Greetings, Lightbringers! I actually have a blog post for today! (There was a day when I thought I might have to delay it until next week.) This section is the most complex of any I have done so far, and I had a lot of fun drawing the illustrations. Let’s begin, shall we?
The second short section of The Silmarillion is called the Valaquenta (the history of the Valar). If you recall from my last blog post, I mentioned that there are two divisions of the Ainur: the Valar and the Maiar. The Valaquenta gives an account of the Valar, the Maiar, and their enemies.
1. The Valar
The Valar are the Powers of Arda. They are the higher order of Ainur, and are most responsible for the forming of the world. There are fourteen of them, seven lords and seven queens. Their names can be very confusing. I will do my best to keep them distinguished from one another and make note of which Valar will play the biggest part in the later events. (In other words, the ones you need to remember.)
The names of the Lords are Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë, Oromë, Námo (or Mandos, after his place of residence), Irmo (or Lórien, after his place of residence), and Tulkas. The names of the Queens are Varda, Yavanna, Nienna, Estë, Vairë, Vána, and Nessa. Melkor is no longer one of them.
Manwë Súlimo and Varda Elbereth
Tolkien first introduces the reader to the highest of the Valar, Manwë and his wife Varda. In the beginning, “Manwë [was] dearest to Ilúvatar and [understood] most clearly his purposes” (26). He is the king of Arda and the ruler of all the Valar. His surname is Súlimo, which means breather or one of wind because Manwë is the Lord of the Breath of Arda, a lover of wind, clouds, and swift birds.
Varda is called Lady of the Stars and Elbereth (meaning star-queen). Her joy is in light, and Melkor hated and feared her more than all others because “she knew [him] from before the making of the Music and rejected him” (26). This conflict between Varda and Melkor is one of the first appearances of the book’s light vs. dark symbolism.
Manwë and Varda have a special relationship, for “When Manwë…ascends his throne and looks forth, if Varda is beside him, he sees further than all other eyes, through mist, and through darkness, and over the leagues of the sea. And if Manwë is with her, Varda hears more clearly than all other ears the sounds of voices that cry from east to west…” (26).
Manwë and Varda’s names are important to know because they are involved heavily in the affairs of Arda.
Ulmo, Lord of Waters
Next in power is Ulmo, Lord of Waters and King of the Sea, who dwells alone and “moves…in all the deep waters about the Earth or under the Earth” (26). All bodies of water “are in his government; so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world” (27).
His name is important to know, for though he is a recluse among the Valar, he harbors a great love for the Children of Ilúvatar and is instrumental in their history.
Aulë the Smith and Yavanna Kementári
Next is Aulë the smith, whose “lordship is over all the substances of which Arda is made” (27). Aulë’s wife is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits, and “lover of all things that grow in the earth” (27). Her surname is Kementári which means Queen of the Earth.
Aulë and Yavanna are important in the beginning chapters of The Silmarillion, so you will need to know their names, but after the awakening of the Children of Ilúvatar, they are less prominent.
Námo & Vairë, Irmo & Estë, and Nienna
The next two Valar are brothers Námo and Irmo, who are the Fëanturi, which means spirit-masters. Námo dwells in Mandos as the “keeper of the Houses of the Dead, and the summoner of the spirits of the slain” (28). Also called the Doomsman of the Valar, he gives his dooms and judgments “only at the bidding of Manwë” (28). His wife is Vairë the weaver, “who weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her storied webs” (28). Námo’s younger brother Irmo is “the master of visions and dreams” (28). He and his wife Estë the gentle, “healer of hurts and weariness” (28), dwell in the gardens of Lórien. Nienna, the sister of Námo and Irmo, dwells alone as she “mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor” (28).
That may seem like a lot to unpack, but the only ones you really need to know the names of are Námo (Mandos), Irmo (Lórien), and Nienna. These three are siblings in the mind of Ilúvatar. Vairë and Estë do not appear in the later chapters. Of the three siblings, Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar, is the most prominent.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Námo and Irmo more often go by the names of their places of residence, Mandos and Lórien, respectively. For the sake of continuity, I will refer to them using these more common names.
Tulkas and Nessa
The strongest of the Valar, and the one who came last to Arda, is Tulkas Astaldo (the Valiant). His wife, Nessa, is light-footed and loves the deer who follow her wherever she goes.
Neither of these Valar are extremely prominent in the later chapters, but Tulkas is known as the only one of the Valar who could match Melkor in might and bind him.
Oromë and Vána
Oromë is “a mighty lord…a hunter of monsters and fell beasts” (29). He loves horses, hounds, and trees, and for that reason he is called Tauron, Lord of Forests. He carries a horn called Valaróma, the sound of which makes even Melkor tremble. He is known for being the first one of the Valar to meet the Elves when they awoke in Middle-earth. His wife is Vána, the Ever-young.
Oromë plays a part in the early chapters of The Silmarillion.
2. The Maiar
The Maiar are the lesser of the Ainur, “spirits whose being also began before the World, of the same order as the Valar but of less degree” (30). They are the servants of the Valar, and among them are Illmarë (the handmaiden of Varda), Eönwë (the herald of Manwë), Ossë (a servant of Ulmo who loves storms), Uinen (Ossë’s wife who restrains his wildness), Melian (who later marries an Elf), and Olórin (who is later Gandalf the Grey).
In order of importance (with regards to this book, at least), you will need to know the names of Melian, Ossë, and Eönwë.
3. The Enemies
Last of all, the Valaquenta tells of the enemies of the Valar and Maiar. The chief of them is Melkor (meaning “he who arises in might”), who more commonly called Morgoth (“the Dark Enemy of the World”). He ensnared many of the Maiar into his service, and some became the Balrogs, demons of terror. (Remember that monster Gandalf fought at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm? Yeah, that’s a Balrog.) One of Melkor’s servants is Sauron, who is the villain in The Lord of the Rings.
And that, my friends, is a (somewhat) brief summary of the Valaquenta. Having introduced us to the Valar, The Silmarillion will continue with the chapters detailing the first days of the world, which are known as the Spring of Arda.
If you enjoyed this blog post, please leave a like and consider subscribing! It’s free, and the only thing you’ll get from me is a notification whenever I make a new blog post. I’d also love to hear which of the Valar are your favorites. I, myself, like Varda and Ulmo. Leave a comment and tell me all about it! (Or don’t. That’s perfectly fine, too. 🙂 )
See you in the next blog post, Lightbringers!