Valaquenta: The Valar

Valaquenta offers a much more detailed introduction to the first collection of characters who play larger roles in Quenta Silmarillion. It begins with the Valar.  
There are fourteen Valar, not including Melkor. Seven lords and seven queens. Their names are as follows, sort of in order of importance.
The Lords:
Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë, Oromë, Mandos, Lórien, Tulkas
The Queens:
Varda, Yavanna, Nienna, Estë, Vairë , Vána, Nessa

"Among them Nine were of chief power and reverence; but one is removed from their number, and Eight remain, the Aratar, the High Ones of Arda: Manwë and Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna and Aulë, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Though Manwëis their King and holds their allegiance under Eru, in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that lúvatar has sent into Eä."

"Melkor is counted no longer among the Valar, and his name is not spoken upon Earth."

Sorry, Tolkien, we are going to be speaking it. Below are tiny summaries of the dispositions and powers of each of the Valar. They are listed in the same order as in the book, which I have found to be the least confusing. I found that having a cheat sheet like this nearby, as well as a few family trees, made reading the rest of the book much less confusing. 


Manwë is "dearest to Ilúvatar and understands most clearly his purposes." He is the leader among the Valar. He exerts most control over such things as winds, clouds, air, and birds, and delights in them. "Súlimo he is surnamed, Lord of the Breath of Arda."


"With Manwë dwells Varda, Lady of the Stars, who knows all the regions of Eä." She is the most feared by Melkor, and "in light is her power and her joy." She and Manwë are almost always together, and dwell in Valinor. With Varda at his side Manwë sees 'farther than all other eyes'. And with Manwë at her side, Varda hears 'more clearly than all other ears'. She is also named Elbereth.
"Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face."


Ulmo is the Lord of the Waters. "He is alone." In power he is closest to Manwë. He does not like to walk on land, and does not make himself visible in a body as do the other Valar. Ulmo is fond of Elves and Men, and was their ally even when the rest of the Valar were angry with them. 
"At times he will come unseen to the shores of Middle-earth, or pass far inland up firths of the sea, and there make music upon his great horns, the Ulumúri, that are wrought of white shell; and those to whom that music comes hear it ever after in their hearts, and longing for the sea never leaves them again."
All water is "in his government; so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world."
"If the Children of Eru beheld him they were filled with a great dread; for the arising of the King of the Sea was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam-crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into shadows of green."


"[Aulë's] lordship is over all the substances of which Arda is made. In the beginning he wrought much in fellowship with Manwë and Ulmo; and the fashioning of all lands was his labour." He is a master of crafts and loves 'works of skill.' He was a friend to the Noldor, and they learned more from him than any of the other Elves. 


"The spouse of Aulë is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits." In her dominion are all things that grow, from trees to moss. "In reverence Yavanna is next to Varda among the Queens of the Valar." In Eldarin, she is given the surname Kementári, Queen of the Earth.

"In the form of a woman she is tall, and robed in green; but at times she takes other shapes. Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves."


"The Fëanturi, masters of spirits, are brethren, and they are called most often Mandos and Lórien. Yet these are rightly the names of the places of their dwelling, and their true names are Námo and Irmo."
Námo is the elder, and lives to the west of Valinor, in Mandos. He is the "keeper of the Houses of the Dead, and the summoner of the spirits of the slain."


Vairë the Weaver is the spouse of Námo. She "weaves all things that have ever been in Time into her storied webs, and the halls of Mandos that ever widen as the ages pass are clothed with them. 


Lórien (Irmo) is 'the master of visions and dreams. In Lórien are his gardens in the land of the Valar, and they are the fairest of all places in the world, filled with many spirits."


Estëis the spouse of Irmo, she is the healer. 
"Grey is her raiment; and rest is her gift. She walks not by day, but sleeps upon an island in the tree-shadows lake of Lórellin."


Nienna is the sister of the Fëanturi. She lives on the borders of the world 'west of West'. She goes often to 'the halls of Mandos, which are near to her own; and all those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom."
"She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor. So great was her sorrow, as the Music unfolded, that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and the sound of mourning was woven into the themes of the World before it began."


"Greatest in strength and deeds of prowess is Tulkas, who is surnamed Astaldo, the Valiant." He loves wrestling and 'contests of strength'. He is the warrior among the Valar "and is of no avail as a counselor, but is a hardy friend."


Nessa is the spouse of Tulkas, and the sister of Oromë. Her delight is in dancing. 
"Deer she loves, and they follow her train whenever she goes in the wild; but she can outrun them, swift as an arrow with the wind in her hair."


Oromë is a hunter of 'monsters and fell beasts." He loves horses, hounds, and trees, for which reason he is also called Aldaron, Lord of Forests. His steed is Nahar "white in the sun, and shining silver at night." His horn is named Valaróma "the sounds of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds.


Vána is the spouse of Oromë, and the younger sister of Yavanna. She is called the Ever-young. 
"All flowers spring as she passes and open if she glances upon them; and all birds sing at her coming."

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(All quotes are from the Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien unless otherwise mentioned. Post header image property of The Red Book.)


The sections of Valaquenta:
Summary of Ainulindalë
Of the Valar
Of the Maiar
Of the Enemies

Valaquenta begins with a quick recap of the events from Ainulindalë, and it might be beneficial for slower readers to begin with that, then read Ainulindalë. 
I was rather busy when I was first reading the Music of the Ainur, so too much time passed between readings and I got terribly confused. The summary in Valaquenta is only two paragraphs, and is a good way to get the story into your mind in a couple minutes, before indulging in the beauty and depth of Ainulindalë.

Next we are given an introduction to the Valar themselves. Once again, this might be worth reading before Ainulindalë. I don't like reading things out of order, but sometimes it helps. I am not saying that you should read this instead. No. Bad. Don't do that. I'm merely saying that it might help clarify a little bit and allow you to indulge in the loveliness of Ainulindalë without getting all distracted by trying to learn all the names. I also strongly recommend having  a pronunciation guide nearby, because the longer you read without the correct pronunciation, the harder it will be to get it right in the end. There is a quick one in the back of most editions of Silmarillion, and a whole section on it in the Appendices in all copies of Return of the King. I have typed up the one from Silmarillion HERE so if that sounds preferable to flipping back and forth in the book you are welcome to it. After all, it isn't mine.

After "Of the Valar" there is a brief section on the Maiar, explaining what they are, and introducing you to a few of the more important ones. 

This is followed by "Of the Enemies" which holds a quick recap on Melkor, and establishes him under the name Morgoth. It also speaks of the origins of the Balrogs (hint: they are Maiar) and gives us our first glimpse of Sauron (also a Maia).

Tip on making it through Silmarillion with minimal confusion: 
I advise a note taking approach to familial relations. There is one part in particular where a bunch of relationships between a bunch of people with really similar names are listed off in half a page. There are family trees in the back, but I think that the information will get into your head better if you make your own family trees based off the book, then go check them in the back to make sure you don't have errors. There are a lot of different relations between a lot of different people, and if you can keep all that in your head throughout the book, I admire you. 
Do not discount the appendix in the back. Don't wait until you finish the book to read it. It has maps, family trees, and a glossary of people, places, and pretty much all the elvish words used in the book. In alphabetical order. The Appendix is your best friend. 

Do not ever be discouraged. Ever. This book seems really hard, and I'm not going to pretend it was easy. But it was so worth it. And not in the "I got to the end and was glad I had done it" sort of way. More like, every paragraph makes you really glad you didn't give up on that last one. The appendix in the back is very helpful. Taking notes will make everything easier. And I hope that this little series on the Silmarillion will be mildly helpful. I'm going to try to keep my happy rants about how pretty it is in posts of their own, and put slightly more concise information in others. I don't know if these will be more beneficial read before or after you go to that section in the book. I don't know if they will be helpful at all. 
I just want to share with you my journey through Silmarillion. My notes, struggles, favorite moments, etc. 
I am, of course, documenting my second reading of Silmarillion, but I have no part in my brain where all this is held in my memory. I still have to go back to it before I would trust myself to volunteer information. 

I am going to be breaking it into manageable sections, and spacing over what I consider to be enough time to read them. Ainulindalë and Valaquenta are already in small sections that can be taken separately, so it's been easy so far, but when I get into Quenta Silmarillion I hope you will forgive me a little trial and error. 
If any of you think of something in particular you want me to do, I would love to hear your ideas. 
Now for some confusion of my own. I am being responsible and writing these posts several months before you will be reading them. Which means that there might be a few inconsistencies. 
It's like time travel. Because you are probably wearing warm clothing right now, and have your heaters on, whereas I am sitting in an air-conditioned house, noticing that my plants need to be watered again because it's SO HOT. 

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