Master of Lake-town

From Tolkien Gateway

The Master of Lake-town was the title given to the leader of Lake-town during the late Third Age.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

According to the Master who held this title at the arrival of Thorin and Company in Lake-town in T.A. 2941, the masters had always been elected from among the old and wise.[2]

Master above the Lake by Henning Janssen

During the Quest of Erebor in T.A. 2941, when the Thorin and Company arrived in Lake-town, they were taken by the Captain of the guard through the market-place to a great hall where the current Master was feasting. Subsequently, Thorin declared the return of the King under the Mountain. These news spread quickly throughout the town and the people began to shout, sing, and rejoice. The Master doubted that there ever was a 'King under the Mountain' but he had to take heed of the clamour. Therefore he pretended to believe Thorin's story and the Master yielded his own great chair to him. The Master accommodated the Dwarves and Bilbo for two weeks before they thought about departing for the Lonely Mountain. The Master was shocked that Thorin would dare to approach Smaug and he wondered whether he really was who he said he was. All the same, he was more than willing to let them go because they were expensive to keep and their arrival had caused business to come to a standstill. Alongside his councillors, the Master "bade them farewell from the great steps of the town-hall".[3]

When Smaug attacked Lake-town, the people urged the Master to tell them what needed to be done. But as the flames leaped from the dragon's jaw, the Master fled in his gilded boat. Thus it was that Bard took control of the situation and ultimately slew the dragon himself. The surviving townsfolk gathered on the western shore of the Long Lake and lamented at the loss of their home. The people then directed their anger at the Master, accusing him of selfishness and calling him "Moneybags". They demanded that Bard become their king. In response, the Master, in a demonstration of his charisma and oratorical prowess, rebutted the people and convinced them that their anger should be directed towards Thorin and Company instead of him. The Master remained quiet as the survivors set up camps along the shore and Bard assumed effective control of all the people, but did so only in the Master's name. When the hosts of Esgaroth and the Elvenking set off for Erebor to demand their share in the treasure, the Master did not go. Those who stayed behind began to prepare for the oncoming winter by building huts and collecting resources; meanwhile, the Master directed the process of planning a new town.[2]

After the Battle of Five Armies, Bard gave a large amount of gold to the Master for the help of the Lake-people. However, the Master caught the 'dragon-sickness', stole most of the gold and fled with it from Lake-town.[4] After his companions had deserted him, he starved to death in the Waste[4] sometime between T.A. 2941 and 2949[note 1][5]. According to Balin, the new Master of Lake-town was wiser and very popular, because the people gave him the credit for the prosperity as much wealth went up and down the River Running.[4]

Portrayal in adaptations[edit | edit source]

The Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit (film series)

Films[edit | edit source]

2012-14: The Hobbit (film series):

The Master of Lake-town was played by Stephen Fry.[6] He is an incredibly corrupt, vain, and slovenly individual. Also becoming paranoid that the people of Lake-town may try to overthrow him, he uses his chief aide Alfrid to keep him abreast of the goings-on throughout the town. He sees Bard as the biggest threat to his power, and, knowing Bard is the descendant of Girion, the last lord of Dale, he uses every chance he can to exploit the fact that Girion was unable to bring down Smaug during the Dragon's destruction of Dale. When Thorin and Company arrive in the town, and Thorin promises the townspeople a share of their treasure if they succeed in taking back Erebor from Smaug, the Master seizes this opportunity to approve of the Dwarves' quest in hopes of getting back into the townspeople's good graces, and when Bard tries to talk reason to the townspeople, humiliates and rebukes him. He gives the Company a hero's sendoff the following day. Later, he orders Braga, the captain of the guard, to arrest and imprison Bard on any charge he chooses. When Smaug is in the process of destroying Lake-town, the Master, Alfrid, Braga, and a few other town guards attempt to make off with the town's treasury in a boat and let the others fend for themselves. To get the boat to go faster, the Master eventually pushes Alfrid overboard. After Smaug has been shot by Bard's Black Arrow, the Dragon falls directly onto the Master's boat while plunging to his death into Long Lake, presumably taking everyone aboard with him.

Radio series[edit | edit source]

1968: The Hobbit (1968 radio series):

The Master of Esgaroth is played by John Bryning.[7]

1980: Der Hobbit (1980 German radio series):

The Master of Lake-town is played by Heinz Theo Branding.

Games[edit | edit source]

2003: The Hobbit (2003 video game):

The Master is named Calamar, and secretly in league with goblins and ruffians.[8]

2018: The Lord of the Rings Online:

The Master does not make a physical appearance, but his name is revealed to be Othur in a Lake-town quest dialogue.


  1. The old Master could have died any time between the end of the Quest of Erebor (T.A. 2941) and Gandalf and Balin's visit to Bilbo in T.A. 2949


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Return Journey"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Fire and Water"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Warm Welcome"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Last Stage"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age", entries for the years 2941 and 2949, p. 1089
  6. Peter Jackson, "Casting News for The Hobbit" dated 19 May 2011, Facebook (accessed 23 December 2011)
  7. Radio Times, Volume 181, No. 2348, November 7, 1968
  8. The Hobbit (2003 video game), "A Warm Welcome"
The Hobbit film series
Source material: The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
Films An Unexpected Journey (extended editionThe Desolation of Smaug (extended edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (extended edition)
Music An Unexpected Journey (Special Edition) · The Desolation of Smaug (Special Edition) · The Battle of the Five Armies (Special Edition) · "Song of the Lonely Mountain" · "I See Fire" · "The Last Goodbye"
Tie-in books An Unexpected Journey Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2013 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Creatures & Characters · The World of Hobbits
The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2014 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: Cloaks & Daggers · Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon · Activity Book · Sticker Book · Ultimate Sticker Collection
The Battle of the Five Armies Official Movie Guide · Visual Companion · Movie Storybook · Annual 2015 · Chronicles: Art & Design · Chronicles: The Art of War · Activity Book
Video games Kingdoms of Middle-earth · Armies of The Third Age · Lego The Hobbit
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