In The Hobbit, the dragon Smaug has a thick hide, described as impenetrable armor. However, he has one weakness: a single bare spot, located in his underbelly. In the books, this weakness is unveiled through Bilbo's flattery and Smaug's arrogance, from whence a little bird told Bard the Bowman of it. Bard then shoots down Smaug using his trusty bow and a black arrow which had been passed down to him:

Arrow! Black arrow! I have saved you to the last. You have never failed me and I have always recovered you. I had you from my father and he from of old. If ever you came from the forges of the true king under the Mountain, go now and speed well!


In the movie The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, however, the Black Arrow was a ballista bolt, with an appearance similar to the metal used by Sauron's own. The killing of Smaug is accomplished with the use of a Dwarven Windlance, a ballista expressly said to be designed for killing dragons when used in conjunction with a Windlance, and the flaw in Smaug's armor was said to be caused by a previous attempt on his life with that same setup, by Bard's forefather Girion.


As Desolation of Smaug had 4 screenplay writers -- 3 working over Del Toro's own original screenplay -- the question of where the idea for the Windlance originated has come up. Whose screenplay first brought the Windlance (and artillery-sized Black Arrow) into play?

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    I don't know the answer, but I do know this: they are evil. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 20:44
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    iirc I think it was Richard Taylor and Weta who decided a hand drawn arrow wasn't 'realistic' enough to take out a full sized and scaled dragon so they went with this heavy artillery. I'd have to go back and watch the DoS special features because it was definitely addressed there
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 20:45
  • This kind of "creativity" is why I refuse to see movies "based" on books I love. I know JRRT was a fairly devout Catholic, but I hope he sends a couple Nazgul to escort the writers to eternal torment in Mordor for this... Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 2:33
  • @BobJarvis EarnestFriedmn-Hill I don't see why you'd object so strongly. The filmmakers are absolutely correct that it would be essentially impossible to kill a creature as huge as Smaug with a single normal arrow. Sure fantasy makes the impossible possible, but it still concedes to reality more often than not. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:04
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    We're dealing with a mythical creature - a dragon - in a mythical realm - Middle Earth - whose "reality" should be applied here? I like that of the author. If you can demonstrate objectively through research and experiment that it is impossible for a Middle Earth archer using a hand-drawn bow to kill a dragon on the wing I'll be happy to read your papers on the subject. (e.g. "A Study Of Projectile Effects On Winged Fire-Breathing Saurians"; "Results Of Research On Dwarf-Forged Arrow Heads, With Color Slides"; "Measuring Range And Velocity Curves For A Sampling of Elf Self Bows"). :-) Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


Peter Jackson personally takes credit for this one in the movie's commentary track.

Jackson: You know the black arrow's interesting cause it's gonna, y'know every time I thought about an arrow killing this bloody huge dragon, especially since Smaug became huge (which we'll talk about), but that means that since the dragon's big, that the arrow had to get big too. It just wasn't gonna work with a puny little normal arrow so the whole notion of the black arrow became almost more of a black lance, and then you needed a special bow to shoot it, which is the wind lance, a great name, I think you guys (indicating Boyens & WETA) came up with the name "the wind lance", which they've got mounted on these towers, like a sort of anti-aircraft system, like flak guns, flak towers all around.

Boyens: You still need to be a bowman though to be able to shoot it though.

Transcription mine, with apologies

  • Tell Boyens she has a redundant 'though'.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:18
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    @randal'thor - Turning his drawl into something legible is a hard task. I've already removed a bunch of "y'know's". I'm tempted to tidy it further.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:27
  • You expected me to Google the name to check? :-P Also, yay for comment editing powers!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 18:52

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