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Lord of the Rings - the Valar and Maiar
By Rider, 24 July 2007; Revised
Category: History and Fiction
When Tolkien created a world with its own history and cultures, languages and words, he obviously included mythology and gods in what he created. These gods are often a mix of many other gods that have existed in the mythologies of our world... however sometimes; they have only a few common lines...
It is told that in the beginning, a supreme deity, Eru Ilúvatar asked his subjects to come to him. There, the subjects created the great Music and in that, the world started. A secret fire was put into the nothingness and from that, the World grew. Few of those subjects of Eru began to like the world and decided to descend to it and to make it a beautiful place.
Of those who descended to the world there were fourteen great lords and ladies and they were served by many more. These fourteen lords and ladies were known as Valar and Valier. The Valar were the seven great lords and the Valier were the seven great ladies. These were the ’prime gods’ of this world.
Those who served these Valar and Valier were called Maiar. There were many Maiar but we know only a few. They served different Valar although some did what they enjoyed most for none were ordered to do something against their bidding.
The Valar lived in Valinor which was a great island at the edges of the world and that was separated with great mountains from the rest of the world.
Eru Ilúvatar was the Lord of everything. All he Valars did his bidding and he decided the fate of all things. It was he who commanded the Valar to create Arda and also it was he who inspired them. Therefore, he might be seen as the beginning. Often, the Valar asked for advice from Eru.
He might be seen in some ways as the Greek Chaos, who was bored and therefore began the creation of everything. Similarly, Eru Ilúvatar connects to all the gods in the myths of creation of different origin. Then again, as he was in a sense the beginning of everything, the Roman Janus be connected – after all, Janus was the god of beginning (amongst other things that he was).
Of the Seven Valar, the greatest was Manwë. People also called him Súlimo, Lord of the Winds. He was great and powerful and he lived upon the Oiolossë, which was the highest mountain peak upon the world. Manwë governed all the winds and skies of Arda (the world) and his friends were the eagles and they often did as Manwë wanted. Of all the races and people upon Arda, Manwë enjoyed most the company of the Vanyar, who were a group of Elves.
Manwë is much like Zeus in many ways (and therefore also like Jupiter and Tinia and Odin). They all like eagles (not to mention other birds) and govern the skies and winds. Manwë also has some aspects of Thor – thunder is their ally and they warn people by thunderstorms if need be so.
Ulmo is the Lord of the Waters and he lives nowhere, preferring to travel around the world in the deep and dark waters. He is the second greatest by power. Yet he is kind and it was he of all Valar who helped the people on Middle-Eart
Ulmo, like other gods of the seas, resembles us Poseidon. In a few pictures of Ulmo, he also has the trident, normally used by Poseidon. After Neptunus gained the aspects of Poseidon (become also the god of seas and oceans), he would again be a close resemblance to Ulmo.
Aulë is a smith and he created the continents of Arda. By power he was third of the Valar. He was also a great master of mining and it was he who taught people to mine for jewels and to create all magnificent things. Aulë created the dwarves although other Valar did not like that.
Aulë is much like the Greek god of smithing – Hephaistos. Yet, Hephaistos is a cripple however Aulë is in full health. By the forming of continents what Aulë did, he might carry some elements of Gaia, the Earth, in himself although that is only a minor resemblance. The Roman Vulcanus is also not far off for though he was not a smith, he was a god of fire and Aulë closely interacts with fire too.
Námo is the lord of souls. He is mostly known by the place he lives in – Mandos. Mandos is the place where all souls of the fallen Elves gather to. Námo forgets nothing and he acts as the judge of the Valar.
Being the guardian of all souls that have died, he and his halls are a close call to the Northern Hel and Greek Hades. He has also released some souls back upon Earth like Hades did and Hel promised that she would do.
Irmo is the brother of Námo and he lives in Lorien and is also known by the name where he lives at. Irmo guides all visions and dreams and in his gardens of Lorien, all people can rest from the troubles of life.
Due to the healing elements of Irmo, he might be considered similar to the Roman Apollo and Aesculapius, both of whom were concerned with healing wounds or diseases. In Norse mythology, healing is bestowed upon a goddess, Eir, and it is the same for the Greeks – their healer was Panacea.
Tulkas is a Valar of great strength and power. He loves to wrestle. He is also as quick as the wind and he never tires. His given name is Astaldo, Heroic. Tulkas’ hair and beard are golden. It is told that he is no advisor nor does he care of the past nor future but he is the greatest of friends and will never leave a friend in trouble. He also liked duels.
The Northern Ull (or Uller) is quite like Tulkas – both enjoyed duels and were considered gods of them (although the latter isn’t so true about Tulkas). The northern Heimdall is too like Tulkas – both of them were guards, Tulkas for the return of Melkor and Heimdall guarded the bridge of Byfrost which lead to Asgard. His brave actions speak for themselves, much like the Greek Heracles and northern Tyr (who had his hand bitten off).
Oromë is a great rider and lord. His wrath is terrible and he loved hunting. It is told that in the dark times, Oromë returned to Middle-Earth, where Melkor had taken power, and hunted his beasts and slew them by numbers and taught also all of his followers and friends to do the same. He also loves the trees and forests which gives him the name Aldaron or Tauron, Lord of the Forests. His horse is named Nahar and he has a great horn which is called Valaróma.
Oromë has a great horn that he will use in times of trouble, that resemble the northern Heimdall and his horn which was to be blown in the beginning of Ragnarok. Oromë and hunting are similar to Odin – it is said that Odin was often seen as a part of a hunting party. He is again a brave god. His love for forests make him similar to Artemis. The Romans had a god of forests too who went by the name Silvanus.
Varda Elentári is the wife of Manwë and she is the Lady of Stars. She is the most beautiful woman upon all Arda and her strength lies in light. She lives with Manwë upon Oiolossë. There, when they two stand together, and Varda is besides Manwë, he sees to the ends of the world and she hears better than anyone else all what happens in the world. She is called Elbereth Gilthoniel by the Elves.
Yavanna is the wife of Aulë. She loves all that grows and loved to walk upon Middle-Earth and watch the trees and plants grow. She is also called Kementári, the Queen of the Earth. Also, Yavanna is the person who asked for spirits to be given to trees, thereby being the creator of Ents.
Being a goddess of growth, Yavanna distantly resembles the goddesses of fertility – Freya and Demeter. Though, Demeter was more of a person of fields. Picumnes, another Roman god of nature, also controlled growth of things.
Vairë is the wife of Námo and she loves weaving. Everything that has happened or will happen, she weaves and all that she creates are put upon the walls of Mandos.
Much like the trios of the Greek, Roman and Northern goddesses of fate, Vairë deals with weaving the fate. Yet, she is alone although some of her Maiar might have helped her. Also, being the wife of the god of fate, she is similar to Greek Persephone whe was wedded to Hades (although Persephone was wedded unwillingly and we can’t say that about Vairë).
Estë is the wife of Irmo and she lives in Lorien. She distributes rest amongst all creatures and she does not move during the day but sleeps.
The fact that she distributes rest and sleep, makes Estë alike Hypnos although Hypnos was a man and Estë is a woman. Hypnos was sleep for Greeks.
She weeps for every wound that Melkor has given to Arda. She is also wise and she lives on the borders of the world. Her windows look out into the nothingness and there people can learn of sorrow and grow wise.
She is wise and that makes her similar to the Greek god Athena who was the goddess of wisdom. That also makes the Roman Minerva and Etruscan Menerva alike Nienna; even more than Athena one might say due to the fact that neither Minerva nor Menerva were the goddesses of war that Athena was…
Nessa is the sister of Oromë and the wife of Tulkas. She loves deers and is fast. She also loves dancing.
Nessa loves deer and that makes her similar to Greek Artemis and Roman Diana, both of whom were beautiful and are known for loving deers. She is made similar to Terpsichore (the muse of dance and poetry) because the both loved dancing.
She is the sister of Yavanna and the wife of Oromë. She is called ’the Everyoung’. She is very beautiful. She loves the company of birds and flowers.
As she is a being of nature (like her husband), she may resemble us of the Roman ‘di agrestes’ who were the gods of nature (for example Silvanus and Faunus).
Of the Maiar, we do not know much, but they serve some of the gods, or have gone to serve the evil of the world.
Eönwë is the herald of Manwë and he is fearless. He also carries the standard of the Valar. He knew the art of the use of all weapons and none could best him at those.
The herald of the Olympians is Hermes, much like how Eönwë is the herald of the Valar and especially Manwë. Unlike Eönwë, Hermes is one of the twelve ‘high’ gods of the Greek mythology, which Eönwë was not.
Ilmarë is a handmaiden of Varda and she is one of the chiefs of the Maiar.
Ossë is a Maia of Ulmo and he governs the seas near the shores of Middle-Earth. He does not like the deep oceans although he loves storms. He also loves doing mischief. Uinen is the Lady of the Seas, she is the wife of Ossë and the only one who can stop him from mischiefs and calm down the seas.
Poseidon had many other gods help him deal with seas, not unlike Titan Okeanos, who had had many children, of which quite many governed different parts of the world of water. In the sense that Ossë loved storms, he is similar to Indra (the god of thunder and storms); a Hawaiian god, Apu-Hau; and Viracocha of the Incas to name a few.
Melian was a wise Maia. She lived for long times in Lorien. She was loved by nightingales and her beauty was remarkable. She went to Middle-Earth and there she charmed a great Lord of the Elves. They two married and from them, Melian and Elu Thingol, has the line of the Maiar and Valar come down to other Elves and humans.
Arien was the Maia who was entrusted with the guiding of the sun. She could withstand the heat and she lead it over the skies every day.
Tilion was the Maia who was entrusted with the vessel of the moon. He had once been a great hunter of Oromë. It is told that Tilion started to love Arien and often misguided the moon due to wanting to be close to Arien.
Arien is, in a sense, much like the Persian god of light, Mithra. Mithra governed all that was between the land and the skies and he saw everything. Although Arien was only the leader of the Sun, these aspects make the two quite similar. Also, the Greek Helios who led the chariot of the Sun is similar to her, not to mention the numerous Egyptian gods (Re and Aton for example) who dealt with the Sun. The Norse Sun was named Alfrodull and it was a chariot that was led by a girl. The Greek moon was known as Selene and she was a woman (unlike Tilion). The Norse moon was however a man, known as Mani. He too rode a chariot through the skies. And, he is chased by the wolf Hati (much like Tilion is once threatened to be destroyed by the evil creatures of Morgoth).
Olórin is the Maia who is most well known by the name of Gandalf although h
Melkor or Melko, as he was sometimes known was the greatest enemy of the Valar. Melkor was later named Morgoth due to his evil actions and he was also known as Bauglir, the Oppressor.
Melkor had many servants, of whom a great number were fallen Maiar. For example, all of the Balrog were Maiar. Sauron was once a great Maia of Aulë until he fell. The Elves knew Sauron as Gorthaur the Cruel.
Sauron (and other servants of Melkor) are quite similar to hundreds of different ‘evil’ gods and creatures of different mythologies – the Typhon of the Greeks and Ancalagon the Black (a dragon); Ravan of the Hindu and Gothmog (a Balrog – Maiar of the fire who followed Melkor become Balrogs; Gothmog was the Captain in Chief in many assaults against the Elves and Men); the spiders that Reiko killed and Ungoliant…
J.R.R. Tolkien ‘The Silmarillion’
J.R.R. Tolkien ‘The Book of Lost Tales I’
References and Notes: