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Gandalf is charged to aid the world in their fight against Sauron, Smaug had been peacefully sleeping for a very long time. Why would he encourage the dwarves to go and risk waking him?

Once unleashed Smaug could attack anywhere from Rivendell to Rohan and seriously weaken Middle Earth. Worse still with such a known affinity for jewels he could be bought or corrupted into serving evil.

Why not let sleeping dragons lie? Did he have any evidence that the One Ring lay somewhere within Smaug's treasure?

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marked as duplicate by Richard, Plutor, Zibbobz, DVK, Justin Ethier Sep 2 at 14:56

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I dont think (in the book) that Sauron has any inkling or cares consciously about the quest. I think that's another invention of Jackson & co –  SSumner Sep 1 at 12:14
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AFAIK Sauron isn't involved at all in the book –  Alex Sep 1 at 12:15
    
Are you referring to Saruman? –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 1 at 12:20
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@AvnerShahar-Kashtan I wasn't actually as I don't believe Sauruman plays much of a role at all. I'm going to edit the question to focus on Gandalf as it'll fit into the books lore better. –  Liath Sep 1 at 12:29
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I haven't seen the movies, myself, so I can't say as to what his involvement there is. As @Alex mentioned earlier, though, Sauron doesn't appear at all in the book. –  Avner Shahar-Kashtan Sep 1 at 12:56

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up vote 67 down vote accepted

Most of the answers you are looking for can be sourced from The Silmarillion which basically charts the First and Second Ages of Middle Earth and explains the motivation behind a lot of the characters.

You are absolutely correct that Gandalf wants the Dwarfs to enter The Lonely Mountain. The reason for this is slightly more complex.

Before Sauron came to power, there existed another Dark Lord called Morgoth (originally Melkor) who corrupted a lot of species and animals to create dark forces attracted to and subservient to him in order to take over Middle Earth and rule a land of darkness.

There are numerous sources but The Tolkien Gateway is a great source for Tolkien based discussions. For instance, on dragons:

Seeing the strength of the Noldor in battle, Melkor realized that orcs alone were not sufficient to defeat his enemies. He therefore began to breed a new race of monsters: the dragons.

Dragons were therefore created by Sauron's original master.

Gandalf was terrified that Sauron would be able to control Smaug and that there would be no hope if this happened. Although not certain that Sauron was alive he did not want to take the chance. This is confirmed in the book of Unfinished Tales, some of the appendixes in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

Among many cares he was troubled in mind by the perilous state of the North; because he knew then already that Sauron was plotting war, and intended, as soon as he felt strong enough, to attack Rivendell. But to resist any attempt from the East to regain the lands of Angmar and the northern passes in the mountains there were now only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. And beyond them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. How then could the end of Smaug be achieved? (Return of the King Appendix A)

Gandalf therefore attempts to nullify the threat of Smaug by influencing Thorin to lead a company of dwarves to reclaim the lonely mountain.

I do not believe that Sauron wants the dwarves to enter The Lonely Mountain at all but he is somewhat indisposed at Mirkwood during this time more of which will hopefully be shown in the final Hobbit film. His collapse at Mirkwood leads him to retreat to Mordor.

It is also important to bear in mind that Tolkien himself changed his mind on the events of Middle Earth numerous times throughout his life and The Silmaillion itself was never published by Tolkien himself but by his son Christopher who believed this to be the best version of events from all of the written documents left behind.

Therefore, we might never know a definitive answer to events outside of the published Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

I hope this helps.

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Hi @NathanLovegrove and welcome to SciFi. More answers like this one please. Fantastic! –  Liath Sep 1 at 12:50
    
Thanks very much :) –  Nathan Lovegrove Sep 1 at 12:53
    
Very good answer; I've edited in a supporting quote from RotK. –  Darth Satan Sep 1 at 16:13
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Dude - you've hit the reputation cap on your first day! #inawe –  Liath Sep 1 at 17:12
    
I would just add one thing to this quite extensive answer: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Dale - proving that Gandalf's hunch on the strategic role of Dale in final Battles would be indeed a good one; it's quite obvious that without Dale with dwarves and without Smaug's gold Dale but with (highly probable) Smaug attacking, they wouldn't stand a chance, and Lorien/Rivendell would face big, strong and combined armies approaching from NE. –  vaxquis Sep 1 at 20:48

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