|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (January 2012)|
|Tolkien's legendarium character|
"Conversation with Smaug", illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien
|Aliases||Trâgu (original Dalish),
Dragon of Erebor
The Return of the King
The Hobbit 
One of the last great dragons of Middle-earth, Smaug rose to prominence by laying waste to the town of Dale and capturing the Lonely Mountain (Erebor) with all of its treasure. These events occurred some 150 years before the events of The Hobbit, and Smaug was already centuries old at the time. The Hobbit recounts the tale of a party of dwarves (consisting of a few of the original residents of the Lonely Mountain and their descendants) and the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins (their titular burglar) to recapture the mountain and kill the dragon. In the book, the dragon is sometimes called Smaug the Golden or Smaug the Magnificent.
Centuries spent sleeping atop his gold hoard caused gold and gemstones to become embedded in the flesh of Smaug's belly, augmenting the already essentially impenetrable armor of the scales that covered most of the rest of his body. However, when Bilbo observed him in his lair, the Hobbit discovered a small bare patch on Smaug's left breast. When Bilbo discussed this weakness of Smaug's with his Dwarven companions, he was overheard by the thrush that roosted by the mountain's secret door. The thrush in turn told Bard the Bowman of Esgaroth. When Smaug attacked the town, Bard shot his Black Arrow into Smaug's left breast, the weak spot in his armour, and the wound proved fatal.
Among the items in Smaug's possession were the Arkenstone and a number of mithril mail shirts, one of which was given as a gift to Bilbo by Thorin Oakenshield, the company's leader. In The Lord of the Rings, set years later, the shirt saved Bilbo's kinsman Frodo from injury several times.
Concept and Creation 
Tolkien created numerous pencil sketches and two pieces of more detailed artwork portraying Smaug. The latter were a detailed ink and watercolour labelled Conversation with Smaug and a rough coloured pencil and ink sketch entitled Death of Smaug. While neither of these appeared in the original printing of The Hobbit due to cost constraints, both have been included in subsequent editions and Conversation with Smaug has been used extensively. Death of Smaug was used for the cover of an early UK paperback edition of The Hobbit.
From 1925 to 1945, Tolkien was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and a prominent critic of and expert on Beowulf — on which he gave a lecture at the British Academy in 1936 and which he described as one of his "most valued sources" for The Hobbit. Many of Smaug's attributes and behaviour in The Hobbit derive directly from the unnamed "old night-scather" in Beowulf: great age; winged, fiery, and reptilian form; a stolen barrow within which he lies on his hoard; disturbance by a theft; and violent airborne revenge on the lands all about. Smaug was intimately familiar with every last item within his hoard, and instantly noticed the theft of a relatively inconsequential cup by Bilbo Baggins. Tolkien writes that Smaug's rage was the kind which "is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy lose something they have long had but never before used or wanted." This theft of a cup, Smaug's knowledge of every item in the hoard, and the dragon's ensuing rampage, all echo the story of Beowulf.
Portrayal in adaptations 
In the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit, Smaug was voiced by Richard Boone. In general, Smaug's design in the animated version is consistent with Tolkien's description, save in his face. Rather than the traditional reptilian look associated with dragons, Smaug's face in the animated version has distinctly mammalian wolf-like features like fur and canine teeth. His hypnotic gaze is absent, although his acute eyesight is portrayed by showing highbeam-like lights shining forth from his eyes whenever he is searching for something.
In December 2012, Smaug appeared in the first of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, though glimpsed only for a few seconds and partially obscured by treasure, he is featured mostly offscreen, only visible are his legs and his tail, which is consistent with Tolkien's illustrations, and his eye, which can be seen in the final scene of the film. In addition, he is a topic of discussion amongst the White Council with the wizard, Gandalf the Grey, citing his reason for supporting Thorin Oakenshield's quest was to deal with the dragon before Sauron could attempt to persuade Smaug to ally with his forces. On June 16, 2011, it had been announced that he will be voiced and interpreted with performance capture by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Additionally, in Jackson's first film of his The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, which occurs 60 years later, Gandalf mentions Smaug in passing during a conversation with Frodo Baggins, stating "If you're referring to the incident with the Dragon, I was barely involved", referencing the events that took place in The Hobbit. An illustration of Smaug appears on a map belonging to Bilbo. Bilbo also mentions Smaug during his birthday celebration, when Merry and Pippin launch a firework that seemingly resembles him, Frodo tells Bilbo to watch out for the dragon as they are running among the other panicking hobbits, then Bilbo states " Dragon, nonsense, there hasn't been a dragon in these parts for a thousand years", before Frodo pulls him down to the ground.
In popular culture 
In 2011 Smaug made his first appearance on the Fictional 15, the Forbes list of the 15 richest fictional characters. That year, he was ranked number 7 with an estimated net worth of $8.6 billion, whereas Scrooge McDuck was first with $44 billion. The following year, the magazine did a more careful analysis and concluded that a conservative estimate was $61 billion, which placed him comfortably atop the list. Michael Noer, the author of this article, limited his estimate in order to keep Smaug's net value in line with living factual characters, notably Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. The estimates are tied directly to Smaug's size and the assumption that he lies directly on the largest part of his hoard. A more literal reading of Tolkien's text and comparison to historical instead of living factual persons (notably John D. Rockefeller or the Rothschild family) would result in a much higher estimate, as much as $870 billion, according to the article.
See also 
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1996), in Christopher Tolkien, The Peoples of Middle-earth, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "The Appendix on Languages", p. 54, ISBN 0-395-82760-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. "Appendix E – Writing and Spelling: I. Pronunciation of Words and Names". The Lord of the Rings.: "All these diphthongs were 'falling' diphthongs, that is stressed on the first element, and composed of the simple vowels run together. Thus ... au (aw) as in loud, how and not laud, haw."
- Tolkien, The Hobbit, ch 1 "An unexpected Part".
- Hammond & Scull, image No. 133.
- Hammond & Scull, image No. 137
- J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (ed. Christopher Tolkien, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983).
- Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. (1981), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, letter No. 25., ISBN 0-395-31555-7
- Fleming, Mike (16 June 2011). "Benedict Cumberbatch To Voice Smaug in 'The Hobbit'". Deadline New York. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Noer, Michael (23 April 2012). "How Much is a Dragon Worth, Revisited". Forbes. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- "Smaug". Forbes. 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- General references
- at the
- Image of Smaug by J.R.R. Tolkien at the Tolkien Gateway
- Forbes Magazine analysis of Smaug's net worth.