Vala (Middle-earth)

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The Valar [ˈvalar] (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 Music of the Ainur (Ainulindalë).

Origin and acts[edit]

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 became evil because they sprang from selfishness and vanity, not from the enlightenment of Ilúvatar.

Once the Music was complete, including Melkor's interwoven themes of vanity, Ilúvatar gave the Ainur a choice — to dwell with him, or to enter the world that they had mutually created. Those that chose to enter the world became known as the Valar, the 'Powers of Arda', though the Elves generally reserved that 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. 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 became 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 Arda and 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 and love, 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. Ulmo directly influenced the actions of Tuor, setting him on the path to find the hidden city of Gondolin. 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 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 (or wizards) to Middle-earth to aid in the battle against Sauron.

List of the Valar[edit]

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; Varda, for example, was called 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. Of the seven male and seven female Valar, there are six married pairs: Ulmo and Nienna are the only ones who dwell alone. This is evidently a form of spiritual union, as in Tolkien's later conception they do not reproduce in a manner reminiscent of the classical Greek gods.

The Aratar [ˈaratar] (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 [feˈanturi], "Masters of Spirits".

Lords[edit]

Manwë[edit]

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 Ainur and the greatest of the Aratar.

Ulmo[edit]

Lord of Waters. Unlike the other Valar, he was not married and had no fixed dwelling place. He lived in the deep waters of the ocean, and seldom troubled to come to Valinor unless the need was dire. Ulmo was one of the chief architects of Arda. In authority he was second to Manwë.

Aulë[edit]

Husband of Yavanna, Aulë is given lordship over the matter that composes Arda and is a master of all the crafts that shape it. He created the seven fathers of 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 Eru Ilúvatar 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[edit]

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, Oromë [ˈorome] 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. In "The Book of Lost Tales", there is the sentence "There sang Amillo joyously to his playing, Amillo who is named Omar, whose voice is the best of all voices, who knoweth all songs in all speeches; but whiles if he sang not to his brothers harp then would he be trilling in the gardens of Oromë when after a time Nielíqui, little maiden, danced about its woods." It is mentioned in the Appendix on Names that Nielíqui is the daughter of Oromë and Vána.

In The Return of the King, Théoden is compared to Oromë when he leads the charge of Rohirrim in The Battle of the Pelennor Fields: "Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young."

Mandos[edit]

Judge of the Dead and the Master of Doom. Originally named Námo [ˈnaːmo], but referred to more commonly as Mandos [ˈmandos], 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.

He was the Vala who spoke the Prophecy of the North against the Noldor leaving Aman, and who counselled that they should not be allowed to return:

Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever. ...

— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (1977)

The pronouncement of this Doom was the cause for the return to Eldamar of one of Fëanor's brothers, Finarfin, already reluctant to pursue Morgoth against the will of the Valar, and his people. There they asked for and received the forgiveness of the Valar.

The prophecies and judgments of Mandos, unlike Morgoth, 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[edit]

Master of Visions and Dreams. Originally named Irmo [ˈirmo], but referred to more commonly as Lórien [ˈloːrien], 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. Since he is the master of dreams, he and his servants are well-aware of the hopes and dreams of the children of Eru. Olórin, or Gandalf, prior to his assignment by Manwë to a role as one of the Istari, was a Maia long taught in the gardens of Lórien.

Tulkas[edit]

Tulkas [ˈtulkas] the Strong, Champion of Valinor, also called Astaldo 'The Brave One'. 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. His fist is his only weapon. He laughs in sport and in war, and even laughed in the face of Melkor. 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[edit]

Varda[edit]

Queen of the Stars, the Kindler, spouse of Manwë, titled 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. The Elvish hymn A Elbereth Gilthoniel appears in three differing forms in The Lord of the Rings.[1]

Yavanna[edit]

Yavanna [jaˈvanna] is Queen of the Earth and Giver of Fruits, spouse of Aulë, also called Kementári [kemenˈtaːri]. She created the Two Trees, and is responsible for the kelvar (animals) and olvar (plants). 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[edit]

Lady of Mercy. She was the tutor of Olórin, and weeps constantly. But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope. 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[edit]

Referred to as the Gentle and "the healer of hurts and of weariness". Her name [ˈeste] 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[edit]

Entitled the Weaver, Vairë [ˈvai̯re] is the wife of Námo 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[edit]

Called Queen of Blossoming Flowers and the Ever-young, Vána [ˈvaːna] 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 that Vána 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".[2]

Nessa[edit]

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[edit]

Melkor[edit]

The First Dark Lord. His name means "he who arises in might". He was the first of the Ainur to be created by Eru Ilúvatar and the one who created discord in the Music of the Ainur. The spiritual brother of Manwë, he was the most powerful of the Valar, as he possessed all aspects of Eru's thought, whereas the others each possessed only some. He turned to evil, and was taken back to Valinor in the chain Angainor after the Awakening of the Elves in Cuiviénen. He remained on parole in Valinor for three 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 Valar, and Fëanor, one of the leaders of the Noldorin Elves, 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[edit]

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 practiced marriage and later passed on their custom to the Elves; all the Valar had spouses, save Nienna, Ulmo and 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.[3]

Concept and creation[edit]

In The Book of Lost Tales (the earliest form of Tolkien's legendarium), the Valar are frequently referred to as "Gods," indicating a polytheistic system in Tolkien's original cosmology. However, Ilúvatar is present as the supreme Creator God who brings the Valar into existence and is shown to be a being of a higher order. It is thus unclear whether the Valar are truly gods or simply thought of as such by the people of Arda. In any case, Tolkien eventually abandoned this description of the Valar, defining them simply as "Powers" in his later works.

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 were not married). He judged the elves, while Fui judged the men. He turned away Túrin 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.

The Lost Tales also have two additional Valar, Makar and Meássë, who occupy roles similar to war gods of classical myth. These characters are dropped from Tolkien's later works.

Valarin, the tongue of the Valar[edit]

External history[edit]

Tolkien at first decided that Valarin, the tongue of the Valar as it is called in Quenya, would be the proto-language of the Elves, the tongue Oromë taught to the speechless Elves. He then developed the Valarin tongue and its grammar in the early 1930s. Ten years later he decided to drop that idea, and the tongue he had developed became Primitive Quendian instead. He then conceived an entirely new tongue for the Valar, still called Valarin in Quenya.

Internal story[edit]

The Valar as spiritual immortal beings have the ability to communicate through thought, and had no need for a spoken language, but it appears that Valarin developed because of their assumption of physical, humanlike (or elf-like) forms. Valarin is unrelated to the other Languages of Middle-earth. Only a few words (mainly proper names) of Valarin have been recorded by the Elves.

Valarin was alien to the ears of the Elves, sometimes to the point of genuine displeasure[citation needed], and very few of them ever learned the language, only adopting some of the Valarin words into their own Quenya. The Valar knew Quenya, and used it to converse with the Elves, or with each other if Elves were present. Valarin seemed to use long words; for example, the Valarin word for Telperion, Ibrîniðilpathânezel, is eight syllables long. At the same time the language contained an unusually high number of distinct sounds. The Vanyar adopted more words into their Vanyarin Tarquesta dialect from Valarin than the Noldor, as they lived closer to the Valar. Some of the Elven names of the Valar, such as Manwë, Ulmo, and Oromë, are adapted loanwords of their Valarin names.

According to the Lhammas, the Valarin language family is subdivided into Oromëan, Aulëan and Melkian tongues. In this work, all Elvish languages arose from the tongue of Oromë, while the Dwarves spoke the tongue devised by the Vala Aulë, and the Speech of the Orcs was invented for them by the Vala Melkor.

Comparison with the Eldila of C.S. Lewis[edit]

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[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fellowship
  2. ^ Parma Eldalamberon #17, 2007, p. 150
  3. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (1999). The Silmarillion. HarperCollins. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-261-10273-7. 

External links[edit]