Lake-town, or Esgaroth (known fully as "Esgaroth upon the Long Lake"), was a small settlement of Men in the north-western part of the Long Lake in Rhovanion. The town was constructed entirely of wood and stands upon wooden pillars sunk into the bed of the Long Lake, south of the Lonely Mountain and east of Mirkwood. It seems that the town's prosperity was built on trade between the Men, Elves, and Dwarves of northern Middle-earth.
Lake-town may have been separate settlements established on the same site, one predating Smaug's destruction of Dale and the Lonely Mountain in TA 2770 and the other built afterwards. Uniquely, of all of the towns, settlements, fortresses, and cities of Middle-earth, Lake-town utilized water as its defense. The Long Lake was also surrounded by towering cliffs and high mountains, all helpful natural barriers that had the potential to aid its defenders in a siege (such as the Easterling invasion of the North in TA 3018). While these defenses slowed and diverted Lake-town's human enemies, it did nothing to prepare its inhabitants against Smaug, who would harass the villagers on a regular basis.
Lake-town was founded sometime in the Third Age and its inhabitants traded extensively with the Elves of Thranduil's Woodland Realm, the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and Iron Hills, and their kin in Dale and Dorwinion to the south. In trading with Mirkwood, wine barrels were sent floating down from Thranduil's caverns along the Celduin to Lake-town.
Third AgeThe town was visited by Bilbo Baggins and Thorin and Company in their adventure to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. In the year TA 2941 of the Third Age the town was attacked by the dragon, but Bard the Bowman, who had indirectly learned of a weakness in Smaug's armor that had first been noticed by Bilbo, slew the dragon. Disturbed by Thorin and Company, Smaug flew from the mountain at night and began destroying the town. Some inhabitants escaped by boat, though many perished in the maelstrom of fire. A company of spearmen and archers attempted in vain to shoot down the dragon, but it was not until Bard managed to kill Smaug that the destruction ended.
Afterwards, Lake-town was rebuilt in greater splendor than before with some of the treasure that Smaug had stolen, though 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.
Culture and languageAs trading people, the Men of Lake-town knew the Common Speech, Westron. However, amongst themselves they spoke an ancient form of it, which was loosely related to but distinct from the also ancient language of the Rohirrim. Tolkien "translated" Westron into English in his text, so to represent its ancient relative that the Rohirrim spoke he substituted Old English. Thus, Tolkien substituted Old Norse for the language of the Men of Esgaroth (in person and place names, etc.).
Portrayal in adaptations
The Hobbit film trilogy
In Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film trilogy, the clear Eastern design and culture of Lake-town and its inhabitants (including, the military and political leaders) are primarily derived from medieval Russian influences - i.e., the early Rus' states of Kievan Rus' and its successors. Indeed, Lake-town is reminiscent of the old northern Rus' trading city of Novgorod - itself, like Lake-town, also situated on a lake.
Also, as presented in the movies, per the complex nature of Russian ethno-cultural history, Lake-town itself and its people are also infused with Finnic, Baltic, and Turkic influences. In the movies, Peter Jackson clearly defines the culture of Lake-town and Dale as a part of the East.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Arabic||بحيرة بلدة (Lake-town)
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Азёрны горад (Lake-town)
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Град на езерото|
|Catalan||Ciutat del Llac (Lake-town)
|Cebuano||Lungsod sa lanaw|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||長湖鎮|
|French||Bourg-du-Lac / Lacville|
|Galician||Cidade do lago|
|Georgian||ტბა ქალაქი (Lake-town)
|Hebrew||עיר האגם (Lake-town)
|Italian||Pontelagolungo / Città del Lago|
|Kazakh||Көл-қала (Cyrillic) Köl-qala (Latin)|
|Kurdish||Gol bajar (Kurmanji Kurdish)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Көл шаар|
|Pashto||د جهيل ښار|
|Polish||Miastem Na Jeziorze|
|Portuguese (Brazil)||Cidade do Lago|
|Punjabi||ਝੀਲ ਦਾ ਸ਼ਹਿਰ|
|Russian||Озёрный город (Lake-town)
|Serbian||Град језера (Cyrillic) Grad jezera (Latin)|
|Scottish Gaelic||Loch a 'bhaile|
|Sindhi||ڍنڍ جو ڳوٺ|
|Spanish (Spain and Latin America)||Ciudad del Lago|
|Tajik Cyrillic||шаҳраки кӯл|
|Uzbek||Кўл шаҳар (Cyrillic) Ko'l shahar (Latin)|
|Vietnamese||Thị trấn hồ|