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Smaug first appeared in TA 2770 as a mature Fire-drake. I'm not sure if there are canonical sources which say his age or maturity, but he must have been quite large and quite old at the time in order to destroy the city of Dale and capture Erebor.

Since it is safe to assume that Smaug would have been attacking towns and stealing all of the gold and jewels he could get his claws on for most of his life, then he must have amassed a huge fortune prior to taking residence at Erebor. How did he transport his existing horde to Erebor? It seems unlikely that he would have simply abandoned all of his treasure that he had previously accumulated.

EDIT: It has been established that Smaug was not a mature drake at the time of his appearance. However, he may have already had a small horde (compared to Erebor).

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    A small couple of clawfuls of gold, versus the vast and numerous riches of Erebor? I'd trade up in a heartbeat. – Zibbobz Oct 24 '14 at 16:45
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    One idea I came up with is that he could have been able to swallow the treasure and then regurgitate it later. – Jason Hutchinson Oct 24 '14 at 19:05
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    Slaves? "I eat you unless you carry this stuff for me!" – vsz Oct 25 '14 at 8:40
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    @vsz: "Ok, my treasures are here, I am hungry now" flame burst – arc_lupus Oct 25 '14 at 11:45
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    Crocodiles carry their babies in their mouths; I wonder if dragons did that too? Anyway, if I were a dragon I'd carry it in that enormous mouth. Even if Smaug wanted to carry it in his paws, he needs to go on all fours in the tunnels. – RedSonja Feb 2 '15 at 12:18
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In The Hobbit, Smaug specifically denies that he was "quite large and quite old" when he attacked Erebor and Dale:

"I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!"

(The Hobbit, Chapter 9, "Inside Information")

Thus it is quite possible that Smaug had no particular hoard of his own before the attacks. Thorin, after describing the wealth of the Mountain and Dale, states, "Undoubtedly that was what brought the dragon" (Chapter 1, "An Unexpected Party"). Thus, there would have been no need for him to transport gold and other treasure from the Withered Heath (or whatever particular place in the North he came from).

The real question, I believe, is the related "How did Smaug get the treasure of Dale from Dale to his lair under the Mountain?" We know that there were some such treasures (for example, the emerald necklace of Girion) which Thorin and Company found in Smaug's hoard. How did they get there?

This is a question which appears to have no answer in the canon. Unless Tolkien stated it in one of his letters, I am aware of no canon information bearing on it. The Hobbit simply accepts the presence of those treasures in the hoard as a matter of fact; and The Lord of the Rings (to the extent that it discusses the matter, which is at best minimal) does not investigate the question at all.

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    he hires day labors to gather and stack his treasure obvy. – Himarm Oct 24 '14 at 16:53
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    "Work all night till the morning comes! Stack the treasure till the morning comes! Daylight come and me wan' go home!" – Matt Gutting Oct 24 '14 at 16:56
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    And then, of course, from Smaug: "Eat the workers till the morning comes! Daylight come and me in my home!" – Matt Gutting Oct 24 '14 at 17:51
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    @JasonHutchinson "He may have viewed himself as young" - that was my point. He was (apparently) young in the dragonish timescale; perhaps too young to have accumulated meaningful treasure. – Matt Gutting Oct 24 '14 at 20:08
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    @Huangism I saw somewhere (Flight of Dragons, maybe?) that dragons nest on gold because it's a soft metal - their equivalent of a firm, yet soft pillow. – Omegacron Mar 18 '15 at 18:44
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This was a question that we came up with about dragons in general back in my old D&D games. We took the approach that dragons were capable of accumulating minions who would do their bidding. Unfortunately, I can't find anything in the canon that would suggest Smaug ever had minions.

I do remember somewhere (can't remember if it was book or movie) it was mentioned that Sauron made an attempt to ally with with Smaug or at least influence him in order to use him as a distraction from Dol Guldour, so there were probably many evil creatures wandering around that could have come in contact with Smaug either by accident or on purpose. As word spread of the demise of Erebor and Dale, it would have been a beacon for such creatures to come and try and grab some of the leftovers or even sidle up to Smaug for some mutual benefit.

I just can't imaging a creature with such a high opinion of himself doing something as menial as hauling loads of treasure around like a pack mule.

Again, I offer this up as little more than speculation so please don't downvote me for it. Just tossing the idea out for discussion.

  • I doubt there is anything in the canon that would dispute this theory. The details of Smaug's life are pretty sparse and vague as far as I have been able to tell. If J.R.R. Tolkien lived another 40 years, he still would probably not have been able to flesh out every single detail of Middle Earth. – Jason Hutchinson Oct 24 '14 at 20:22
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    Glaurung could beguile and daunt people, as told in the The Narn I Hîn Húrin, if such abilities are common to dragons, who is to say that subjugated people of Dale and Erebor themselves were not the one to serve Smaug in this fashion? – Lexible Oct 25 '14 at 2:29
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    Indeed lexible. I was going to say precisely the same thing. He enthralled Turin at nargothrond so that he couldn't move but could hear the cries of Finduilus as she was dragged to her death. If he can do that maybe he can enthrall peeplez to schlep his hoards. – Omar Devon Little Oct 25 '14 at 9:51
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    So no evidence that dragons eat gold on site, carry it back to their hoard in their bellys, then vomit it forth in a great glittering stream? – Wayfaring Stranger Oct 25 '14 at 17:46
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    The only evidence of that kind of thing is Ungoliant eating the jewels of Finwe after he is slain by Melko at the door to his house at Formenos. This happens right before Feanor commits the biggest sin by Elf by letting Ungoliant drink the life force of the Two Trees, – Omar Devon Little Oct 25 '14 at 22:11
3

A similar question might be "How would a dinosaur move its eggs from one location to another?", and it's something that paleontologists have asked. When I was a kid back in the 80s, it was commonly believed that dinosaurs moved eggs one at a time, rolling each one along the ground using their nose/beak.

However, in recent years there has been speculation in the paleontology field that some dinosaur species moved their eggs from one place to another by swallowing the eggs, then regurgitating them at a different location. This is apparently evidenced by fossils found with their OWN eggs inside the stomach. Needless to say, this is all speculation & theory. A lot of the facts we take for granted today started out as merely an educated guess based on the evidence at hand. In modern animals, the same exact behavior can be seen with snakes.

Back to Lord of the Rings, it's entirely possible that Smaug would pile up the gold, swallow as much of it as he could, then fly back to Erebor and puke it up. Certainly not pretty, but definitely within the realm of possibility. And it would allow him to carry massive amounts of treasure per trip - far more than if he tried to carry it with his claws/talons.

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I believe smaug eats the treasure and later regurgitates it back at his beloved lonely mountain-It makes a good amount of sense.

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    This possibility was suggested 1½ years ago. – Peregrine Rook Apr 18 '16 at 21:44

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