Before Smaug awakens because of Bilbo's ventures, there's not even a single breath amidst all the gold. His breath is only heard when he wakes up. Is he capable of living without breathing?

  • 5
    Considering that sometimes I have to approach my little son very close to see whether he is actually breathing, I would say that smaug was simply deeply asleep.
    – flq
    Apr 13, 2014 at 20:40
  • yes, but he was lying under heaps of gold... Even the slightest of breaths would cause rumbling...
    – Stark07
    Apr 14, 2014 at 1:26
  • 6
    Perhaps he has been sitting in that particular position long enough that the loose stuff had already fallen down to a point that it was relatively stable.
    – Zoredache
    Apr 14, 2014 at 7:56

1 Answer 1


In order of possibility:

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  1. Smaug does not need to breathe. He is a magical monster and his life processes do not resemble that of living beings. After all, he can breathe fire, fly AND speak intelligently. Of the magical origins of dragons little is actually known so they may not have the same requirements as non-magical creatures. Dragons violate so many of the natural laws of physics as to be certainly supernatural in and of themselves.

  2. Smaug breathes, but while dormant under his gold may only breathe once in a given period which was shorter than Bilbo's initial visit. Like many serpents and reptiles, they are able to live for very long periods without any environmental resources. For example: The bushmaster viper may live an entire year on less than one meal per month.

  3. Smaug breathes very quietly unless he wants to talk, interact, or breath fire. He may when in a hibernation state, need almost no natural resources, such as air, at all.

  4. It has been suggested that possibly like an alligator, Smaug may lie below the gold for the most part but his nostrils may be camouflaged by the gold, and the gold may be loose enough to allow him to breathe quietly while at rest.

  • 1
    I think it's also a possibility that the gold coins were just packed fairly loosely so there was room for air currents to get between the top layer and the layer of his nostrils, especially if his nostrils were pretty close to the surface (and maybe also if the coins had "high relief" art on them like the one at usmint.gov/mint_programs/ultrahigh so that they'd be bumpy and would have spaces between them even when directly on top of one another)
    – Hypnosifl
    Apr 14, 2014 at 19:51
  • @Hypnosifl - Actually, you are thinking of modern coins. Coins minted by processes the dwarves most likely had available to them (Hand carved molds), the coins would naturally have had bumps and irregularities without the need for raised engravings to provide space.
    – JohnP
    Apr 14, 2014 at 22:34
  • 2
    "Smaug does not need to breathe": not very plausible, IMHO. He may be magical, but magical doesn't mean breaking the consistency of the Secondary World. In every creature, a biological feature if present has a function: he has a heart that pumps his blood, and when shot is killed. He has eyes in order to see, he speaks so he must have lungs, and he has a nose and nostrils: their function is to breathe, so he breathes.
    – Sekhemty
    Aug 11, 2018 at 12:00
  • 1
    @hypnosifl the question isn’t whether he can physically breathe or not it’s that every time a vertebrate takes a breath their lungs and ribs expand by quite a lot, meaning that the gold underneath him would shift a lot with every breath, which is why it is speculated that he isn’t breathing at all
    – cassiopeia
    Nov 13, 2018 at 22:39

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