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Thread: Worshiping the Valar?

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I'm not sure this thread is in the right place, please feel free to move it if necessary!

I'm also not quite sure how to phrase this question/thought: It occurred to me that in the Silmarillion some of the creation story parallels Christianity. Tolkien was also deeply religious. However one element that I don't see - unless I've missed something - is that of worship: no churches, temples, altars. The races of Middle Earth (or most of them) seem to have a healthy respect and high regard for the Valar but it dosen't sound like worship to me. What does everyone else think?
i always saw (with the elvesat least) nthat their relationship was kinda symbiotic....

the elves valued and loved the valar, they ave them hope

the valar adored the elves and living things of middle earth

both would be lost without the other i think??

ohh i dunno, far to deep for this time of night!! (3.00 AM)

Big Smile Smilie
xxx
Elves don't worship the Valar because the Valar considers themselves as 'their elders' and not their masters. It is mentioned somewhere in the sil. As for men they worship everything except the valar, maybge numenor was an exception where the mariners called to uinen when osse got rought but i don't know if it was prayers.
The only worshiping place I can think of devoted to Iluvatar is Meneltarma. In Tolkien's myth it is apparent that the Valar are to be respected but not worshiped. It is also apparent that the people of Arda, although they know of Iluvatar, see of him as an observer of Arda, rather as a ruler, thus worshiping him would be unprofitable.
It is also wise to not take too much of the Bible and christianity too seriously in Tolkien's myth. They are very different.
Though you could (in a small way) compare the Valar to angels and so, in accordance to Christianity, angels are not to be worshipped. Even though Tolkien drew from many sources & mythologies, the Christian influence is definately apparent in places.

I remember somewhere that he wrote that the Elves looked to the West (in respect of the Valar) but unfortunately I don't remember much more about it - maybe someone else can fill in the blanks.

There are also cases where men from the East were forced through fear into worshipping the dark lord... but apart from that there isn't much worshipping in Tolkien's world. I think the reason for that is because he wanted to avoid any kind of religious debate or proclaimed allegories as a result of his works - in this way he made it something that anyone can relate to, no matter what their background/religion.

Genius Genius Smilie
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I remember somewhere that he wrote that the Elves looked to the West (in respect of the Valar) but unfortunately I don't remember much more about it - maybe someone else can fill in the blanks.


I think that it was Faramir and his band of Rangers who looked to the west as seen in the TTT and the chapter is probably 'The Window on the West'.

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Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence.
..."So we always do," he said as they sat down: "we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is and ever will be"
Ooooooh right, that's where it was - I knew someone looked West. Very Mad Smilie
Yeah even now i'm looking to the west....Dunce Smilie
The looked into the West in Memory of Numenore, Westernesse, The Downfallen, not the Blessed Land.
Indeed the Valar are seen by many as Angels but I cannot see how. Angels are simply messengers from God who govern's the World, whilst the Valar themselves are the ones who govern the World. They are more like the Greek Gods save that they work in unison with eachother rather than strife.

Only the Eagles and Istari I can see as Angels.
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The looked into the West in Memory of Numenore, Westernesse, The Downfallen, not the Blessed Land.


Thorin posted :
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I think that it was Faramir and his band of Rangers who looked to the west as seen in the TTT and the chapter is probably 'The Window on the West'.


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Before they ate, Faramir and all his men turned and faced west in a moment of silence.
..."So we always do," he said as they sat down: "we look towards Numenor that was, and beyond to Elvenhome that is and ever will be"
And their looking to the West as highlighted in Virumor's above post was more of an act of respect; not as a prayer of adoration or supplication. It was more like looking toward Jerusalem or Mecca, but we must be careful here and not compare this with a religious act.
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Grondmaster
And their looking to the West as highlighted in Virumor's above post was more of an act of respect; not as a prayer of adoration or supplication. It was more like looking toward Jerusalem or Mecca, but we must be careful here and not compare this with a religious act.

Compare that to a typical devote Christain who say a prayer before eating their food. Is that a sign of respect or a religious act?
I don't know how often Faramir and his crew did their little salute to Numenor and such, before eating their dinner, but from the quote it seemed some what like a common ritual.

And as far as the whole 'Worshipping the Valar' look up the definition of 'worship' in the dictionary.
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1. reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
2. formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage: They attended worship this morning.
3. adoring reverence or regard: excessive worship of business success.
4. the object of adoring reverence or regard.

By those definition you don't actually need a temple, alter, etc... to worship god. I believe it's safe to say that Elves and Men (Edain/Numenoreans) worshipped the Valar to their own extents. Obviously some more than others as is the case in our world.
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I believe it's safe to say that Elves and Men (Edain/Numenoreans) worshipped the Valar to their own extents. Obviously some more than others as is the case in our world.

Agreed. The Elves' reverence to Elbereth certainly seemed to be worship to me, especially considering the definition of 'worship' posted in the above post, whilst the Dwarves held Mahal in high honour and the Éorlingas Béma.
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Indeed the Valar are seen by many as Angels but I cannot see how. Angels are simply messengers from God who govern's the World, whilst the Valar themselves are the ones who govern the World. They are more like the Greek Gods save that they work in unison with each other rather than strife.

I did say they are like angels in a small way. Though I still believe that the Valar are doing the will of Illuvitar for the most part, because in the beginning he put the song in their hearts that lead to the creation (and beyond that) of Arda. But, having said that, I do also see how at the same time they are also like Greek Gods.
I also agree with Turin, according to the dictionary definition, they did 'worship' the Valar to a certain extent. Though I don't think it's on the same level as most religious worship in this world.
The Ainur can indeed be interpreted as Angels, the Maiar being the lesser Angels and the Valar being the Archangels.

I believe Tolkien himself used this comparison in his letters, referring to Manwë as the Archangel Michael.

Tolkien says in his Letters that elves and men are Monotheists. They do not worship the Valar but "view the Valar as children view their parents or immediate adult superiors, and although they know they are subjects of the King he does not live in their country nor have there any dwelling."

Seems they acknowledge Eru as The One God but do not worship him in the dictionary sense of the word. Maybe it is true to say they are 'in awe' of Him and, to some extent of the Valar although elves and men are aware of the Valar's limitation as 'gods'.
That is very well put Vee. The thing that seemed to me obvious as I read from book to book was that the ONE that made them and put some above others was acknowledged in a sort of reverence by how the created treated what was 'law' and what was good in HIS eyes. Thus the war inside some of their hearts and minds such as Saruman and such. And the One Ring seemed to bring that out in each heart as well, it was a supreme test of which side one was on.
And the very fact that there were prophecies about a certain King and how the others related to him, there was a bowing to him I think which in my mind was an act of worship not of Aragorn, but of whom 'sent' him and decided this before anyone's memory.So it is subtle, hidden and I am glad of it. I am a Messianic Jew who happens to have been confirmed in the Catholic church, and I would have been greatly disappointed to see 'religion' per se in such a book. It would have colored everything and taken away the very thing that elves and the race of men and dwarves and all who loved freedom were fighting for.
Leelee, I have to agree. I didn't think there was very much in the way of a religious or worshipping attitude in Middle Earth and I'm also glad. The peoples all seem straightforward and honest, even Morgoth and Saruman are 'honestly' evil, if that makes sense...
Here's just a few examples of JRRT explaining the Powers (I just gathered them up so I thought I would add them here)...

'God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to excercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rule and government, not creation, making or re-making). (...) On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course meant to provide beings of the same order and beauty, power, majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted -- well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity'. JRRT to Milton Waldman, probably late 1951

'The immediate 'authorities' are the Valar (the Powers or Authorities): the 'gods'. But they are only created spirits -- of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels -- reverend therefore, but not wordshipful.' Draft to Peter Hastings 1954

*There is only one 'god': God Eru Ilúvatar. There are the first creations, angelic beings, of which those most concerned in the Cosmogony reside (of love and choice) inside the World, as Valar or gods, or governors;...' footnote to a draft to Robert Murray, 1954

'... to the Valar or Rulers. These take the place of the 'gods', but are created spirits, or those of the primary creation who by their own will have entered into the world*

*They shared in its 'making' -- but only on the same terms as we 'make' a work of art or story. The realization of it, the gift to it of a created reality of the same grade as their own, was the act of the One God.'
Draft to Michael Straight, probably 1956

'They were allowed to do so, and the great among them became the equivalent of the 'gods' of traditional mythologies; but a condition was that they would remain 'in it' until the Story was finished.' to Major Bowen 1957

'There are no 'Gods', properly so called, in the mythological background of my stories. Their place is taken by the persons referred to as the Valar (or Powers): angelic created beings appointed to the government of the world.' to A. E. Couchman, 1966
Unfortuneately, I do not have a great enough recollection of the Silmarillion to have any valuable input at all. I would just like to congratulate everyone, especially the author of the post immediately above me, on writing well informed and thought out responses. Usually, any question or statement involving worship sinks into an angry debate by a few offended individuals who do not really know what they're talking about. I'm just glad to see that everyone here can not only get along, but say something intelligent as well.

Sorry if I've interrupted. Please continue, and, might I add, bravo.
The Valar I think are Gods. Here are a very small collection of quotes supporting this:

"The Great among these spirits the Elves name the Valar, the Powers of Arda, and Men have often called them gods." The Silmarillion

"Below them lay the woods of Oromë, and westward shimmered the fields and pastures of Yavanna, gold beneath the tall wheat of the gods." The Silmarillion

"But now we learn that the Light is beyond the Sea. Thither we cannot come where the Gods dwell in bliss. Save one; for the Lord of the Dark is here before us, and the Eldar, wise but fell, who make endless war upon him." The Silmarillion

"The Sea has no shore. There is no Light in the West. You have followed a fool-fire of the Elves to the end of the world! Which of you has seen the least of the Gods? Who has beheld the Dark King in the North?" The Silmarillion

"Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young." LOTR ROTK

"The main body of the tale, the Silmarillion proper, is about the fall of the most gifted kindred of the Elves, their exile from Valinor (a kind of Paradise, the home of the Gods) in the furthest West, their re-entry into Middle-earth, the land of their birth but long under the rule of the Enemy, and their strife with him, the power of Evil still visibly incarnate." Letter 131

"Indeed I would fain know who be these Valar; are they the Gods? '
'So be they,' said Lindo....." BOLT 1

'Who was Iluvatar? ' said Eriol. 'Was he of the Gods? '
'Nay,' said Rumil, 'that he was not, for he made them. Iluvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world;who made it and is not of it or in it, but loves it.' BOLT1

"The Gods understood the language of the Elves but used it not among themselves. The wiser of the Elves learned much of the speech of the Gods and long treasured that knowledge among both Teleri and Noldoli, but by the time of the coming to Tol Eressea none knew it save the Inwir, and now that knowledge is dead save in Meril's house." BOLT 1

"Great was the power of Melko for ill,' said Eriol, 'if he could indeed destroy with his cunning the happiness and glory of the Gods and Elves, darkening the light of their dwelling and bringing all their love to naught." BOLT 2

'Ever after,' said Eriol, 'did I sail more curiously about the western isles seeking more stories of the kind, and thus it is indeed that after many great voyages I came myself by the blessing of the Gods to Tol Eressea in the end -- wherefore I now sit here talking to thee, Veanne, till my words have run dry.' BOLT 2

'Then, if truth thou tellest, thy triple bonds I will bid men unbind, that abroad thou fare
in my service to search the secret places following the footsteps of these foes of the Gods.' Lays of Beleriand

'Then' said Ilfiniol son of Bronweg 'know that Ulmo Lord of Waters forgot never the sorrows of the Elfin kin- dreds beneath the power of Melko, but he might do little because of the anger of the other Gods who shut their hearts against the race of the Gnomes, and dwelt behind the veiled hills of Valinor heedless of the Outer World, so deep was their ruth and regret for the death of the Two Trees.' The Shaping of Middle-earth

"After the despatch of the Nine Valar for the governance of the world Morgoth (Demon of Dark) rebels against the overlordship of Manwe, overthrows the lamps set up to illumine the world, and floods the isle where the Valar (or Gods) dwelt." The Shaping of Middle-earth

"The Valar remove to the uttermost West, bordered by the Outer Seas and the final Wall, and eastward by the towering Mountains of Valinor which the Gods built." The Shaping of Middle-earth

"The last battle of the Gods. Men side largely with Morgoth. After the victory the Gods take counsel. Elves are summoned to Valinor." The Lost Road and other Writings

"But the Gods will not allow them to land in Valinor - and though they become long-lived because many have been bathed in the radiance of Valinor from Tol-eressea - they are mortal and their span brief." The Lost Road and other Writings

"The Gods therefore sundered Valinor from the earth, and an awful rift appeared down which the water poured and the armament of Atalante was drowned." The Lost Road and other Writings

"Luthien was the daughter of the elven-king Thingol of Doriath in the West of the Middle-world, when the earth was young. Her mother was Melian, who was not of the Elf-race but came out of the Far West from the land of the Gods and the Blessed Realm of Valinor." The Return of the Shadow

"Yet Beren achieved that Quest, for Luthien fled from her father's realm and followed after him; and with the aid of Huan hound of the Gods, who came out of Valinor, she found him once again; and together thereafter they passed through peril and darkness; and they came even to Angband and beguiled the Enemy, and overthrew him, and took a Silmaril and fled." The Return of the Shadow

"Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done." Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the "gods" whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he passed "out of thought and time." The Treason of Isengard

"It was explicit from the beginning that the Numenoreans were expressly forbidden by the Gods to sail westward beyond the Lonely Isle...." The War of the Ring

"There is many a thing in the west of the world unknown to men; marvels and strange beings, [a land lovely to look on,] the dwelling place of the Elves and the bliss of the Gods." Sauron defeated

"And there upon the isle of Almar (18) in a great lake was the first dwelling of the gods, when all things were new, and green was yet a marvel in the eyes of the makers." Morgoth's Ring

"Melian said: 'Truly for these causes they came; but for others also. Beware of the sons of Feanor! The shadow of the wrath of the Gods lies upon them; and they have done evil, I perceive, both in Aman and to their own kin." The War of the Jewels

"But of Men in that day the prophecy speaks not, save of Turin only, and him it names among the Gods." The Peoples of Middle-earth

So as we see, the case for Valar being Gods is pretty solid. They are named so in most books published by Tolkien, whether Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion or in all twelve volumes of Home. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of more quotes in HOME stating the Valar as Gods.
That's the case for the Valar being called 'gods', which I doubt anyone would argue with.

Of course in the tales especially the Valar can be called 'gods', and are, but some of Tolkien's explanations from his letters go beyond this, and that is why I chose the specific quotes above regarding the Valar. These go beyond foraging through the stories or letters for the word 'god(s)'.

The citation selection '... a kind of Paradise, the home of the Gods' is an example of Tolkien using the word 'gods' for ease of reference -- indeed this reference appears after Tolkien's more in depth explanation in the same letter that I quoted above -- the letter to Milton Waldman (131), about which the fuller form reads...

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'God and the Valar (or powers: Englished as gods) are revealed. These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rules and government, not creation, making or re-making). They are 'divine', that is, were originally 'outside' and existed 'before' the making of the world. Their power and wisdom is derived from their Knowledge of the cosmological drama, which they perceived first as a drama (that is as in a fashion we perceive a story composed by some-one else), and later as a 'reality'. On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course meant to provide beings of the same order and beauty, power, majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted -- well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity'. JRRT


So Tolkien, having already explained the matter in more detail, then goes on in the rest of the letter simply using 'gods' (and Waldman will easily understand the reference). This doesn't mean Tolkien will always digress on the matter in an external context (in some measure of detail), but that's why the above citations should not be overlooked.

With respect to another example from Tolkien's letters (referenced as being from The Treason of Isengard but it is also from a letter): "Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done." Sent back by whom, and whence? Not by the "gods" whose business is only with this embodied world and its time; for he passed "out of thought and time."

This is from the same letter in which Tolkien's footnote explaining 'god' in quotation marks appears...

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*There is only one 'god': God Eru Ilúvatar. There are the first creations, angelic beings, of which those most concerned in the Cosmogony reside (of love and choice) inside the World, as Valar or gods, or governors;...' JRRT, footnote to a draft to Robert Murray, 1954


Again, of course we are going to find the word 'gods' especially in an internal context, noting the very first quote Lord of All chose from the constructed Silmarillion (my emphasis in italics): 'The Great among these spirits the Elves name the Valar, the Powers of Arda, and Men have often called them gods.'
Thanks for the enlightening posts, Galin. I have to agree.

Gandalf
Well it doesn't appear Galin is disagreeing with me. I have posted my thoughts on this matter in a thread I cannot seem to locate (a forum thread search would be benificial).

Clearly the Valar are Gods, in terms of greek-like gods. Not all-powerful Creators like the christianity God (who is similar, but not exactly the same as Iluvatar). The Valar are more than Angels however. They are not mere messengers.

I guess Greek-gods, each having there own speciality or class of Power (Ulmo = water etc) would be the most befitting assessment.
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I cannot seem to locate (a forum thread search would be benificial).
Look for our Search link near the right end of our horizontal menu just below our Planet-Tolkien sunset banner.
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'There are no 'Gods', properly so called, in the mythological background of my stories. Their place is taken by the persons referred to as the Valar (or Powers): angelic created beings appointed to the government of the world.' Tolkien to A. E. Couchman, 1966


I will be comparing Tolkien's own statements with those from 'The Doctrine of Angels' by G.T. Tabert, noting again that Tolkien here explains that the Valar are not properly called 'gods' but are 'angelic created beings' and etc. Tabert's quotes appear in bold.

Angels are creations in the one creation of which we are a part. Before the creator in his unique glory, they stand alongside of us.

As are the Valar, created beings.

Angels are not God and so are not allowed to accept worship, and they see themselves as our fellow servants (Rev 19.9-10).

Compare Tolkien's 'high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels -- reverend therefore, but not worshipful.'

The only reference we have to angels present at the founding of the earth is Job 38.7. Here they are presented as spectators who saw God begin the work of creating the world and they sang and shouted for joy.

Hmmm, the angels 'sing' as God created the world Smile Smilie not the same obviously, but more on creation below in any case.

Without gender and not a race Angels do not have gender and do not marry (Matt 22.30).

This is interesting, as in earlier conceptions Tolkien's Valar 'married' and had children. This was ultimately abandoned however.

Hammond and Scull write: 'In the first account of Creation in Tolkien's mythology (... circa 1919), Arda took shape during the making of the music, and the Valar did not have to labour to achieve the vision. Unlike the remote and noble Valar of The Silmarillion, those of The Music of the Ainur and The Coming of the Valar and the Building of Valinor (both published in The Book of Lost Tales, Part One) are much closer to the gods of Olympus or Asgard, with many faults and weaknesses. They have Children, and even include among their number Makar and Measse, a brother and sister whose main concern is strife and discord.' H&S Reader's Companion

On the early use of the word 'Gods' Christopher Tolkien notes, in the early 'The Music of the Ainur': 'The Valar are here referred to as 'Gods' (...) and this usage survived until far on in the development of the mythology.'

In The Annals of Aman (HME X) we can even see Tolkien later revising the word 'gods': 'The Word 'gods' was removed in AAm* (Annals of Aman*) at both occurrences' (CJRT). Tolkien also made a similar revision to another copy (he used 'the Deathless' on this version instead of 'the servants of Ilúvatar').

Of course the usage survived in later texts as well. That said, it may also be noted that Tolkien generally came to view his Mythology differently as time passed: 'It is now clear to me that in any case the Mythology must actually be a 'Mannish' affair (...) what we have in the Silmarillion etc. are traditions (especially personalized, and centered upon actors, such as Feanor) handed on by Men in Númenor and later in Middle-earth (Arnor and Gondor); but already far back -- from the first association of the Dúnedain and Elf-friends with the Eldar of Beleriand -- blended and confused with their own Mannish myths and cosmic ideas.' JRRT Text I Myths Transformed, Morgoth's Ring

Indeed as Númenor takes the place of Atlantis (or 'garbled' versions of a drowned land or city), the Valar take the place of the 'gods' of other mythologies. The Valar are not these gods obviously, but 'mirror' them in general. And, since Tolkien is Christian and is later distancing his Valar from pagan mythologies (as compared to earlier versions anyway), he further notes that the Valar are not even properly called gods. Back to Angels...

Angels were regarded as extremely wise and knowledgeable (2 Sam 14.20). For all of their superiority in knowledge, angels are not omniscient. The Father’s own purposes for salvation are hidden from their own view, and God has not informed them of it.

As the Valar are wise and knowledgeable, and God has not informed the Valar about everything concerning his Children.

To angels God gave the capacity for power over the world to participate in executing the divine will in the government of the world (...)

Where angels have their role and come into full action is in God’s government of the world. This is signaled for us in Gen 3.24. After man sinned and was driven out of the Garden, the LORD “stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” As the story of salvation unfolds, we see angels in action. In this angels again stand side by side with man. Neither man nor angels had a role in the work of creation, but both have their roles in history. Angels exercise God’s power over the created world in the government of the world, and mankind is to enter God’s reign or kingdom and so share in God’s reign. Angels and mankind are in parallel.'


Compare Tolkien's: 'These latter are as we should say angelic powers, whose function is to exercise delegated authority in their spheres (of rule and government, not creation, making or re-making). JRRT

Messengers: Our word angel comes from the Greek word angelos which means messenger. The Hebrew word for angel is malak and has the same meaning. These words are used in the Bible for human messengers as well as for angels. In the OT, the malak relayed messages (Num 20.14; 22.5; Judges 7.24; 1Sam 6.21; 1Kings 19.2) or carried out a commissioned task (Josh 6.25; 1Sam 19.11; 2Kings 6.32). Throughout the Bible, angels both relay messages to people from God and carry out tasks commissioned by God. They are known most for communicating messages, for it is in this capacity that they appear in Biblical stories. But, the number of times we read of them carrying messages is relatively few. By far their largest role is to carry out tasks for God as executive agents, when they are not seen or noticed.

Thus, despite the word itself, and the fact that Angels do relay messages, Angels are themselves not merely messengers.

Angels have observed the whole work of the creation of the world (Job 38.7) and of salvation history. They have played a role in this history, executing God’s word with power.

Comparable enough, again in general.

The hierarchy among angels places some angels over others.

Tolkien's 'But they are only created spirits -- of high angelic order we should say, with their attendant lesser angels'

When we see good angels exercise their might in the scriptures, they are working on physical reality, physical objects, forces or the body. They carry out judgments on people or they protect and deliver from physical dangers. Within this limited sphere of activity, they can wield God’s power over the world, but they can only do it by God’s word.

Again Angels do not simply relay messages but have power, noting the derivation and meaning of the word Valar 'Powers' (yes Gods have power too, but see my conclusion).

When discussing the angels’ power, we noticed that as spirit beings they share God’s nature and can wield his power over creation. The power over creation does not belong to the angels but to God, and when this power is exercised we are not to relate to the angels but to God.

This is a distinction with which I think JRRT would have no problem with. The Valar exercise 'delegated' authority.

Creation

In Genesis 1 no role is given to angels in the work of creating the world. This remains true throughout the rest of the Bible. God’s unique position is secured in the fact that he alone is the creator, and he did not give this glory to another (Ish 42.8; 48.11), not even to an angel.'

Tolkien: *They shared in its 'making' -- but only on the same terms as we 'make' a work of art or story. The realization of it, the gift to it of a created reality of the same grade as their own, was the act of the One God.' Draft to Michael Straight, probably 1956

Note this important distinction: Tolkien compares the demiurgic labors of the Valar to Men 'making' works of art or stories, and the created reality rests with God alone. Though the participation of the Valar differs from that of the role of Angels, nonetheless this participation (however great in degree) is yet equal to Men as sub-creators in their own right. Essentially here Tolkien even qualifies the great labour of the angelic beings as if they were 'merely' superior artists, created by God, also creating as Men or Elves or Dwarves do, but on a larger scale. Ultimately the emphasis is back on the one being Tolkien thinks properly should be called God.

Purpose

Of course there is more that could be said concerning Angels (even kinds of Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim for example), and some might claim I have chosen that which fits. To that I say yes, as my purpose here is not to 'argue' with Tolkien's choice of phrasing or terminology. As I said above, for example, Gods are 'powerful' too, and thus could fit with the word Valar as well, but the purpose here is rather to find a general fit with Tolkien's explanations.

Indeed I'll leave others to the task (if desired) of noting how Christian Angels don't fit. Here I have attempted to compare basic ideas of what angels are and do (written by someone far more learned about Angels than I am), with that of JRR Tolkien's own statements -- his qualifications and choice of terminology in the letters I raised -- noting 'angelic powers' 'angelic order' 'angelic beings' and 'angelic created beings' and etc.

This all said, I'm not sure we need to simply label the Valar 'gods' or 'angels'. But that said too, one can hardly go astray with Tolkien's own explanations Smile Smilie
Well all I can say is that Tolkien made on hell of alot of mistakes with his couple of hundred uses in calling the Valar 'Gods'. Why not call them angels?

But as its written all over the books i will call them Gods (out of ignorance I am sure Galin), beeing most closesly related to the Greek Gods. They cannot be angels becuase Angels are messengers, not makers.
I think Tolkien explained himself quite well. The word "angel" in relation to the Valar means what Tolkien says it means, not what you want it to mean. When in doubt, consult his beliefs and known explanations, not your own preferences.

Gandalf
Gods are worshiped; angels are not; the Valar are not worshiped: hence the Valar are more angelic than godlike. If Tolkien wants his Valar, his angels to create what Eru Ilúvatar has designed, there is no contradiction for it is Tolkien's world; it is not the world of our Judeao-Christian-Islamic God.

When Tolkien's text speaks of gods when referring to the Valar he means angels; his mythology has only one God and that is Eru Ilúvatar. Were he alive today and had all his text computerized, he would do a search and replace to correct all these discrepancies accordingly; since he isn't we will just have to abide by his intent as written in his letters.

Here should endeth the lesson; Teacher Smilie but it probably won't.
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Gods are worshiped; angels are not; the Valar are not worshiped: hence the Valar are more angelic than godlike.

But isn't it true that different races of elves and men gave praise aka 'worshipped' different gods? The island of Numenor had a temple upon it's highest peak and once a year did they not 'worship' Illuvitar? I'm sure I recall reading about some of the Teleri, more or less, 'worshipping' Ulmo and Osse.
I perceive that Iluvatar is worshipped in Tolkien's world LESS than the Valar. Iluvatar is rarely mentioned. Therefore God is not worshipped in Tolkien's world.

Was not Melkor, mightiest of the Valar worshipped by his servants?

Here also is a quote:

"That is they are the descendants of Men that tried to repent and fled Westward from the domination of the Prime Dark Lord, and his false worship, and by contrast with the Elves renewed (and enlarged) their knowledge of the truth and the nature of the World. They thus escaped from 'religion' in a pagan sense, into a pure monotheist world, in which all things and beings and powers that might seem worshipful were not to be worshipped, not even the gods (the Valar), being only creatures of the One. And He was immensely remote." Letter 156

In this quote JRR is talking specifically about the Valar being gods. It is clear that the Valar ARE Gods, but are not THE God and therefore should not be worshipped. Thats why he says 'The Valar should be thought of as Angels etc'. He is saying that if you were to compare the Valar to like beings in our world then they would be more like Angels which should not be worshipped, rather than Gods which should. But clearly in Tolkien's myth to be a God you don't have to be worshipped unless your the Allfather God, Iluvatar.

Its pretty simple and I am not sure why no-one seems to understand. The Valar are gods, lesser gods, similar to Angels in our world but still gods in middle-earth.
not to revive a dead horse but I think it's interesting to note that Tolkien's friend Lewis has got beings of a "higher" plane than humanity in his Space Trilogy (there, they are called "Oyarsa") which are, to say the least, VERY Greek-god-like and yet, also have a lot of ties to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of angels.

I think Lewis was influenced by Tolkien's Valar, but whereas I get the impression that Tolkien was obsessed with the idea of "sub-creators", Lewis embraced that idea but married it to his own fascination with Greek mythology.

You might even say that the Valar are an elaboration and an ornamentation of what Tolkien saw himself to be -- they are sub-creators to Eru, but Tolkien himself sees his own writing as part of his 'sub-creation' to the God he worshipped.
*There are thus no temples or 'churches' or fanes in this 'world' among 'good' peoples. They had little or no 'religion' in the sense of worship. For help they may call on a Vala (as Elbereth), as a Catholic might on a Saint, though no doubt knowing in theory as well as he that the power of the Vala was limited and derivative.' JRRT Letter 153

Tolkien goes on to explain that the Númenóreans, and others of that branch of humanity that fought against Morgoth (even if they elected to remain in Middle-earth) were pure monotheists (though evidently, Mannish ideas in general can seep into the legends).

Lord of All wrote: 'Well all I can say is that Tolkien made on hell of alot of mistakes with his couple of hundred uses in calling the Valar 'Gods'.

They are not mistakes however; the word fits well enough for the reasons already explained.

Lord of All wrote: 'They cannot be angels becuase Angels are messengers, not makers.'

I prefer Tolkien's explanation, which obviously does not limit 'angelic beings' to messengers and explains the role of the Valar in 'making'. His idea is consonant enough with Christian thought in that God gives reality to sub-creations (with emphasis on God giving reality to art).

Lord of All wrote: 'But as its written all over the books i will call them Gods...'

If you like, but I'll note too that your examples range from HME I to HME XII and examples culled from all volumes essentially represent a false number with respect to a theorized final legendarium. And I have already given examples from later versions where Tolkien revises his use of 'gods'.

Incidentally one example from your earlier post ('... and him it names among the Gods'), which you referenced as being from the later volume HME XII (The Peoples of Middle-Earth), is actually a look back at an early passage from HME IV, itself later revised in that Túrin is given a place among the 'sons of the Valar' rather... and later Tolkien also placed an X near that revision. Moreover it is from the Second Prophecy of Mandos, which was dropped as a prophecy from Mandos, and (if it was to survive as a prophecy) was to be considered as Mannish in notions.

Those annoying details Smile Smilie

With respect to another of your later examples: ('Melian said: '(...) The shadow of the wrath of the Gods lies upon them... ') it is interesting to note that Christopher Tolkien changed 'gods' to 'Valar' for the 1977 Silmarillion, arguably because he thought his father would have, in this instance anyway.

But as I say, Tolkien need not have revised all his examples in any case. Anyway, from the very beginning 'identifications' were to be made (the following is very early stuff, but the point is nicely illustrated here)...

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'It is then said, somewhat inconsequentially (though the matter is in itself of much interest, and recurs nowhere else), that Eriol told the fairies of Wóden, ţunor, Tíw, etc. (these being the Old English names of the Germanic gods who in Scandinavian form are Óđin, ţór, Tyr), and they identified them with Manweg, Tulkas, and a third whose name is illegible but is not like that of any of the great Valar.' CJRT, The Book of Lost Tales


'On the side of mere narrative device, this is, of course meant to provide beings of the same order and beauty, power, majesty as the 'gods' of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted --well, shall we say baldly, by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity'.

The Valar are meant to mirror pagan gods -- because they are alike enough in ways -- but yet can be accepted by Christian minds, because when one looks closer, they are actually sub-creators, angelic beings, servants of God (nicely put by Elanorraine on sub-creation).
I believe my last post answers all rebuttals you hitherto presented Galin. Thus is probably why you avoided looking at my last post? Or endeavering to seek a less sinister reason you simply missed my last post?
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Main Entry: worship
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): -shipped also -shiped; -ship·ping also -ship·ing
transitive verb
1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion


Following definition 1 and/or 2, the Valar were 'worshipped' alright - note the Quendi's afffiliation with Elbereth, the Naugrim's affiliation with Mahal and the people of Éothéod's affiliation with Béma.
Lord of All wrote: 'I believe my last post answers all rebuttals you hitherto presented Galin.'

Feel free to believe so Smile Smilie

Lord of All wrote: 'Thus is probably why you avoided looking at my last post? Or endeavering to seek a less sinister reason you simply missed my last post?'

Sinister? this word seems a bit histrionic here.

You mean the post with Tolkien explaining about some escaping '... into a pure monotheist world, in which all things and beings and powers that might seem worshipful were not to be worshipped, not even the gods (the Valar), being only creatures of the One.' And where you gave your opinion that Tolkien didn't really mean that the Valar were angelic beings in the context of his tales? And the post in which you mention people (being tricked into) worshipping Melkor? Yes, I read it.

About Morgoth (noting the 'false worship' of the Prime Dark Lord in the letter quoted): 'But there was seen the effect of Melkor upon Sauron: he spoke of Melkor in Melkor's own terms: as a god, or even as God.' (Morgoth's Ring) And: 'Sauron could not, of course, be a 'sincere' atheist. Though one of the minor spirits created before the world, he knew Eru, according to his measure.' Morgoth's Ring

About the dictionary

1. to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power

As JRRT wrote '... reverend therefore, but not wordshipful.' he sees a distinction with respect to his mythology. Indeed the Eldar praised Eru with the Valar. The Exiled Noldor lived with the Powers and know that though they are high, majestic and powerful beings they are yet distinct from Eru 'the One' (God), to whom the Valar themselves give praise.

'And at each first gathering of fruits Manwe made a high-tide for the praising of Eru, and all the folk of Valinor poured forth their joy in music and song.' Morgoth's Ring
Interesting thread.

The worshipping of the Valar by the peoples of Middle-earth is really, as mentioned earlier, symbiotic, and less worldly. In our world, worshipping a divine being means creating statues and temples, but obviously, when the worshippers have actually lived with the worshipped, as the Elves have with the Valar, there is less need for such things, because their beliefs do not need to be substantiated by materialistic things. They know the Valar exist, whereas we in our world have some doubts as to whether the many pantheons of gods and goddesses exist, or whether the One God exists, for we have never seen them and they have not given us any signs that we can take as definite proof of their presence in our world. Thus, we use these material things like temples to make ourselves believe in them, while the Elves have no need of such things. Tolkien has always stressed spirituality and this method of worship is just another sign of it, I guess.
Statues of the Virgin, prayers or songs to her, chapels dedicated to her... these things are not worshipping Mary as a goddess according to Tolkien's faith.

One can argue semantics and claim that it is splitting hairs to say Catholics don't 'worship' Mary, or argue that some in Middle-earth do 'worship' the Valar.

Angelic beings are 'divine' in the sense Tolkien explains (existed before the World), majestic, beautiful, powerful... reverend (like the 'holy' Virgin) but not worshipful as gods or goddesses. Melkor accepts this kind of god-worship, cultivates it, but it is 'false worship'. He is not a god and not 'the' God.
Galin in your haste to overthrow my argument you have executed a vital flaw:

About Morgoth (noting the 'false worship' of the Prime Dark Lord in the letter quoted): 'But there was seen the effect of Melkor upon Sauron: he spoke of Melkor in Melkor's own terms: as a god, or even as God.' (Morgoth's Ring)

This is exactly the definition I am having some much trouble establishing. "As a god or even as God" - defined by the use of capitals. The God, Iluvatar is Allfather and is worshipful. But the gods are lesser gods, sub creators and Rulers. They fall into the catagory that Tolkien himself laid down. What Tolkien is saying is that the Valar are not Gods as in equals with Iluvatar but lesser gods, often he defines this with an absense of capitals for the beginning 'G'.

The Maiar are Angels, or very similar to as they had very minor roles in the creation of the world and are the servents and often messengers of the Valar (note the Istari and Osse).

But the Ainur as a whole are an Angelic race - a term used to describe them as coming from beyond Ea, a devine race. Angelic race doesn't mean they are all similar to Angels.

Also to follow on what VIr said I quote one of the several poems I know off by heart:

Snow White, Snow white, O Lady Clear,
O Queen beyond the western Seas,
O light to us that wander here,
Amid the world of woven Trees.

Gilthoniel, O Elbereth,
Clear are thy eyes and bright thy breath,
Snow white, Snow white we sing to thee,
In a far land beyond the Sea.

O stars that in the Sunless year,
With shining hand by her were sown,
In windy fields now bright and clear,
We see here silver blossom blown.

O Elbereth, Gilthoniel,
We still remember we who dwell,
In this far land beyond the Sea,
Thy starlight on thy western Seas.


Sounds like a song devoted to a god to me. And it sounds pretty worshipful.
Lord of All wrote: 'This is exactly the definition I am having some much trouble establishing. "As a god or even as God" - defined by the use of capitals.'

And in the quote posted I note Melkor's own terms include god and God.

Lord of All posted: 'The Maiar are Angels, or very similar to as they had very minor roles in the creation of the world and are the servents and often messengers of the Valar (note the Istari and Osse). But the Ainur as a whole are an Angelic race - a term used to describe them as coming from beyond Ea, a devine race. Angelic race doesn't mean they are all similar to Angels.'

And Tolkien explains that the Maiar are 'of the same order [as the Valar] but less power and majesty' in both Letters and Of the Valar in Morgoth's Ring (Valaquenta in the 1977 Silmarillion).

About the song, should I now post the whole Ave Maria (there's a version in Quenya too) so that one can claim it 'sounds pretty worshipful' and sounds like something devoted to a goddess?

Another 'new' passage from Letters...

Quote:
'Strictly these spirits were called Ainur, the Valar, being only those from among them who entered the world after its making, and the name is properly applied only to those great among them, who take the imaginative but not the theological place of 'gods'. The Ainur took part in the making of the world as 'sub-creators': in various degrees, after this fashion.' JRRT 1958, draft letter 212 to Rhona Beare


The Valar do not take the theological place of 'gods'.
'In Melkor's own terms' is irrelevent to what I was stating. It says his servents took him as a god or even as God. What I was refering to has nothing to do with Melkor. I was refering to the fact that Tolkien uses both 'as a god' and 'as God'. Two seperate catagories, one being like th greek gods, the other being like the Christian God.

But as the Valar are in themselves imaginary then they can therefore only take an imaginary place of gods can they not?
Lord of All posted: 'In Melkor's own terms' is irrelevent to what I was stating. It says his servents took him as a god or even as God. What I was refering to has nothing to do with Melkor. I was refering to the fact that Tolkien uses both 'as a god' and 'as God'. Two seperate catagories, one being like th greek gods, the other being like the Christian God.'

If so then why did you begin with the assertion that by posting this passage I 'executed' some sort of 'vital' flaw? Surely we are all aware of the difference in capitalization before I posted the passage.

Lord of All posted: 'But as the Valar are in themselves imaginary then they can therefore only take an imaginary place of gods can they not?'

Erm, Rhona Beare knows Tolkien created the Valar, she knows that they are 'imaginary' with respect to the 'real world'. Tolkien is here explaining something she might actually confuse however: that though they are called gods they do not assume the theological place of gods in his tale.

And this falls neatly in line with all JRRT's explanations from the letters I posted earlier (not gods properly so called, but angelic created beings who are sub-creators).
Very Mad Smilie This is one dead horse thats not worth the flogging.
Give it a rest guys. Neither of you will convince the other; and as neither of you is of the 'gentler gender', you surely don't need the 'last word'. Teacher Smilie
Perhaps this to end with... if indeed no one wants to continue Smile Smilie

Andreth said...

'Who is the One, whom ye call Eru? If we put aside the Men who serve the Nameless, as do many in Middle-earth, still many Men perceive the world only as a war between Light and Dark equipotent. But you will say: nay, that is Manwe and Melkor; Eru is above them. Is then Eru only the greatest of the Valar, a great god among gods, as most Men will say, even among the Atani: a king who dwells far from his kingdom and leaves lesser princes to do here much as they will? Again you say: nay, Eru is One, alone without peer, and He made Ea, and is beyond it; and the Valar are greater than we, but yet no nearer to His majesty. Is this not so?'

'Yes,' said Finrod. 'We say this, and the Valar we know, and they say the same, all save one. But which, think you, is likely to lie: those who make themselves humble, or he that exalts himself?'


Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth JRR Tolkien
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But which, think you, is likely to lie: those who make themselves humble, or he that exalts himself?

Splendid line. Very Confucian.
I will end with part of Galin's own quote:

"Is then Eru only the greatest of the Valar, a great god among gods..."

And my own:

'Who was Iluvatar? ' said Eriol. 'Was he of the Gods? '
'Nay,' said Rumil, 'that he was not, for he made them.
Iluvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world;
who made it and is not of it or in it, but loves it.'


Iluvatar is the Lord of Always, not amoung the gods, but The God.

'Then the Men of Middle-earth were comforted (...). And they revered the memory of the tall Sea-kings, and when they had departed they called them gods, hoping for their return; for at that time the Númenóreans dwelt never long in Middle-earth...' JRRT Akallabęth
The difference is with my quotes Elves, Men and JRR Tolkien himself called them gods...
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