A few weeks ago, I went with some friends to finally see Part II of the Hobbit. Yes, I know it’s been out a while. I just don’t go to the movies that often. Suffice to say, if you keep reading and haven’t seen the movie or read the books, there be spoilers below.
Anyway, on the way home back from the movie, we chatted about all the things we liked or didn’t. But for some reason, the impression I left with, and voiced was, “That poor dragon. I feel so bad for Smaug,” My friends, needless to say, thought that was hilarious, that it explains a lot of my troubles with love triangles and always rooting for the wrong “team,” and that is also possibly betrayed an unhealthy fondness for the voice of a certain British man.
The thing was, I meant it. I genuinely felt bad for the dragon, especially when the dwarves tricked him with the molten gold statue. I still am kind of upset thinking about it, the wonder at the gold being dashed from the dragon’s eyes as it cascaded down upon him. When I voiced this, my friend said, “Yeah, but Smaug’s the bad guy. Also, he killed a bunch of people.”
Despite their best efforts, I continued to be unmoved in my sympathy for the dragon. I’m still not. And I think I know why. Okay, yes, Smaug killed a lot of people. He’s about to kill more as the movie ends. But he’s alone. That got to me. Also, his conversation with Bilbo, the inherent mistrust he has, the vague trust he shows only to lose it again. Maybe Smaug is the bad guy in the Hobbit. But couldn’t that same dragon be the tragic hero of his own?
Look at it this way: Smaug is lonely and hurt. Smaug dealt with dwarves and humans who have tried to kill him probably all his life. Maybe he was even bullied as a wee baby dragon. We don’t know. Now, all he wants is some shiny gold to fill the empty space of having no dragon friends, no family, and because it never hurts him. But the gold doesn’t make him feel better, not really. He’s still alone, and he can’t let anyone get close or they might hurt him. And when anything threatens his status quo (or nap), he lashes out at it, just to be safe.
Still not convinced? That’s fine. I get it’s kind of twisted to root for the bad guy. But the truth, why I feel so bad for such a horrible creature, is he was the only one I related to in the film. Because sometimes, I’m an evil dragon too. I may not be able to breath fire, but I can shout vitriol. I may not be death and fire, but I can write it and have certainly experienced the rage of wanting to be those things. I fill my lonely cave with stories and emotions instead of gold, and lash out at those who try to take anything from me. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s enough.
That is why I defended Smaug then and now, and why I’ll probably cry in the third movie for a character everyone else will celebrate defeating. Not because I like Smaug or think he’s redeemable as a character or have a thing about Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice (okay, I might, but that isn’t the point!), but because I see myself in the dragon. And I’m not afraid to show that dragon a little sympathy.