The gods is a name wrongly given by Men to the Valar. When the first Edain newly arrived in Beleriand and disputed whether or not to remain, they referred to the Valar as gods in the West. They had not at this point been tutored by the Elves in such high matters.
Other versions of the legendarium
Tolkien states that Men have 'often' called the Valar gods, in fact the term is very rare in his later books. This is more prominent in the earliest version of the legendarium where the Ainur display more common characteristics to mythological deities, such as having offspring. The word Aino is glossed as "god", whereas in the earlier Qenya Lexicon, the words ainu (m.) and aini (f.) are glossed as "a pagan god" and "goddess". Note however that in published Appendix E the word ainu is glossed as "angelic power".
It is tempting to suppose that the term "gods" suggests equivalences between the Valar and mythological gods of later times.
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Men"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, "Sí Qente Feanor and Other Elvish Writings", in Parma Eldalamberon XV (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, Patrick H. Wynne, and Bill Welden), p. 72
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: Appendix 1: Fragments of a translation of The Quenta Noldorinwa into Old English, made by Ælfwine or Eriol; together with Old English equivalents of Elvish names"