In the second Hobbit movie, Smaug mentions the name Thorin Oakenshield to Bilbo. (I don't have my copy of the book with me now, but I don't believe he refers to Oakenshield in that.) Thorin received that moniker thirty years after Smaug drove him out of Erebor - how could Smaug know about Thorin's deeds at Moria?

Given that Smaug also seems to know something about Sauron's return - he mentions a rising darkness and dark armies, if I recall - is the dragon in contact with Sauron's forces? Is this information he gathers from kidnapped humans before munchy-time? Or is this just a movie goof?

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    Dragon's intuition? Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 11:57
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    @Izkata: Oakenshield is the name he earns after using an oak branch as a shield at Moria. As far as I can tell, dwarves don't have family names.
    – Nathan
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 13:31
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    I just read through chapter 12 of The Hobbit, the only one featuring Smaug speaking to Bilbo, and he never mentions Thorin by any name. The closest mention is oblique -- he seemed to think it unlikely that Thrain's kin would attempt revenge. So this is an invention of the film.
    – Plutor
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 13:47
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    @Plutor That should be an answer! Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 13:55
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    @Valek I don't have my book, unfortunately, but from what I remember and by wikis sourced from the book that's still how it happened. For example: lord-of-the-rings.org/books/thorin.html - this page appears to be dated before the movie, and explicitly mentions Azog, although not that Thorin himself fought him. It also mentions Thorin's siblings, so clearly not movie material.
    – Nathan
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 12:23

5 Answers 5


I was caught off guard by this in the movie too, and I think it is just a writer's error:

In the first movie, we see that Thorin earns his name 'Oakenshield' during the Battle of Azanulbizar (Moria), which is after they have fled from Smaug and Erebor. Therefore, unless Smaug heard of this name while out feeding on animals or something of the sort then he should not have known this name.

Perhaps it would have fit better to call him Thorin, son of Thrain as everyone else does in the movie.

As it relates to the book... it doesn't. As others have replied, there is no mention of Oakenshield by Smaug in the book.


The extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug gives us, perhaps, a better answer. In it, Thrain is talking to Gandalf in Dol Guldur and says

"He is waiting for them, they are in league, the Dragon and the One."

We also know that Azog knows the name Oakenshield and he is a commander under the Necromancer. It is highly likely that the Necromancer knows of Thorin, at least through Azog (Even Bolg knows the name). Therefore, because of the connection between the Necromancer and Smaug, it is likely that their communication led to Smaug knowing the name Oakenshield.

  • It doesn't seem likely there's lore regarding this to be found, and it's been a while, so I'll accept this answer. If lore is found or the third movie adds more cruft this may change, but I doubt it. :)
    – Nathan
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 15:38
  • 'Writer's error'? It was of course wrong but I can't see how it was anything but intentional - much like the other terrible things I heard like a love affair between a dwarf and an elf.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 21:17
  • @Pryftan Perhaps “bad writing” would be more precise. To me, the word “error” doesn’t always connote an unintentional act, but I’m not a baseball fan. Personally I’ve made many carefully-considered decisions that I would call “errors” or “mistakes” in retrospect. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 12:51

As has been mentioned, this is a movie invention and doesn't appear in the book. Nonetheless, it does seem interesting to consider in the context of Tolkien's other works.

Tolkien's primary dragon, the one we know most about, is not Smaug but Glaurung, the Father of Dragons from the First Age who is extensively detailed in the Silmarillion. And yes, Glaurung does display a similar ability to have knowledge beyond that which would be expected of him.

He knows substantial details of Túrin's past:

Thankless fosterling, outlaw, slayer of thy friend, thief of love, usurper of Nargothrond, captain foolhardy, and deserter of thy kin.

He knows about Túrin's family:

If thou wilt be slain, I will slay thee gladly. But small help will that be to Morwen and Nienor.

He knows about Túrin's love interest in Nargothrond:

And if thou tarry for Finduilas, then never shalt thou see Morwen again, and never at all shalt thou see Nienor thy sister; and they will curse thee.

He not only knows that Nienor is pregnant, but also who got her pregnant:

And now thou shalt know him: a stabber in the dark, treacherous to foes, faithless to friends, and a curse unto his kin, Túrin son of Húrin! But the worst of all his deeds thou shalt feel in thyself.

And it's plain that this was not all news brought to him by Orcs, because after the sack of Nargothrond he drove all the Orcs away, and Mablung the Elf was subsequently able to explore it in safety while Glaurung was out for a short while.

A possible explanation for all of this is given at the point where Glaurung utters his first words in the Silmarillion:

Then suddenly he spoke, by the evil spirit that was in him, saying: "Hail, son of Húrin. Well met!"

So dragons are therefore creatures of Morgoth inhabited by evil spirits, and the Silmarillion mentions two possible sources for these spirits. The first (not explicitly evil, but if Maiar can be corrupted then surely so can these):

When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon spirits from afar, and they will go among the kelvar and the olvar, and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared.

The second (in relation to the wolf Carcharoth but one can easily imagine a similar origin for dragons):

...he chose one from among the whelps of the race of Draugluin; and he fed him with his own hand upon living flesh, and put his power upon him. Swiftly the wolf grew, until he could creep into no den, but lay huge and hungry before the feet of Morgoth. There the fire and anguish of hell entered into him, and he became filled with a devouring spirit, tormented, terrible, and strong.

Either way it's an evil spirit, and it shouldn't be too much a stretch to imagine such an evil spirit having the ability to divine information beyond that immediately available to it.

  • Another possible interpretation of “evil spirit” is something along the lines of “foul mood”. While I think the theory presented here is interesting and partly supported, it doesn’t seem fully confirmed. Commented Jan 19, 2022 at 12:48

Thorin gathers a company when Gandalf approaches him. Thrain dies in a quest to claim a new home in Moria which is overrrun by orcs led by Azog. However, they had already lost Erebor to Smaug which is why they are hunting for a new home. As to the "Oakenshield" question, they never say how he knows, but the movie is only "based on" the works of JRR Tolkien, and therefore they could invent a multitude of reasons how he knew Thorin's nickname which has now become his surname.

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    Hello and welcome to the Stack Exchange. Quick note: this doesn't actually answer the question. Might I suggest checking out the Tour to get a better idea of how to ask and answer questions here? We're not a typical discussion forum. Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 4:14

The answer is simple: Smaug actually was Sauron's servant and was keeping the mountain until his master was at full strength. The dragon was led to the mountain by the influence of Sauron.


As you well know: Smaug didn't stay inside Erebor the entire time, he did go out to feed and gather info. you can read all about this in "Unfinished Tales". The only thing it don't say is the stuff about Oakenshield.

Smaug never knew Thorin's nickname in the stories, but he was in contact with Drogoth, the black dragon. Drogoth attacked Ered Luin in the time when Thorin's kin just had rebuilt the ancient dwarven city. Drogoth was defeated and fled to the iron hills. This was one of the reasons Thrain went out to "recapture" Erebor.

When Thorin heard Thrain was dead he put together a company to try to take back the mountain. Thorin's plan was to get aid from the Iron Hills and make a camp in Dale and strike against the Dragon with force, but Dain refused to help after the attack of Drogoth. at the end as you well know, Dain left his home with the remaining army after hearing that Thorins company had reached Erebor. But since he came in the middle of the battle of five armies he came to late. This is also the reason Thorin, Fili and Kili died.

At his deathbed, Thorin talked to Gandalf and Thranduil and says this: Why...why shall the line of Durin end this day....and the throne of Erebor go to the man who refused to help us face the dragonfire....Why shall he forever be known as the savior of Erebor!The greatest of all kings and the wielder of The Arkenstone?! which Gandalf answers: He will not. You will be the last of Durin's folk to rule under the mountain and the last to wield The Kings jewel. You King Thorin Oakenshield will forever be known as the reclaimer of the lonely mountain and the greatest of the kings.

As written on his grave: Here lies King Thorin Oakenshield, wielder and keeper of the Arkenstone, last of Durin's folk and King under the mountain. Remembered as the "Final king".

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    Ummmm - have you got a source for any of this or did you just make it up?
    – user8719
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 21:53
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    Drogoth is a non-canonical character from Battle for Middle-Earth, a LOTR game. This is basically "Smaug was in contact with Sauron's/other dark forces who knew Thorin's moniker", but with a lot of seemingly-extraneous detail added.
    – Nathan
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 4:05
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    How did Dain arrive in the middle of the battle of the five armies? The elves and men arrived. Then the dwarves arrived, demanded to be let through to the mountain and were about to bloody the elves noses, when the goblins and wolves arrived and a battle of: Elves, Men, Dwarves, Goblins and Wargs broke out. Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 16:57

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