Silmarillion Question

I am a complete Lord of the Rings addict. But after reading LOTR a book-destroying number of times, I have decided to give it a rest for a while and try some other Tolkein, despite the fact that I have never been able to read more than 5 pages of the other books before giving up in confusion and despair.

So, today I picked up The Silmarillion again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m only 30 pages in and already things have gotten confusing, but this time, instead of wanting to throw the book against the wall, I find myself becoming rather interested, if befuddled. Anyway, on to my question:

In the Valaquenta, some of the Valar are described as being siblings:
Nessa and Orome
Yavanna and Vana
Namo, Irmo and Nienna

However, as I understand it, all of the Valar were created by Iluvatar, and so I would think that they would all be siblings. Why are only these particular groups called so? Does it have something to do with personality traits? Did Tolkein want to avoid the incestuous overtones of Classical mythology, where all the gods are siblings? Is there some other terribly obvious reason that I’m just missing?

Any help I could get from the Mighty Tolkein Scholars of the SDMB would be greatly appreciated.

Tolkein Geek-in-Training

In some of the earler versions (Lost Tales), some of the Maiar are children of the Valar, as well: Eonwe, for instance, was originally the son of Manwe and Varda. I’m not too sure what to make of this, since family relationships obviously doesn’t quite mean the same thing that they would with humans or elves. The best explanation that I can offer is that they were “siblings in the mind of Illuvitar”: So Manwe and Ulmo, for instance, sprang from similar portions of God’s thoughts.

[minor spoilers-- You can probably go ahead and read this]
On the other hand, we do know that the Ainur are capable of reproduction in somewhat the same manner as us, since Melian bore a daughter to her husband, the elf Thingol. On the other hand, that’s the only time in the Silmarillion that happens, and I’ve always been somewhat of the opinion that Melian’s role in the conception of Luthien was a sort of special act of Creation, rather than motherhood in the usual biological sense.

Then again, if the Ainur can don or shed a body as easily as we don clothes, what’s to stop them from adding a few accessories like chromosones?

In some of Tolkien’s notes, “Vala” is put forth as equivalent to “(pagan) god”–though I don’t remember the source, sorry. The Book of Lost Tales just calls them “Gods,” flat-out. I think they were understood as both corporeal (at least when the myth needed them to be) and having super-corporeal aspects (Ulmo’s awareness & essence permeate the sea, etc.). In any case, like the gods of Norse or Greek myth, they have bodies, have sex, have children (the Maiar), etc.

We can guess that the Ainur, as people of Eru in the space outside Arda, were similar. Perhaps they married & had children in that context as well. But Tolkien is pretty vague there.

Actually, the Maiar are separate entities from the Valar, although similar in their origin. The Silmarilion (p.23, Ballantine paperback edition), states of the Maiar:

It is worth noting that the Maiar are “of the same order” as the Valar, which would imply that the Maiar and Valar are both Ainur created from the mind of Iluvatar in the beginning. Whereas the number of Maiar is unknown and is implied to be in the thousands, the number of Valar is known to be fifteen: Manwe, Varda, Ulmo, Aule, Yavanna, Mandos, Lorien, Vaire, Este, Nienna, Tulkas, Orome, Vana, Nessa, and Melkor. The implication, then, seems to be that the Valar are those of the Maiar who played the greatest part in the crafting of the Music of the Ainur. It is also noteworthy that in several scenes in LOTR we see Maiar being tempted by the One Ring (Gandalf, Saruman, Sauron, etc.), while Tom Bombadil (ostensibly a Vala, though that’s another topic altogether) is both not tempted by the ring and not affected by it when he puts it on.

Whoa, there! Without starting up that whole argument again, I’ll just point out here that the true nature of Tom Bombadil is far from settled. If anything, it’s the one Tolkien debate that’s even more up in the air than Balrog wings… Tolkien never said that he was deliberately leaving Balrogs ambiguous.

While the number of Valar who entered into the World were fifteen (now fourteen, since Melkor who is called Morgoth is no longer numbered among them), I’m pretty sure that there were others of their same level who stayed “outside”. See, for instance, the parts of Lost Tales about Time and the Ordering of the Days.

Chronos, I have to rate your JRRT geekiness at the Associate Professor level, at the very least! (I figure I’m instructor level at best, hoping for assistant prof status one day). If you’re ever planning to visit Milwaukee, let me know, and we’ll hit the Marquette Library together, and check out JRRT’s original manuscripts!


Associate professor? Nah. I’ve never read any of the HOMES beyond Lost Tales, and I know less Elvish than Spanish (and that’s at a Sesame Street level). I just remembered the bit about Time for personal reasons :wink:

Oh man! You’ve got to at least read the HOMES books which have the early drafts of LOTR, and unfinished stories from SILMARILLION. How else will you meet Trotter the ranger, or Bingo Baggins, Bilbo’s son?

Trust me on this, Chronos , you DON’T want to meet Trotter the Hobbit Ranger, or Bilbo’s son Bingo Bolger-Baggins! :shudders: Thank Eru for re-writes! Now Beren Erchamion, the famous Elf-Lord, on the other hand…