Later in TA 2941, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire accompanied a company of Dwarves led by Thorin II Oakenshield to recapture the whole Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. The party reached the mountain later that year on Durin's Day and sent Bilbo in through the secret door to carry out his duty as their burglar. Bilbo had already done some exploration of the old hallways using the Back Door and had stolen a golden cup from the treasure. By this deed and by Bilbo's bold speech Smaug's anger was kindled. Erroneously believing, due to some remarks Bilbo had made during his conversation with Smaug, that some scheme of the people of Esgaroth was the reason for the Dwarves' (and Bilbo's) presence, Smaug flew to Esgaroth to show them who was "the true King under the Mountain".
Fire and water
Smaug appeared first in the north, his light turning the Lake golden. At first, the Lake-men thought it was gold flowing down the river, but a grim-voiced man named Bard (a descendant of Girion, Lord of Dale) realized that it was the dragon, awake and roused to wrath. At his warning, the bells were rung, and the town prepared for battle, by cutting off the bridge, covering the roofs with water, and filling every vessel with water. When Smaug arrived, he tried to land on the bridge only to find it destroyed, and instead flew over the town, spouting flames and smashing buildings with his tail. The Archers of Lake-town fired at him, but only managed to enrage him further. As he set the town aflame, the Lake-men tried to douse the flames, but to no avail, as he methodically destroyed the town. The townspeople abandoned and escaped into the water, and the Master fled in his Golden boat. Only the company of archers led by Bard stood their ground, and in the end, even they fled. As Bard bent his bow with his last arrow, a thrush arrived, and to his amazement, found he could understand it, as he was of the race of Dale. It told him about the dragon's weak spot. Bard fired the Black Arrow, an heirloom of Dale, and with his last shot killed the dragon. With a final scream, Smaug flew up into the air, turned over and fell onto the town, destroying it.
After the Dragon's death, the people turned on the cowardly master of Lake-town, and Bard became their leader, while still acknowledging the master as the elected Ruler. The death of Smaug had massive consequences, creating struggle for the treasure of Erebor, and leading to the Battle of Five Armies.
Portrayal in adaptations
|Quest of Erebor|
Skirmish in the Trollshaws – Chase to Rivendell – Battle of the Stone Giants – Battle of Goblin-town – Attack of the Wargs – Attack of the Spiders – Ambush of Mirkwood – Attack on Lake-town – Battle in Erebor – Destruction of Lake-town – Attack on Dol Guldur – Battle of Five Armies (Siege of Dale – Skirmish in Ravenhill)
In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the event appears as the film's opening sequence. Bard, previously captured by the Master's men, manages to escape before Smaug's arrival by means of a makeshift rope and the Master's barge, and afterwards is able to kill the dragon with the help of his son Bain. Meanwhile, Tauriel aids the four dwarves of Thorin's Company who remained in Lake-town to escape. After Smaug's slaying by Bard, the dragon's corpse falls from the air and crushes the Master's barge in the process, killing all on board.