– The greedy ruler …
Like many of the non-principal characters in The Hobbit, the Master of Lake-town is not explored in much detail – nonetheless, he emphasizes a very important concept in the novel – greed.
The Master of Lake-town is quite simply … the Master of Lake-town (the clue is in the name). An individual who is both a good speaker and an excellent merchant. He rules over the inhabitants of Esgaroth and has a good “business relationship” with Thranduil – transporting goods in barrels along the Forest River between the two habitations.
In the novel, this character has always struck me as being a sort of greedy and somewhat corrupt leader – with no firm morals; frequently changing sides depending on where his own best interests lie.
It was fantastic of Peter Jackson to put Stephen Fry in the shoes of the Master – capable of delivering the right amount of self-centeredness to the character, with a touch of humour. Fry’s performance certainly didn’t disappoint, and (along with Bard) is the main highlight of the Lake-town sequences in The Desolation of Smaug.
In the novel, some friction does exist between the Master and Bard, yet the film strongly emphasizes this issue – creating a strong contrast between the good-natured Bowman and the wicked (though certainly not evil) Esgaroth ruler.
Jackson continues to provide more depth to this character through a newly-crafted individual – Alfrid. Played by Ryan Gage, this character strongly reminds us of Gríma Wormtongue in The Two Towers, as the villainous adviser to King Théoden.
But again, Alfrid is certainly not evil, rather he conforms with his Master’s egoistic ideas and is willing to execute commands in order to gain for his own profit. Therefore, both characters are pitted against Bard and will do anything to thwart his plans in order to suppress a ‘revolt’ in the city.
As with the rest of the characters, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Master will fare in There and Back Again and whether his story will conform with the interesting facts revealed in the book … 😉