I have been re-watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. By the end, the movie shows a how a bird came knocking (actually hitting a snail) on the mountain. And then there is shifting inside, and Smaug awakens and opens his eyes.

My question is: was his awakening due to that small sound? If so, how was Bilbo supposed to have any chance?

  • 12
    Bilbo was hired for the very fact that he is a silent thief!
    – Möoz
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 21:02
  • 6
    It's an action film based off a children's novel. There are bound to be some inconsistencies.
    – andrepd
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 21:02
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    @yondaime008 I suppose the echoing has a lot to do with this situation. Bilbo would have been light-of-feet, whereas the bird's nut would have been causing an echo in the cavernous halls of Erebor.
    – Möoz
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 21:15
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    @yondaime008: “He certainly wouldn't be less noisy than a nut being hit by a bird on the outer shell of a mountain” [citation needed]. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 21:18
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    Oi, I dunno. If you're saying the movie is ridiculous, you might be be beating a horse hamburger.
    – Misha R
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 0:06

3 Answers 3


Hobbits are capable of moving with extreme stealth when they so choose, sufficiently quietly for this job. Here is a description from the book:

But at any rate hobbits can move quietly in woods, absolutely quietly. They take a pride in it, and Bilbo had sniffed more than once at what he called "all this dwarvish racket," as they went along, though I don't sup-pose you or I would notice anything at all on a windy night, not if the whole cavalcade had passed two feet off. As for Bilbo walking primly towards the red light, I don't suppose even a weasel would have stirred a whisker at it. - The Hobbit: Chapter 2 - Roast Mutton

In the movie, Smaug is indeed (absurdly) awakened by the tapping of a bird with a nut (or was it a snail?) In the book, it makes more sense. Smaug is awakened by the draft from the secret door, and by the hammering and general racket of the dwarves that had occurred in trying to open it.

[Smaug] had passed from an uneasy dream (in which a warrior, altogether insignificant in size but provided with a bitter sword and great courage, figured most unpleasantly) to a doze, and from a doze to wide waking. There was a breath of strange air in his cave. Could there be a draught from that little hole? He had never felt quite happy about it, though was so small, and now he glared at it in suspicion an wondered why he had never blocked it up. Of late he had half fancied he had caught the dim echoes of a knocking sound from far above that came down through it to his lair. - The Hobbit: Chapter 12 - Inside Information

The movie uses the bird's tapping as an illustration of Smaug's hyperawareness, but if we have to shoehorn it into a reasonable in-world explanation, then you could try something like the tunnel being a resonating chamber that amplified the bird's tapping.

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    Yes. Also, he's slumbering on a pile of gold. He's not dead. I'm assuming he wakes up occasionally to enjoy paddling in his gold like Scrooge McDuck.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 22:20
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    Would this bird hitting a nut be the first sound ever made anywhere near Smaug's cave? Obviously not, so this is just plain stupid, can't be forced to make sense when it's not meant to be. I'd stick to the book's description, ignoring whatever happened in the so-called movie.
    – o0'.
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 13:56
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    @Lohoris I agree entirely, but some people really, really want an in-world explanation. It seems unlikely that the first thing to have hit the door would be a bird with a nut, and the physics teacher in me cringes at using that tunnel as a resonating chamber for it, but there's also a dragon and wizards and stuff in the story, so a really loud nut isn't the wildest thing we're suspending our disbelief in here. :-) Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 15:16
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    Well, for all we know, Smaug wakes up every time an animal makes noise on that side of the mountain.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 16:17
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    Recall, it is the "desolation of Smaug" there is essentially no life around the lonely mountain. He's burned it all to a crisp. There may not be that many sounds to be had.
    – John
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 16:20

Director Peter Jackson and Senior Screenwriter Philippa Boyens discuss the scene in considerable detail in the Extended Edition "Filmmaker's Commentary".

They explictly state that the dragon Smaug was indeed awoken by the tapping of the nut

Transcription mine:

PB : The, uh, reason to use the Thrush was because we wanted the knocking to push us inside...to the mountain. It was picking up on the Moon-runes and the prophecy that's told in the Moon-runes and the thrush knocking and that knocking awakening the dragon. And it won't be the last time that you see that thrush perhaps...

This ties in nicely to the prophecy they heard earlier in the film which stated that they needed to...

...Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks and the setting sun, with the last light of Durin's day will shine upon the keyhole.

As to how Bilbo is supposed to creep into the cavern without waking the dragon, that's the precise reason they hired him as a burglar. Gandalf repeatedly stressed his stealthiness.

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    This is IMO a stronger answer for both the quotation from the filmmakers commentary establishing the intention, and for relating it to the map text.
    – user8719
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 0:38
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    Good answer. The thrush knocking is in the book as well; it is where they have been crushing snails against the rocks and is one of the ways that they know the location of the door. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 2:27
  • @DarthSatan - Alas, the mob have spoken. They like the other answer better :-(
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 19:50
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    @Richard - Damn you community, damn you to hell!
    – user8719
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:53

It has been about 20 years since I read the book, and I may be confusing it with the excellent stage play of the Hobbit I saw by Christine Anketell in Australia in 2000 which used a full cast of Bunraku-style puppets (Only Gandalf was a human actor), but it was my interpretation that the bird knocking pointed to something deeper. When Smaug took over the lonely mountain, every living thing either fled or was destroyed so he was the only thing left alive (how he liked it) the fact that the birds had returned to the mountain and indeed had the courage to use it to knock on woke him up as he realised life outside was returning to his peaceful mountain. It was simply coincidence that Bilbo was already inside by that point; the bird would have woken him regardless.

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