The Men of Dale were descendants of the Northmen who populated Rhovanion throughout the many ages. Their capital was Dale and later remnants fled Laketown. The Men of Dale were allied with the Dwarves in TA 2456 when Orcs from Mordor attacked.
In TA 2770, Smaug descended upon both Lonely Mountain and Dale probably from somewhere in Grey Mountains. He attacked and burned much of their town. Over two-hundred years after the destruction of Dale in TA 2941, one particular man named Bard the Bowman shot Smaug through a gap in his scaly armor with his Black Arrow with information from a Thrush that had contact with Thorin and Company. Thereafter, the Men of Dale's symbol was a Black Arrow so honoring the famous bowman. In TA 3019 during the War of the Ring, they aided the Dwarves in defending the Lonely Mountain from the Easterling Empire.
The Men of Dale are named after their home city of Dale, which is derived from the English word meaning "valley", in turn derived from Proto-Germanic *dalan, with cognates in Old Norse (dalr), Gothic and Dutch (dal), and German (Thal). Another common name for them towards the end of the Third Age was Bardings, meaning "followers of Bard", -ing being a patrynomic suffix and Bard meaning Bard the Bowman, the first restored king of Dale and the slayer of Smaug.
Portrayal in adaptationsEdit
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film trilogyEdit
In Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" film trilogy, the Men of Dale (as well as Lake-town) are directly derived from medieval Russian influences (i.e., Kievan Rus' and its successor states). For instance, the warriors of Dale (adorned with conical, medieval Russian-style furred helmets and heavily-furred garbs) appear like the knights and warriors of the Rus' states of old.
Of course, due to the intricate nature of medieval Russian ethno-history, one also detects Nordic, Baltic, Finnic, and Turkic influences as well. Essentially, the films clearly utilize medieval Russian influences to depict the Men of Dale (and Lake-town) as a part of the East.
This is contrary to the description of the Northmen in Tolkien's books, where linguistic evidence, naming conventions, and geographic location all point to his intention that the Men of Dale were of northern extraction and should have largely resembled medieval Scandinavia.