Each year, Forbes releases their Fictional 15 list, where they figure out which fictional characters are the wealthiest. While characters like Scrooge McDuck, Richie Rich, and Simpsons boss C. Montgomery Burns continue to top the list each year, Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen is back for the second time (bumped from #1 to #2 with $36.2 billion), while “Jo” Bennett, the Sabre Corp. CEO from The Office, makes it on for the first time.
But, the big surprise addition to the list this year is none other than Smaug, the famous red-golden dragon from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit. While the dragon obviously doesn’t have a stock portfolio to analyze, the folks over at Forbes have ascertained that Smaug “sits atop an $8.6 billion-dollar hoard of gold, silver and gems,” placing the fictional beast at #7.
Anticipating some skepticism regarding how Smaug wealth was determined, Forbes writer Michael Noer has decided to show us the math by calculating Smaug’s three main sources of tangible wealth: the mound of silver and gold the dragon sleeps on; the diamonds and precious gemstones encrusted in his underbelly; and the “Arkenstone of Thrain,” which is some kind of massive diamond.
After figuring out the size of Smaug’s body, thereby allowing Noer to size up how big the dragon’s bed of metal coins and other items is, the writer comes up with equations like this:
To keep the math relatively simple and to avoid complications like integrating the partial volume of a sphere, we can approximate Smaug’s bed of gold and silver to be a cone, with a radius of 9.6 feet (1/2 the diameter) and a height of 7 feet (assuming the weight of the dragon will smush down the point of the cone by about a foot).
Now we can calculate the volume of Smaug’s treasure mound:
If that kind of math is something you can understand, then Noer’s story will make perfect sense to you. Even if it doesn’t (and it certainly didn’t to me), you’ll find Noer’s justifications fascinating, so definitely check out the entire article.