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Nilpaurion Felagund 09-28-2003 10:56 PM

Dragons of the Third Age
(I am quite sorry if this thread already exists, but...)

I've built this topic, because the dragons of the Third Age are quite mysterious. Sure, we know Morgoth created them, and perfected them, but how did they survive their master's downfall? How come the people of the Third Age tolerated their existence in the Withered Heath? Was Smaug the last of them? Or did they survive to the Fourth Age?

Gwaihir the Windlord 09-29-2003 03:41 AM

Yes, they are a bit mysterious. The winged dragons of post-Angband Middle-Earth -- such as Smaug -- must have been released, or perhaps were the descendants of those that were released (Thorin says that they 'bred' in the Withered Heath), in the last assault upon Thangorodrim. It is recorded that that is when Morgoth finally finished their design.

Presumably, some got away in the battle when they realised they were losing, and hid as did the Balrogs in the mountains of the North.

The 'cold-drakes' of the Grey Mountains are even more myaterious. There is firstly the fact that we don't know what a cold-drake was; was it a dragon that breathed freezing air instead of burning? In Tolkien's earlier writings, there were three sorts of dragons, some being 'cold like snakes or lizards...'. So maybe the later cold dragons were simply these gigantic, cold-blooded lizards, or maybe they really were 'cold' as opposed to 'hot'.

These may have got out into the Grey Mountains before Angband was overthrown, if they didn't fly. If they did, then they too would have escaped from the War of Wrath with the ilk of Smaug.

Why were they put up with? I don't think you can suppose that they could have been dealt with. Dragons were certainly far too hard to kill.

It would be an interesting question, though, to ask why Sauron and the drakes of the North never teamed up. They logically should have. Gandalf mentions the prospect of Smaug being used by Sauron, which was dangerous, but what about all the others? He may have been the mightiest and the closest, but there should have been others -- in particular the aforementioned cold-drakes.
Did they simply kill each other? Had they all fallen asleep?

SharkŻ 09-29-2003 07:04 AM

"550-597. The dates of 'the last war of the Elder Days' were changed to 545-587, and after the last words of the original entry the following was added: 'Ancalagon is cast down by Earendil and all save two of the Dragons are destroyed.'" (HoME XI, 3, V)

This quote from the Tale of Years is unambiguous as to the dragons surviving the fall of Angband. They were Scatha and Smaug.

Keeper of Dol Guldur 09-29-2003 11:42 AM

How come people tolerated them residing in the Withered Heath? Why do you think it was withered? You don't tolerate a dragon, a dragon tolerates you. Why did the dragon Scatha tolerate having a scum-ridden orc stronghold at Gundabad, not far from its lodging? Because they were no worse than the dwarves he had burned out of Gundabad, and he could kill any of them without them starting an assault on his hoard. Why did Smaug tolerate laketown? Because he was asleep, Dale and Erebor had fallen, and he was at the moment content with his hoard.

Too bad tolerence of peoples of the area were the downfall for both Scatha and Smaug, since the men of Wilderland eventually produced heroes capable of being called dragon-slayers, Bard, descendent of Girion, (with help from Bilbo, of course), and Fram, son of Frumgard, one of Eorl the youngs early ancestors.

It's pretty obvious that while dragons couldn't tolerate dwarves (was Smaug's outright loating for them a better hint than Gimli's comments about the horn given to Merry from Scatha's hoard?). And no doubt they despised elves, but they should have learned from their procreator Glaurung that they shouldn't play with men like toys, they should just kill them and be content.

I wonder if Scatha and Smaug were brothers?

Nilpaurion Felagund 09-29-2003 07:00 PM

I don't think so. They're of different breeds: Smaug is flying fire-breather--a lesser version of Ancalagon; and Scatha is...well, a worm. A huge snake probably, with an evil spirit within

FingolfintheBold 09-29-2003 07:01 PM

Not to undermine your obvious knowledge Sharku, but how accurate are those quotes? After all, if only two dragons survived, and it was all those ages ago, how would such humble creatures such as hobbits even know of their existance? And yet hobbits do know about dragons, even as far as having an inn named after them. Even Bilbo knew of some ways in which a mighty warrior could go about slaying a dragon. All the quotes I've read, such as "with the general waste and destruction dragons cause going from bad to worse" among others seem to point toward a greater number of dragons than just two. perhaps "drakes" is a completley different creature than a dragon. In some fantasies drakes are very like dragons, but not quite as large and powerful. Maybe some drakes survived in the eastern wilderness and those were the creatures from which the hobbit's legends sprang?

Nilpaurion Felagund 09-29-2003 07:13 PM

I think you're right, Fingolfin. Tolkien used the term drakes(or cold-drakes) for the non-flying breed. Maybe two of the flying dragons were left. Smaug was one. Where could the other have been?

Finwe 09-29-2003 07:35 PM

I think that Sauron would have eventually allied himself with the Dragons in the North (had their been any left by the end of the Third Age). As Gandalf said (not the exact quote, but a paraphrase) "You might not have had a Queen in Gondor and you would have gone back to destroyed homes, but for that chance meeting in Bree." It was mere coincidence and sheer luck that Gandalf met Thorin in the Inn that day, and engineered the Quest of Erebor. Since they managed to get rid of Smaug, the last "big" dragon, Sauron couldn't ally himself with such a devastating force any more.

Nilpaurion Felagund 09-29-2003 07:45 PM

Yes, not with Smaug, at any rate, but why was Sauron stupid enough not to ally himself with whatever dragon or drake that was left in the Withered Heath! Or were they all DEAD?!?!?!?! [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img] [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]

Man of the Old Hope 09-29-2003 11:47 PM

On the question of whether dragons survived into the Fourth Age, we have Tolkien's words from Letter 144:

"Some stray answers. Dragons. They had not stopped; since they were active in far later times, close to our own. Have I said anything to suggest the final ending of dragons? If so it should be altered. The only passage I can think of is Vol. I p. 70: 'there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough'. But that implies, I think, that there are still dragons, if not of full primeval stature."

SharkŻ 09-30-2003 06:00 AM

The canonic value of my above given quote is not a matter for me to debate; but it is a later, post-LotR note, and is strenghtened by the fact that it does not contradict any published material.

The impression that there had been more than two dragons around need not be based on fact, and legends and rumours, especially of something dreadful, spread easily. Half the world had and still has legends of dragons, and we never had a single one to begin with.

However, Tolkien's letter to Naomi Mitchison, possibly, though not conclusively later than the Tale of Years note, might imply a number other than two, at least since these very two were not "active in far later times, close to our own". I also do not see why Tolkien's 'only two survived' statement should mean 'only two of that one kind survived BUT more of others'.
On the other hand, another possibility could arise if one were to reconcile those facts -- Scatha and Smaug were the only dragons (drakes, whatever) to survive the Fall of Angband, but were not incapable of producing new offspring, naturally "not of full primeval stature".

[ September 30, 2003: Message edited by: SharkŻ ]

The Saucepan Man 09-30-2003 07:07 AM

At the Unexpected Party, Bilbo refers to the Were-worms of the Last Desert. And, as FingolfintheBold has pointed out, there are other references to Dragons featuring in the tales of the Shire. Although these creatures were no doubt the stuff of legends to the inhabitants of the Shire, it is not unreasonable in a mythical world to expect legendary creatures to have some basis in (internal) fact. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

I believe that there were Dragons other than Smaug and Scatha in Middle-earth during the Third Age, and later. My problem, however, with the "descendants of Smaug and Scatha" theory is that I have never seen either of them referred to as anything but male. And (though I hesitate to take the thread in this direction), they could not therefore have reproduced unless they were hermaphroditic (which is in itself, I suppose, not beyond the bounds of possibility).

Another way of reconciling the text quoted by SharkŻ and the extract from the Letter quoted by Man of the Old Hope would involve other (possibly "lesser") dragons having been released, or perhaps escaping, from Angbad prior to the War of Wrath, and subsequently inter-breeding and populating other areas of Middle-earth.

Mithadan 09-30-2003 08:03 AM

Even if we rely solely upon "canon", Scatha and Smaug were not the last dragons. In FoTR, "Shadow of the Past", Gandalf discusses dragons in the present tense as if they existed at that time (after Smaug was slain).


It has been said that dragon-fire could melt and consume the Rings of Power, but there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough...
And elsewhere in the same chapter, gandalf says:


Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered and the others dragons have consumed.
The hoard of Erebor did not contain a ring; Thror escaped with it. Thus at least four rings were consumed by dragons other than Smaug.

It is nonetheless possible that only two dragons escaped the fall of Angband. They may have been male and female and may have subsequently mated. Or they may have come upon whatever animals Morgoth corrupted into dragons and mated with those lesser creatures. Or, of course, more than two dragons may have escaped from the Battle of Wrath.

mark12_30 09-30-2003 08:16 AM

Well, thank Eru. I was afraid I'd have to edit "The Fairy Wife" and remove the dragon. Thanks, Mith; thanks, Saucie. You've taken a great load off my mind.

(At the grey mountain range on of Thror's map, doesn't it say "Here be dragons" or some such? Tsk, tsk, Sometimes I rely on the flimsiest evidence...)


"Far to the North are the Grey Mountains & The Withered Heath, whence came the Great Worms." Thorin also says, "And I know where Mirkwood is, and the Withered Heath where the Great Dragons bred."
Unfortunately, no age or time is given.

I guess my gut reaction is that due to Tolkien's passionate love of Fafnir, I can't imagine the professor leaving Fafnir with no descendants or relatives of any sort. Flimsy argument, I know.

[ September 30, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]

SharkŻ 09-30-2003 10:05 AM

It is true that as a consequence of the theory that dragons could have reproduced after the First Age, it might be supposed that the two escaping dragons need not have been Scatha and Smaug at all; one or both of these could have been lesser, descended dragons (personally, I would hold Scatha to be more likely lesser one). On the other hand, with what sketchy idea we have of the biological origin of dragons, there is no need to treat the scenario that Scatha and Smaug could have produced lesser offspring by mating with other animals, as Mithadan mentioned, as impossible. Especially in the light of later theories of Orcs & alii such crossbreeding seems not wholly unlikely.

Nevertheless, I would in any case not disregard the post-LotR 'two dragons' note. For once, it is from an 'author's text', not written from the point of view of, and not a statement by any character.
Furthermore, it is a definite statement. Which is why I still think it is perfectly reconcilable with the texts, even more so where hints of more than two dragons at all are based on either 'news from Bree' or difficult conclusions and interpretations of Tolkien's use of plural vs. singular when he says {dragon}.

Another possibility would simply be that the meaning of 'dragon' has somewhat shifted. No doubt Morgoth had more fell beasts than just dragons; in later ages, when the great dragons and their creator had become scarcely more than distant and dark rumours, the old word 'dragon' might have survived and been applied to other, far lesser creatures.

Halbarad 09-30-2003 01:47 PM


The 'cold-drakes' of the Grey Mountains are even more myaterious. There is firstly the fact that we don't know what a cold-drake was; was it a dragon that breathed freezing air instead of burning?
"Cold" refers to a dragon or drake that was not firebreathing, rather than a cold-breathing dragon.


"550-597. The dates of 'the last war of the Elder Days' were changed to 545-587, and after the last words of the original entry the following was added: 'Ancalagon is cast down by Earendil and all save two of the Dragons are destroyed.'" (HoME XI, 3, V)
I don't think that this above reference means that all save two of all of the dragons in their various forms were destroyed, rather that all save two of the great dragons were. Lesser dragons or drakes that could (arguably) breed with the two survivors may not have been included by Tolkien in this, not being 'true' dragons or whatnot. Following this line of argument further, you could argue that any offspring would have been of a much lesser stature, but still dragon enough for the people of ME to call them dragons, if not the author himself. Statements of characters are not necesarily the voice of the author speaking (I forget the correct terminology for this).

Did dragons even breed? Were they all created? I'm just thinking about the mechanical dragons here- still dragons by definition but unlikely that they ever bred. this would explain why all references were to male dragons.

Arothir 09-30-2003 06:30 PM

By the way, in the tale of years, it is mentioned that Nain or Dain of Erebor was slain by a dragon. One more dragon to worry about! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Elladan and Elrohir 09-30-2003 06:35 PM

In any case, it is completely impossible that Smaug was even close to being born at the destruction of Angband. He himself says in The Hobbit that when he destroyed Dale and took Erebor for himself, he was young, but that he is now old.

Either this means he stayed young throughout the entire Second Age and most of the Third Age and then suddenly became old in the space of over a century (I can't remember exactly how long) or it means he was not one of the dragons that survived Angband, which means he was one of their offspring.

Keeper of Dol Guldur 09-30-2003 07:31 PM

Who ever said that Scatha was so much weaker than Smaug? Obviously Smaug was more powerful, but just because Scatha is called 'the Worm' doesn't mean he didn't have wings or limbs, the name worm doesn't specify that he was a serpentine dragon like the 'Wurms' in certain popular trading card games. "Every worm has his weak spot" applied to Smaug too. Sure, Scatha may not have had the fire of Smaug, but that's no reason to rule him out of the power factor, he may just have been the other winged dragon, otherwise he probably wouldn't have been mentioned in the first place.

Finwe 09-30-2003 07:37 PM

Just because a Dragon doesn't have wings, doesn't mean that he isn't powerful. Just look at Glaurung. He didn't have wings, and he caused untold amounts of devastation in Beleriand. Ancalagon was the strongest of the Winged Dragons, so the two were in separate categories. In that sense, if Scatha was wingless, he could still be as strong, or even stronger, than Smaug, who was winged.

SharkŻ 10-01-2003 07:27 AM

Seriously, who said Scatha was so much weaker than Smaug? Noone did, so how come you are off and about on that tangent?

Nilpaurion Felagund 10-01-2003 07:18 PM

Well, I'm back, finally. And now back to business.

I think the dragons may have bred(with what I don't know), because Smaug did say that he was once young, and that was already more than 60 centuries after Angband's fall.

Now that I think of it, it would be hard to search and destroy all the crawling dragons. After all, Morgoth built an extensive tunnel system, which enabled a Balrog to escape to Moria. So the drakes must have used the tunnels to escape everywhere, thus accounting for the other dragons.

Maybe the two who survived were winged dragons, because a crawling dragon(however powerful) could not fight back or escape against the hosts of Valinor.

So, what do you think?

Gwaihir the Windlord 10-02-2003 01:22 AM


'Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell.'
That was Gandalf. And in a letter to a questioner on this very matter, Tolkien;

'Dragons; they had not stopped, since they were active in far later times, closer to our own.'
This one has already been stated.

'...that there are still dragons, if not of full primeval stature.'
It seems that there are two answers. Either Scatha and Smaug bred -- Smaug was male, I don't know of a reference to the sex of Scatha -- or they were simply the only dragons to escape the battle of the War of Wrath. Other dragons were, maybe, sent out by Morgoth (to penetrate beyond Beleriand, in all probability, going to the Grey and Misty Mountains and going to ground there) before the host of the Valar attacked him unawares.

These may well have bred.

[The Hobbit, Thorin]'... and the Withered Heath, where the great Worms bred.'
And naturally this leads to another poser. Morgoth's dragons were sentient and occupied by a 'spirit', definitely a fea, the origin of which is unknown. If the offspring of these dragons were to be fea-powered as well, that is unless they simply reverted to an animal-like intelligence (nothing more that giant reptiles that flamed, then), spirits had to come from somewhere to occupy dragons. Fresh from Eru? I wouldn't have thought so. Wandering shades, shunning the Timeless Halls of Namo, would be a likely possibility for this; the only explanations that I can give on this matter.

On Smaug's apparent youngness in The Hobbit. I think it to be quite probable that in the conception of this time, Smaug was indeed written to have come as a 'dragonet' from the drake-breeding-ground of the Heath. Sharku's reference is from the post-LotR era -- which supersedes the earlier, Hobbit one without too much trouble, as nothing concrete is actually contained there. But I'd guess at that as what happened.

Of course, you can still fit it in. Smaug obviously went into hibernation in the Grey Mountains, suspended animation if you like, or at least didn't grow much comparative to what he grew in his Erebor-occupation. He was probably still very strong when he attacked Erebor, but certainly -- for whatever reason -- he waxed stronger in his lair there.

Eurytus 10-06-2003 05:18 AM


"550-597. The dates of 'the last war of the Elder Days' were changed to 545-587, and after the last words of the original entry the following was added: 'Ancalagon is cast down by Earendil and all save two of the Dragons are destroyed.'" (HoME XI, 3, V)
This quote from the Tale of Years is unambiguous as to the dragons surviving the fall of Angband. They were Scatha and Smaug.
I wouldn't say that this quote is necessarily unambiguous. It references Earendil casting down Ancalagon and states that all save two of the dragons are destroyed. These two statements are linked and so can be read as all but two of the dragons present at that battle are destroyed. This does not exclude other dragons having left Angband earlier in my opinion.

Also, on a more general note I find Tolkiens HOME series as not necessarily satisfactory as regards resolving issues. He was writing and rewriting to such an extent by that point that he may have changed his mind several times over and still not come to a definitive result.


Seven the Dwarf-kings possessed, but three he has recovered and the others dragons have consumed.
And I think that the above quote, already posted here, would certainly indicate the presence of more dragons.

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