Throughout the Lord of the Rings, characters often refer to the legendary Valar. These beings work in the background, like angels or lesser gods. They were there since the beginning and will be there at the end of time.
Few of them get more than a passing mention in The Lord of the Rings but they take center stage in The Silmarillion.
The Valar (plural form of Vala) are the creation of Eru Iluvatar, the Creator of the Ea (the Universe), and all the land within. This includes Arda, later referred to as Earth.
Eru created them and all other Ainur (divine spirits of Ea) through his thought. For this reason, many consider Eru their father but not all Ainur are siblings. There are many Ainur but there are only 15 Valar named in The Silmarillion as these are the ones who play a part in events in Middle-Earth.
Who Are the 15 Valar in the Lord of the Rings?
The original fifteen Valar are Manwe, Ulmo, Aule, Mandos, Lorien, Orome, Tulkas, Nessa, Varda, Vaire, Yavanna, Nienna, Este, Vana, and Melkor. Melkor is the most powerful Vala and would later become known as Morgoth, the First Enemy.
Originally, there were 15 Valar who traveled to Arda, but Melkor separated from the group due to his treachery, reducing the ruling group to 14. Of those 14, there are 7 lords and 7 ladies of the Valar, of which most are married and reside together, except for two: Ulmo and Nienna.
Also known as Manwe Sulimo, he is the King of the Valar and the King of Arda. He is the lord of the wind and clouds. He resides in the highest mountain in all of Arda, Taniquetil. His palace is Ilmarin.
He is also the husband of Varda. Despite being the leader of the Valar, he is not the most powerful. He, along with Aule and Ulmo, became the head architect of Arda.
Ulmo is the lord of the waters. He is close friends with Manwe and also the friendliest to the Children of Iluvatar. Unlike the other Valar, he did not marry and does not reside in their home in Valinor. Instead, he resides in Ekkaia, deep in the oceans and under the world.
Known as the Smith and husband of Yavanna, Aule worked on the continents, minerals, and mountains of Arda. Among the Valar, Aule was the one with the most tension against Melkor.
Aule is also the creator of the Dwarves. He could not wait for the Awakening of the Children and fashioned his own race. Eru Iluvatar discovered this and Aule almost sacrificed the Dwarves as an act of penance. However, Eru adopted the Dwarves. Eru still wanted the Elves to be the first to Awaken so he put the Dwarves to sleep.
Orome became known as the Huntsman and the husband of Vanna. He was the last of the Valar to relocate to Valinor and even then he would still visit and hunt in Middle-Earth. Due to his constant travels, he was the first to discover the Elves when they awoke in Cuivienen.
Following the Awakening of the Elves, he named them the Eldar and accompanied them to Beleriand. Orome was also a constant fighter in the war against Melkor.
Mandos takes his name from his residence, the Halls of Mandos, where he judges the slain. His judgment comes from the knowledge imparted to him by Eru Iluvatar and the guidance of Manwe. Despite being the grimmest of the Valar, Mandos is not malevolent in nature.
His spouse is Vaire, the Weaver. He is also the elder brother of the Valar Lorien. Together, they are the Feanturi or Master of Spirits.
Also known as Irmo, Lorien was the keeper of the Gardens of Lorien and was the master of dreams and visions. He allowed Miriel, the mother of the great Elf Feanor, to rest in his gardens after she gave birth. Miriel passed away and willingly went to the Halls of Mandos, choosing to never return to Middle-Earth.
Lorien also became responsible for the creation of Day and Night. When the Valar placed the Sun and Moon in the sky, Lorien and his wife Este suggested that these lights shouldn’t unite in one place as the Two Trees once did. Instead, they should alternate in the sky, granting moments of rest in Arda.
Tulkas the Wrestler was the last of the Ainur to descend into Arda. It was his arrival that saved the other Valar from Melkor’s invasion.
Following his arrival, Tulkas married Nessa. This great feast is the only wedding of the Valar noted down in history. He then rested and it was during this time that Melkor plotted his vengeance.
When Orome confirmed that the Children of Iluvatar were now awake, it was Tulkas who faced Melkor in direct combat. Being the Champion of the Valar, he will fight Melkor again during the end of the world. However, his fate and the outcome of the battle remain a mystery.
Varda is the Queen of the Valar and the lady of light. She is the Queen of the Stars and carries the light of Iluvatar. Her radiance makes her too beautiful for words. Varda’s handmaiden is Ilmare, leader of the Maiar who descended to Arda.
Varda also goes by the Sindarin name Elbereth. Her very name has the power to combat evil spirits. When Yavanna and Nienna took the golden and silver fruits of Laurelin and Telperion and transformed them into the Sun and Moon, it was Varda who created their course in the sky.
Yavanna is the lady of the Earth and governs all that grows on Arda. She handles the growth of fruits and trees. Together with Nienna, she created the Sun and Moon.
Yavanna once feared that the Dwarves of Aule would cut down all the trees on Arda. She pleaded to Manwe and to Iluvatar. Their solution was to create the first Ents, guardians of the forests.
Melian, who later became Sauron, started as one of her Maiar. Another Maiar of hers who later became one of the Istari was Aiwendil, known as Radagast the Brown in Middle-Earth.
Sister to Mandos and Lorien, she is the Valie of sorrow and grief. However, she is also the governing Ainur for both courage and pity. She listens to people mourning and guides them through their grief.
Unlike the other Valie, she resides alone and keeps her home close to the Halls of Mandos. Instead of frequenting the city of Valmar, known for its celebrations and joy, she stays in the Halls of Mandos to comfort the spirits of the dead.
Referred to as the Weaver and wife of Mandos, Vaire is the Valie responsible for weaving the tale of Arda. Miriel, the mother of Feanor, returned to life following the passing of Finwe, and served under Vaire.
Este the Weeper is the Vala of Rest and Queen of Healing. She resides with her husband Lorien and always wears a cloak of grey.
She, along with Lorien, convinced Varda to alter the course of the Sun and Moon. Este argued that the constant light withered their gardens and hid the stars. This banished all sense of rest. Because of this, the Sun and Moon now took alternate schedules in the sky. While one was out, the other would stay in under the world, down in Ekkaia.
Vana is the Ever-young, wife of Orome, and the Queen of Flowers. She governs over all the flora and fauna of Arda. When Nessa married Tulkas, Vanna gifted Nessa with a robe of flowers.
Nessa is the Dancer and a known swift hunter. Her most significant tale takes place during the first battle with Melkor. It was during this conflict that Tulkas descended to Arda. The two married and this is the only instance of any of the Valar couples marrying.
Melkor is the brother of Manwe and was considered the most powerful Vala. After rebelling against Eru and marring Arda, Melkor fled to Middle Earth and is no longer considered one of the Valar. During the age of the trees and the first age, Melkor committed many atrocities such as destroying the two lamps and two trees of Valinor.
Later becoming known as Morgoth, (Sindarin for “Black Foe of the World”), Melkor was the first dark lord of whom Sauron was his most trusted servant. Due to having Eru’s foresight, Melkor is considered the most powerful Vala. After he marred Arda, and would later become known as Morgoth, the First Enemy.
Melkor was eventually defeated by the Host of Valinor in the War of Wrath, thus ending the first age. As punishment, he was banished from Arda and imprisoned in the Void.
What Was The Purpose of the Valar?
The Valar descended upon Arda to guide the Children of Iluvatar. They did not come as gods for the Children (men and elves) to worship but to counsel them and aid them in times of need.
Each Vala carries a segment of Eru’s thoughts and visions. They all see a portion of the history of the world, including the coming and tragedies that will befall the Children of Iluvatar. They do not, however, see the destined fate of the Children or how and when the world will one day end. The only exception to this is Melkor, who carries all of Eru’s foresight.
Not all Ainur are Valar. The lesser divines became known as the Maiar and these spirits served the Valar. Some of the most significant Maiar include Olorin, Melian, and Curumo. These Maiar later took on the names Gandalf, Sauron, and Saruman, respectively.
Also read, who are the five wizards in Middle Earth?
The Valar took part in the First Music of the Ainur, also called the Music of Iluvatar. This great, comprised of different visions of Iluvatar embodied by each Vala, shaped the known Universe.
One Vala, Melkor, rebelled and attempted to add his own tune to the Music of the Ainur, which became known as the marring of Arda. The Valar banished Melkor for this betrayal and this began the long war between Melkor and the other Valar.
After the creation of Ea and Arda, several of the Ainur decided to depart and prepare Arda for the Children of Iluvatar. They would then serve as guardians and offer guidance. Although Men worshipped some of the Valar as gods, they never considered themselves as such.
The True Names and Power of Valar Are Unknown
There are no records of the Valar’s true names. The history of Arda only lists down their titles. Manwe, for example, refers to his reign over the Valar and the wind.
Of the Valar that relocated to Arda, there are eight that many consider as the most powerful. To set them apart, Men and Elves refer to these Valar as the Aratar.