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The Valar were the fourteen powerful spirits of the race of the Ainur who entered Arda after its creation to give order to the world and combat the evils of Melkor. They dwelt originally on the Isle of Almaren, but after its destruction, long before the Awakening of the Elves, they moved to Aman and founded Valinor.
They were the greatest of the Ainur who witnessed the Vision of Ilúvatar and so came to create Arda. Each was granted insight into a specific part of Ilúvatar's thought, and was therefore more aligned in spirit with that part. The Ainur also witnessed the unfolding of the history of Arda in the Vision, but not all of it. Parts of it, and certain parts of Ilúvatar's thought, such as the true nature and destiny of the Children of Ilúvatar, remained hidden from them. Thus they were not gods or masters unto the Children, but rather their elders and guides, and were therefore unable to force the minds of Eldar and Edain, although they had power over their bodies.
Melkor came to Arda to claim it for his own but, although being the most powerful of the Ainur, was not considered a Vala. Manwë and Melkor fought, and Manwë called other spirits to help him in his battle. Among these were the other Valar and the Maiar. Melkor withdrew from the battle into distant places of Eä, and the others continued their creation of the World. But Melkor saw this, and returned to fight for control of Arda.
The Valar (like any of the Ainur) had no physical body, but often took the shapes of Men, Elves or other forms of nature, or they could remain invisible. They were not gods, though Men have often called them such, especially in the beginning of Arda. They were actually emissaries or regents of Ilúvatar, who rarely directly intervened in the world's course of events. By chosing to enter Eä after its creation, rather than remaining in Ilúvatar's Void, the Valar agreed to be bound to it until the end. However, they were divine spirits that required no physical form, and were therefore immortal, even beyond the immortality of Elves. 
These are the names of the Valar as they were known to the Eldar. In Middle-earth, they were known by other names of Sindarin origin; for example they called Varda "Elbereth". Men knew them by many other names, sometimes referring to them as "gods" at first. The Dwarves called Aulë, their creator, Mahal. It should be noted that, with the exception of Oromë, the names listed below are not actual names but rather titles: the true names of the Valar are nowhere recorded.[source?] Male Valar are called "Lords of the Valar"; females are called "Queens of the Valar," or Valier. In Sindarin, the equivalents to Vala and Valar would be Balan and Belain, respectively. They were not used in common language; it only survived in Orbelain and Cerch i Mbelain. In Sindarin, they were called Rodyn (singular Rodon) instead.
Lords of the Valar
- Manwë Súlimo, King of the Valar
- Ulmo, King of the Sea
- Aulë, the Smith
- Oromë Aldaron, the Great Rider
- Mandos (Námo), Judge of the Dead
- Irmo (Lórien), Master of Dreams and Desires
- Tulkas Astaldo, Champion of Valinor
Queens of the Valar (Valier)
- Varda Elentári, Queen of the Stars, wife of Manwë
- Yavanna Kementári (Palùrien), Giver of Fruits, wife of Aulë
- Nienna, Lady of Mercy
- Estë the Gentle
- Vairë the Weaver
- Vána the Ever-young
- Nessa the Dancer
The Aratar "Exalted" (Sindarin: Rodyn) or High Ones of Arda are the eight greatest of the Valar: Manwë, Varda, Ulmo, Aulë, Yavanna, Mandos, Nienna, and Oromë. Melkor, the most powerful of all, is not counted among them.
In the Akallabêth the Valar are also called the Lords of Valinor.
Relationships between the Valar
Ilúvatar brought the Valar (and all of the Ainur) into being by his thought, and may therefore be considered their father. However, not all of the Valar are siblings; where this is held to be so it is because they are so "in the thought of Ilúvatar".
It was the Valar who first practiced marriage, and later passed on their custom to the Elves. However only one such marriage among the Valar took place within the world, that of Tulkas and Nessa after the raising of the Two Lamps. Ulmo and Nienna (and Melkor) were unmarried. In the diagram below the Aratar are in bold font and the Fëanturi are in Italic font.
|Lords:||Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas|
|Queens:||Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa|
|Manwë:||Eönwë · Olórin (Gandalf)||Varda:||Ilmarë · Olórin (Gandalf) · Arien|
|Aulë:||Mairon (Sauron) · Curumo (Saruman)||Yavanna:||Aiwendil (Radagast)|
|Ulmo:||Ossë · Uinen · Salmar||Estë:||Melian|
|Oromë:||Tilion · Blue Wizards (Alatar · Pallando)||Vána:||Melian|
|Evil:||Sauron · Ungoliant · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane · Lungorthin)|
|Wizards:||Saruman · Gandalf · Radagast · Blue Wizards (Rómestámo · Morinehtar)|
|Music · Valarin · Almaren · Valinor · Valmar · Second Music|