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  • Updated 13 September 2009
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Men of the Long Lake

The people of Esgaroth

One of a number of branches of Men who were related to the forefathers of the Edain (and thus spoke a language that was distantly akin to the Common Speech1) but who did not complete the westward journey into Beleriand. The ancestors of the Men of the Long Lake established themselves in the lands south of the Lonely Mountain, and became divided between two main settlements: Dale in a valley of the Mountain itself, and Esgaroth on the Long Lake, southward down the River Running.

Politically, the Lake-men were unusual in apparently possessing the only functional democracy in Middle-earth. Unlike even their cousins in Dale, they had no King, and instead elected a Master from among the wisest of their people.

The Men of the Long Lake became traders and merchants, trafficking with their wealthy neighbours to the north (not only the Men of Dale, but also the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain), as well as the Wood-elves to the west and other lands of Men (such as Dorwinion) to the south. Originally these Men had dwelt in a prosperous town on the shores of the Long Lake, but by the later part of the Third Age, this great original town lay in ruins, and Esgaroth was instead built out into the Lake itself, supported by great wooden pillars and reached by a sturdy bridge.2

In III 2770 the Dragon Smaug destroyed Dale, and many of its people fled southwards to settle among the Men of the Long Lake. It was one of these - Bard the descendant of King Girion of Dale - who accomplished the destruction of Smaug, shooting him with a Black Arrow through a weak spot on his underbelly. In his death throes, Smaug fell on Lake-town, destroying the settlement of the Lake-men.

After the fall of Smaug, both Dale and Erebor were refounded, so that the old trade from the north was resumed and the Men of the Long Lake could become prosperous once again. For a time, the Lake-men remained independent and continued to elect their own Masters, but by the time of Bard's grandson Brand, it appears that Esgaroth had been incorporated into an expanding kingdom of Dale.



Tolkien represents the language of these northeastern Men using Old Norse, one of the important source languages of English (which he uses to stand for the Common Tongue). This is most evident in the names of the Dwarves of this region, who took their outer names in the tongue of their neighbouring Men. Thus familiar Dwarf names such as Gimli, Durin and Thorin are actually Old Norse in origin. The name Gandalf also ultimately comes from this source, suggesting that the famous Wizard first acquired his Mannish name in this area of Middle-earth.


It's not entirely clear what happened to the great earlier town of the Men of the Long Lake: all we know for sure was that it lay in ruins in III 2941, when Bilbo and the Dwarves visited Lake-town. It's strongly implied that the earlier town was destroyed by Smaug when he descended on Erebor in III 2770, but that's never stated explicitly, so it's just possible that the older town fell to some earlier calamity ('wars and deeds which were now only legend' are associated with the town in The Hobbit 10).

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