Another question here mentioned that there are more dragons in Middle-earth than just Smaug.

Why did Sauron not search them out, if Gandalf thought that Smaug was important enough to create a quest to get rid of the dragon, because of the danger that he posed?

  • 8
    Because he's the last of the great dragons. All the others are relatively small and puny
    – Valorum
    Dec 4, 2017 at 17:49
  • 4
    Possibly because dragons are very proud and arrogant, and may be unwilling to fight for anyone but themselves.
    – TimSparrow
    Dec 4, 2017 at 17:51
  • 6
    Well, the dragons were created by Morgoth, so they kind of had to obey Sauron. However, we all know that Sauron isn't very good at finding things.
    – void_ptr
    Dec 4, 2017 at 18:34
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    @void_ptr - Looking inside his volcano lair is the supervillain equivalent of checking down the side of the sofa cushions
    – Valorum
    Dec 4, 2017 at 22:56
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    @DRF I think it was more of a Nazgul thing: "I can hear the Ring's calling nearby... But I can't see a damn thing in this stupid hood! Screw it, Saurie can go look for it himself, I'm going home". Dec 5, 2017 at 10:37

4 Answers 4


Not all dragons are created equally

In particular Smaug was the mightiest dragon of his time, which Tolkien confirms in Appendix A to Lord of the Rings (my emphasis):

So the rumour of the wealth of Erebor spread abroad and reached the ears of the dragons, and at last Smaug the Golden, greatest of the dragons of his day, arose and without warning came against King Thrór...

The other surviving dragons are therefore lesser dragons, and not as useful to Sauron as Smaug would have been.

To what degree was Smaug more powerful than them? We don't know - Tolkien doesn't say.

  • 17
    Lol. Plus one but the mightiest? Man he was a weakling for being so mighty. He was woken up by a few tiny men, managed to kill exactly none of them, then burnt a relatively defenseless village but died in the process by a single guy with a broken bow. All in the span of like an hour or two. If there are other dragons it's no wonder they're not mentioned in the books. They must be astoundingly pathetic... come to think of it, I don't remember if the bow was broken in the books. Probably not but still... single guy with a bow
    – Kai Qing
    Dec 4, 2017 at 21:59
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    @KaiQing Dragons are nothing compared to the will of Eru Ilúvatar. Much like the most powerful ring in existence. ;) The weak and foolish confounding the strong and wise is a core theme in Tolkien.
    – jpmc26
    Dec 4, 2017 at 22:58
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    From the chapter “Shadow of the Past” in The Fellowship of the Ring: “...it is 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...” So Gandalf is basically saying dragons ain’t what they used to be. Dec 5, 2017 at 6:03
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    @KaiQing How many hours do you think would you need to become alert (without coffee!) when being woken from a few years of sleep?
    – Bergi
    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:04
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    @Todd: Sure; most things in Middle Earth ain't what they used to be, according to Tolkein's philosophy. But the next line shows that dragons have always had their limitations: "nor was there ever any dragon, not even Ancalagon the Black, who could have harmed the One Ring, the Ruling Ring, for that was made by Sauron himself." Dec 5, 2017 at 14:22

I don't think a firm answer can be given, but it's debatable to what degree Sauron (his powers of command having been reduced by the lack of the Ring) could have commanded Smaug or any other dragons. Perhaps he might have enticed Smaug to strike with a promise of spoils, or engineered events such that Smaug would be drawn into the conflict by local fighting disturbing his region, but on the whole, dragons may not have been very reliably commandable; even Melkor had some difficulty with Glaurung revealing himself prematurely (see https://www.quora.com/Why-didnt-Sauron-use-dragons-in-the-war-against-Middle-earth). Drawing other dragons into the battles in LotR in the might have required overcoming their reluctance to leave their own distant hoards undefended.

For that matter, AFAIK, we don't know for certain that Sauron didn't find some use for some dragons elsewhere. Given some of the armies (Easterlings and Haradrim) that were drawn to the fights in LotR, we're given hints of Sauron's influence or machinations in far lands. Recall Sam reflecting regarding a dead Southron: "He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace..." This is just speculation, of course, but it may be useful to remember that there were clearly things going on the world besides the central battles explicitly described.

  • Sauron would definitely have been able to control Smaug, since if I remember correctly, Gandalf believed he could, and it was a big reason why he went with the dwarfs in the first place Dec 12, 2017 at 12:44
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    @Hyperdriveenthusiast See scifi.stackexchange.com/a/77171/85401 Gandalf's concern that Sauran might "use" Smaug doesn't definitely mean full command.
    – Jacob C.
    Dec 14, 2017 at 22:40

A possible (admittedly speculative) explanation: they may have been thousands of miles away from the action. There is a lot that we don't know about Middle-Earth, but we do know that it extended far to the east and south of the regions shown on Tolkien's maps. It may not have been practical (or worthwhile) to lure whatever lesser dragons were lurking in these regions to the battlefields in the north-west of the continent.


I agree with the points made by Victim of Circumstance, Jacob C. and Ian Thompson in their answers. I would like to add the following points.

He didn't have the time or resources to try every strategy that we can dream up

Powerful as he was, Sauron doesn't have an infinite amount of time or resources. The search for dragons would have taken resources away from other efforts, such as recruiting the Haradrim and the Easterlings, that he might have thought more likely to bear fruit.

He didn't think he needed additional help to win battles

Also, according to his wisdom, Sauron knew that the forces he had were enough to ensure his victory. While using the palantír, Denethor is convinced of Sauron's certain victory.

‘My lords,’ said Gandalf, ‘listen to the words of the Steward of Gondor before he died: You may triumph on the fields of the Pelennor for a day, but against the Power that has now arisen there is no victory.

The Lord of the Rings Book Five, Chapter 9: The Last Debate
Page 878 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

Sauron comes to realise that the Ring is all that's important

Gandalf explains this to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli:

The Enemy, of course, has long known that the Ring is abroad, and that it is borne by a hobbit. He knows now the number of our Company that set out from Rivendell, and the kind of each of us. But he does not yet perceive our purpose clearly. He supposes that we were all going to Minas Tirith; for that is what he would himself have done in our place. And according to his wisdom it would have been a heavy stroke against his power. Indeed he is in great fear, not knowing what mighty one may suddenly appear, wielding the Ring, and assailing him with war, seeking to cast him down and take his place. That we should wish to cast him down and have no one in his place is not a thought that occurs to his mind. That we should try to destroy the Ring itself has not yet entered into his darkest dream. In which no doubt you will see our good fortune and our hope.

The Lord of the Rings Book Three, Chapter 5: The White Rider
Pages 496-7 (Single volume 50th Anniversary Edition)

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