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Vala (Middle-earth)

The Valar (singular Vala) are characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, but The Silmarillion (published posthumously but assembled mostly from material written before The Lord of the Rings) develops them into the Powers of Arda or the Powers of the World. They are angelic powers, the Ainur that chose to go into the World (Arda) and complete its material development after its form was determined by the Singing of the Ainur (Ainulindalë).

Origin and acts

Eru Ilúvatar first revealed to the Ainur his great vision of The World through musical themes.

... unfolding a history whose vastness and majesty had never been equalled ...The Music of the Ainur, The Silmarillion.

This World, fashioned from his ideas and expressed as the Music of Ilúvatar, was refined by thoughtful interpretations by the Ainur, who then created their own themes based on each unique comprehension. No one Ainu understood all of the themes that sprang from Ilúvatar. Instead, each elaborated individual themes, singing of mountains and subterranean regions, say, from themes for metals and stones. The themes of Ilúvatar's music were elaborated, and the Ainur added creative touches to blend with the themes of other Ainur. Melkor, however, added discordant themes: he strove against the Music; his themes were evil because they sprang from ignorance, not from the omnipotence of Ilúvatar.

Once the Music was complete, including Melkor's interwoven themes of evil, Ilúvatar gave the Ainur a choice — to dwell with him, or to enter the world that they had created. Those that chose to enter the world became known as the Valar, the 'Powers of Arda', though the Elves generally reserved the term for the more powerful of them. (The lesser Valar they called the Maiar.) Among the Valar were some of the most powerful and wise of the Ainur, including Manwë, the Lord of the Valar, and also Melkor, his brother in the mind of Ilúvatar. The two are distinguished by the selfless love of Manwë for the Music of Ilúvatar and the selfish love that Melkor bore for himself and no other — least of all for the Children of Ilúvatar, as the Elves and Men were known.

Melkor (later named Morgoth, 'dark enemy') arrived in the World first, causing tumult wherever he went. As the others arrived, they saw how Melkor's presence would destroy the integrity of Ilúvatar's themes. Eventually, and with the aid of the Vala Tulkas, who entered Arda last, Melkor was temporarily overthrown, and the Valar began shaping the world and creating beauty to counter the darkness and ugliness of Melkor's discordant noise.

The Valar dwelt originally on the Isle of Almaren in the middle of the world, but after its destruction and the loss of the world's symmetry, they moved to the western continent of Aman and founded Valinor. The war with Melkor continued: the Valar realized many wonderful subthemes of Ilúvatar's grand music, while Melkor poured all his energy into the corruption of fell beings like Balrogs, dragons, and orcs. Most terrible of the deeds of Melkor was the destruction of the Two Lamps, and with them the original home of the Valar, the Isle of Almaren. Melkor was then captured and chained for many ages in the fastness of Mandos until he was pardoned by Manwë.

With the arrival of the Elves in the world and later in Valinor, a new phase of the regency of the Valar began. Summoned by the Valar, many Elves abandoned Middle-earth and the eastern continent for the West, where the Valar concentrated their creativity. There they made the Two Trees, their greatest joy because it gave light to the beauty of Valinor and pleased the Elves.

At Melkor's instigation, however, Ungoliant destroyed the Trees. Fëanor, a Noldorin Elf, had with great forethought captured the light of the Two Trees in three Silmarils, the greatest jewels ever created. Melkor stole the Silmarils from Fëanor and killed his father, Finwë, chief of the Noldor in Aman, and thereupon fled to Middle-earth. Many of the Noldor, in defiance of the will of the Valar, swore revenge and set out in pursuit. This event, and the poisonous words of Melkor that fostered mistrust among the Elves, led to the exile of the greater part of the Noldor to Middle-earth: the Valar closed Valinor against them to prevent their return.

For the remainder of the First Age Ulmo alone of the Valar visited the world beyond Aman. At the end of the First Age, the Valar sent forth a great host of Maiar and Elves from Valinor to Middle-earth, who fought the War of Wrath in which Melkor was defeated. The lands were changed, and the Elves were again called to Valinor.

During the Second Age, the Valar's main deeds were the creation of Númenor as a refuge for the Edain, who were denied access to Aman but given dominion over the rest of the world. The Valar, now including even Ulmo, remained aloof from Middle-earth, allowing the rise of the Morgoth's lieutenant, Sauron, to power as a new Dark Lord. Near the end of the Second Age, Sauron convinced the Númenóreans to attack Aman itself.

Then Manwë upon the Mountain called upon Ilúvatar, and for that time the Valar laid down their government of Arda.Akallabêth, The Silmarillion.

With the Akallabêth, the destruction of Númenor, Aman was removed from the earth (though not from the World, for Elvish ships could still reach it). In the Third Age the Valar sent the Istari to Middle-earth to aid in the battle against Sauron.

List of the Valar

These are the names and attributes of the chief Valar as they were known to the Eldar in Aman. In Middle-earth, they were known by other names of Sindarin origin; for example they called Varda Elbereth. Men knew them by many other names, and sometimes worshipped them as gods. With the exception of Oromë, the names listed below are not actual names but rather titles: the true names of the Valar are nowhere recorded. The males are called "Lords of the Valar"; the females "Queens of the Valar," or Valier.

The Aratar (Quenya: Exalted) or High Ones of Arda are the eight greatest of the Valar: Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Lórien and Mandos are brothers and are referred to collectively as the Fëanturi or "Masters of Spirits".

Lords

Manwë: He is the King of the Valar, husband of Varda Elentári and King of Arda. He lived atop Mount Taniquetil, the highest mountain of the world, in the halls of Ilmarin. The winds and airs were his servants, and he was lord of air, wind, and clouds in Arda. He was the noblest and greatest in authority, but not in power, of the Aratar and Ainur.Ulmo: Lord of Waters. He lived in the deep water of the ocean, and seldom troubled to come to the Ring of Doom unless the need was dire. He was not married. Ulmo was one of the chief architects of Arda.Aulë: Aulë is given lordship over the matter that composes Arda and is a master of all the crafts that shape it. He created the Dwarves, who call him Mahal, the Maker. During the Music of the Ainur, Aulë's themes concerned the physical things of which Arda is made; when Ilúvatar (God) gave being to the themes of the Ainur, his music became the lands of Middle-earth. Other of his works include Angainor (the chain of Melkor), the Two Lamps and the vessels of the Sun and Moon.

Oromë: Brother of Nessa and husband of Vána, also known as Araw in Sindarin, Aldaron ("Lord of the Trees"), Arum, Béma, Arāmē, The Huntsman of the Valar, and The Great Rider. During the Years of the Trees, after most of the Valar had withdrawn completely from Middle-earth and hidden themselves in Aman, Oromë still hunted in the forests of Middle-earth on occasion. Thus, he was responsible for first finding the Elves at Cuiviénen.
Being a powerful huntsman, he was active in the struggles against Morgoth, and was renowned for his anger, being the most terrible of the Valar in his wrath. He has a great horn called Valaróma and a great steed called Nahar.

Mandos">Mandos: Judge of the Dead. Originally named Námo, but referred to more commonly as Mandos, after the Halls of his dwelling. Chief advisor to Manwë and keeper of the souls of elves. He is the husband of Vairë the Weaver.
Mandos is described as being stern and dispassionate and never forgetting a thing.

The Kinslaying was the Elves' equivalent of Man's Original Sin, in that they fell to evil and were expelled from paradise.

The pronunciation of this Doom was the immediate cause for the return to Valinor of (already reluctant to proceed) Finarfin and his followers. There they asked and received the forgiveness of the Valar.

He was the Vala who cursed the Noldor leaving Aman, and counselled against allowing them to return. But unlike Morgoth, his Dooms are not cruel or vindictive by his own design. They are simply the will of Eru, and he will not speak them unless he is commanded to do so by Manwë. Only once has he been moved to pity, when Lúthien sang of the grief she and her lover Beren had experienced in Beleriand.

Lórien: Master of Visions and Dreams. Originally named Irmo, but referred to more commonly as Lórien, after his dwelling place. Lórien and Mandos are the Fëanturi, masters of spirits. Lórien the younger is the master of visions and dreams. His gardens in the land of the Valar, where he dwells with his spouse Estë, are the fairest place in the world and are filled with many spirits. All those who dwell in Valinor find rest and refreshment at the fountain of Irmo and Estë.

Tulkas: Champion of Valinor, also called Astaldo. He was the last of the Valar to descend into Arda, and helped to tip the scales against Melkor after the destruction of the Two Lamps. He is a wrestler and physically the strongest of all the Valar. He is the husband of Nessa, and is described as slow to anger, but slow also to forget; as such, he opposed the release of Melkor after his prison sentence.

Queens

Varda: Queen of the Stars, spouse of Manwë, entitled Elentári in Quenya and Elbereth Gilthoniel in Sindarin. She kindled the first stars before the Ainur descended into the world, and later brightened them with the gold and silver dew from the Two Trees. Melkor feared and hated her the most, because she rejected him before Time.

Yavanna: Giver of Fruits, spouse of Aulë, also called Kementári. She created the Two Trees, and is responsible for the Kelvar and Olvar (plants and animals). It was she who requested the creation of the Ents, as she feared for the safety of the trees once her husband had created the Dwarves. The Two Lamps are created by Aulë at Yavanna's request, and their light germinates the seeds that she had planted. Following the destruction of the Two Lamps by Melkor and the withdrawal of the Valar to Aman, Yavanna sang into being the Two Trees of Valinor.
Nienna: Lady of Mercy. She was the tutor of Olórin, and weeps constantly. However, her tears are those of healing and pity, not of sadness, and often have potency; for example, she watered the Two Trees with her tears, and later washed the filth of Ungoliant away from them once they were destroyed. She was in favour of releasing Melkor after his sentence, not being able to see his evil nature. She has no spouse.

Estë: Referred to as the Gentle and "the healer of hurts and of weariness". Her name means Rest. "Grey is her raiment, and rest her gift." She is the wife of Irmo, and lives with him in his Gardens of Lórien in Valinor. She sleeps at day on the island in the Lake Lorellin.

Vairë: Entitled the Weaver. She is espoused to Namo, and lives with him at Mandos. She weaves the story of the World in her tapestries, which are draped all over the halls of Mandos.

Vána: Called the Ever-young. She is the younger sister of Yavanna and wife of Oromë. "All flowers spring as she passes and open if she glances upon them; and all birds sing at her coming." She dwells in gardens filled with golden flowers and often comes to the forests of Oromë. Tolkien wrote about Vána that she was "the most perfectly 'beautiful' in form and feature (also 'holy' but not august or sublime), representing the natural unmarred perfection of form in living things".

Nessa: Entitled the Dancer. She is the wife of Tulkas and is noted for her agility and speed, able to outrun the deer who follow her in the wild, and for her love of dancing on the ever-green lawns of Valinor.

Others

Melkor: The Dark Lord. His name means "he who arises in might" and he was the first of the Ainur to be created by Eru. In origin he was the spiritual brother of Manwë, and the most powerful of the Valar, as he possessed all aspects of Eru's thought, whereas all the others possessed only some. He turned to evil, and was taken back to Valinor in chains after the Awakening of the Elves, where he remained on parole for several Ages. But after the poisoning of the Two Trees and the theft of the Silmarils, he fled from Valinor. He was no longer counted among the number of the Valar, and Fëanor called him "Morgoth Bauglir", The Great Enemy, by which name he was known in Middle-earth ever after. He was cast out of Arda at the end of the War of Wrath.

Relationships between Valar

Ilúvatar brought the Valar (and all of the Ainur) into being by his thought, and may therefore be considered their father. However, not all of the Valar are siblings; where this is held to be so it is because they are so "in the thought of Ilúvatar".

It was the Valar who first practised marriage and later passed on their custom to the Elves; all the Valar had spouses, save Nienna, Ulmo and of course, Melkor. However, only one such marriage among the Valar took place within the world, that of Tulkas and Nessa after the raising of the Two Lamps.

Concept and creation

In The Book of Lost Tales Mandos was named Vefantur, and his halls Ve. His wife was Fui, who can be compared to Nienna (though in that context they weren't married). He judged the elves, while Fui judged the men. He turned away Turin and Nienori from his halls in the second volume.

A different Vairë appeared in some of Tolkien's earliest writings. In The Book of Lost Tales, she was an Elf of Tol Eressëa. She and her husband Lindo tell the stories that would become The Silmarillion to the human mariner Ælfwine/Eriol. Her role as storyteller may have influenced the naming of the Vala responsible for recording stories.

Comparison with the Eldila of C.S. Lewis

The Eldila in the Space Trilogy of C. S. Lewis bear a passing resemblance to the Valar. Tolkien and Lewis regularly critiqued one another's writing, and Lewis knew of the Valar before he wrote Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the Space Trilogy. Both the Valar and the Eldila seek to some extent to rationalize the Classical gods with Christian belief; both are called not "gods" but servants of the single true God — Ilúvatar in the one case, Maleldil in the other. Both take on visual "raiment" to be visible to earthly eyes, and both have essential gender identities. But they differ in many details. The Eldila tend to correspond more closely to specific Classical gods, and largely maintain the traditional association between gods and planets. The Valar reside on Earth, while each Eldil has the responsibility for a single planet, and seems principally to reside there.

See also

References

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