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Wikipedia says Smaug drove the dwarves out of their mountain stronghold 150 years prior to the events of The Hobbit. But it doesn't mention his age.

Tolkien Gateway says Smaug's birthyear is unknown.

The book, Creatures of Middle Earth, mentions Smaug survived the destruction of Angband at the end of the First Age and settled at Anvilmount in the Grey Mountains.

Are there any canon references to Smaug's age?

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    Ok, I'm confused. This meta says don't use author tags unless asking about author's life or about an overarching aspects of their works. But this meta says we should apply tolkien tag to all of his legendarium. Huh? Someone really should update the tag excerpt ti add usage info, not his full name. – Gallifreyan Mar 1 '17 at 7:20
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    @Gallifreyan The second one says all the question should include one of the 5. I've been editing the tolkien out of any questions that are not about the author's life. However, questions about his characters or his languages I feel should carry tolkien such as here and here. Although the second tag would likely be sufficient with just the silmarillion that wouldn't cover it's whole scope. – Edlothiad Mar 1 '17 at 9:40
  • @Edlothiad someone should fix my tolkien tag wiki excerpt edit then :D hehe – Gallifreyan Mar 1 '17 at 9:59
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    Anvilmount is a non-canon location. It was created for the Middle-earth Role Playing game. – maguirenumber6 Mar 1 '17 at 10:05
  • @Gallifreyan, I don't seem to be able to edit it. – Edlothiad Mar 1 '17 at 10:07
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Not much is said explicitly about Smaug's age in Tolkien's writings. So pinpointing his age with precision is going to be impossible. However, we can draw some inferences about his approximate age.

I have seen, several times, the suggestion that if Smaug is really one of the most powerful of the winged firedrakes, then he may actually have been birthed in the First Age, one of the first cohort of flying dragons that were released by Morgoth at the climax of the War of Wrath. However, based on some remarks by Gandalf, I think this interpretation is untenable, and Smaug must actually be much younger than that.

The key quotes come from this section of "An Unexpected Party," as the characters are discussing the side door:

“It may have been secret once,” said Thorin, “but how do we know that it is secret any longer? Old Smaug has lived there long enough now to find out anything there is to know about those caves.”

“He may — but he can’t have used it for years and years.”

“Why?”

“Because it is too small. ‘Five feet high the door and three may walk abreast’ say the runes, but Smaug could not creep into a hole that size, not even when he was a young dragon, certainly not after devouring so many of the dwarves and men of Dale.”

It is clear that Gandalf thinks that Smaug might have been able to fit through the opening when he first conquered Erebor, at which time he was "young."

The inference that he was fairly young (not necessarily even fully grown) is further reinforced by the fact that Smaug came to the Lonely Mountain from the North. According to Thror's Map: "Far to the North are the Gray Mountains & the Withered Heath whence came the Great Worms." Moreover, Thorin describes Withered Heath as "where the great dragons bred." So it seems likely that Smaug had actually hatched there, in the wastes of the North, and his assault on Erebor may have been his first foray beyond the Withered Heath's environs.

There remains the final question of how old "young" really means for a dragon. There is some guidance provided by Smaug's own words. In his famous oration to Bilbo, the dragon boasts:

I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!

If Smaug was young when he captured the Lonely Mountain, enough time has passed to make him "old." Smaug's dominion over Erebor lasts 171 years, from T. A. 2770 to his death in T. A. 2941.

A time to maturity of (very roughly) one hundred years also accords with what is known of draconic biology from The Silmarillion; over the six-hundred-year course of the War of the Jewels, Morgoth was able to breed multiple generations of dragons, improving from the lizard-like Glaurung to the mammoth, flying Ancalagon. Moreover, while Glaurung's date of hatching is not recorded, he first appeared as a weapon in during the Siege of Angband, in F. A. 260, having not been present at the Dagor Aglareb in F. A. 60. So most likely, the Father of Dragons had grown from infancy to adulthood during those two hundred years, while the Noldor maintained there leager around the Dark Lord's citadel.

In summary, we know that Smaug, when he arrived to attack Erebor was "young," possibly less than a hundred years old, and probably not actually fully grown. After 171 years as usurper King Under the Mountain, he considered himself old, possibly somewhere in the middle of his third century of life.

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Tolkien doesn't give many statements that allow us to pinpoint Smaug's age, but we can cross-reference what is said in the Hobbit with other sources and make a reasonable guess.

First of all, to summarize the Hobbit, we have a general statement on the lifespan of dragons:

...they guard their plunder as long as they live (which is practically forever, unless they are killed)...

And the following statement from Smaug:

I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong strong.

From context "the warriors of old" is evidently Girion of Dale and his people, not some heroes from a bygone age.

In the Return of the King Appendices, we have the date of Third Age 2770 for Smaug's attack on Dale and Erebor, and Third Age 1941 for Bilbo's quest and the death of Smaug - a timespan of 171 years.

So 171 years is therefore sufficient for Smaug to grow from being "young and tender" to "old and strong". The first statement of that they live "practically forever" must be seen as being relative to the lifespan of mortal races.

Cross-checking with the age of Glaurung, we see from History of Middle-earth 11, in the Grey Annals, the following entry for the year First Age 155:

Therefore he sought in his heart for new counsel, and he bethought him of dragons.

And for First Age 260:

Here Glaurung, the first of the Uruloki, the fire drakes of the North, came forth from Angband's gate by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown ..... he could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury...

And First Age 455:

Rivers of fire ran down from Thangorodrim, and Glaurung, Father of Dragons, came forth in his full might.

Glaurung's death was in the year 499.

So we can see that it takes up to 200 years for Glaurung to grow from being "young and scarce half-grown" to "his full might", which tallies well with the similar figure of 171 years for Smaug.


Summary of ages for Glaurung:

  • At first emergence "young and scarce half-grown2 - about 100 years old.
  • At "his full might" - about 300 years old.
  • At his death - about 340 years old.

None of this is absolutely conclusive about dragons, of course. Glaurung was a wingless dragon whereas Smaug was winged, two ages had passed between their respective times, and we don't have anything definite about their relative power when compared to each other, all of which may have bearings on the rate at which they age.

However, and if we accept Glaurung's age as a valid guide, we can make a ball-park estimate of "about 300 years old" for Smaug at the time he died; probably a little older as Glaurung seemed weaker during his first emergence than Smaug was at the sack of Erebor.

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    Please merge your accounts. – Gallifreyan Mar 1 '17 at 15:45
  • Good answer. I like seeing the quotes from the books to support it. Seems like we can set a lower limit on Smaug's age, but not an upper limit. He might be 6000 years old or just 200 years old. – RichS Mar 2 '17 at 2:54
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It is not known.

Tolkien did not write any passage (that has been published to date) which specifically states “Smaug was born on [such-and-such date] in [some place name]”. However, it is made apparent that he was not quite fully grown when he attacked Erebor and Dale; hence, by comparing Smaug’s career with Glaurung’s, we can infer that he was probably born within 2-300 years prior to his assault.

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