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Anna Kulisz - Ainulindale.jpg
Ainulindale by Anna Kulisz
General Information
Other namesAyanûz (V), Holy Ones, Great Ones,
OriginsCreation of the Ainur
LocationsTimeless Halls, Arda, Almaren, Aman
LanguagesValarin, Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul, Black Speech, Westron, etc.
PeopleValar, Maiar
MembersMelkor, Manwë, Ulmo, Varda, Aulë, Yavanna, Mandos, Sauron, Gothmog, Gandalf, Saruman
Physical Description
GalleryImages of Ainur

The Ainur (singular Ainu) were divine spirits, the 'Holy Ones'. They were the first beings created by Ilúvatar, the 'order' of the Valar and Maiar, made before .[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

Main article: Creation of the Ainur

The Ainur were the first, and mightiest, beings created by Ilúvatar before the beginning of the World. The Ainur were the "offspring of Ilúvatar's thought", and each was given understanding only of that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which they came. The exception to this was Melkor, the greatest of the Ainur, who had a part of the gifts of all the others.

Although all Ainur are made of the thought of Ilúvatar, in His mind some were siblings. Thus for instance, Melkor and Manwë were considered brothers.

The Ainur were "kindled with the Flame Imperishable". Ilúvatar instructed them in music, until he brought them together to make the Music of the Ainur; the great song that created the Vision of Ilúvatar and ultimately the real World.[1]

Within Eä[edit | edit source]

Through the Music of the Ainur, Ilúvatar created a Vision of the World, and explained much of its nature and destiny to them - so the Ainur have much knowledge of the World, but are not omniscient. Then Ilúvatar granted the World true being. Many of the Ainur desired to descend into it and form it in readiness for the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar (Elves and Men).[1] Fourteen of these great Ainur became the Valar, or Powers of Arda.[2] The fifteenth, Melkor, turned aside from that path and became known as Morgoth, the Dark Enemy.[3] The many lesser Ainur that accompanied the Valar into Arda are known as Maiar.[4]

Those Ainur who entered the World at its beginning remain bound to it until its end.[1] Though Melkor was eventually thrown into the Void by the others, he is prophesied to return before the End.[5] Little is known of the ultimate future of the Ainur, even by themselves, but it is said that, after the death of the World, they will make a Second Music, even greater, with the race of Men.[6]

Characteristics[edit | edit source]

The Ainur are immortal, angelic beings, nonetheless they do possess gender. Those who later descended to Arda took on common male and female forms to appear to the Elves in, and have an inherent male or female gender even when formless. This is because their gender is based on their being, which is independent of any physical form they may assume.[1] But unlike the Children of Ilúvatar, they do not actually need hröar. Nevertheless, they can take tangible physical form called fana, but this is a manifestation of their spirit and they do not technically have bodies the way Elves and Men do. As such, an Ainu cannot quite be killed. However, Ainur's spirits can be weakened, in ways that hinder their ability to take shapes, influence the world, or even affect the world at all.[7]

For example, Sauron's spirit was repeatedly weakened by successive damage when he was defeated by Huan in the form of a Werewolf;[8] in the Downfall of Númenor which destroyed his ability to take fair form;[9] his defeat in the War of the Last Alliance when he lost the ability to take a physical form,[10] and had to regain his power in the East for about 1000 years;[11] and finally with the destruction of the One Ring which broke his ability to affect the world at all, reducing his spirit to a state that could no longer do harm.[12] None of these things killed Sauron outright. A similar fate faced Saruman when he was murdered by Gríma—because of his evil deeds, his spirit was allowed to fade as Sauron's spirit faded.[13]

But when Gandalf the Grey was killed by Durin's Bane, not only was he brought back, but his spirit was significantly restrengthened into an even more powerful form, Gandalf the White.[14]

Melkor though was the most powerful of the Ainur (greater than the rest of the Valar combined), and his spirit, instead of fading away, was exiled from Arda altogether through the Door of Night into the Void. It's prophesied that Melkor would return at the Dagor Dagorath in Arda's last days for one final confrontation against the Valar and the Children of Ilúvatar. In this confrontation, it is stated that he is "destroyed".[5]

Line of Melian[edit | edit source]

One of the Maiar named Melian, alone of all the Ainur, wedded an Elf, King Elu Thingol of Doriath.[15] From her, a strain of the Ainur entered the bloodlines of the Elves and Men, passed down through generations. Elrond and Elros were Melian's descendants as well as the Kings of Númenor and their heirs.

Etymology[edit | edit source]

The word Ainu is Quenya and is related to words for "holiness" such as aina;[16] the female form is given as Aini.[17]

It is derived from the original Valarin word for Ainur, which was Ayanûz.[18]

They are also referred to as Great Ones or Holy Ones.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Valar"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Enemies"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Valaquenta: Of the Maiar"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 200, (dated 25 June 1957)
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Akallabêth: The Downfall of Númenor"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Field of Cormallen"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Scouring of the Shire"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The White Rider"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Thingol and Melian"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Appendix: Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names" aina
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, Part Three: "The Etymologies", entry "AYAN"
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar", p. 399
Valar Lords Manwë · Ulmo · Aulë · Oromë · Mandos · Irmo · Tulkas · Melkor
Valier Varda · Yavanna · Nienna · Estë · Vairë · Vána · Nessa
Maiar Arien · Blue Wizards · Eönwë · Gandalf · Ilmarë · Melian · Ossë · Radagast · Salmar · Saruman · Tilion · Uinen
Úmaiar Sauron · Balrogs (Gothmog · Durin's Bane) · Boldogs
Concepts and locations Almaren · Aratar (indicated in italics) · Creation of the Ainur · Fana · Máhanaxar · Ainulindalë · Order of Wizards (indicated in bold) · Second Music of the Ainur · Timeless Halls · Valarin · Valinor · Valimar