September 12, 2013

Smaug the Golden Dragon Costume

"My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!"—Smaug, The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien


"There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber. Beneath him, under all his limbs and his huge coiled tail, and about him on all sides stretching away across the unseen floors, lay countless piles of precious things, gold wrought and unwrought, gems and jewels, and silver red-stained in the ruddy light."


"Conversation with Smaug" 
by JRR Tolkien

Smaug the Magnificent

Smaug is first among dragons, for me. To a 10-year-old girl who turned into a 30-year-old woman known to everyone for loving dragons, Smaug is the dragon of dragons. He was the first talking dragon I encountered, before discovering Anne McCaffrey's Pern. He was intelligent and liked to riddle, and I liked thinking about dragons as something other than just fantastic beasts. He is even sometimes reported by Forbes as the richest fictional character. (Sometimes they say he is second to Scrooge McDuck.) Smaug is just plain cool.

The mask for Smaug is the same as the Black Dragon mask I made last year for Halloween, sprayed red and then covered with a mist of shiny gold microglitter. Gold horns, rubies, and pearls from his rich bed accent his face. 

A Vast Red-Golden Dragon

I struggled with deciding to make Smaug gold with red accents, or red with gold accents. Popular interpretations show him as simply a red dragon, but I felt that wasn't true to his description. In "Conversation with Smaug," Tolkien himself rendered Smaug as an orange-gold color with scales and wings only outlined in red. He is called "Smaug the Golden" for crying out loud. This lends me and a minority of other artists to view Smaug as a gold dragon. We are a very small minority, though, and with the growing popularity of the Hobbit movies, red Smaugs are winning the day. Therefore with my costume, I decided to go with a red base and strong gold accents as a compromise. 



What Makes A Smaug

"Smaug lay, with wings folded like an immeasurable bat, turned partly on one side, so that the hobbit could see his underparts and his long pale belly crusted with gems and fragments of gold from his long lying on his costly bed."

Clearly the distinctive feature of a Smaug is the gem-encrusted belly with bare area on the left breast, where Bilbo noticed he had missed a spot when letting the riches of his mountain become embedded in his belly for protection. This is likely the only way to identify a Smaug from any other red-gold dragon living in The Lonely Mountain. This chest piece is made of craft foam sections, sealed with glue and spray-painted, then covered with gems, gold coins, and glitter. Complete with a pale white bare spot on the left breast, just asking to be shot with an arrow.





There was a red scale ridge running down the center of the chest piece originally, but once I added the rest of the scales to the dress, the gems suddenly looked small and underplayed. I went back and pulled off all but the very top ridge scale, and filled in the empty spaces with more gems. The rest of the ridges I re-used on the head piece to make a type of cowl.

Batlike Wings


He's got some.


Satin on the underlining and backed in vinyl, for a nice leathery feel. The fabric was mounted on an articulating wooden frame. Unfortunately, I didn't mount the fabric in a way that actually allowed the frame to move, and ended up fixing the wing joints in place. The shoulder hinges still allowed them to fold straight back, but they could not furl or unfurl.



Claws Top and Bottom

To make the claws for Smaug, I used 2 pairs of rubber gauntlets from a Halloween shop. I cut the hand pieces from the bracers, and sealed them with Mod Podge, then spray-painted. The spray paint never dried properly and remained tacky, despite a second seal layer. It might have been the type of rubber, because I used primer and two different types of spray paint, painted on a very hot dry day, and gave plenty of time to set. They still worked decently, however, as long as I didn't touch them on things much. I used window and door foam sealant to fill in the empty spaces and attach them to a pair of shoes. For the hands, I hand-stitched the claws to a pair of red gloves.


The Shock of My Tail is a Thunderbolt

Because, he's a dragon. I made the tip of the tail have the same shape as Tolkien's "Conversation with Smaug" illustration. The structure of the tail was made from a large plastic toy snake, reinforced with rubber bands at the joints and wrapped with foam pipe insulation for bulk. The toy snake has a great jointed movement, which let the tail have a natural sway when I walked.

O Smaug the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities

"I only wished to have a look at you and see if you were truly as great as tales say."
- Bilbo, to Smaug

Dragon*Con 2013
Atlanta, GA
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