Destruction of Laketown by Smaug the Dragon
Event Type: Military/Strategic
Age: 3rd Age - The Stewards
Dates: November 1, 2941 ~ November 2, 2941
A major event in the prelude to the Battle of the Five Armies:
From [Laketown] the Lonely Mountain was mostly screened by the low hills at the far end of the lake, through a gap in which the Running River came down from the North. Only its high peak could they see in clear weather.... Now it was lost and gone, blotted in the dark.
Suddenly it flickered back to view; a brief glow touched it and faded.
'Look!' said one. 'The lights again! Last night the watchmen saw them start and fade from midnight until dawn. Something is happening up there.' ...
Then suddenly a great light appeared in the low place in the hills and the northern end of the lake turned golden. ...
... [Bard the Bowman] ran hotfoot to the Master. 'The Dragon is coming or I am a fool!' he cried. 'Cut the bridges! To arms! To arms!'
Then warning trumpets were suddenly sounded.... So it was that the Dragon did not find them quite unprepared. ... Every vessel in the town was filled with water, every warrior was armed, every arrow and dart was ready, and the bridge to the land was thrown down and destroyed, before the roar of Smaug's terrible approach grew loud, and the lake rippled red as fire beneath the awful beating of his wings.
Amid shrieks and wailing and the shouts of men he came over them, swept towards the bridges and was foiled! The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on an island in deep water -- too deep and dark and cool for his liking. If he plunged into it, a vapour and a steam would arise enough to cover all the land with a mist for days; but the lake was mightier than he, it would quench him before he could pass through.
Roaring he swept back over the town. A hail of dark arrows leaped up and snapped and rattled on his scales and jewels, and their shafts fell back kindled by his breath burning and hissing into the lake. ...
At the twanging of the bows and the shrilling of the trumpets the dragon's wrath blazed.... No one had dared to give battle to him for many an age; nor would they have dared now, if it had not been for the grim-voiced man (Bard ...), who ran to and fro cheering on the archers and urging the Master to order them to fight to the last arrow.
Fire leaped from the Dragon's jaws. He circled for a while high in the air above them.... Then down he swooped straight through the arrow-storm, reckless in his rage, taking no heed to turn his scaly sides towards his foes, seeking only to set their town ablaze.
Fire leaped from thatched roofs and wooden beam-ends as he hurtled down and past and round again, though all had been drenched with water before he came. Once more water was flung by a hundred hands wherever a spark appeared. Back swirled the Dragon. A sweep of his tail and the roof of the Great House crumbled and smashed down. Flames unquenchable sprang high into the night. Another swoop and another, and another house and then another sprang afire and fell; and still no arrow hindered Smaug....
Already men were jumping into the water on every side. Women and children were being huddled into laden boats in the market-pool. Weapons were flung down. There was mourning and weeping, where but a little time ago the old songs of mirth to come had been sung ... The Master himself was turning to his great gilded boat, hoping to row away in the confusion and save himself. Soon all the town would be deserted and burned down to the surface of the lake.
That was the Dragon's hope. They could all get into boats for all he cared. There he could have fine sport hunting them, or they could stop till they starved. Let them try to get to land and he would be ready. Soon he would set all the shoreland woods ablaze and wither every field and pasture. Just now he was enjoying the sport of town-baiting more than he had enjoyed anything for years. ...
[See: Bard Slays Smaug in the Destruction of Laketown.]
Full on the town he fell. His last throes splintered it to sparks and gledes. The lake roared in. A vast steam leaped up, white in the sudden dark under the moon. There was a hiss, a gushing whirl, and then silence. And that was the end of Smaug and Esgaroth....
The Hobbit, Ch 14, Fire and Water
[A note on the date: the year is canon, but the day is an estimate by Fonstadt from her book: The Atlas of Middle-earth, Revised Edition, by Karen Wynn Fonstad, Section 5, The Hobbit: Introduction. Since the attack occurred at night, it was arbitrarily assumed that it lasted past midnight.]
Elena Tiriel 7.31.04