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Dragons have appeared in myths and legends in almost every corner of
the globe. In Europe, they were often believed to guard vast treasures.
One of the most famous of these treasure hoarding dragons is Smaug from
J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit:
There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; a thrumming came
from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low
in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail,
and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors,
lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought,
gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light....
Dragons may not have much real use for all their wealth, but they know
it to an ounce as a rule, especially after long possession; and Smaug
was no exception. He 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 it was so small, and
now he glared at it in suspicion and 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.
He stirred and stretched forth his neck to sniff. Then he missed the
Thieves! Fire! Murder! Such a thing had not happened since first he
came to the Mountain! His rage passes description—the sort of
rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy
suddenly lose something that they have long had but have never before
used or wanted. His fire belched forth, the hall smoked, he shook the
mountain roots. He thrust his head in vain at the little hole, and then
coiling his length together, roaring like thunder underground, he sped
from his deep lair through it’s great door, out into the huge
passages of the mountain-palace and up towards the Front Gate.
Tolkein, J. R. R. The Hobbit. Ballantine, New York, 1937. pp. 213-214,
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