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).