Note, really specific SPOILERS for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies below. Specific enough that they're unlikely to actually ruin anything in the movie...
The final part of The Hobbit trilogy might have acquired the sub-heading 'The Battle of the Five Armies', but its heroes have a whole other gigantic, fire-breathing mass of peril to survive before they even start worrying about giant battles. As we left the last film, some serious trouble was on the horizon.
Smaug was awake, and he was not happy.
Now, because the internet is a wonderful thing, it's already full not only of massive spoilers about what will happen in the third film, but also about every single detail of how Smaug works - within the world of the film itself.
Yes, that's right - the wonderful world of Tolkien-fandom have analyzed, at length, exactly how Tolkien intended Smaug to work - and just what that means for his ability to fight.
(SPOILERS from here on out...)
One of the big questions within the novel is just how Lake-town is able to defend itself from the massive, angry dragon that lives down the road. Tolkien's solution? A bridge:
Amid shrieks and wailing and the shouts of men he came over them, swept towards the bridges and was foiled! The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on an island in deep water-too deep and dark and cool for his liking. If he plunged into it, a vapour and a steam would arise enough to cover all the land with a mist for days; but the lake was mightier than he, it would quench him before he could pass through.
Why, though, would this work? He can, after all, fly.
The answer lies in Tolkien himself being the ultimate of all Tolkien geeks - which is, of course, why we all love him so much. He knew exactly what powered his dragons, and just how they would approach a battle. As Michael Martinez argues, this means some very specific things for Smaug, and Lake-town:
"J.R.R. Tolkien had a very specific image in mind about his dragons, in terms of how they would fly and how they would move across the land. And I think he must have felt that the act of flying would impair some of a dragon’s physical actions, such as breaking into buildings and grabbing people (either to eat or to kill with his powerful jaws)."
Which means that Smaug would be reluctant to attack a town from the air. What's more:
"Landing on the buildings might, in Tolkien’s view, have exposed the dragon to all sorts of attacks by the men from many directions. Hence, in order to keep his enemies/prey in front of him he would need to approach the town by the bridge. Also, if Smaug could stand on the bridge with ease he would be able to attack any boats that tried to come near by, flaming them."
So, all Lake-town had to do to stay relatively safe is to not have a bridge. Especially because, through Martinez's logic:
"water would have quenched that internal furnace — perhaps even by mere contact with Smaug’s skin. It’s as if the dragon’s body was its own furnace, and he had to maintain his distance from water in order to generate the heat to breathe fire."
All of which means what for the film? Well, possibly nothing - there's nothing that necessarily ties Jackson's adaptation to rigidly following Tolkien's dragon logic. However, if that whole bridge element ends up in the final film - expect the tables to begin to turn against the murderous fire-drake...
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is set for release December 17, 2014.
What do you guys reckon? Will we see Smaug depend on a bridge for movement in the final film?