The Men of Dale were descendants of the Northmen who populated Rhovanion throughout the many ages. Their capital was Dale and later remnants fled to Esgaroth or 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 (Ered Mithrin). 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.
They spoke Westron and another language similar to our world's Old Norse.
The Men of Dale are also called Bardings no doubt because Bard I (the Bowman) defeated Smaug and founded a new kingdom.
Appearance in Film AdaptationEdit
The Warriors of Dale in the Peter Jackson film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were dark-haired and very light-skinned. They were clothed in dark red headscarves, dark red tunics, dark red trousers, brown capes, and dark yellow gloves and boots. Their armor consisted of a conical helmet with thick, black-cloth wrapping, a brass-looking cuirass, brass-looking vambraces and brass-looking greaves. They are only seen in the scene in which Smaug burns their city. Some are knocked out of archers' towers, others are crushed under scaffolding in an attempt to save civilians.
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 - as Professor Tolkien would have intended. ~ TDV