Unlike Gollum, who offers a deeper wellspring of psychological nuance, Smaug serves as a purely antagonistic presence in the novel. The stakes that Smaug creates are clear. His very existence is the catalyst the puts the plot into motion. He is both the guardian of the treasure that Thorin’s company wishes to reclaim, and is himself a weapon capable of wreaking havoc on Lake Town, which prompts the large-scale battle following his defeat. Even Smaug’s weakness is not a character defect, but rather is a single gap in his armor-like scales, a contrast to Thorin’s weakness, which is his greed. 

Smaug showcases a certain level of intellectual prowess in his discussion with Bilbo. Specifically, he is shown to possess a dark sense of humor as well as a silver tongue, which he uses to his advantage; he catches Bilbo off guard at times, drawing information out of him and forcing him to consider that the dwarves may have their own ulterior motives and could in fact betray him. His almost modern manner of speaking contrasts with his characterization as a legendary dragon of old, evocative of beasts in epic literature.

Smaug, ultimately, is a bastion of brute force sitting on a pile of stolen wealth, aware that he has the ability to destroy anyone who wishes to challenge his conquest. The dragon’s physicality and strength allow him to have instill a sense of dread in the characters and imbue the story with suspense, as the reader (and Bilbo) learn about Smaug’s magnitude long before finally meeting him. The death of Smaug showcases the effectiveness of the small against the powerful, and of the necessity of courage.