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Doesn't desolation mean a state of complete emptiness or destruction?

So why doesn't Smaug perish by the end of the 2nd Hobbit film if the film's title was made to describe his end? He only dies at the start of the 3rd film: Battle of Five Armies. Does Jackson say why?

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    This question seems to be asking why the movie was titled Desolation of Smaug, while the linked one is asking why he didn't die from a narrative point of view.
    – ibid
    Jun 12, 2017 at 9:47
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    @ibid That is most definitely not what they're asking. They're asking why Smaug wasn't killed in the second film considering it's title. That's what they wrote in the title, and in the body.
    – Edlothiad
    Jun 12, 2017 at 9:48
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    @Edlothiad that is only true if you interpret "desolation" to mean "destruction" in the fist place.
    – SQB
    Jun 12, 2017 at 9:58
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    To summarise what I've said in chat here, the dupe target is a question of narrative timing, why not end the 2nd film with Smaug's death but instead start the 3rd with it, while this question asks "the title says desolation, I see none", which is answered below by considering different meanings of the word and by quoting from the book to show which one is most likely correct.
    – SQB
    Jun 12, 2017 at 10:00
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    @KutuluMike: I disagree. This is clearly a completely different question than the so-called duplicate, with a completely different answer, and if the OP thinks otherwise, then either the OP is simply wrong, or the OP needs to learn to express his/her thoughts better.
    – Martha
    Jun 12, 2017 at 19:54

2 Answers 2

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It means "the desolation caused by Smaug".

In the book, this is the description given to the barren area around the Mountain, specifically to the south and west. (The map displays north to the left.)

Thror's map from The Hobbit

In two days going they rowed right up the Long Lake and passed out into the River Running, and now they could all see the Lonely Mountain towering grim and tall before them. The stream was strong and their going slow. At the end of the third day, some miles up the river, they drew in to the left or western bank and disembarked. ... The next day they set out again. ... The land about them grew bleak and barren, though once, as Thorin told them, it had been green and fair. There was little grass, and before long there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year.

The Hobbit, Chapter 11, "On the Doorstep"

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    In the film Balin declares the ruins of Dale to be "the desolation of Smaug" as well. Jun 13, 2017 at 13:35
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    Please don't make further edits until this Meta discussion has been resolved; scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11022/…
    – Valorum
    Jun 14, 2017 at 8:46
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    In accordance with the consensus on the now 3-day-old meta post (four answers with scores ranging from 6 to 9, all saying MG's edits should be left in place), I've rolled back this post to the last edit made by Matt Gutting. Please direct any further discussion about this to the meta post linked by @Valorum.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 17, 2017 at 16:57
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    I've downvoted. This post was originally very poor quality and low value.
    – Valorum
    Jun 17, 2017 at 16:59
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The Desolation of Smaug does not mean the Destruction of Smaug.

Dictionary Definition

Definition of desolation

  1. the action of desolating

    the pitiful desolation and slaughter of World War I — D. F. Fleming

  2.  
    1. grief, sadness

      ... he put his trembling hands to his head, and gave a wild ringing scream, the cry of desolation. — George Eliot

    2. loneliness
  3. devastation, ruin

    a scene of utter desolation

  4. barren wasteland

    looked out across the desolation

desolation — Merriam Webster

So while I see how you thought The Desolation of Smaug meant Smaug being laid to waste, a more likely explanation is using the fourth meaning as given above: the barren wasteland around Smaug's lair in the mountain Erebor.

Of course, one of the other meanings could apply as well: the sadness or loneliness of Smaug or the grief or devastation caused by Smaug.

The Hobbit

Now let's turn to the book.

A map showing the Desolation of Smaug

The land about them grew bleak and barren, though once, as Thorin told them, it had been green and fair. There was little grass, and before long there was neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year.

The Hobbit, "On the Doorstep"

This quote, along with the map, clearly shows that it's indeed the fourth meaning that's used here, the barren wasteland around Erebor, which is what the party had just reached in the quote.

Conclusion

Of course, as is the beauty of any language in which words can have several, related meanings, all these meanings are invoked when used in the film's title like this.

But it is clear that it does not mean Smaug being laid to waste.

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    “The Desolation of Smaug could be taken to mean the destruction of Smaug” — Not really, no. This doesn’t seem to be a valid usage of the word “desolate”, neither common nor uncommon. While “to desolate somebody” exists, its meaning is “to make (someone) feel utterly wretched and unhappy.”, not “to kill somebody”. And I don’t recall Bard bullying Smaug into unhappiness. Jun 13, 2017 at 13:07
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    @KonradRudolph well, that seems to be more or less the interpretation the querant assumed when asking this question.
    – SQB
    Jun 13, 2017 at 13:18
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    It's somewhat better, and I'll upvote, but I still think the key point is that OP is inventing a meaning for this phrase that it simply does not have in standard English. My guess is that the idea that "desolation" meant that Smaug would be killed, or even "desolated" (emotionally or otherwise), probably didn't occur to Tolkien or Jackson. Jun 13, 2017 at 21:05
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    This answer could be vastly improved with freehand circles.
    – ibid
    Jun 14, 2017 at 1:20
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    +1 This is the right answer (before MattGutting's edits to Daniel's answer). I'm very surprised that this answer wasn't given more upvotes. It shows more research effort and less of a commentary post.
    – Voronwé
    Jun 14, 2017 at 2:09

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