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 "holy one".
Another example are Ælfwine's translations into Old English; he referred to the Valar as frēan ("lords") or ēse ("gods").
It is tempting to suppose that the term "gods" suggests equivalences between the Valar and mythological gods of later times.
In The Book of Lost Tales, Nan Dumgorthin, the "Land of the Dark Idols" "(dum ‘secret, not to be spoken’, dumgort, dungort ‘an (evil) idol’)", was a dark forested land that was located to the east of Artanor where a collection of "evil tribes of renegade men" made sacrifices to Gods whose idols were hidden upon a wooded mountain.
In the Lay of the Children of Húrin, Túrin and Flinding came upon Nan Dumgorthin in the dim twilight after the accidental murder of Beleg. It is described as dark and unholy; a grey valley where shrines are hidden in secret places for the worship of nameless gods older than both Morgoth and the Valar. The inhabitants here were said to be "ghostly dwellers" whose laughter was "harsh and hallow" like a mockery of demons with a lingering echo. They did not harm Túrin and Flinding nor hinder their course, yet their mere presence was enough to cause them both to walk "with creeping flesh and quaking limb".
- ↑ 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"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, pp. 35, 62, 374
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "I. The Lay of the Children of Húrin: III. Failivrin", lines 1472-1490