Titles: The Dragon Dread, The Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities, King Under the Mountain
Realm: Lonely Mountain, Middle-earth
Featured In: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Voiced By: Richard Boone (1977) Benedict Cumberbatch (2013)
There are few who are avid readers of fantasy and fiction who don’t know the name of Smaug, the Dragon Dread, the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities. Fewer still are those who have not seen him potrayed on paper or in film be it the classic Rankin-Bass animated production or the more recent trilogy by Peter Jackson. While Smaug is most certainly not the oldest of dragon lore, his name and his image is the literal embodiment of all things dragon, particularly all of their wicked and beastly tendencies. In point of fact, Smaug’s greatest weaknesses are those common found in dragons of Western lore that being his is both incredibly prideful and his greed is rampant as his rage. At the first whispering of the treasures of the dwarven kingdom, Smaug set upon it like a living calamity of fire and death, burning the neighboring kingdom to ruin before setting himself upon the denizens of the Lonely Mountain and devouring them, quote, “like a wolf amongst sheep.”
Speaking of the treasure of the Lonely Mountain, it has been stated officially in the magazine, Forbes, that Smaug is the richest fictional character to date. If properly converted into American dollars, Smaug’s horde would surpass well over 62 billion dollars. Not that Smaug would ever consider spending even a single coin. Firstly for his own greed and secondly, depending on if you follow the original novel or the recent films, for protection. For in the original books, Smaug and his ilk did possess a weak underbelly, a trait that Smaug tried to surpass by lying atop the treasure and embed the various cons and jewels as a form of armor. It worked but for one small gap close upon his breast, directly over his heart. In the Peter Jackson films however, Smaug’s underbelly is just as tough and impenetrable as the rest of him save for deadly blow of a Black Arrow that parted one solitary scale, again right over his heart.
Speaking of the films, I’m sure that those whom saw the theatrical releases noticed a slight discrepancy in Smaug’s appearance between the two? This is because there is in fact a difference for Smaug was originally designed to be the traditional heraldric dragon with six limbs in all before he was converted into a wyvern, a dragon whose forearms are also their wings. At first, I had assumed that, yet again, Hollywood was trying to be scientific with Smaug. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve seen many typical heraldric dragons converted into wyverns, especially in films made from books like the Harry Potter series, but such was not the case for Smaug.
Thanks to the serpentine design of Smaug with his especially long neck, the filmmakers realized that any scene that involved Smaug gesturing with his hands would have to be done with a lot of space. In other words, they’d constantly have to zoom out and show off Smaug’s entire body in order for any such scene to work. Rather than risk some terrible shots, they turned his wings into his arms and even went so far as to add an extra finger or two so that Smaug possessed something of a functional hand.
One particular aspect of the film version of Smaug that I found really interesting was how they made him breathe fire, or rather the before and after effects of his fiery breath. Shortly before Smaug unleashes his fury, his chest and throat produce a subtle glow alongside a substantial amount of heat. Enough heat that water almost instantly boils into steam.
Unlike Deathwing, one cannot pity Smaug for the choices he made or his ultimate fate. If given the chance, he would gladly do it all over again and probably far more. For it is not arrogance or even greed that spurs Smaug’s actions but fear. Smaug is literally the last of his kind, the one and only true fire-drake left in all of Middle-earth and more than anything else, that is a fate that I’m sure Smaug loathes most of all and one that he did his absolute best to guarantee that no one would remember him by.
For that, my dear readers, is the one thing that I’m quite sure Smaug feared. To be remembered not in legend as most of his ilk, but to fall to anonymity with the only footnote being that he was “the last” of his kind. It is as my grandfather used to say, “What is the terror of death? To die our work incomplete. What is the joy of life? To die, knowing our work is done.”
He may have passed with fury burning a hole in his heart, but Smaug succeeded where most other dragons have failed. His name is forever remembered amongst the fantastical histories of dragon kind, chiefest and greatest of them all.