This is my understanding:

  • Before Ilúvatar created , he created the Ainur, who were with him in his Timeless Halls.
  • At Eä’s creation, some of the Ainur chose to enter the world and be bound to it.
  • Of the Ainur who entered Eä, the fifteen most powerful were called the Valar (or fourteen plus Melkor). The others were called Maiar.
  • The Valar and Maiar cannot leave Eä until the end of the world. I don’t know whether they gave up any other powers.

From the Ainulindalë, about the Valar being more powerful than the Maiar:

And the Valar drew unto them many companions, some less, some well nigh as great as themselves.

Later in the Ainulindalë, emphasis mine:

Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Ilúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Ilúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.

The passage above only mentions the Valar, but I am under the impression that it applies to the Maiar too.

Do we know anything about the Ainur who chose not to enter Eä at its creation?

  • Do they have a name, other than “the Ainur who remained in the Timeless Halls”?
  • Are they able to enter and leave Eä now that it’s created?
  • Could any of these Ainur be more powerful than the Valar? Were the Valar the most powerful of all Ainur, or only of those who chose to be bound to Eä? The passage about says that many of the greatest Ainur entered Eä, but it seems like a few of the absolute greatest could have stayed behind.

1 Answer 1


There could be spirits in the Timeless Halls more powerful than the Valar

Not all of the Valar, or similarly powerful spirits, descended to Arda initially. Tulkas and Ungoliant entered the world after it was created (though of course before it was fully formed).

It is told among the wise that the First War began before Arda was full-shaped, and ere yet there was any thing that grew or walked upon earth; and for long Melkor had the upper hand. But in the midst of the war a spirit of great strength and hardihood came to the aid of the Valar, hearing in the far heaven that there was battle in the Little Kingdom; and Arda was filled with the sound of his laughter. So came Tulkas the Strong, whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days

Tulkas was among the strongest of the Valar, but he did not intially descend to Arda. Certainly he was stronger than Oromë.

Oromë is a mighty lord. If he is less strong than Tulkas, he is more dreadful in anger; whereas Tulkas laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Melkor he laughed in battles before the Elves were born.

The Silmarillion, Valaquenta

There is also Ungoliant:

The Eldar knew not whence she came; but some have said that in ages long before she descended from the darkness that lies about Arda, when Melkor first looked down in envy upon the Kingdom of Manwë, and that in the beginning she was one of those that he corrupted to his service. But she had disowned her Master, desiring to be mistress of her own lust, taking all things to herself to feed her emptiness; and she fled to the south, escaping the assaults of the Valar and the hunters of Oromë, for their vigilance had ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Darkening of Valinor

As detailed in other questions, Ungoliant may have been an Ainu corrupted by Morgoth, either before or after entering into Arda.

Ungoliant's Unlight was capable of confounding the Valar, and when Morgoth turned on her, she attacked him so viciously that he had to call upon his Balrogs for aid.

But Ungoliant had grown great, and he less by the power that had gone out of him; and she rose against him, and her cloud closed about him, and she enmeshed him in a web of clinging thongs to strangle him. Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry, that echoed in the mountains. Therefore that region was called Lammoth; for the echoes of his voice dwelt there ever after, so that any who cried aloud in that land awoke them, and all the waste between the hills and the sea was filled with a clamour as of voices in anguish. The cry of Morgoth in that hour was the greatest and most dreadful that was ever heard in the northern world; the mountains shook, and the earth trembled, and rocks were riven asunder. Deep in forgotten places that cry was heard. Far beneath the rained halls of Angband, in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their Lord; and now swiftly they arose, and passing over Hithlum they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire. With their whips of flame they smote asunder the webs of Ungoliant, and she quailed, and turned to flight, belching black vapours to cover her; and fleeing from the north she went down into Beleriand, and dwelt beneath Ered Gorgoroth, in that dark valley that was after called Nan Dungortheb, the Valley of Dreadful Death, because of the horror that she bred there.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor

Something to note here is that even if a spirit were not initially as powerful as the Valar, the power of Morgoth (and perhaps the Valar) was lessened from long abiding in Eä, and investing his essence in it: But Ungoliant had grown great, and he less by the power that had gone out of him.

A spirit newly entered, though perhaps only as powerful as a Maia, might still have had the advantage against a spirit of greater innate potency, if the later had dispersed their power. This is basically what happened with Ungoliant, for of a certainty she could not have been created greater than Melkor, who was first in power among all the Ainur.

Despite its incomplete state (whether due to the loss of the conclusion of the fully developed form of the essay or to its abandonment, see note 6) this is the most comprehensive account that my father wrote of how, in his later years, he had come to 'interpret' the nature of Evil in his mythology; never elsewhere did he write any such exposition of the nature of Morgoth, of his decline, and of his corruption of Arda, nor draw out the distinction between Morgoth and Sauron: 'the whole of Middle-earth was Morgoth's Ring'.

History of Middle-earth: Morgoth's Ring

This question indicates that when Sauron did not wear his Ring, his power was not diminished.

Morgoth certainly was, though. Perhaps as so much of his power was invested in the creatures of Arda, the result for him was similar to what would have occurred had someone else properly claimed the Ring: that portion of his power was lost.

Note also that a newly arrived destructive spirit might be more powerful than a peaceable one that had been long in Eä.

The Valar 'fade' and become more impotent, precisely in proportion as the shape and constitution of things becomes more defined and settled. The longer the Past, the more nearly defined the Future, and the less room for important change (untrammelled action, on a physical plane, that is not destructive in purpose). The Past, once 'achieved', has become part of the 'Music in being'. Only Eru may or can alter the 'Music'.

History of Middle-earth: Morgoth's Ring

So while the Valar may have been very constrained in later ages, a spirit with the desire only to destroy, i.e. an evil spirit, might not have been.

Entering into Eä, and choosing to stay, essentially makes a spirit a Vala (or Maia)

Tulkas remained and became one of the Valar of the Kingdom of Arda; but Melkor brooded in the outer darkness, and his hate was given to Tulkas for ever after.

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days

It would seem that a connection is drawn between Tulkas's choice to remain, and his becoming one of the Valar. He wasn't initially one of the Valar (despite the apparent symmetry of seven female and seven male Valar). It was his decision to stay in Eä (and of course not to rebel against Eru), that made him such.

It is, however, possible that an Ainu that did not care for Eä would not be bound to it, as the questioner's quote implies:

But this condition Ilúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs.

Indeed, Morgoth may have been able to leave Eä after it was created, and after the Valar had descended, as indicated: "...and Melkor fled before his wrath and his laughter, and forsook Arda, and there was peace for a long age."

It therefore seems very likely that an Ainu that did not love Eä would not be bound to it, unless they had dissipated their power therein. Of course, it is possible that Morgoth did not flee from Eä, but merely from Arda.

Note: I couldn't find any evidence of a name for those Ainur who stayed in the Timeless Halls, besides of course Ainur.

  • Morgoth didn't leave Ea this time, but if he was thrown through Gates of Night then he did that time.
    – Mithoron
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 19:43

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