If you’ve seen much of the various bits of footage of Smaug’s hoard, you’ll have gotten the feeling that Smaug’s hoard is pretty large. Over on Wired, Rhett Allain has attempted to use algebra to calculate the size (and modern worth) of Smaug’s hoard.
It’s a valiant attempt, but having seen more of the hoard shown on screen at the Fan Event, I think he underestimates the vastness of Smaug’s hoard. I have to emphasise that it is simply immense, spanning the breadth and length of the entire throne room in several mountainous mounds.
Factoid: the amount of mined gold estimated to exist in the world today in total is put at a cube roughly 25 metres (about 82 feet) on each size. Smaug’s hoard, as Wired estimates it, is far larger — 158 cubic metres!
Now I know this is just a fantasy worlds, but that must mean that the total amount of gold in Middle-earth must be simply enormous. Consider the even-vaster wealth of Moria, long since looted by Orcs. Yes, the “wealth of Mora was not in gold or jewels”, yet they must have had a great store of it even if obtained through trade. The Dwarven mines of the Grey Mountains were also fruitful, until the dragons came, and the wealth of Gondor even in its waning must have been substantial. Where is all this wealth? Was much of it lost to the peoples of Middle-earth through wars, buried deep (such as Moria’s lower treasuries) or simply hoarded by Sauron?
If it wasn’t, such an immense amount of gold would surely dilute its real value. After all, the value of these things is in proportion to their scarcity. The more common gold is, the less its value (this is why de Beers used to hoard its diamonds). Certainly the Lake-folk in The Hobbit speak of rivers of gold once flowing from the Mountain but that’s metaphor … and possibly a bit of handed-down exaggeration.
How much gold is in Smaug’s hoard?
I guess dragons love gold. In the recent trailers for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (YouTube clip) you can get a glimpse of all the gold Smaug has. Why does a dragon need this much gold? I don’t get it. Maybe Smaug doesn’t actually like gold but he just wants to keep it away from other people.
Whatever his motivation for hoarding, I am going to try to get an estimate for just how much gold is in the Lonely Mountain.
This is the hardest part. How big is the dragon? How big is a hobbit? We need some value here. My original plan was to look at a section of the trailer that shows gold pieces flying through the air. If I measure the acceleration of one piece of gold as it falls, I can assume that it has Earth-like acceleration of 9.8 m/s2. From this, I could find the scale of something in the scene.
Well, that didn’t work out too well. Instead, I am just going with plain estimations. Here is a shot of Bilbo sliding down a pile of gold.
I previously estimated that a hobbit was about 1.3 meters tall. That would put this gold hill with a slope side at least 5 meters long inclined at 20 degrees above the horizontal. I think that actually, this gold pile might even be much larger than this estimate.