Why didn't they build narrow hallways and doors so that no dragon would fit in?

Dwarves are short and stouty, so why didn't they go "Tucker's Kobolds" on Smaug?

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    Why do people live in houses with 3-story-tall arched ceilings in the living room? they were showing off.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 17:20
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    I think dwarves building big things is common throughout scifi. In Brisingr , Eragon does ponder why the smallest of the races builds the biggest structures, and lingers on the conclusion that they do it as a way to compensate for their height. Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 18:29
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    Of course, there's no excuse for not rigging up the hallways and the whole mountain with insane magma flooding devices and other disturbingly ingenious death traps… Wait, wrong dwarves.
    – millimoose
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 4:19
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    Feng shui perhaps? Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 9:55
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    Another reason is as is described by Gimli in the Lord of the Rings books: Because when building their underground architecture, they don't decide what they want to build and then shape the world to fit - they look at the natural wonders, and build their architecture around that. If Tolkien's Dwarves built a large, cavernous city under the mountain, it's because there were already large caverns down there. The size was already determined by nature - the dwarves just enhanced its natural beauty. Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 18:42

4 Answers 4


According to the Tale of Years in Lord of the Rings, Erebor was founded in TA 1999 but dragons didn't reappear until TA 2570 (Smaug himself didn't descend on Erebor until TA 2770). No dragons come into the tales of the Second Age.

So that establishes a timescale of about 6,000 years between the previous appearance of dragons in Middle-earth (at the War of Wrath) and the reappearance of dragons in the Third Age, and establishes that Erebor was founded close to the top-end of this timescale.

From there it's obvious - as far as anyone was concerned dragons were an extinct creature that only appeared in stories from the Ancient World. There hadn't been a dragon seen in Middle-earth for about 5,500 years at the time Erebor was founded.

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    Thanks a lot for your answer! That explains why they were not prepared to fight dragons. But would you allow that Erebor as shown in the movie "The Hobbit" seemed woefully open to attacks. Single door, no inner ward, no murderholes, no portcullis. But then maybe I'm prejudiced by the game dwarf fortress, where defensive design is paramount ;)
    – Truffant
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 16:43
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    @Truffant See the opening of the first Hobbit movie for that - all were welcome, for trade/etc
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 22:00
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    Your lore is certainly right. I can't speak as to their psychology, but I can say from any reasonable experience in real life, big rooms are necessarily impressive. Large buildings too. Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 10:11
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    I bet it was all Danaerys' fault the dragons showed up again. Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 19:17
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    The entire mountain was well protected, it was not only a city, an underground kingdom of the dwarves, the royal palace for kings of Durin's line, but also a stronghold. We have after all guardposts and watchtowers (maybe also some other fortifications and builings on the slopes of the Mountain) like on Ravenhill (I bet it won't appear in movie at all) the Back-door was invisible and protected by ,,dwarvish magic", nearly indestructible, so much that when dwarves in book wanted to use tools to tear it down, they only damaged them leaving no sign on the stone) and Front Gate was very defendable Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:20

The simple answer is that the dwarven halls of Erebor were meant to be palatial. They were the residence of a king and other noble individuals and were a display of great wealth. Tolkien's European sensibilities couldn't imagine anyone building sneaky little rat tunnels and tiny abodes unless they were poor, unless they were peasantry.

If you were to somehow visit the Queen of England today, walking into Buckingham Palace, you might think to yourself "this reception hall is big enough for a dragon to fit into". You live in a home where the highest ceiling is what, 9 or 10 ft tall? There would be plenty of rooms with ceilings double and triple that height, maybe more. Your home has doors at most 48" wide. But again, in the palaces of royalty, doors that are more than double that width are quite common.

How could Tolkien have envisioned Erebor other than as described?


One other consideration that might be worth mentioning: These halls were not for just people, but for horses and wagons too, and were main traffic routes in their city. A dwarf mountain is an entire city, not just a single palace. It would seem logical to have wide halls as a way to accommodate the massive amount of traffic through them.


Might it be that the dwarfs mined the mountains and re-used the mined area's to live in. The great hallway was once one of the rich finding places and as such mined to the full extend.

  • Good point! It would be interesting to imagine what a city might look like that was based on the patterns and structures of ore veins in the stone, and I suppose that's exactly what the Dwarven kingdoms were.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Jan 11, 2014 at 0:38

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