Why was Dale (the city ruined ages ago by the dragon Smaug), featured in Tolkien's The Hobbit, rebuilt after the events of the aforementioned story?

As far as I can remember, the dragon laid not only the city to waste, but its surrounding area as well. Why rebuild a city around which there's no life? AFAIK Smaug hasn't left the mountain for long, long years, yet neither flora nor fauna have really returned even by the time the dwarves got there. Why would life return after the dragon's fall?

I'd prefer an official answer, if possible: something quoted from Tolkien himself. (But clever guesswork is okay too, should we lack the previous.)

4 Answers 4


I don't believe there are canon sources for why it was rebuilt.

It's pretty easy to see why though.

The original purpose of Dale was to act as a trading nexus between the Dwarves and Men. Having a friendly town of men nearby would appeal to the suspicious and clannish dwarves.

The desolation of Smaug was no doubt mainly a result of the destruction and lack of maintenance of irrigation channels and infrastructure from the River Running. That would be relatively easy to re-instate after the Dragon was disposed of. Once irrigated dry land farming was started, this would have provided a source of food for the region and encouraged local settlements along the River. Key crops would have included wheat, Shiraz type grapes, citrus farming and maybe limited rice production, similar to the agriculture around the Murray River in Australia.

Finally, the town is very strategic, protecting the flank of the Dwarves and making a siege of the mountain more difficult to undertake without first disposing of Dale. By contrast the settlement at Esgaroth is too far away to be strategically significant.

No doubt, the Dwarves provided suitable trade concessions and other inducements to secure such a valuable strategic resource. Good relations with Dale (and the Elves of Mirkwood) would have been a key foreign policy objective of the Dwarves, as Thorin realised belatedly before his death.

  • Sorry, there were canon sources. See my answer Feb 15, 2012 at 2:45
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    Not for why it was rebuilt though.
    – WOPR
    Feb 15, 2012 at 6:35
  • WHy== strategic military point Feb 15, 2012 at 11:22
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    You build a fortress or something like that at a strategic military point like the wasteland Smaug left behind. Not a city where people are supposed to live and prosper. At least imo. :)
    – OpaCitiZen
    Feb 16, 2012 at 19:50

Dwarves of Erebor / the Lonely Mountain along with the men of Dale ended up helping divide Sauron's forces by fighting Easterlings to the north.

This was actually by "design" of Gandalf, with the aim of splitting up Sauron's forces:

So it was that when the War came at last the main assault was turned southwards; yet even so with his far-stretched right hand Sauron might have done great evil in the North, if King Dáin and King Brand had not stood in his path.

... (the following is all from Appendices in Return of the King):

'I grieved at the fall of Thorin,' said Gandalf; 'and now we hear that Dáin has fallen, fighting in Dale again, even while we fought here. I should call that a heavy loss, if it was not a wonder rather that in his great age he could still wield his axe as mightily as they say that he did, standing over the body of King Brand before the Gate of Erebor until the darkness fell.

'Yet things might have gone far otherwise and far worse. When you think of the great Battle of the Pelennor, do not forget the battles in Dale and the valour of Durin's Folk. Think of what might have been. Dragon-fire and savage swords in Eriador, night in Rivendell. There might be no Queen in Gondor. We might now hope to return from the victory here only to ruin and ash. But that has been averted - because I met Thorin Oakenshield one evening on the edge of spring in Bree. A chance-meeting, as we say in Middle-earth.'

  • 2
    This doesn't explain why Dale was rebuilt in situ. Why not build a city in a more hospitable location in the same region?
    – user56
    Feb 15, 2012 at 5:25
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    It was "home", and creatures have a strong connection to home. But also, there is often a tendency for places to find themselves in the "right" place for all sorts of reasons - transport, agriculture, water source. So they are probably in the most productive place for the community to thrive. Feb 15, 2012 at 12:30
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    @Gilles - what Schroedingers Cat said. You don't just buil a city in a random place. You build it in geographically correct spot. Resources (esp. water), defensibility, transportation, etc... Feb 15, 2012 at 15:23
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    the old city of Dale was built there for some pratical reasons, and I have always thought that the same reasons applied to the motives of rebuilding in the same site. So like was said, strategic outpost of defense for the mountain fortress, ease of commercial traffic through the river and ease of creating irrigation for cultures. Also, stone ruins often provide easily accessed raw material for rebuilding. It always made sense to me.
    – Joel
    Feb 21, 2015 at 23:34

It became a hospitable region after the fall of the dragon "Bard had rebuilt the town in Dale and men had gathered to him from the Lake and from the South and West, and all the valley had become tilled again and rich, and the desolation now filled with birds and blossoms in spring and fruit in autumn" The last page of The Hobbit

  • This does not answer the question. It states, if I understand it correctly, that the valley had become livable/hospitable again after the city got rebuilt and its people worked on making it livable. The question's essence was: why rebuild the city in a desolation (that has to be revived through hard effort) in the first place?
    – OpaCitiZen
    Jul 9, 2012 at 19:34
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    Bard wanted to rebuild the town because he "was a descendent in long line of Girion, Lord of Dale, whose wife and child had escaped down the running river long ago" (The Hobbit) from the dragon. After the dragons demise Bard (the dragon slayer) thought of "Dale rebuilt, and filled with golden bells, if he could but find the men"(The Hobbit)
    – phil
    Jul 9, 2012 at 23:12

I think they rebuilt Dale in that location for a couple reasons.

  1. Dale may have been ruined by Smaug but most of the buildings were intact or had minor damage. Why build a completely new city somewhere else when an existing city just needed repairs.
  2. Once Smaug died, there was nobody left to burn the region. So life was able to return after a while. The desolation of Smaug can be compared to a place after a wildfire. Life would return.
  3. The #1 trading partner of Dale was the dwarves. Why not build Dale in front of the gates of Erebor? Erebor also relied on Dale greatly for food, supplies, and things that couldn't be found in a mountain. So why travel farther (say Erebor to Esgaroth) to get supplies, when you could walk across the land between Dale and Erebor, buy something and walk back in 2 hours. A reason unknown to the laketowners who rebuild Dale would be that Gandalf saw the upcoming war (War of the Ring) and attempted to create another front which would be Dale and Erebor for Sauron to fight.

I think these are good guesses for why Dale was rebuilt other than it all adds together into a great story.

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