The Hobbit: could an arrow really kill a dragon?

This isn’t quite as smugly point-missing as the guy who wrote, like, a 20-page dissertation on how the exploding Death Star would have totally wiped out the Ewoks, but…

Well, okay, it’s not even close to as annoying as that guy. But it’s within an order of magnitude, and that’s still pretty bad.


Modern antitank missiles can be much smaller than the older ones while having more oomph. They compensate the amount of packed boom with agility and accuracy of delivery, ability to hit the “sweet spot” where the tank is weakest. Some videos of such missile hits show the missile swerving wildly at the terminal phase, to hit the side, the turret “lids”, or the turret-tank joint or other places where the armor is the weakest; gone are the days when a thick sloping armor on the front side was enough.

So I find the same logic applied to a dragon fairly plausible. Even if such hit would require extraordinary combination of skill and luck if only launch-phase aiming is used and the rest of the projectile flight is passive and unguided.

…thought for fantasy writers… what about semi-sentient arrows capable of guided flight?

FTFY. I, for one, enjoyed that one royally, and would love to see an actual computer simulation of such incident.

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And then there are various poisons. My favorites are mercury-based slow neurotoxins. Before they kill you they make you mad.

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Well, you have to figure that a metabolism that can breathe fire and fly and still be cold vlooded, has got to have some strange allergies…

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oohh, i like it. “smart black arrow, you’ve always served me well, and i’ve always recovered you. go now and speed well!”

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they didn’t want the townpeople to escape!

and i had forgotten just how PORTLY the Smaug in the animated one was, haha. here pig, pig, pig!


My bet is on symbiotic bacteria producing butane, which is liquefied in some sort of a bladder, and other bacteria producing diphosphane, which is stored separately or together; the former for the fuel, the latter for its pyrophoric properties to light up in contact with the atmospheric air.

Both kinds of bacteria actually exist, were found e.g. somewhere in the ocean floor.

The cold blooded part is an actual requirement, or a speculation?

Friend-or-foe discriminating, sweet-spot seeking arrows. Just shoot them into the melee and they do the rest!

…a vision of quiver full of arrows all looking forward to the battle, quivering (hee) with glee and whisper-chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Yeah really, if someone points us to a better world where all the ewoks die what possible reason could there be for annoyance.


I still haven’t seen that film. I guess I should. I still like Bakshi’s LoTR, even if it is crap.

I only recently got around to Jackson’s Hobbit 2 : The Search for More Money. And what an unmitigated turd that was.


It’s great. Gets through the whole story in a tight hour and a half. Excellent score, too. Maury Laws’ version of “Misty Mountains” is a far more shivery earworm than the version in the Jackson movie, for my money.

Plus John Huston as Gandalf! Otto Preminger as the Elven King! Hans Conried as Thorin! Richard Boone as Smaug! And Tony the Tiger Thurl Ravenscroft! Money can’t buy that kind of voice cast anymore.

And such economy! Jackson’s version of the Battle of Five Armies promises to take more than three hours, while Rankin-Bass handled that whole battle in under three minutes:

Oh… spoilers in there. You should probably watch from the beginning. “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.”


When they do, it’s silly for us to apply serious analysis to their adorably mangled syntax.

I like geeky obsession as much as the next guy, but (a) spending hours and hours fantasizing about teddy bears freezing to death is creepy and obsessive even by my standards, and, more importantly, (b) spending a vast amount of effort and math applying real-world physics to a universe so unlike ours that space has an atmosphere is a big floppy waste of math.

If you’re going to obsess, do it right. I’d recommend starting off by putting together a rough theory of what Star Wars physics are actually like. (I’ve made some inroads there myself, remind me to get out the diagrams and tell you all about it sometime…)

Why? It’s only collateral damage.

The sounds in vacuum were added in post-production. :stuck_out_tongue:

And we have enough math to waste; most people don’t even touch their share. I bet you we won’t ever run out.

There is no one right way how to do these things. We do not choose to do them, they choose us to be done. Wikipedia is my witness.

…And those days spent researching biomechanics to gain insight into dimensions and properties of a dragon wing…

Doo eeeeet! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:


I never had problems believing that an arrow could kill a dragon, as long as the dragon was in flight. My original understanding when I read the book decades ago was that Smaug died not when the shot hit, but when he slammed flightless into the lake. The arrow could have punctured a ballast chamber, severed a flight tendon, or simply the shock and pain of actually getting shot caused Smaug to stall and drop like a stone.

Of course, there’s also the fun thought of blowback, that the arrow punctured the fuel source of the flame, and if the dragon had a pilot light, well, boom.

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I’m calling for a Reverse Betteridge for fiction-related “could x and y” headlines of all sorts. The answer is always “yes, everything is possible, that’s why it’s fiction”.

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“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” Mark Twain :wink:

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There was a strange quasi-“natural history” book in the late 70s called The Flight of Dragons which suggested (as nearly as I can recall, quite seriously) that dragons had once existed and flew like blimps: Fast-growing bone in their abdomens would be dissolved by hydrochloric acid, resulting in lots of hydrogen gas.

I just can’t get too worked up at the idea of dragons bobbing serenely through the air like weather balloons.


That’s pretty much why I think the thought-experiment about the wreckage of the Death Star killing the Ewoks is justified. Images of warfare in Star Wars, and works inspired by it, tend to show destruction from direct hits from weapons, and nothing else. Given mainstream journalism’s unwillingness to show just how much horror modern warfare inflicts, I think that sort of fantasy of warfare tends to dominate the imagination of many people. My impression is that the war-porn fan club usually doesn’t think much about collateral damage, and tends to dismiss it as trivial when the subject is raised.

One of the things that really surprised me and stuck with me in my childhood readings of The Hobbit was that Laketown was destroyed by collateral damage from the death of Smaug.