- "Never laugh at live dragons."
- —Bilbo Baggins
Types of DragonsEdit
The taxonomic system for Dragons in Middle-earth is based on two factors: means of locomotion, and fire breathing.
- Fire. Depending on whether a Dragon can breathe fire, he might be termed
- Means of locomotion
Some Dragons could not breathe fire and were known as Cold-drakes. Of these most could not breathe anything at all, but some few could breathe a smoke or vapor or mist. In particular many Dragons without legs or wings were Cold-drakes. Cold-drakes are not referred to until the Third Age, though that does not mean they did not exist before. Possibly some Dragons, or perhaps some of their descendants, lost the ability to breathe fire in the millennia after the War of Wrath.
In addition to being long-lived, powerful, and cunning, dragons also possessed subtle intelligence, great physical strength, and an overwhelming greed for treasure (especially gold). By their very nature, it was desirable to them to not only steal beautiful things, but to relish the act of dispossessing those from whom they took such property. According to Thorin Oakenshield they had a very keen sense of the value of their hoard, but never themselves crafted so much as a brass ring. Dragons were prone to anger, and such fits of rage that towns, countrysides, and certainly individuals close at hand were subject to violent cataclysms of fire and destruction.
They also had a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell"; weaker-willed beings could be put into a trance or bent to a dragon's will when the beast spoke. In addition, this dragon-spell seems to have had the ability to plant mistrust in the listener's mind. This power also extended to a dragon's treasure hoard, causing it to excite feelings of greed and animosity among others. Feuds and battles frequently followed upon the death of a dragon; usually between the Hero who slew the beast and the original owners (or their heirs), as well as an occasional ambitious third party. Some have speculated that this 'curse' played a part in Fram's death at the hands of the Dwarves after he had slain Scatha. The same could be said of the famous 'Battle of Five Armies' upon the death of Smaug.
All accounts of interaction between dragons and other beings makes mention of them speaking, using the Common Tongue. Those unfortunate episodes inevitably culminated in the dragon manipulating the individual to believe things either false, or in the worst possible light. These creatures evidently delighted in sowing discord and strife among others, which is reflective of their nature. Dragons apparently had a love of riddles and puzzling talk, spending long hours trying to decipher it. Therefore, speaking in ambiguous riddles was the best way to converse with a dragon, as it was quite unwise to either tell the full truth or to directly refuse them.
Dragons had an acute sense of smell. During his encounter with Smaug, Bilbo Baggins was informed in no uncertain terms that (even though the dragon could not determine what manner of creature he was) he knew that he was in the company of Dwarves due to the scent of a "dwarf-ridden pony". Furthermore, despite his invisibility, thanks to the Ring, Smaug was aware of the hobbit's presence by both his breath, and the movement of the air he caused in the great hall. They were known to sleep with half an eye open, on the alert for intruders if they were suspicious. The hobbit also reported a pale ray of light eminating from Smaug's eye as he probed the chamber back and forth for the burglar. Dragons were well known for sleeping on piles of treasure.Dragons had strong scales, which could resist most weapons, though young dragons had to grow into their armoury. Mithril is said to have been as strong as dragon scales, though lighter in weight. The underbelly of the dragon was described as soft, slimy, and unarmored; however, Smaug from The Hobbit, had lain so long on the heap of treasure in the deep of the Lonely Mountain that gems and coins had become encrusted in the slime, so that he was "armored above and below with iron scales and hard gems"he was also said to have had scales there too making his underbelly harder to strike at than his back. The Dwarves appear to have had some skill at fighting dragons, as seen when they held off Glaurung for a time in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad. This was one of the few instances where the battle was not due to stolen gold. The age old fight between dwarves and dragons was primarily a result of the dwarves placing great value on their hard earned treasure, and the dragon's habit of stealing it. Dain I and his son Fror of the Grey Mountains were both slain at the doors of their hall by a great cold-drake. Both races had a lust for beautiful metals and gems, and so, naturally came into conflict with the dragons generally prevailling.
A great stench went before Glaurung, and his blood contained some sort of venom, though it is not known if all dragons had these two traits, although the Dwarves commented on the reek of Smaug that filled the Lonely Mountain's halls after the dragon's long stay there.
Dragon fire was hot enough to melt the Rings of Power. Indeed, four of the seven rings gifted to the Dwarves were consumed by dragon fire. However, it was said by Gandalf that no dragon's fire would be hot enough to melt the One Ring, not even that of Ancalagon the Black, mightiest known member of that great race.
- Glaurung - Slain by Túrin Turambar, also known as the father of Dragons.
- Ancalagon the Black - Slain by Eärendil, the mightiest Winged Dragon to have ever lived.
- Scatha the Worm - Slain by Fram, the hoard Scatha guarded was taken from the Dwarves, thus Fram taking it led to arguments and his eventual death at the hands of the Dwarves.
- Smaug - Slain with the Black Arrow by Bard the Bowman, afterward King Bard, of Dale.
- The Fire Drake in Gondolin- The beast defeated (not killed) by Tuor, who stabbed it in the foot.
|Dragons of Middle-earth|
|Ancalagon | Glaurung | Scatha | Smaug | Gostir|