28 April 2011

The Multi-Billionaire and the Dragon

One is a murderous creature who sits hoarding his wealth. The other is a dragon.

Earlier this month Forbes issued its “Fictional 15,” the most wealthy fictional characters. The accuracy of that list is debatable; it doesn’t agree with, for example, the AV Club’s list of “obscenely wealthy comic-book and cartoon characters.”

Forbes editor Michael Noer supplemented the main list with a long essay on calculating the net worth of Smaug the dragon from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
We know from the novel that Smaug’s wealth comes down to three primary components, the mound of silver and gold that he sleeps on, the diamonds and other precious gemstones encrusted in his underbelly, and the “Arkenstone of Thrain,” which is depicted as something like the Hope Diamond on steroids.
Estimating the size of the mound, Smaug’s belly, and the Arkenstone required going beyond Tolkien’s text to Dungeons and Dragons reference websites, current commodity prices, and a lot of assumptions.

Noer came out with a figure of approximately $8.6 billion. That’s higher than the magazine’s calculation of the fortunes of Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg, media magnate Rupert Murdoch, and mutual-fund company head Ned Johnson. But it’s less than a sixth of the estimation for Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.

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