Esgaroth had no king, but was ruled by an elected Master from the old and wise. This Master of Lake-town was purely a business man, greedy and self-serving. He lived in a great hall and sat in a great chair surrounded by his councillors. He was later identified by the people as “Moneybags”. His own comfort and wealth were foremost. Even his boat was “great” and “gilded”.
When Thorin and Company arrived after escaping Thranduil’s dungeons, his first concern was the Elvenking’s reaction and if it would affect their trade. He pretended to believe Thorin was the heir to the dwarf king and let the jubilant townspeople dictate how to receive the arrival of the Company as they celebrated and anticipated the renewed flow of gold from the mountain, which the Master also lusted after. When Thorin and Company finally departed for the Mountain, he was happy to see them go because they were expensive to keep and distracted the people from their daily business.
During the attack of Smaug on Lake-town, the Master quailed and left others to lead in the defense of the town and protection of the people while escaping in his gilded boat. After the dragon was defeated and the town was destroyed, he called for cover and food for himself while his people suffered and many died from exposure and hunger. When the people turned against him, he threw the attention from his failure to blaming the Dwarves for unleashing the dragon. He called for the Dwarves to repay them with reclaimed fortune to bring aid to the survivors and rebuild the town. When they did finally receive recompense from Thorin’s heirs, the Master fell under the dragon-sickness and fled, taking most of the gold with him. He ultimately died of starvation in the Waste.
- “He may have a good head for business—especially his own business … but he is no good when anything serious happens!” (by the Towns-people)