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Rings of Power: what are the Valar?

Rings of Power: we keep hearing an awful lot about the Valar in the Lord of the Rings TV series but what are they exactly and have we seen them before?

Rings of Power: What are the Valar: Gandalf the White in Minas Tirith smoking a pipe

What are the Valar? The world that Tolkien created is wild and wonderous, full of curiosities and complexities in equal measure. It has gone on to inspire countless other fantasy authors, and his work has been forged into some truly epic adaptions like the Lord of the Rings movies.

This complexity is what we love about Middle-earth, but it also means that there’ll be plenty of moments where you’ll find yourself confused by the thousands of years worth of lore. Did you know for example, that everyone’s favourite Lord of the Rings character Gandalf isn’t just a wizard, but is essentially a demi-God?

Another titbit of information that might have got you scratching your head was the mention of the Valar in the Rings of Power. The Valar got a shoutout in Rings of Power episode 6, thanks to Arondir’s conversation with Bronwyn before the battle. But it was very vague and the fantasy series offered no explanation to audience for what the Valar are. There is no explanation in the fantasy movie trilogy, either. So, what are the Valar?

What are the Valar?

The Valar are God-like entities that presided over the world of Arda, and within that, Middle-earth. They were part of a race of primordial, elemental spirits named the Ainur.

The Ainur, and therefore the Valar, were created by Eru Ilúvatar, who was the chief deity of Arda. Eru Ilúvatar was responsible for the creation of Arda, and for the management of the Valar, who acted on his behalf.

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The Valar and The Maiar

The Ainur can be categorised into two groups: Valar and Maiar. The Valar were the greatest of the Ainur, directly under the command of Eru Ilúvatar and with the strongest powers. Specifically, the Valar were a group of 14 beings, who were tasked with bringing order to Arda upon its creation. They were the greatest of the Ainur, with the most power and responsibility.

The Maiar, on the other hand, were lesser spirits who were led by the Valar. They were created to assist the Valar with the shaping of Arda. There were many of them, most of them were unseen and went unnamed by Tolkien. The best known of the Maiar included the five Istari: Saruman, Gandalf, Radagast, and the two Blue Wizards.

Rings of Power: What are the Valar? Gandalf in Lord of the Rings

Were there evil Valar?

There were also evil Valar and Maiar. Melkor was one of the 14 Valar, but he was expelled from the Valar, whereupon he became Morgoth: the first dark lord, the chief of Sauron, and the source of all evil in Arda and Middle-earth. Morgoth was eventually defeated by the Host of Valinor in the War of Wrath, at the end of the First Age.

The evil Maiar included the Balrog in the depths of Khazad-Dum that killed Gandalf the Grey. And, of course, Sauron was also among their number too. If you want to learn more about the people of the Second Age, check out our list of the best Rings of Power characters.