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Analysis: just how big is Jackson's Smaug?

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May 11 2013, 3:38am

Post #1 of 2 (1327 views)
Analysis: just how big is Jackson's Smaug? Can't Post

[caption id="attachment_71534" align="alignright" width="300"]Bilbo set against Smaug by Ringer Skaan. Bilbo set against Smaug by Ringer Skaan.[/caption] Last night I stumbled on this very clever post on TheOneRing.net's boards. In it, user Skaan suggested that the promotional picture of Bilbo sprawled atop Smaug's hoard could offer a guide to the size of Jackson's version of Smaug (the Magnificent).


Well, we also saw Smaug's head buried in that selfsame pile. So the size of the coins gives us a basis for comparison.

Skaan then resized the Bilbo promo figure so the coins matched across both. Just check out the picture above. And I think we can all agree that Smaug is, indeed, impressively large.

Then I wondered, why not take this a step further? Why not see if we can use this comparison to as precisely as we can* calculate the size of Smaug's eye, nostril and even his entire head?

And then we can maybe extrapolate a little to guess the length of Erebor's winged worm.

Establishing a base measure: how big are the coins?

hobbit-desolation-smaug This is the first and most important step. If we can't calculate the diameter of one of those gold coins, we're stuffed.

Luckily, Weta in its wisdom has told us exactly how tall they believe Bilbo is. That particular factoid was revealed through Empire last year with a chart depicting the heights of the major characters. Bilbo? He's 1.27 metres tall, apparently. That's 4' 2" in the old scale.

Aside: that's actually a little on the tall side. In Letter #27 Tolkien notes the height of the Hobbit: "Actual size – only important if other objects are in picture – say about three feet or three feet six inches". By clear implication he means Bilbo, but that's an objection for another time.

So then, in our aforementioned picture of Bilbo sprawled on the hoard, I found myself a coin that appeared to be flat and front on. Then I roughly deep-etched it in Photoshop. Now I have a sample coin from the hoard. It's going to be our base measure.

But Bilbo is all curled up there. No way to measure the coin against Bilbo there. Surely we're stuck.

Getting Bilbo's full height

promo-bilbo-hoard-bilbo-overlay Luckily Photoshop can come to the rescue again.

There are plenty of full-length shots of Bilbo out there. I chose the bog-standard press shot that has Bilbo leaning against his walking stick with a grey, textured background. The fact that he's leaning forward might affect the perspective a little, but probably not too much.

Of course, I can't just start using that image. How do I know this particular Bilbo is the right size? So we have to resize Promo!Bilbo to match the proportions of Hoard!Bilbo.

I used the spacing of the eyes as a visual guide (see image at right).

And, using some nifty canvas expansion, layering, and proportion-matching we can make Promo!Bilbo more or less precisely match Hoard!Bilbo.

How many coins tall is Bilbo?

Now, we can finally start stacking those coins against our standardised Bilbo in Photoshop.

Turns out (see image below) Bilbo is as tall as 31 of those shiny, shiny gold coins. So, with a little simple division we discover that the diameter of one of Smaug's gold coins is 4.09 centimetres (127 divided by 31).


That's a reasonably sizeable coin, by the way. The largest of Australia's coin denominations -- the 50 cent piece -- has a diameter of just a touch over three centimetres. The UK's 50p coin is around 2.75cm and the Kiwi 50 cent coin is just a touch under 2.5cm across.

We're only halfway there, though. Now we have to start looking at Hoard!Smaug.

Smaug in da Hoard

In the final scenes from An Unexpected Journey, Smaug awakes from slumber. You know the scene. If you don't there's always Google. Pro-tip: Smaug + Hoard + Video.

Aside: apparently Smaug sleeps buried under his hoard. Maybe it's like a sleeping mask thing. I know I have a habit of sleeping with an arm across my eyes. So let's just roll with it.

I took a screencap. Heaps of potential images to choose from. I fancied one that revealed as much of Smaug's head as possible. So I have used a very wide image that has the left nostril, the left eye and as much of the "frill" as we see in the frame.

smaug-coin-guided Now we have to pick a coin. One that is either not moving, or only moving vertically (not horizontally).

You might wonder why. Well, that means that motion blur won't be making our chosen coin seem larger than it really is.

I chose one near the centre that was highly reflective (so it was easier to find the edges compared to its golden cousins) and which seemed by and large motionless.

You can see it in the guides I've drawn up. According to Photoshop that coin, which is 4.09cm long, is 0.4cm of the width of the image file.

And that is the information we need for a gauge!

Let's start with the eye.

How big is Smaug's eye?

The eye in the image file forms 7.25cm of the image file.


Divide that number by 0.4 and we get how many coins are equal to the span of Smaug's eye. The answer: 18.125. Now, if each coin is 4.09cm long, and Smaug's eye is equal to 18.125 of them, that makes the span of Smaug's eyeball an impressive 74.13 centimetres! Pretty damn magnificent.

Some comparisons?

Well, your eyeball is probably about 2.5cm in diameter. The eyeball of a horse is around 3.4cm. The eyeball of an elephant is roughly the same (strange but true!). The largest living mammal species, the Blue Whale, has an eyeball around 15cm in diameter.

The Giant Squid has an eyeball that's up to 27cm in diameter. That's huge, but still only one-third the size of Smaug's eye.

Apparently, in nature, eye size is strongly linked to running speed (you can read more here -- it's interesting stuff). The scientists who studied this stuff said: "This gives them better vision to avoid colliding with obstacles in their environment when they're moving very quickly."

We know Smaug can move at a rate of knots when there's ponies for the eating.

Rather than work out the rest by hand and bore you all to death with mathematics, I'm going to chuck the results in a list below:

* Eye size 74.13cm
* Nostril size 94.17cm
* Head size 671.47cm

What's the size of Smaug's head?

Well, turns out it's longer than a lot of sedans (which are usually around five metres long). It's more than half as long as a bus (around 12 metres). Lay four people end to end, and they're still probably not as long as Smaug's head, going from nose to nape of neck.

Smaug would be intimidatingly large for a hobbit or a dwarf. Even Elwe "Thingol" Singollo, tallest of all the Children of Illuvatar, would find himself a mite overtopped.

(Don't worry, the compulsory measurement of Smaug in number of football fields is coming shortly.)

Just how long is Smaug from nose to tail?

Hobbit-shirt-closeup-imp Can we extend this concept to extrapolating Smaug's entire length?

Unfortunately, the prologue doesn't give us clear images where we see the head (even silhouetted) in a way that allows us to set up a comparison with either the wing, body or tail. Or indeed the claws that we see when Smaug destroys Erebor's gates.

So any work here is much less rigorous, less easily defensible, and much more likely to be incorrect.

My gut feeling is that John Howe's works remain our best baseline for Jackson's Smaug. So let's just run with that for the moment and use his example art to make some educated guesses.

Now, the image that I believe offers the best insight and opportunity for guesswork is actually the embroidered image that can be found on the crew's shirts.

By comparison, Howe's Weta sculpture is too wrapped in on itself, and the classic Hobbit cover art has a lot of Smaug buried, iceberg-like, under his horde. No telling how much length is concealed.

The shirt image on the other hand, is very clear-cut, though obviously stylised. For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that Jackson's Smaug will posses a similar set of body proportions while acknowledging that the ultimate look of the body will ultimately differ somewhat.

Initially I thought I might Photoshop it straight to work out its length, but a few minutes' work starkly exposed the pitiful nature of my image manipulation skills. So I pulled out a tailor's tape measure instead and started measuring up the various key bits.

Once we have the length of the head from the image, we can quite easily use the previously derived size of Smaug's head to extrapolate the "true" size of Smaug the Magnificent.

Here are the body part, with their relative measurements, followed by the derived "true length" in centimetres:

* Head: 3.5cm | 671.47 (previously pre-established baseline)
* Neck + body: 10.0cm | 1918.48cm
* Tail: 17.7cm | 3395.72cm
* Nose to tail: 32.2cm | 6177.52cm
* Wings (from "thumb" to wingtip): 12cm | 2302.18cm

So, from these extrapolated measurements, Smaug is more than 60 metres long, and has a wingspan well in excess of 50 metres!

That's five buses, or (wait for it!) quite close to two-thirds the length of the Old Trafford football pitch (home to Manchester United FC).

The conclusion about the wingspan probably deserves a little more explanation. The measured length in the table above doesn't reveal the full length of one wing, as the wings in the image are folded in on themselves (as if you'd tucked your arm in at your side and drawn your hand up to your shoulder).

So the true wing length is longer. How much longer is a guess, but I would imagine no more than twice as long and perhaps as little as half. That would make the guesstimated wingspan of Smaug in the vicinity of 75 to 100 metres. And that would pretty much cover Old Trafford end-to-end.

No wonder he eats so many ponies.

[caption id="attachment_71555" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Smaug would stretch at least half the length of Old Trafford from nose to tail, and possibly as much as two-thirds of the pitch. Creative commons photo taken by user: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Xavoun Smaug would stretch at least half the length of Old Trafford from nose to tail, and possibly as much as two-thirds of the pitch. Creative commons photo taken by user: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Xavoun[/caption]

* Claiming "true" precision here is a mug's game. For example, a small error in estimating the coin size would necessarily translate into a larger error in the size of everything else.


May 16 2013, 4:00pm

Post #2 of 2 (711 views)
Samug isabout the size of a Boeing 747 then [In reply to] Can't Post

A 747 is 70.6 metres long and has a wingspan of 59.6 metres, apparently

The coin method, while it might be inaccurate, safer than going in with a measuring tape!

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowim I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "


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