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Lake-town

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This article is about the town in Rhovanion. For the MERP supplement, see Lake-town (book).
J.R.R. Tolkien - Lake Town (Colored by H. E. Riddett).jpg
Lake-town
Physical Description
TypeTown, also described as City
LocationWilderland
RealmsDale
InhabitantsLake-men
DescriptionTown built on surface of north-western Long Lake
General Information
Other namesEsgaroth
EtymologyEsgar "reed-bed"
EventsAttack of Smaug, Battle of Five Armies

Lake-town, also known as Esgaroth upon the Long Lake, was the township of the Lake-men in Wilderland.

Contents

Description

The town was constructed entirely of wood and stood upon wooden pillars sunk into the bed of the Long Lake, as a protection against the dragon Smaug, who dwelt nearby in the Lonely Mountain.

It was situated on the west side of the lake, north of the mouth of the Forest River in a calm bay that was formed by the shelter of a rock promontory. A long wooden bridge connected the town to the land, ending in a building, with guards watching over the entrance.

In the middle of Lake-town the central market-place was located, which was a round pool connected to the lake by a tunnel[1]. The greatest houses of Lake-town were around this market-place, from which ramps descended to the water[2]. The edge of the town was occupied with quays and, again, ramps, which descended to the water.[3][4]

History

It is not known when Lake-town was built. The name Esgaroth is mentioned on the Thrór's Map, and is said to be an older name, known while Smaug was younger[5]. When Bilbo came to the town, he noticed old pilings of a (possibly older) greater town along the shores when the waters sank in a drought.[2] It's possible that an original Esgaroth was destroyed sometime in the past, and the later Lake-town was its remnant.[4]

The Lake-town was occupied by the Lake-men, descendants of the survivors of the former Kingdom of Dale, like Bard the Bowman, whose ancestor was its last lord, Girion. However as the years passed, Smaug was forgotten and children even doubted about his existence or the tales of older men who sometimes had seen him flying.[2]

File:Thorin in esgaroth.jpg
Thorin arrives in Lake-town

In the autumn of T.A. 2941 Thorin and Company escaped from the Thranduil's halls and Thorin followed by Fíli, Kíli and Bilbo decided to enter the town and speak to the Master. The Dwarves were welcomed warmly, because the Lake-men saw the King under the Mountain returning. The Dwarves and Bilbo were hosted, rested and pampered before sent with boats to the ruins of Dale to confront the dragon.

Smaug Destroys Lake-town by John Howe

Some days later however, the town was attacked by Smaug, but Bard the Bowman, who had indirectly learned of a weakness in Smaug's armour, slew the dragon with the Black Arrow. The town was wrecked by the dragon who fell dead on it and sunk in the lake. Survivors managed to sail to the lakeshore with boats and camped there[1].

Thorin refused to share Smaug's treasure and declared war on both the Lake-men and the Elves. The conflict eventually exploded because they heard news of approaching wargs and goblins. Thus became the Battle of Five Armies.

The town was afterwards rebuilt to the north of its former location, using some of the treasure. The town's Master ran off with some of the gold. Part of the town's population followed Bard to resettle the Kingdom of Dale.

By the time of the War of the Ring, Lake-town was part of the kingdom of Dale under Bard II[6]

Culture

The town's prosperity was built on trade between the Men, Elves of Mirkwood and Dwarves of Erebor. It supplied food and drink to the Elves and the products of Erebor and Dale were funneled through it.[7]

The Master of Lake-town was the elected civic leader who under normal circumstances was chosen from among the old and wise.

As a trading people, the Lake-men knew the Common Speech, Westron. However, amongst themselves they spoke an ancient form of it, Dalian, loosely related to but distinct from Rohirric, the also-archaic language of the Rohirrim.

Etymology

The name Esgaroth was seemingly not given a clear etymology in any of Tolkien's later writings. A manuscript written after The Lord of the Rings states that Esgaroth was "not Sindarin (though perhaps 'Sindarized' in shape)", similarly to the name Galion.[8]

In earlier manuscripts, at least two interpretations of the name Esgaroth appeared:

  1. Deriving from the root-word esgar, meaning "reed-bed" in Ilkorin Elvish. The whole name Esgaroth translates as "…Reedlake, because of reed-banks in west".[9]
  2. Translated as "[?]strand-burg", from esgar "shore" (not given any designated language).[10]

Portrayal in adaptations

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Fire and Water"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Warm Welcome"
  3. The tunnel, the bridge and the ramps are visible in Tolkien's drawing.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Karen Wynn Fonstad The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Hobbit - Lake-town
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Inside Information"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings"
  7. Robert Foster The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, pp. 131-2
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 54
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies", p. 356 (entry ESEK)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Addenda and Corrigenda to the Etymologies — Part Two" (edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne), in Vinyar Tengwar, Number 46, July 2004, p. 14