Where Smaug is the clear-cut antagonist, Thorin is the flawed leader, Bilbo is a reluctant hero, and Gandalf is the mysterious mentor, Bard serves a similarly unambiguous role: that of the heroic warrior. Though he does not hold a significant amount of page time in the novel, Bard’s time is efficiently spent. The captain of the archers, Bard stands his ground during Smaug’s siege of Lake Town and is able to not only understand the thrush that informs him of the dragon’s weak spot, but even land the killing blow. Bard’s ability to communicate with the thrush stems from his own lineage as one of the people of Dale, and speaks to his decency: he is close to nature, uncorrupted by the advancements of industry (a major theme in all of Tolkien’s works). The death of Smaug at Bard’s hands is archetypically heroic; he’s the last man fighting with only a single shot left.
That Bard keeps his morals in check after bringing about Smaug’s destruction serves as a contrast to the challenging next steps everyone faces regarding the redistribution and reallocation of Smaug’s stolen riches. Where Thorin grows more tyrannical and unwilling to compromise in regards to sharing the treasure, and begins to tragically parallel the very dragon he sought to defeat, Bard wishes to use some of the wealth only to restore Lake Town after its destruction. His focus on the betterment of his people rather than self-gain speaks to the idealistic hope in what a new ruler could offer after so much calamity, and where Thorin’s character speaks to the corruption that all are capable of, Bard remains not just an effective warrior, but, more importantly, an example of basic decency and humility.