All 15 Valar & What They’re The Gods Of In Lord Of The Rings

Unseen though they may be, the Valar are vital to The Lord of the Rings – here’s the aspect of creation each of them rules over. Frodo’s journey to Mordor is but a snapshot of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology, and way back in the beginning, there was the supreme Creator, Eru Ilúvatar. Riffing heavily on Bible lore, Eru brought into existence the Valar as a fantasy equivalent of archangels. Blessed with godlike powers and an immortal lifespan, the Valar are revered throughout Middle-earth, regardless of race, region, or era. Tasked with watching over the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men), the Valar intervened only in the direst circumstances, largely keeping to themselves in Valinor.

Pulling from more ancient belief systems, many of the Vala specialize in a unique aspect of creation. The people of Middle-earth would pray in honor of whichever Vala was relevant to their needs, whether that be sailing, farming or killing folk. In stories concerning Middle-earth, the Valar play only a background role, seldom mentioned and even less often spotted, but their importance cannot be overstated. Here’s each member of Eru’s highest-ranking order, and what they stood for.

Not only did Manwë preside over the winds, he was also appointed leader of the Valar and supreme ruler of all Arda. Decisions the Valar took were a collaborative effort, but Manwë ultimately had final say on matters, and was the closest to Eru, merging disparate elements from figures such as Zeus and the archangel Michael. Manwë (who is often associated with the color blue) obviously doesn’t feature in The Lord of the Rings, but his presence can be felt in a number of ways. Gandalf was a servant of Manwë, and Valinor’s king encouraged him to join the fight against Sauron. More significantly, Manwë first sent the Great Eagles to Middle-earth, meaning the creatures from The Lord of the Rings trace directly back to him. As master of the air, any suspiciously helpful gusts in Middle-earth lore (such as the breeze that blows away Saruman after the Scouring of the Shire) can be interpreted as Manwë’s subtle intervention.

Queen of the Stars, Varda can also claim to be queen of Manwë’s heart, since the pair are married (it’s a common theme – the Valinor dating pool is pretty slim) and rule over their domain together. Varda’s most significant contribution to Tolkien lore concerns the various sources of light in Arda. She lit the Two Lamps – the original pre-tree lights – then used dew from the Two Trees of Valinor to create stars in the night sky, before later turning her hand to the sun and moon. After Fëanor crafted the Silmarils, it was Varda who blessed the jewels so that evil hands couldn’t handle them. Known as Elbereth among the Elves, Varda was responsible for setting Elrond’s father, Eärendil, on a voyage across the night sky for all eternity – an event referenced in Amazon’s The Rings of Power.

All of the trees, fruits, and natural growth in Middle-earth can be attributed to the Vala known as Yavanna, who sung these wonders in existence. By far her greatest feat was raising the Two Trees of Valinor as replacements for Varda’s destroyed lamps. Essentially the « Mother Earth » of Tolkien mythology, Yavanna’s power could heal lands defiled by Morgoth, albeit only to a certain extent. In The Rings of Power episode 6, Arondir tells Bronwyn, « It is believed that one of the Valar watches over growing things, » and although he doesn’t offer a name, it’s Yavanna he’s referring to. Yavanna’s love of nature perfectly opposes her husband’s area of expertise…

While Middle-earth’s Elves will often speak of Yavanna or Elbereth, Dwarves are far more likely to mention Aulë – and there’s a good reason for that. Aulë was the Valar of crafting and smithery, making divine objects such as the Two Lamps and the sun and moon, which Varda would fill with light. So deeply did Aulë love crafting, he even made his own race on Middle-earth – the Dwarves. Despite breaking the rules by attempting to conjure sentient life, Eru looked upon Aulë mercifully, and permitted the Dwarves into his grand tapestry, since he already anticipated this outcome. The stout race’s obsession with mining and forging, therefore, comes directly from their creator. Dwarves may revere him, but Aulë has a terrible track record in terms of followers. His two Maiar servants were Mairon and Curomo – in other words, Sauron and Saruman…

Originally known as Námo, Mandos was the Valar’s resident judge. Whether it be Melkor or Fëanor, divine acts of wrongdoing would be met with a statement of doom delivered by Mandos. Though predominantly a judge, any mortal might perceive Mandos more akin to a god of death. When Elves and Men died in Middle-earth, their souls arrived in the Halls of Mandos, where the Vala himself would pass judgment like a super-charged St. Peter. Mandos also possessed the ability to bend these rules with Manwë’s permission, such as when he resurrected the tragic lovers Beren and Lúthien. In his capacity as judge, Mandos also decreed that Elrond and Elros could choose between the paths of Elves and Men – a decision passed down to other half-Elven descendants.

Very little is written about the Vala called Vairë. She would weave tapestries depicting the world’s happenings, and these hang all across the Halls of Mandos like a history book. Vairë is also lucky enough to be married to the stern, gloomy namesake of the building her work hangs within.

Often depicted both physically and thematically as a mirror of Poseidon or Neptune, Ulmo reigned over all waters. Because the seas connected him to Middle-earth, Ulmo was the Vala most in touch with its people, and he deliberately dwelled outside Valinor without marrying. Because Ulmo loved the Children of Ilúvatar so dearly, he intervened in their affairs more regularly than others of his kin. During the First Age, for example, Ulmo secretly advised Finrod (Galadriel’s brother) and Turgon on where to build strongholds hidden from Morgoth, and when Elwing (Elrond’s mother) cast herself into the sea holding a Silmaril, Ulmo spared her.

Like the Greek god Artemis, Oromë was the Valar’s god of the hunt. Predictably, then, Oromë preferred the environs of Middle-earth to Valinor, and was similar to Ulmo in terms of both spending time there, and being friendly with the locals. Indeed, it was Oromë who first discovered the Elves and christened them, before passing on his knowledge of the forests. Oromë impacted Middle-earth history in another big way by gifting his pet wolf, Huan, to one of Fëanor’s sons. Huan played a large part in the tale of Beren and Lúthien, and even took a decent chunk out of Sauron.

While having Yavanna as a Vala for trees and nature and Vána geared toward flowers might seem a little overboard, Vána is Yavanna’s younger sister (and also Oromë’s wife), so both share a similarly plant-based sphere of influence. Tolkien doesn’t write much regarding Vána’s impact upon Middle-earth, but she does leave flowers everywhere she walks, which is pleasant.

No Vala is really dedicated to war, since the concept of bloodshed was largely alien to begin with, but Tulkas – the warrior of the group – fits the mold of an Ares or Mars. Depicted in Norse Viking-esque terms, Tulkas is most notable for his opposition of Morgoth, as even when other Valar were hesitating over direct action, Tulkas was permanently ready for a ruck. Inevitably, it was Tulkas who got the better of Morgoth during the villain’s first foray into Middle-earth.

Hey, dance is important too. Like several of the female Valar, only scant details are provided on Nessa, who was both Tulkas’ wife and Oromë’s sister. She was known for two traits in particular: her great speed, and her love of dancing.

Just as Námo became more commonly referred to as Mandos due to his (in)famous home, his brother Irmo earned the moniker Lórien due to his Gardens of Lórien. As the master of dreams, Lórien deals in hope and desires, and is said to have given the people of Middle-earth strength during dark times, even if specific examples of his influence aren’t given. The Gardens of Lórien were a place where those in Valinor would come to ease their weariness. The word « lórien » broadly means « dream, » which explains the connection to Galadriel’s realm of Lothlórien in Middle-earth.

As Lórien’s wife, living in the Gardens of Lórien with him, it’s no surprise that Estë’s powers revolve around healing. Though ranked among the Valar, Estë remains intentionally distanced from the business of the other members.

Nienna is the sister of Mandos and Lórien, chiefly concerned with feelings of grief and pity. Recognizable by her gray hood of mourning, the Halls of Nienna preach compassionate values, and Gandalf (in his Maia form) was among her most devout students. Nienna’s impact upon Middle-earth history is something of a mixed bag. On one hand, the merciful Nienna argued that Morgoth should be released after the Valar first captured him. Almost balancing out that huge error, Nienna’s tears after Morgoth destroyed the Two Lamps helped create the Two Trees of Valinor.

Better known in The Lord of the Rings by the title Morgoth, Melkor was originally created as the strongest of all Valar, and Tolkien describes him as having skills and attributes from all of the others. Melkor’s impatience and envy compelled him to seek out Eru’s Secret Fire, and although he never obtained this elusive power, those rebellious thoughts continued to twist and grow. Disliked and distrusted by many other Valar (Varda and Ulmo especially), Melkor waged several wars against his former friends. First he successfully marred the world the Valar were creating, then he destroyed their Two Lamps, then he dominated Middle-earth. Feigning repentance, Melkor was permitted back to Valinor, but his evil crusade continued when he drained the Two Trees and returned to Middle-earth once again plotting total domination.

Next: Everything Added In Lord Of The Rings’ Extended Editions

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.