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In The Hobbit while describing Lake Town the following intrigued me:

The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores when the waters sank in a drought.

A lot of such references in the Hobbit are alluding to things mentioned in other works. Is there anything like this for the previous lake town?

EDIT

From what I have read is Esgaroth prior to the dragon was built on the shore not on the lake itself. The quote above would seem to refer to another town built on the lake.

  • About the Edit: This could have meant that the waters rose over time and now cover what was left of the old town. This is purely speculative. – jacen.garriss Aug 2 '13 at 12:48
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The best references I can find seem to suggest that the older town was named Esgaroth, and after Smaug's arrival, was abandoned after it had been mostly destroyed. Thus Lake-town was built out in the lake with water as a defense.

This theory is backed up by the fact that after Lake-town was burned by the dragon Smaug in his final attack, Esgaroth was rebuilt "further down the lake", possibly near the site of the city that Bilbo saw.

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Bilbo references Lake-Town as Esgaroth in the Fellowship of the Ring during his birthday party.

It is also, if I may be allowed to refer to ancient history, the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long lake; though the fact that it was my birthday slipped my mind on that occasion.

Appendix B in my version of the trilogy gives one paragraph about what happened in the Hobbit. The only thing of interest was this.

Bard of Esgaroth slays Smaug.

I would say that Lake-Town and Esgaroth are one and the same. Lake-Town is a remnant of the much larger town of Esgaroth.

  • that seems to mesh with what I found. The references to "Esgaroth" and "Lake-town" are used semi-interchangeably, and so if the older town was Esgaroth proper, rebuilt as Lake-Town, but possibly still called Esgaroth formally, then rebuilt as Esgaroth proper again, it makes sense – The Fallen Jul 31 '13 at 20:15
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Or the older Laketown was entirely built on piers on the Lake like prehistoric Swiss lake villages.

in

[How did demolishing the bridge to the lake town Esgaroth help against Smaug’s attack?]

I give my theory about the fate of the older Laketown.

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