The Barding Reach

Tucked away in the northern marches of Rhovanion lay a tiny but prosperous community of Northmen who had eagerly adapted to the urban way of life. The towns of Esgaroth and Dale had began in the Second Age as seasonal trading posts, where the migratory Edain and Northmen could trade their agricultural goods with the nearby populations of Dwarves and Elves. As the Northmen settled permanently in the area, Dale and Esgaroth obtained year-round populations and became the hubs of northern Rhovanion's trade network. The Northmen of the region throve in their new role as merchants, but the agrarian ways died hard, and many of the traditional practices were preserved, especially in the many tiny surrounding farms which fed the two towns. Despite the cosmopolitan nature of their towns, the urban Northmen remained distant, viewing outsiders with initial suspicion they finally granted their trust. The more urbane merchants of Dorwinion and Gondor eyed this attitude as quaint, even claiming that the Northmen lost many a fine deal in their silence.

No single lordruled both Dale and Esgaroth. Esgaroth, known as "Lake-town" because the entire community rested upon great platforms built over the Long Lake, elected a Master to govern its affairs. Dale, situated in a rocky valley underneath the Lonely Mountain and more isolated from much of the mercantile traffic, maintained the traditional hereditary office of Thegn (Rh."Lord"). Both towns originally owed allegiance to the Waldandungs, the large tribe of Northmen to the south, but neither community had sent tribute for almost four hundred years, and the Great Plague had severed most political ties with the Northman tribes of Mirkwood's East Bight.

The urban Northmen acted as middlemen in a great trade network linking Gondor, the valleys of Dorwinion, the plains-Northmen of southern Rhovanion. and the Elves of Mirkwood, exporting few goods of their own. Several craft industries grew in the towns before the Plague, with metalwork, beer, glass, and other finished products as the main exports.

Later virtually all energies in Esgaroth were devoted to handling the wares of others. The Plague did little to slow the traffic of goods from the East and the Forest, and the wealthy of Gondor were always willing to pay highly for their luxuries. Spices, wine, and healing herbs flew from the East. Much of the wine continued up the Forest River to the King of the Wood-elves, who offered bright golden jewelry and vessels and fine silken goods in exchange. The reclusive Woodmen of Mirkwood also brought their wares to Esgaroth via the Wood-elves, offering furs and lumber for finished products and items of metal. Some foodstuffs still came from the Northmen of southern Rhovanion, but most trade to the South stemmed from Gondor, where brilliant objects of steel and silver were exchanged for the luxuries of the Utter East. Coins also originated in Gondor. and the urban Northmen were just beginning to experiment in their use.

The Lands of northern Rhovanion in TA 1650

  • Political Organization: Dale: Hereditary Lordship.Esgaroth: Republic with an elected Master.
  • Rulers: Eoder, Thegn of Dale.Odagavia, Master of Esgaroth.
  • Administrative Organization: Appointed advisors in Dale, elected officials in both towns; land held by aristocracy, granted to smallholders in return for military service
  • Population: 6.000 Northmen.
  • Military: 150 Professional Warriors, many mounted.150-200 drilled militia troops.300-500 raw levy, used only in emergencies and takes 2-5 weeks to raise.
  • Products: Market, finished goods, beer.
  • Symbol: None.

The Barding Realm in TA 3019




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