Fun Post: Scatha the Worm (Smaug’s brother?)

Scatha.jpg

Image by Jeff Murray (JeffMurray.com)

Between Tolkien’s three major Middle-earth works, there is a small number of references to dragons, but even less so have been attributed with particular names or involved in specific events.

Scatha the Worm is one of those rare named dragons about whom we know almost nothing, but this presents an excellent opportunity to analyse and speculate briefly.

The first time we hear of Scatha is towards the end of The Return of the King, when Éowyn presents Merry with an ancient horn as a parting gift after the War of the Ring.

‘This is an heirlom of our house,’ said Éowyn. ‘It was made by the Dwarves, and came from the hoard of Scatha the Worm. Eorl the Young brought it from the North.’
The Lord of the Rings, Book VI, Chapter 6, “Many Partings”

Interesting. The reference to the North would seem to point towards the Grey Mountains, the mountainous range where Durin’s folk had previously established one of their realms, before being driven out by dragons who bred close by in the Withered Heath.

The only other reference we find later on is in Appendix A:

Frumgar, they say, was the name of the chieftain who led his people to Éothéod. Of his son, Fram, they tell that he slew Scatha, the great dragon of Ered Mithrin, and the land had peace from the long-worms afterwards. Thus Fram won great wealth, but was at feud with the Dwarves, who claimed the hoard of Scatha.
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, “The House of Eorl”

Apart from reinforcing the dragon’s abode (Ered Mithrin is Sindarin for “Grey Mountains”), we also learn that Scatha was a long-worm.

The term worms has been applied to dragons such as Glaurung and Smaug, although it seems more probable that Scatha was a wingless dragon like Glaurung. Whether Scatha was an Urulóki (a fire-drake) is also uncertain, but he could equally have been a cold-drake.

Etymologically, Scatha means “one who injures, a robber” in Old English, and is a clear reference to the dragon’s plundering of the Dwarven hoard.

Scatha shares these similar draconian traits with the rest of his species. Closest of these is Smaug who also came from the Grey Mountains to settle permanently in Erebor on a pile of Dwarf gold.

Would it be too much to speculate a crazy theory (please don’t take this too seriously) and state that Scatha and Smaug were brothers or related, and Smaug descended on the Lonely Mountain both to seek gold and vengeance on the Dwarves for the death of his younger sibling?

Between Scatha’s speculated demise (T.A. 2000) and Smaug’s descent on the Lonely Mountain (T.A. 2770), there’s a considerable amount of centuries to justify “vengeance”, but then again, Smaug may have been sleeping during those 700 years and learnt only later about his supposed brother’s death. And yet, why would Smaug take it out on the Dwarves, rather than Fram’s descendants?

I said it was far-fetched (and crazy).

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8 thoughts on “Fun Post: Scatha the Worm (Smaug’s brother?)

  1. Very interesting theory. I love all the tales regarding worms/dragons, so much so that my last D&D character was a dragonborn thief named Scatha. I wasn’t aware of the Old English etymology, but it appears my choice of thief was quite a fun coincidence.

    Have you ever given any thought to the fact that all accounted dragon slayings have been by Men? Glaurung/Turin, Ancalagon/Earendil, Scatha/Fram and Smaug/Bard, Azaghal merely wounded Glaurung in the Nirnaeth before being mortally wounded himself.

  2. I doubt it. Even if Tolkien’s dragons have relatives, which we do not know for sure, they are such creatures of greed I don’t think they would care about their kin. They would probably rejoice that a potential rival had been eliminated. I imagine that every dragon’s deepest dream is to be the only dragon, in a world devoid of heroes, sitting atop a mountain of all the treasure in the world, as such powerful greed is never satisfied.

  3. Hi James, I hope you don’t mind me putting some flesh to the theory.

    Scatha had entered the dragon teens and he was angry with the world, with his parents and with his older brother Smaugy. Why had be been born without wings? Why could he not fry a dwarf? It was most unfair that his big brother could burn him and fly away when he was ground-bound. So being still a teenager, he slimed away, collected a few unwanted trinkets and was killed by a man. Why is it always men that do this?

    At first Smaugy did not care because big brothers are like that. But then after a bit of time had passed, he thought of vengeance. After all, it was a dwarf that had hurt his great, great …, great uncle Glaurungincles. So, he worked on his plan of vengeance and attacked a dwarf city; only to find out it was populated by men. He was a bit relieved at his success but decided not to make that mistake again, too soon, because men just have a bad reputation. Then, he returned to his vengeance plan, for his fav. great, great … great uncle (and of course his little bro) and the rest they say is history.

      • Thanks for your encouragement, James! 🙂
        Perhaps I should have added to the end the original entry: The one thing dragons don’t learn from history is that they don’t learn from history. Poor old Smaugy!

  4. I’d have only a few quibbles about accepting that Smaug would be brother to Scatha. However, given that dragons are essentially reptiles, biology would preclude anything but the most superficial of relationships. If (a big but possible if) Smaug did invade the Lonely Mountain in vengence for his “brother” it would be in name only. Smaug’s own inner-directed focus precludes any real affection for a sibling. While some reptile mothers care for their nests and even the younglings, once the young are born they have little concern for one another except as a rival for whatever resources were available.

    Any thoughts of in Smaug’s mind would be aimed at the fabulous golden horde that the dwarven home was famous for.

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