Varda Elentári [ˈvarda elenˈtaːri] is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. She appears in Tolkien's Silmarillion as one of the Valar (powers) of Middle Earth. The longest sample of the Sindarin language published by Tolkien, is addressed to her. She is also known as Elbereth Gilthoniel.
Varda is one of the Valar, the pantheon or gods in the legendarium. She is one of the greatest of the Valar. Being associated with light, she is central to the dualism of light and darkness in Tolkien's cosmology.
She resided with her husband Manwë, with whom she shared a complementary power. When they were together, Manwë "sees further than all other eyes, through mist, and through darkness, and over the leagues of the sea" and Varda "hears more clearly than all other ears the sound of voices that cry from east to west". When the evil Vala Melkor first began to create his discord, Varda saw his true nature and rejected him. Melkor feared and hated Varda the most out of the Valar because he greatly desired to possess light.
Tolkien's work often repeats characters in "doubles" in different settings or ages. Thus, Varda's Marian characteristics are repeated in Melian (a maïa), Galadriel (queen of the High Elves in Lothlorien) and again in "a more homey way" in Goldberry.
Like most of the legendarium's characters, Varda has a different name in each of Tolkien's invented languages. Her Quenya name Varda means "sublime" or "lofty", from Primitive Quenya barádâ (root barád-, whence also Noldorin brennil "lady", brand, brann "lofty, noble fine"). The corresponding Noldorin form is Berethil, Breðil (Primitive Quenya Barathī). Telerin Baradis, from a related stem barathî (while the expected cognate form would have been Barada). The Adûnaic reflex of the name is Avradî.
When invoked by Elves, she is more commonly addressed by epithets reflecting her role in making the stars, as "Star-queen" and "Star-kindler", in Quenya Elentári and Tintallë, and in Sindarin Elbereth and Gilthoniel, respectively. Another Sindarin epithet is Fanuilos "Ever-white". In the English text, she is also addressed by the epithets The Kindler, Lady of the Stars, Queen of the Stars, Snow-white, ostensibly translations of her Elvish names.
Invocations in Lord of the Rings
In Chapter 3 of Book One, Gildor's elves sing a song to her, as Elbereth Gilthoniel.
In the final chapter of Lord of the Rings, the departing High Elves sing of her at the Grey Havens.
- Joseph Pearce, "Darkness" in Drout (ed.), J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (2007), p. 118.
- Tolkien, J.R.R. (1977). The Silmarillion. UK: George Allan & Unwin. ISBN 0-04-823139-8.
- Marjorie Burns, "Doubles" in Drout (ed.), J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (2007), p. 128.
- Bertrand Bellet, "Vowel Affection in Sindarin and Noldorin", Arda Philology 1: Proceedings of the First International Conference on J.R.R. Tolkien's Invented Languages, Omentielva Minya, Stockholm, 4-8 August 2005, 2007, p. 78. On Telerin c.f Helge Fauskanger, Telerin (folk.uib.no). Adûnaic form: see Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Sauron Defeated, vol. 9: of History of Middle-earth, HarperCollins, 1992, p. 428.
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