We're at a point in Know Your LotRO Lore where you may have developed a decent understanding of Middle-earth, if you've been following along regularly. As strange as it may sound, after describing the creations of the the Valar for so many weeks, it is now time to discuss the Valar themselves. We touched on their existence before, especially in relation to Gandalf and how he was created, but now we're going to explain things a bit deeper.
But who are the Valar? Are they gods? Demi-gods? Angels? How were they created and who created them? These are all common questions that we'll explore in this article, yet we encourage participation in the comments for anyone who has their own interpretations of the Valar. Follow along after the cut for more on the Valar.
Origins of the Valar
To understand the Valar, you must first understand their creator: Eru Ilúvatar, the supreme being. He created everything from Arda (the original world) to the Ainur (his "angels"). All of this was created through a musical theme known as The Music of the Ainur. That is how Tolkien depicted the initial creation of everything: through song.
These songs were Eru Ilúvatar's descriptions of what he wanted to be created. He relayed these song to the Ainur, and from there, they ran with his ideas to create their own themes. Each Ainu had a specific theme that grabbed their interest, so they specialized in certain creations. Some took to mountains and trees, while another took to water. One such Ainu, named Melkor, rebelled against the music. He defied the enlightenment of Eru Ilúvatar to create his own themes centering on selfishness and vanity.
Once the music was finished, Eru Ilúvatar gave the Ainur a choice: They could stay with him or enter their new world that they had mutually created. The ones who chose to enter the world were then known as the Valar.
These Valar were the most powerful of the Ainur, including the Lord of the Valar, known as Manwë, and his brother Melkor (later named Morgoth). Melkor arrived in the world first, setting out to destroy everything that his kin and maker had created. When the other Valar arrived, they eventually overthrew Melkor and made extra efforts to contrast his evil with even more beauty. It took thirteen Valar to achieve this, as Melkor was considered the most powerful of the Valar at this time.
The Valar originally dwelt on the Isle of Almaren, but later created Valinor on the western continent of Aman after Melkor's tyranny continued. He eventually destroyed the Isle and was subsequently imprisoned for many ages. From here, the Valar began their discovery of sub-themes in The Music of the Ainur and shared their reborn creativity with the Elves.
- Manwë - As mentioned, he is the King of the Valar. He was the lord of the air, wind and clouds in Arda.
- Ulmo - Lord of Waters. One of the original chief architects of Arda.
- Aulë - As mentioned in a previous Know Your LotRO Lore, he created the Dwarves and eventually what we now know as Middle-earth.
- Oromë - Lord of the Trees. An accomplished huntsman and warrior, Oromë is the first to discover the Elves at Cuiviénen.
- Mandos - Judge of the Dead. Also known as the keeper of the Elves' souls.
- Lórien - Master of Visions and Dreams. His gardens are considered to be the fairest in the world.
- Tulkas - The last of the Valar to ascend into Arda, he gave that final blow needed to imprison Melkor. He is considered the Champion of Valinor because of his supreme strength.
- Varda - Manwë's wife and Queen of the Valar. She kindled the first stars.
- Yavanna - Responsible for creating the plants and the animals. After her husband Aulë had created the Dwarves, she feared for the trees, so she requested the creation of the Ents to protect them.
- Nienna - Lady of Mercy. She teaches us about forgiveness and was in favor of Melkor's release after he was sentenced to imprisonment.
- Estë - The healer of hurt and weariness, Estë's name translates to "rest".
- Melkor - Being the most powerful of the Valar, Melkor's influence went to his head. While all other Valar possess parts of Eru's thought, Melkor possessed it all. After he fled from Valinor, he was officially expelled from the ranks of the Valar and was given the name "Morgoth Bauglir": The Great Enemy. He went on to create (through corruption) all things evil in Middle-earth.
The Lesser Valar
These lesser beings (also known as Maiar) could be considered the helpers to the Valar. They could take on the guise of mortal Men or Elves at any time, as was the case with many such as Sauron, Radagast and our good friend Gandalf. These lesser Valar who were sent to Middle-earth were known as the Istari. They arrived to guide Men and Elves around the Third Age 1000.
Although this article only scratches the surface on the complete story of the Valar, it exposes you to a basic understanding of how Tolkien depicted their role in the creation process. While we don't believe that most LotRO players would care about this information too deeply, it's nice to have a summary to help you better understand where it all began. If you're into the lore more deeply, feel free to add more in the comments below.
Thanks to Jess for the topic idea, and if you have any ideas for a future lore segment, leave it in the comments below as well. We'd love to hear it!