The Valar (singular Vala) are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, but The Silmarillion (published posthumously but assembled mostly from material written before The Lord of the Rings) develops them into the Powers of Arda or the Powers of the World. They are angelic powers, the Ainur that chose to go into the World (Arda) and complete its material development after its form was determined by the Music of the Ainur (Ainulindalë).
Origin and acts
Eru Ilúvatar first revealed to the Ainur his great vision of The World through musical themes.
This World, fashioned from his ideas and expressed as the Music of Ilúvatar, was refined by thoughtful interpretations by the Ainur, who then created their own themes based on each unique comprehension. No one Ainu understood all of the themes that sprang from Ilúvatar. Instead, each elaborated individual themes, singing of mountains and subterranean regions, say, from themes for metals and stones. The themes of Ilúvatar's music were elaborated, and the Ainur added creative touches to blend with the themes of other Ainur. Melkor, however, added discordant themes: he strove against the Music; his themes became evil because they sprang from selfishness and vanity, not from the enlightenment of Ilúvatar.
Once the Music was complete, including Melkor's interwoven themes of vanity, Ilúvatar gave the Ainur a choice — to dwell with him, or to enter the world that they had mutually created. Those that chose to enter the world became known as the Valar, the 'Powers of Arda', though the Elves generally reserved that term for the more powerful of them. (The lesser Valar they called the Maiar.) Among the Valar were some of the most powerful and wise of the Ainur, including Manwë, the Lord of the Valar, and also Melkor, his brother. The two are distinguished by the selfless love of Manwë for the Music of Ilúvatar, and the selfish love that Melkor bore for himself and no other — least of all for the Children of Ilúvatar, as the Elves and Men became known.
Melkor (later named Morgoth, 'dark enemy') arrived in the World first, causing tumult wherever he went. As the others arrived, they saw how Melkor's presence would destroy the integrity of Ilúvatar's themes. Eventually, and with the aid of the Vala Tulkas, who entered Arda last, Melkor was temporarily overthrown, and the Valar began shaping the world and creating beauty to counter the darkness and ugliness of Melkor's discordant noise.
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