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Despite its popularity, much of the scholarly criticism available on Tolkien’s works focus on his even more popular and well-known epic, The Lord of the Rings, or his earlier work, The Silmarillion. The Hobbit, due to its traditionally younger audience, does not receive nearly as much attention. Much of the criticism of The Hobbit engenders does not focus on the dragon. Smaug is one of the focal characters in the story, and yet very little has been written about him. Almost all of the critical treatments I have found do not address Smaug as a character, but treat him as a plot device, a literary archetype, or evidence of Tolkien’s interest in and knowledge of Norse mythology. For example, a recent book-length study, Myth and Middle-Earth by Leslie Ellen Jones, mentions Smaug only in comparison to the dragon in Beowulf. Even critics who view Smaug as exceptionally well-written often consider his function in the novel to be that of a destructive force to be overcome, as Sandra Unerman does in her essay “Dragons in Twentieth-Century Fiction.” In The Mythology of Middle-Earth, Ruth S. Noel argues that “Wherever a dragon appears in Tolkien’s works, it is wholly within the tradition of European myth” (154) and that “Once Tolkien left the adventure story for the ethical quest, the dragon became too stereotyped a symbol to use” (156).
Pellerin, Casey, "Putting the Spotlight on Smaug" (2009). Honors Projects Overview. 100.
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