? Because it is one of the talking points that Smaug?s enemies use against him. So it?s tragic when a Dwarf becomes obsessed with gold, but it?s deplorable when a Dragon has a craving for some shiny trinkets? Get out of my office.
Pity the king for falling victim to a lust for riches, but condemn the dragon for being born with a love for gold. Nice double standard we have here.
With all that gold being flaunted around, Smaug flies in on his mighty wings (which are a hurricane) and decides that the Dwarven king is unworthy of such excesses. He knows how crazy everyone who tries to get the treasure can become? So what?s wrong with claiming that treasure for himself? If no one is there to get it, no one can succumb to the sickness of greed. In a way, Smaug is indirectly preventing more people from battling each other over riches. What did people think would happen if Smaug weren?t there? Surely the Dwarves, Elves, and Men wouldn?t get into petty squabbles over their share of the treasures when Sauron and a growing army of Orcs are at their doorstep?
Oh wait, that?s exactly what would fucking happen.
And who would be dividing this share up anyway? No one really trusts each other, after all. Unless there is some league of bankers stashed away in Gandalf?s beard, no one is going to get a fair slice of the shining pie because no one really knows just how much treasure lies within the halls of Erabor.
No one except Smaug.
SMAUG, THE ACCOUNTANT
Smaug literally sleeps on piles of money, but he knows exactly how much of his hoard is there. In the book, Bilbo attempts to steal a single cup from the treasure room. A CUP. And Smaug knows. It is fair to say that most people who sleep on 62 billion dollars wouldn?t notice one missing cup, but Smaug does. And when Smaug surmises that Bilbo is with a company of Oakenshield?s Dwarves, he refuses to part with a single coin.
And why should he? Smaug is a hulking mass of firebreathing badassery and if the rule of Finders Keepers applies in Middle Earth, the treasure is technically his. But no. The Dwarves can?t simply ask for a little bit of gold to get themselves together.
Perhaps they could have convinced Smaug to work with them in their battle with the Orcs. If anyone has the gift of convincing others to help, it?s Bilbo. Our Hobbit friend could have easily told Smaug that the Orcs plan to attack Erebor and steal his gold so that they could melt it down and make weapons. This would have worked and it would have pissed him off for two reasons.
- Even more people want to try and steal his treasure.
- Sauron?s old master created Smaug, so this would be seen as a betrayal of sorts by the Dark Lord.
Having the last living dragon on your side would certainly be favorable to, well, not having the last living dragon on your side. The death toll at Helm?s Deep and Pelennor Fields would have been a lot smaller if Thoden had a beast capable of leveling cities on his side.
Still, Smaug really isn?t too interested in the external conflicts of Middle Earth. His allegiances seem to be devoted solely to himself and his plunder. In fact, Smaug sleeps on his pile of gold for like 200 years. While the rest of Middle Earth wages war against itself, Smaug seems content to just sleep in his new home. Is wanting to sleep really such a crime?
And just look at the name of his new place! The Lonely Mountain. Doesn?t sound very fun, does it? He?s not exactly living in a house called The Fun Mountain or The Friendship Mountain because Smaug doesn?t have friends. Smaug is hated by all the other races because he?s big and ugly and clumsy. He?s the last of his kind and no one really understands him. You can?t blame the dude for wanting to sleep forever.
It?s a good thing Smaug took that 200-year nap, too. Who knows how much longer the quest for Erebor would have taken if Smaug was just arbitrarily flying around and fucking shit up?
This brings us to our final point.
SMAUG, THE CATALYST FOR THE ENTIRE FRIGGIN? SERIES
So far we have established that Smaug was born with an illness that makes him love gold, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Erebor?s treasure, he is the last of his kind, and he is verbally ostracized by just about all the other races in Middle Earth. Things are even so rough for our misunderstood dragon that he takes to residing in a place called The Lonely Mountain before meeting Bilbo.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, our protagonist, Frodo Baggins, seems to admire his old uncle Bilbo. Unlike most of the Hobbits in Hobbiton, Bilbo is one of the few Hobbits to actually leave the Shire and explore the vast world of Middle Earth. Bilbo is known in his village for going on grand adventures for months at a time and returning with piles of riches. Had Bilbo just screwed around with the rest of the townsfolk, virtually nothing would have gotten accomplished.
If Smaug didn?t stick around for so long, the Dwarves would not need the help of a Hobbit. If our Hobbit had not joined the Company, he would not have encountered Gollum? And if Bilbo had not encountered Gollum, he would not have stolen the One Ring.
And there is no series without the One Ring. No Frodo, no Fellowship, no friendship between Legolas and Gimli, no cure for Thoden?s curse, no way to stop Saruman from corrupting the world and attacking Gondor. Moviegoers would be stuck with 3 hours of people sitting around and complaining about a Great Evil?.
So by all means, complain about Smaug. Call him arrogant and prideful, but would the heroes have gotten anything done if not for him? The Dwarves wander around and complain about lost glories, the Elves hide in their trees and talked about dark forces, the Men are clueless, and the Hobbits eat 90 breakfasts a day. Without Smaug to coax them all into getting off their asses, Sauron could take over the entire world within a week.