Character Profile: Smaug

Smaug the Stupendous – One dragon to rule them all

I’ve already described a few times (for instance, here), the brilliant qualities of Tolkien’s most beloved (and feared) dragon. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Peter Jackson and his team spent a long time trying to get everything just right.

Tolkien presents us with Smaug as the greatest dragon of the Third Age, a fire-breathing, winged creature capable of inflicting damage and destruction both through sheer physical strength and hypnotic-like speech.

Indeed, Smaug’s true essence lies in his apparent charm and ability to twist aspects of reality.

There seems to be a very distinct quality to the character of Smaug – a mixture of intrigue and malice, that affect both the behaviour and speech of the dragon.

Tolkien didn’t have much to base Smaug on. He himself had declared that literature was scarce on dragons and the only two ‘real’ winged-creatures could be found in Beowulf and the tale of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, in the Volsunga Saga.

Smaug is indeed a combination of these creatures; the result of a perfected recipe of how a proper literary dragon is supposed to be and act like – even though situated within a children’s book.

Smaug in Erebor (Tolkien illustration)

Although the story is less dark than The Lord of the Rings, nonetheless, the presence of Smaug near the third act of the book cleverly transforms the tone of the narrative – weaving in elements of dread and horror; leaving readers seriously fearing for Bilbo’s life and the other characters.

What Peter Jackson has done with this character in The Desolation of Smaug, is truly wonderful. Jackson may not completely adhere to Tolkien’s writing in the strictest of sense, but he certainly proved he can pull off the character of Smaug.

Sure, not everyone may agree – but as for myself, and I imagine a lot of you viewers, I fell under the dragon-spell thateye of smaug was its performance. Benedict Cumberbatch did a brilliant job – both vocally and behaviorally (greatly assisted by WETA’s photo-realistic animations) – in bringing a most famous literary character on screen.

Whilst the book provides the required blueprint for portraying the character, it is the visuals that really bring out the best of the performance – the bewitching voice, the penetrating stare or the reptilian movement …

Film 3 should promise more Smaug and an even more memorable portrayal of the character in one of the main highlights of The Hobbit


12 thoughts on “Character Profile: Smaug

  1. I have been waiting for this article for a while. I agree with you entirely I sat through the scenes with Smaug with my jaw dropped the entire time. Cumberbatch’s voice is enthralling. Peter Jackson did a spectacular job at bringing Smaug to life and he put him at the forefront of this instalment which was a wise decision.

    1. Agreed. Peter Jackson and his team really did surpass my expectations on the realization of Smaug. I was riveted. Although he sounded wonderful (kudos Benedict) it really was everything about him. His size, his fluidity, his beauty – Smaug was just gorgeous beyond my own imagination.

      I still haven’t seen it in 3D. (I occasionally have issues involving motion sickness.) But I might suck it up just to see Smaug get in my face.

  2. Reblogged this on The Leather Library and commented:
    Its finally here, A Tolkienist’s Perspective’s character profile on Smaug. Many films before this have tried to play on our imagination on the mythical creature, yet only Peter Jackson has been able to really make your jaw drop, at least mine did.

  3. They really did a good job with Smaug, but, as far as I know, Smaug has four legs…
    And my personal opinion is, dragons have four legs!
    But, the voice is enchanting!

  4. I can only agree with the commenters before me. The voice in connection with the CGI made Smaug come alive. Not only the best scenes in the whole movie, but also the best portrayal of a dragon in movie history so far. Being a miniature painter I already got tons of inspiration from the scenes and really feel the urge to use the depiction of Smaug as a template.

    The third installment of the Hobbit should bring some very nice scenes with Smaug and I really look forward to those.

  5. Great post! I love Smaug. He’s why I read the Hobbit back in Middle School. Peter Jackson’s rendition did not disappoint. The voice casting was amazing and the special effects were high quality. It was all worth while.

    My nephew is 5 and he was leaning forward in his seat with wide eyes when Smaug appeared. Now, he too is obsessed with Tolkien’s universe. Yay!

  6. Smaug is the best animated character since the times of Gollum! It’s surely the best dragon we’ve ever seen in cinema.

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