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J.R.R. Tolkien - Dragon.jpg
"Dragon" by J.R.R. Tolkien
General Information
Other names"Great worms"
OriginsCreated by Morgoth in Angband
LocationsAngband, Nargothrond, Grey Mountains, Erebor, Withered Heath, Northern Waste
AffiliationMorgoth, Sauron (partially)
LanguagesVarious Mannish and Elvish tongues[1]
PeopleFire-drakes, Cold-drakes, Long-worms
MembersGlaurung, Ancalagon, Scatha, Smaug,
Physical Description
Lifespan"Long and slow"[2]
GalleryImages of Dragons
"Never laugh at live dragons."
Bilbo Baggins[3]

Dragons also known as the Great Worms were evil creatures seen mostly in the northern Middle-earth. They were greedy, cunning, seductive and malicious, probably a creation by Morgoth out of fire and sorcery sometime in the First Age.



Ted Nasmith - Scouring the Mountain

The origin and early history of dragons

Seeing the strength of the Noldor in battle, Melkor realized that orcs alone were not sufficient to defeat his enemies. He therefore began to breed a new race of monsters: the dragons.[4][note 1]

The Father of Dragons was Glaurung, a mighty wyrm with a fearful intelligence and a powerful hypnotic gaze. Glaurung played an integral part in the fate of the Children of Húrin. Among his many crimes were the destruction of the Elf-realm of Nargothrond and a spell cast upon Nienor which stripped her of her memory. This eventually led her to a disastrous reunion and marriage to her long-lost brother Túrin. When Nienor learned the truth of Glaurung's plot, she flung herself to her death. Glaurung was finally slain by Túrin, who afterward committed suicide in reaction to Glaurung's plot.

At the Fall of Gondolin, Morgoth's foul host included dragons, "many and terrible".[5]

During the War of Wrath, Morgoth unleashed a new terror upon Middle-earth – the winged dragons. Chief among these was Ancalagon the Black. Eventually slain by Eärendil the Mariner, Ancalagon's fall crushed the towers of Thangorodrim. Many of the dragons were destroyed in the War of Wrath but some fled and survived into the later Ages.

Dragons after the First Age

It would appear that the dragons fled to the Northern Waste, far from the lands of Men and Elves. Over the centuries, the race of dragons continued to breed and repopulate, particularly in the Withered Heath, an area in between two spurs of the Grey Mountains.

In the late Third Age the dragons of the Withered Heath, stirred by the return of Evil, began to harass the Northmen and make war with the Dwarves around the year T.A. 2570 (Dáin I and Frór of Durin's Folk were killed by a great cold-drake in 2589).[6][7] It was perhaps in these wars that dragons swallowed four of the Seven Dwarf-rings, possibly directed by the returned Sauron himself.[8]

The most fearsome dragon of the Third Age was Smaug, who laid waste to the Dwarf-realm of Erebor and the nearby town of Dale. This devastated the area and sent Durin's Folk into exile. Smaug remained in the abandoned halls of the Lonely Mountain for many years until the coming of Thorin and Company and their "burglar", the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. This began a chain of events that led to Smaug's death at the hands of Bard the Bowman.

Although Smaug was the greatest of the dragons of his day,[7] he seems not to have been the last of his kind as Gandalf told Frodo that "there is not now any dragon left on earth in which the old fire is hot enough [to melt the Rings of Power]",[8] indicating the presence of other, lesser dragons, weak enough for them to pose no significant threat under Sauron's command. [9]


The dragons were huge and longeval, with their lives spanning centuries. They shared a greed of treasure (especially gold), subtle intelligence, immense cunning, great physical strength, and their eyes and words had a hypnotic power called "dragon-spell". Those clever enough to avoid the spell never give direct information, but talked vaguely in riddles, since plainly refusing an answer would invite an immediate attack.

Apparently, dragons came from eggs.[10]

It may be that dragons could sport horns.[11]

While dragons were armoured with iron scales, they had a soft spot underneath, in the region of the chest, which could be pierced by blades or darts.[12][13]

Means of locomotion

Some dragons (Glaurung) crawled like snakes, yet had four legs, like a Tetrapodophis[14][15]. These must have been the most common type of dragons in the First Age, since the winged fire-dragons only first appeared during the War of Wrath, while the winged Cold-drakes are only reported in Turambar and the Foalókë. These (such as Ancalagon and Smaug) could both walk on four legs and fly using wings. Breeds of wingless dragons did survive into later Ages.

Fire breathing

The Urulóki (singular Urulokë, Fire-drakes) could breathe fire. It is not entirely clear whether the term "Urulóki" referred only to the first dragons such as Glaurung that could breathe fire but were wingless, or to any dragon that could breathe fire, and thus include Smaug.

Dragon-fire (of the Urulóki) was hot enough to melt Rings of Power: four of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves were consumed by Dragon-fire, although it was not powerful enough to destroy the One Ring itself.[8]

The dragons who could not breathe fire were known as Cold-drakes. Those were found mainly in Ered Mithrin.

Individual dragons

John Howe - Smaug
  • Glaurung — Father of Dragons, slain by Túrin Turambar. First of the Uruloki, the Fire-drakes of Angband. He had four legs and could breathe fire, but didn't have wings.
  • Ancalagon the Black — first and mightiest of the Winged-dragons, slain by Eärendil in the War of Wrath.
  • Scatha — Slain by Fram of the Éothéod. Apparently a cold-drake. Described as a "long-worm", although this imprecise term seems to be more of an expression rather than a separate taxonomic group.
  • Smaug — the last great dragon of Middle-earth, slain by Bard of Esgaroth. A winged Urulokë.
  • Gostir — was one of the Dragons of Morgoth only known by name.
  • An unnamed dragon appears in Hobbit verse, said to have had red eyes, black wings and teeth like knives.[16]


Dragon is derived from French; drake is an English word, from Old English draca (derived from Latin).[17]

Words denoting "dragon" in Quenya are lókë and angulóke. Sindarin has lhûg and amlug.

In Gnomish, "dragon" is fuithlug ("a dragon who guards treasure"), lingwir or ulug (plural ulûgin; "she dragon" is uluch, uluchnir or ulugwin).[18]

Other names

The dragons were known by many different names:

Worms referred to the race of dragons, especially wingless kinds[source?]. It was used to refer to Glaurung[19] as well as Smaug.[20] In Gnomish, one of Tolkien's early conceptions of an Elven language, "worm" is gwem.[21] Worm is also an actual old word for dragon,[22] derived from Old English wyrm, Old Norse ormr ("serpent").

Long-worms referred to at least some dragons, although the only named example is Scatha:

Frumgar, they say, was the name of the chieftain who led his people to Éothéod. Of his son, Fram, they tell that he slew Scatha, the great dragon of Ered Mithrin, and the land had peace from the long-worms afterwards.
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The House of Eorl"

Serpents was used for dragons (properly great serpents)[23], as well as ordinary snakes.

Other versions of the legendarium

In the early Lost Tale of "Turambar and the Foalókë", a legend among Men exists concerning dragons. Whoever tastes the heart of a dragon and can withstand its poisonous blood "would know all tongues of Gods or Men, of birds or beasts, and his ears would catch whispers of the Valar or of Melko".[24]

In the "Fall of Gondolin" it is told that Melko forged mechanical Iron Dragons to carry the armies of Orcs into the city.[25]:169 However, along the battle there are many mentions of fire-drakes and beasts of unclear nature that resemble actual dragons, like the creature of fire with Balrogs in its back.[25]:181

Other fiction

A dragon named Chrysophylax appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's story Farmer Giles of Ham.

In the story Roverandom, white dragons are among the creatures living on the moon. A dragon, called the Great White Dragon, attacks Rover and the moon-dog, and is said to be the origin of all white dragons. In Merlin's time, this dragon had been to the earth, and fought with the Red Dragon in Caerdragon. The Great White Dragon has wings and can breath fire.[26]

Portrayal in adaptations

Portrayal in games

1982-97: Middle-earth Role Playing:

Apart from the type of dragons created by Tolkien, additional races include Rain-drakes, Light-drakes, Ash Drakes and several others.[27]

2001-: The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game:

The Dragon, which can have the ability to breathe fire and fly, is a powerful enemy of the Good players.[28] The game also includes the subterranean Cave Drake, a large but agile monster and natural enemy of the Dwarves.[29]

2007-: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Dragon-kind includes several varieties: Cold-, Fire- and Shadow-drakes, Fire-worms, Rock-worms, and many more. Related beasts include the salamander, a weaker and simpler breed of dragons, the pygmy-sized dragonet, and the turtle-like avanc.[30]

See also

External links


  1. How this was done is unclear.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Letter to Leila Keene and Pat Kirke" (letter); quoted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "II. The Appendix on Languages", "Note on an unpublished letter", pp. 72-73
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Return of the Noldor"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "The Grey Annals": §115
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 144, (dated 25 April 1954)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Quest of Erebor", "Appendix: Extracts from an earlier version": Glóin: "dragonet new from the shell"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings", Song of Eärendil where Eärendil wielded a bow "made of dragon-horn"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Choices of Master Samwise": "But Shelob was not as dragons are, no softer spot had she save only her eyes."
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information": "dragons were softer underneath, especially in the region of the - er - chest".
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Children of Húrin, "The Journey of Morwen and Niënor to Nargothrond"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"'
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Hoard"
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "Short Glossary of Obsolete, Archaic, and Rare Words", p. 350
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), pp. 36, 54, 74
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Children of Húrin, "The Coming of Glaurung"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Party"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), p. 45
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger, Douglas A. Anderson (eds.), Tolkien On Fairy-stories: Expanded edition, with commentary and notes, p. 108
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", p. 370 (entry for LOK-)
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "II. Turambar and the Foalókë", p. 85
  25. 25.0 25.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin"
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien; Christina Scull, Wayne G. Hammond (eds.), Roverandom, "[Chapter] 2"
  27. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  28. Dragon at (accessed 23 September 2011)
  29. White Dwarf, issue 371 (November 2010), p. 42
  30. "Dragon-kind" at Lord of the Rings Online: Lorebook (accessed 28 October 2010)