The Valar (Q: "Powers") are the highest among the Ainur in Eä. Eru conceived fifteen Valar, the mightiest of whom was Melkor (Q. "He Who Arises in Might"). In time, however, Melkor would betray his Creator and fall from grace, and Eru forever removed his name from the Rolls of the Exalted. Only fourteen Valar greeted the coming of the Children of Arda. As Morgoth (S. "Black Enemy"), the High Ainu Melkor was doomed to remain apart from his kind. To this day, the Eldar refuse to speak his name. The Valar, like all Ainur, are immortal spirits without need of corporeal conveyance. Their spirits only took form so they could interact with the Children of Iluvatar (i.e., the Elves, Dwarves, Men, etc.). It is their wardship of Arda and the Heavens that dictates their need for shape. Their role compels their occasional adoption of physical bodies. Guardians of a material world require material ties. The Valar are few, but they are the most powerful beings in Eä. They work through (their people) their lesser brethren, the Maiar. Pledging their loyalties to the Vala royalty, these less-exalted Ainur serve as the Valars’ servants.
Each Vala is a unique spiritual entity who exemplifies one or more of Eru’s thoughts. The fourteen Valar are the focus of the themes of creation, and they represent generalized concepts which Eru envisioned in the Beginning (e.g., air and earth, fire and water, life and death, love and sorrow, or freedom and fate). Acting through the Valar, then, Eru sculpts or elaborates these conceptions into the patterns and forms that compose Eä — Arda and the Heavens and all that live within their confines. A Vala oversees his or her specific theme, creating detail on behalf of the One and within his framework. For instance, Eru envisioned the solid earth, but it was (and is) his Valar who actuady raised the mountains and carved the valleys of Arda. Aulë, the Smith, is the particular focus of this theme, for he is the patron Vala of crafts and his title is Master of the Earth.
The Valar as Beings
Although the Valar were born before Time, at the outset of Creation, they are spirits who share thoughts common to all beings sired by Eru. They have male and female aspects, possess emotions, and suffer imperfections. Only Eru is perfect and all-knowing. The exact nature of the Valar is nevertheless beyond the comprehension of lesser beings. Except for the Maiar, who are also Ainur, no other spirits fully understand the depth of Vala feelings or the manner of their weaknesses. Valar are spirits without material form, and form dictates much in the way feelings manifest themselves. Although the Powers have one or more preferred fánar (Q. "veils;" sing, "fána"), or physical bodies, they assume and shed these corporeal guises at will. A Vala’s fána is a convenient structure which enables him/her to interact in Eä, but it is not essential to his/her being. The Valar do not permit themselves (as Morgoth did) to be tied to their temporary bodily trappings, so their characters remain rooted in pure spirits. Thus, their essence stays mysterious and elusive, and beyond the knowledge of Eru’s Children.
While they are materially formless, the Valar
still cultivate their own society: a hierarchy involving power, kinship, and matrimony. Manwë
is their King; his wife Varda is their Queen, although both rule as firsts among equals. This
structure underlies all Vala relationships, and
provides order for both the Council of the Valar
and interactions among the sub-societies composed of the lesser Maiar. It is a simple court
society, with each Vala serving as a lord or lady.
In turn, all Valar preside over their own Maia
Benevolence and cooperation make this Vala society work without discord. Eru, of course, is the supreme arbiter, but he is removed from Ea and relies on his guardians to function without his direct involvement. Thus, it is Manwë who, acting through a council (or court) composed of all the Powers, maintains unity and continuity. A powerful, emotive, and empathetic leader, he coordinates his brethren rather than dominating them, although he is quite capable of proclaiming and enforcing his word as supreme law.
The Valar are the fourteen Guardians on Arda (not counting Morgoth). They are variously described as Angels or Gods (but this title might only refer to Illuvatar proper). In the Beginning Morgoth was one of the Valar, and mightiest of them, but when he became evil he was expelled from Aman. There are several wondrous and superstitious ideas about the Valar among the Hildor, many of them spawned by half- or misunderstood tales that were told to their ancestors by Avari and Eldar in the Elder Days, or the Númenóreans in the Second Age, and often corrupted by Sauron’s lies.