The Master of Lake-Town or The Master was the original leader of Laketown, that is, Esgaroth, when Bilbo Baggins and his companions arrived. He is described as being greedy, but not undeserving of his position in terms of intelligence and charisma. In the book, he is portrayed as a close companion to Bard, the captain of the town archers, allowing him to remain in Laketown while the Lakemen recovered from their ordeal with Smaug.
In The Hobbit he is not given an actual name.
The Master of Laketown ruled from 2920 to 2941 of the Third Age and he would have been approximately thirty years old when he began leadership. This would make him fifty years old at the time of the Battle of the Five Armies and The Quest of Erebor, as these events both occurred in the year 2941. The Master's rule in Laketown was rather amicable, and therefore under his dominion the Men of the Long Lake traded peaceably with the Elves of Mirkwood, creating a steady trade that was kept until 2941, when Thorin and his friends came to wrest dominion of the Lonely Mountain and its riches from Smaug, who had arrived 120 years before the Master's rule, in the year TA 2770.
When the Dwarves arrived, the Master of Laketown greeted them generously, but only to keep public spirits up. After the destruction of Laketown and the slaying of the dragon by Bard, the townspeople denounced the Master as a coward and called for Bard's ascension as King. The Master, who was an adroit politician, shifted blame for Laketown's destruction to Thorin and the Dwarves, who had roused the dragon in the first place. This succeeded in turning the townspeople's ire towards the Dwarves. Bard took the lead in rebuilding the remains of the town and gathering supplies for the coming winter, but was careful to act in the Master's name, so as not to usurp the latter's authority.
After the Battle of Five Armies, Bard became King of Dale, but gave a generous portion of his share of the Lonely Mountain's treasure (received from Dain II Ironfoot) to the Master, for the re-building of Laketown. Unfortunately, the Master succumbed to greed and fled Laketown with most of the gold, and later died of starvation in the wastes, after being deserted by his companions. He is therefore described as weak, because he is easily overcome by the lust of the treasure Smaug held, and by the dragon-spell.
Taking great pride in his power and position, the Master cares only for his own prosperity and gain. His pompous attire manifests as an outward expression of his greed, displaying his wealth for all to see. Harbouring a powerful sense of his own self-importance, the Master dresses his guards in regalia every bit as pretentious as his own. Despite his democratically held position, the Master ruthlessly suppresses all challenges to his authority.
In line with the book, the Master is shown to have a good head for business, a talent expressed in the films through the toll gates he has constructed, and the taxes he has levied. He also displays a keen political mind befitting someone of his position, recognising the arrival of the Dwarves as a way of bolstering his own failing popularity.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
The Hobbit film trilogyEdit
In Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit, the Master is played by English actor Stephen Fry. In the films, he takes on a more directly antagonistic role, presented as a greedy and corrupt public official, whose primary concern rests with retaining his own power and position. He shows little interest in Laketown’s destitute state, instead turning his attention to the acquisition of tolls and taxes.
In TA 2941, when the growing civil unrest that concerned his leadership, and threatened for an election, the Master used a network of informants throughout the city to spy on Bard, as he was jealous of the bargeman and was suspicious that he was responsible for the growing threat to his authority.
When Thorin and Company are arrested for stealing weapons from the Laketown armoury, the Master is quick to label them as enemies of the state. However, the revelation of Thorin’s royal linage and his promise of a share in the riches of the Lonely Mountain, persuades the Master to welcome the Dwarves, seeing the situation as a chance not only to restore his ailing popularity, but also as a way of increasing his own wealth. Providing the Dwarves with weapons and equipment the Master bids them farewell, trusting to their gratitude upon the successful completion of their quest.
Later, as Bard attempts to reach the windlance ballista atop the Laketown Town Hall, guards sent by the Master arrest him under fabricated charges. Bard manages to escape, only to be knocked unconscious by the Master himself, who subsequently has him incarcerated. His every whim is attended to by his personal assistant and councillor Alfrid Lickspittle, who performs tasks that the Master deems beneath himself, such as emptying his chamber pot.
After when Bard was arrested under fabricated charges and when the dragon Smaug attacked Lake-town, the Master tried to escape on a boat with all of the town's gold as an act of cowardice along with his servant Alfrid, the captain of the guards Braga, and a few guards, but when Smaug was killed by the Black Arrow shot by Bard, his boat, himself, and everyone on (except Alfrid) were crushed to death under the weight of the dragon's dead body.
In the play adaptation of The Hobbit by Edward Mast, the Master of Laketown is named Maxwell, though this is not considered canon.
Translations around the WorldEdit
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Portuguese (Brazil)||Senhor da Cidade do Lago (book)|
Mestre da Cidade do Lago (films)
|Spanish (Spain and Latin America)||Gobernador de Esgaroth|
|Italian||Governatore di Pontelagolungo|
|French||Maître de Bourg-du-Lac|
|German||Meister von Esgaroth|
The Master’s affliction with the medical condition Gout as seen in the films is likely a reference to the condition’s historic name – “rich man’s disease”, a reference to the Master’s own financial position.
Voice Dubbing actorsEdit
|Foreign Language||Voice dubbing artist|
|Portuguese (Brazil) (Television/DVD)||Alfredo Martins|
|Spanish (Latin America)||Alejandro Mayén|
|Spanish (Spain)||Jordi Royo|
|Italian (Italy)||Massimo Lopez|
- The Hobbit (First appearance)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
- LEGO The Hobbit sets
- LEGO The Hobbit: The Video Game
|Known Rulers of Dale & Laketown|
|Lords of Dale:||Girion|
|Rulers of Laketown:||Master of Laketown|
|Kings of Dale:||Bard I | Bain | Brand | Bard II|
- ↑ The Hobbit, Chapter X: "A Warm Welcome"
- ↑ The Hobbit, Chapter XIV: "Fire And Water"
- ↑ The Hobbit, Chapter XIX: "The Last Stage"