Others Holy Ones
Body type Varies
Sapience Sapient
Lifespan Immortal
Status Least Concern
Behind the Scenes
Universe Lord of the Rings
Created by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Ainur (singular: Ainu) are great, immortal spirits that inhabit the realm of Arda and by extension, Middle-earth.

Background history

In the very beginning there was Eru, the One, who dwelt in the Void, and whose name in Elvish was Ilúvatar. As is told in the "Ainulindale", thoughts came forth from Ilúvatar to which He gave eternal life through the power of the Flame Imperishable. Ilúvatar named these creations Ainur, the "holy ones". They were the first race and they inhabited the Timeless Halls that Ilúvatar had fashioned for them.

The Ainur were great spirits and each was given a mighty voice so that he could sing before Ilúvatar for His pleasure. When He had heard each sing, Ilúvatar called them to Him and proposed that they should sing in concert. This was that the tales call the Music of the Ainur, in which great themes were made as individual spirits sought supremacy or harmony according to their nature. Some proved greater than others; some were powerful in goodness, some in evil; yet in the end, though the battle of sounds was terrible, the Music was great and beautiful. Fro this harmony and strife Ilúvatar created a Vision that was a globed light in the Void. With a word and the Flame Imperishable He then made Ea, the "World that Is"; Elves and Men later named it Arda, the Earth. The Music became the Doom of Arda and the fate of every race was bound to it, save that of the late-coming race of Men, whose end nobody but Ilúvatar knew.

So it was after Arda was made, some of the Ainur went down into this newly created World, where they were known as the Powers of Arda. Later they were thought by Men to be gods. Those who were good among them were guided by their knowledge of the Will of Ilúvatar, while others strove to fulfill their own ends. Whereas in the Timeless Halls they had been beings of pure spirit, within Arda they were limited in power by choosing to inhabit the bounds of Time and the small space of the World. Further, within Arda they took on separate shapes, each according to his nature and the elements he loved, and, though not bound to a visible form, they most often wore these shapes as garments, and in later Ages they were known to Elves and Men in these forms.

In the "Valaquenta" a part of the long history of the Ainur who inhabited Arda and shaped the World is written. It tells how the kingdoms of Alamaren, Utumno and Angband were built in Middle-earth; and how the kingdom of Valinor was made in the Undying Lands of Aman. It speaks also of how the Ainur brought forth Light and the Count of Time, and how there were terrible wars among them that shook Arda; and it gives the names and forms of many of the mightiest of the race.

In Arda the Elves divided this race into the Valar and the Maiar. Those of the Ainur counted among the Valar are: Manwë, the Wind King; Varda, Queen of the Stars; Ulmo, Lord of the Waters; Nienna, the Weeper; Aulë, the Smith; Yavanna, Giver of Fruits; Oromë, Lord of the Forest; Vánam the Youthful; Mandos, Keeper of the Dead; Vairë, the Weaver; Lórien, Master of Dreams; Estë, the Healer; Tulkas, the Wrestler; Nessa, the Dancer; and Melkor, later named Morgoth the Dark Enemy.

Balrog LOTR

A Balrog doing battle against the great wizard Olórin.

Many of the Ainur were counted among the Maiar, but only a few are named in the histories that have come down to Men: Eönwë, Herald of Manwë; Ilmarë, Maid of Varda; Ossë, of the Waves; Uinen, of the Calm Seas; Melian, Queen of the Sindar; Arien, the Sun; Tilion, the Moon; Sauron, the Sorcerer; Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs; and Olórin, Radagast and Curuír - the Wizards. In the histories of Middle-earth there also appear others who may have been Maiar: Thuringwethil, the Vampire; Ungoliant, the Spider; Draugluin, the Werewolf; Goldberry, the River-daughter; and Iarwain Ben-adar (also known as Tom Bombadil).

As has been said, only some of the Ainur went down to Arda. A greater part has always lived in the Timeless Halls, but it has been foretold that at the World's End the Valar and Maiar shall rejoin their kindred, and among those who return will also be the Eruhíni, the Children of Ilúvatar, who came forth upon Arda. Once again there shall be Great Music: this shall be mightier than the first. It shall be unflawed, filled with wisdom and sadness, and beautiful beyond compare.

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