I read Lord of the Rings when I was 10 or so, and largely remember a story about men, orcs, elves, and hobbits. Since then I've seen the movies many times, but, of course, those abbreviate and take liberties. But I remember nothing about "Valar", "Maiar", and all of these other parties. I only know about these elements of the story because I've read questions on this site - to me, Gandalf was just a wizard, but apparently he's some kind of god? It's actually quite overwhelming!

So I'm wondering - was I a poor reader? Do I have a bad memory? Or is all of this just not in the original text (not including letters, other books, etc.)? Is it something that you are supposed to pick up on through subtle references (that might pass by a 10 year old who probably just wanted to get to the orcs)?

  • 2
    If it helps, you can think of Gandalf as an avatar.
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:18
  • 1
    (But if it doesn't help, you don't have to.)
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:18
  • Have you read the appendices, can I include the appendices?
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 21, 2017 at 9:45
  • The appendix, which introduced all the Valar/Maiar/Eru concepts, was written years after LOTR was done. It delayed the final release of Return of the King.
    – user40790
    Apr 21, 2017 at 16:27
  • @Jgoe If one of these answers is the correct answer, please consider accepting it (By pressing on the little green tick below the vote scores).
    – Edlothiad
    May 1, 2017 at 21:33

5 Answers 5


Some of it was implied rather than directly mentioned, and if you did not read the appendix you would have missed more but they were not completely unmentioned. For example Frodo calling out Elbereth/Varda's name when being attacked by the Witch King.

Just looking at the index "Valar" has two entries, Elbereth has 3 (none for Maiar), Orome has 1, Varda has 1 and 1 for 'Great Enemy' (unnamed Morgoth). There may be others I did not catch.

  • I thought Morgoth was directly referenced in relation to the Balrog.
    – ibid
    Apr 21, 2017 at 3:55
  • I believe he was in the movie. But with a skim, I did not see the name come up in the books. The only mention of Morgoth's name I can remember or find is in the appendix's very very brief description of the First Age. The Great Enemy mention in the index is from Aragon just telling the story of Beren and Luthien. Apr 21, 2017 at 4:10
  • 5
    'It was a Balrog of Morgoth,' said Legolas; `of all elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower.' (Book II, Chapter 7)
    – ibid
    Apr 21, 2017 at 4:44
  • That's why I didn't find it. I was looking over the actual confrontation in Moria, didn't check Lorien. Apr 21, 2017 at 12:30
  • And Olórin names himself.
    – Spencer
    Apr 22, 2017 at 18:38

The Valar, and lesser so the Maiar are often mentioned in passing, many of these comments make the story so much greater after having read The Silmarillion and possibly The Unfinished Tales where there story is detailed.

One mention of the word Valar specifically occurs in the text of The Lord of the Rings, specifically in Book 4

“Ware! Ware!’ cried Damrod to his companion. ‘May the Valar turn him aside! Mûmak! Mûmak!”
The Two Towers, Book Four: Chapter Four - Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

A mention of the great evil is accounted in The Council of Elrond during the brief summary of the First Age.

And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so.’
The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two: Chapter Two - The Council of Elrond

A further mention of the White tree Telperion in the Years of the Trees

There in the courts of the King grew a white tree, from the seed of that tree which Isildur brought over the deep waters, and the seed of that tree before came from Eressëa, and before that out of the Uttermost West in the Day before days when the world was young.

It would seem the main use of their mentions is either in common sayings (as with the Gondorian, Damrod, calling to the Valar) or in mentions of history, as with the seconds quote, or in the description of things derived from ages past.

  • The Eldest of Trees is invoked at the very end, when the new White Tree is found.
    – Spencer
    Apr 22, 2017 at 18:40

I think it is quite deliberately left out of the main tale aside for hints and passing references.

It adds to the air of misery of things and is an important part of the story telling. If you start with, here is "Gandalf a demigod sent here to destroy the dark lord" you know who is is and expect him to be pretty powerful.

If you start with "Here is Gandalf a strange old man who stirs up mischief and makes good fireworks" you don't know what to expect, and get surprised at the level of respect others (for example the Elves) show him.

A lot of the story is told from the viewpoint of the Hobbits (IIRC the lord of the rings was supposed to have been written by Frodo) they care and know little about legends and ancient history. So we are left to guess and try to fill between the blanks which makes for a much better reading experience (IMHO).

  • 2
    misery or mystery?
    – ohno
    Apr 21, 2017 at 12:29

There's many subtle references but to fully understand it I think you have to be an adult.

An example is the introduction of Shelob who fled from Bereland, the last daughter of Ungoliant, or Gandalf confronting the Balrog.

I also read LoTR when I was 10 years old, and despite thoroughly enjoying it all I knew was that Gandalf and Saruman were wizards.

My father is an avid Tolkien fan, and later introduced me to the Silmarillion. I found it interesting and enjoyable to read as an adult but as a 10-year-old kid it would have bored me to death.


Olórin is mentioned by Gandalf in the ride to Minas Tirith, but he is not explicitly outed as a Maiar, we are just told it was Gandalf's name in the West.

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