Valar & Eldar Explained In The Rings Of Power


The terms Valar and Eldar aren’t frequently heard in The Rings of Power, but understanding who and what they are is crucial for grasping J.R.R. Tolkien’s world. The actions of the Valar and Eldar shape the framework of Amazon’s prequel series, even moreso than in The Lord of the Rings. While they aren’t as easy to define as Men and Dwarves, Middle-earth wouldn’t be what it is without them.

The origins of the Valar are deep in Tolkien’s legendarium which hasn’t received much screen attention until now. However, what’s to be discovered in the body of work outside of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is incredibly illuminating. This material—The Silmarillion and The Histories of Middle-earth—is what The Rings of Power is mining to tell the story of the Second Age of Middle-earth.

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What happens in the Second Age is shaped by the actions of the Valar, and the tragedies that befall them, before and during the First Age. Their creation, their entrance into the world, their first fights against Morgoth, and their adoption of the Elves: the Second Age makes little sense without it. What remains to be seen is just how much of their story is told in The Rings of Power. Here is the history of the Valar and the Eldar explained.

The Valar Explained In The Rings of Power

Understanding the Valar requires looking to a time before the beginning of the world that contains Middle-earth. Eru Ilúvatar, essentially God in Tolkien’s legendarium, birthed spirits that were reflections of his own thoughts. These spirits were known as the Ainur and are thought of as Eru’s children. But one of the Ainur was more powerful the rest. Melkor, soon to be known as Morgoth, was a reflection of all of Eru’s thoughts, while the rest of the Ainur were reflections of a single thought.

Eru and the Ainur sang the universe, known as Eä, into being. Each of the Ainur contributed their own themes to the Great Song. Even Melkor contributed his discordant notes which Eru himself, in that time before time, rose up to oppose. Eventually, the song was finished and a complete world, with a complete history, was born.

Eru allowed the Ainur to look out from the Void and see the world they had helped him make. That is when they saw what Eru himself had made in that world—Elves and Men, known as “the Children of Ilúvatar.” The Ainur expressed a desire to be part of that world, known as Arda, and Eru granted them that desire. Upon entrance into Arda, they became known as Valar. As recounted in Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur, the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion:

But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.

How The Valar Shaped Middle-earth & Its Races

Fourteen of the Ainur entered the world they had helped create. It was the role of these Ainur, now known as Valar, to shape Arda and the creatures who inhabited it. But they were unable to shape it undisturbed as, almost from the beginning, Melkor sought to disrupt their work.

Manwe, the leader of the Valar, initially summoned other spirits to help him defeat Melkor, forcing the latter to retreat to distant regions of Eä. That accomplished, the Valar created two great lamps which stood at either end of Arda and illuminated the world. For a time, Arda prospered and its flora and fauna flourished, but Melkor returned and destroyed the lamps. The Valar retreated to the continent of Aman in the far west of Middle-earth and created the city of Valinor. There they crafted the Two Trees which were the light of their new home.

Elsewhere in Arda, Melkor was biding his time and growing in darkness and power. He eventually stumbled on the newly-awakened race of Elves, one group of the Children of Ilúvatar, and promptly began preying on them and corrupting them. Before long, however, the Valar also learned that the Elves had been awakened and virtually begged them to move to Valinor. Some of the Elves refused, but many began the westward journey across Middle-earth. Along the way, different groups of Elves gave up on the journey and settled in newfound lands. But those who make the trip all the way to Valinor became known as the Eldar.

Elves & The Eldar Explained

While all Elves are Children of Ilúvatar, not all Elves are the same. They sometimes go by Quendi, meaning “the Speakers” because, when they awakened in Middle-earth, they were the only creatures they knew who used language, speech, and song. All of the Elves who left their original home by Cuiviénen are known as Eldar, meaning “People of the Stars.” The Elves who made it all the way to Valinor are known as Calaquendi, or “Elves of the Light.”

While the Valar primarily wanted to protect the Elves from the machinations of Melkor, with so many Elves settled in Valinor, they had the opportunity to continue shaping the people of Middle-earth without leaving their home. The Vala Aulë taught some of the Elves smithcraft. Ulmo taught ship-building, fishing, and the ways of the sea. Yavanna taught the care of the earth and the growth of plants and fruit.

The Eldar who stayed longest in Valinor and learned the most gained something akin to superpowers. Glorfindel, a Ñoldorian Elf born in Valinor, is a significant example. He could see into the Seen and Unseen realms, last for hours in battle, and faced a Balrog – much like Gandalf – on his own. Both he and the Balrog died, but Manwë re-embodied Glorfindel and gave him powers almost equal to that of a Maiar. In The Lord of the Rings novels, his mere appearance would cause Black Riders to flee.

How The Valar & Eldar Factor Into The Lord Of The Rings Franchise

While the Valar are arguably more present in The Rings of Power, their presence is hardly felt in The Lord of the Rings franchise. What’s seen instead are the nearly-as-powerful Maiar. The Maiar are spirits created by Eru Ilúvatar to assist the Valar as they shaped Arda. Eönwë was the chief of the Maiar and servant of Manwë, King of the Valar. Other Maiar included Arien and Tilion who moved the sun and moon across the sky.

The most recognizable servants of the Valar are, of course, the Istari: Maiar who were sent to Middle-earth to aid and guide Men, Elves, and Dwarves in the fight against Sauron. Often referred to as wizards, Gandalf, Radagast, and Saruman have made on-screen appearances in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises. As seen with Saruman, not all Maiar are good, however: Balrogs are Maiar corrupted by Morgoth.

Galadriel is perhaps the most well-known of the Eldar in The Lord of the Rings franchise (and now The Rings of Power). Born in Aman, the land of the Valar, she came to Middle-earth early in the First Age and remained there, initially to aid the fight against Morgoth and later because she and Celeborn had fallen in love. While other Eldar don’t feature in The Lord of the Rings movies, Celebrimbor, Finrod, and Gil-galad have major storylines in The Rings of Power.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues Thursday/Friday on Prime Video.Want more The Rings of Power articles? Check out our essential content below…

  • How Many Episodes Of The Rings Of Power There Are (& When The Finale Is)
  • The Rings Of Power Cast & Character Descriptions
  • Everything The Rings Of Power Leaves Out About The War Of Wrath
  • Every New Tolkien Location In The Rings Of Power Explained

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