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In the Silmarillion, we learn much about the origins of the elves and of their leaders. There is a lot of info about the people of the Teleri and the main plots are woven around the fate of the Noldor, so they are omnipresent. But of the Vanyar, we learn almost nothing, except that Ingwë is their lord, that they are the ones Manwë loves the most, that they are the most high elves, that they live at the foot of Taniquetil and that they went to the War of Wrath with the host of the Valar. And also that Galadriel's mother was of the Vanyar.

My question is: is there anything in canon that gives more details about them, like some deeds or their main interests and talents, and if it is so, what are the main lines of those details ?

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    They like poetry... – Matt Gutting May 11 '15 at 14:00
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    There are some (loose) parallels between the Silmarillion and Paradise Lost. The Noldor are Lucifer and his followers, who rebelled out of pride and anger. The Vanyar are the angels who stayed in heaven, obeying the rules and playing their harps. The latter may be pure and beautiful, but they are very boring, so they don't play much of a role in the story. – Royal Canadian Bandit May 11 '15 at 14:03
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    Yes, I see your point. The same goes for the Valar and Morgoth... leave Arda only to the Valar, and there is no story to tell ! Eru was indeed clever when he created Melkor... ;-) – Joel May 11 '15 at 18:12
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I've scanned The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and all twelve volumes of History of Middle-earth. Here's what I found out.

What do we know?

Not a ton, but also not nothing:

  • They tended to have golden hair, as reported by the "Index of Names" in The Silmarillion:

    Vanyar The first host of the Eldar on the westward journey from Cuiviénen, led by Ingwë. The name (singular Vanya) means 'the Fair', referring to the golden hair of the Vanya

  • They live in Valinor, rather in the Elven cities of Aman:

    As the ages passed the Vanyar grew to love the land of the Valar and the full light of the Trees, and they forsook the city of Tirion upon Túna, and dwelt thereafter upon the mountain of Manwë, or about the plains and woods of Valinor, and became sundered from the Noldor. [...] Ingwë was ever held the High King of all the Elves. He abode thereafter at the feet of Manwë upon Taniquetil.

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 5: "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"

  • They really disliked Melkor:

    Now in his heart Melkor most hated the Eldar, both because they were fair and joyful and because in them he saw the reason for the arising of the Valar, and his own downfall. Therefore all the more did he feign love for them and seek their friendship, and he offered them the service of his lore and labour in any great deed that they would do. The Vanyar indeed held him in suspicion, for they dwelt in the light of the Trees and were content;

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 6: "Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor"

  • One of the Vanyar composed the Aldudénië, the tale of the destruction of the Two Trees of Valinor, the saddest tale in Elvish history:

    So the great darkness fell upon Valinor. Of the deeds of that day much is told in the Aldudénië, that Elemmírë of the Vanyar made and is known to all the Eldar. Yet no song or tale could contain all the grief and terror that then befell.

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 8: "Of the Darkening of Valinor"

  • Another of them, Indis, became the second wife of Finwë and mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin, later to be High Kings of the Noldor1, 2:

    Finwë was King of the Noldor. The sons of Finwë were Fëanor, and Fingolfin, and Finarfin; but the mother of Fëanor was Míriel Serindë, whereas the mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin was Indis of the Vanyar.

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 5: "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"

  • Only one known full-blooded Vanyar accompanied the Noldor out of Aman; this was Elenwë, wife of Turgon (Fingolfin's second son), and she died crossing the Helcaraxë:

    Then Fingolfin seeing that Fëanor had left him to perish in Araman or return in shame to Valinor was filled with bitterness; but he desired now as never before to come by some way to Middle-earth, and meet Fëanor again. And he and his host wandered long in misery, but their valour and endurance grew with hardship; for they were a mighty people, the elder children undying of Eru Ilúvatar, but new-come from the Blessed Realm, and not yet weary with the weariness of Earth. The fire of their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxë and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. There Elenwë the wife of Turgon was lost, and many others perished also

    The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 9: "Of the Flight of the Noldor"

    Elenwë's Vanyar heritage is identified in History of Middle-earth:

    'Turgon...had no heir; for Elenwë his wife perished in the crossing of the Helcaraxë': here A [an earlier draft] has 'Turgon...had no heir; for his wife, Alairë was of the Vanyar and would not forsake Valinor' [...] The substitution of Elenwë in The Silmarillion was based on the Elvish genealogies of 1959 (see pp. 229, 350), where Anairë (defined as a Vanya who 'remained in Túna') was later corrected to 'Elenwë who perished in the ice'; on the same table at the same time Anairë was entered as the wife of Fingolfin, with the note that she 'remained in Aman'.

    History of Middle-earth XI The War of the Jewels Part Three. The Wanderings of Húrin and Other Writings not forming part of the Quenta Silmarillion: III "Maeglin" Section 12

  • They called themselves the Minyar; "Vanyar" is a name given to them by the Noldor:

    This name was probably given to the First Clan by the Noldor. They accepted it, but continued to call themselves most often by their own numerical name Minyar (since the whole of this clan had joined the Eldar and reached Aman).

    *History of Middle-earth" XI The War of the Jewels "Part 4. Quendi and Eldar" Part C: The Clan-names "Vanyar"

  • They think of themselves as the leaders of the Elves:

    [T]he Vanyar were regarded, and regarded themselves, as the leaders and principal kindred of the Eldar, as they were the eldest; and they called themselves the Ingwer [inga means "top" in Quenya] - in fact their king's proper title was Ingwë Ingweron 'chief of the chieftains'.

    *History of Middle-earth" XII The Peoples of Middle-earth Chapter 11: "The Shibboleth of Fëanor"


1 Well, Fingolfin gets to be High King. Finarfin stayed in Aman, but his great-grandson Gil-galad became slightly less obscure than the average Elf.

2 Also, Indis was actually Galadriel's grandmother; Galadriel is the daughter of Finarfin, not of Finwë:

The sons of Finarfin were Finrod the faithful (who was afterwards named Felagund, Lord of Caves), Orodreth, Angrod, and Aegnor; these four were as close in friendship with the sons of Fingolfin as though they were all brothers. A sister they had, Galadriel, most beautiful of all the house of Finwë; her hair was lit with gold as though it had caught in a mesh the radiance of Laurelin.

The Silmarillion III Quenta Silmarillion Chapter 5: "Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"

  • Thank you, excellent answer. And you're right for Galadriel, my mistake... I would love to have the books in electronic format... And to have HoMe. And buying a new Silmarillion wouldn't be bad either, my old one looks like a rag. A project for later :-) I gave the acceptance because I doubt somebody will beat you on this answer. – Joel May 11 '15 at 18:15
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    @Joel Without giving away too much (questionably legal) information, I can tell you that it is possible to find full-text searchable versions of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. I've had no luck with HoMe, though – Jason Baker May 11 '15 at 22:40
  • Ok, thank you. I just found a pdf of the Letters, that's a beginning :-) – Joel May 12 '15 at 0:02
  • Maybe I understood wrongly what you meant in Note 1, but in the Silmarillion, it's stated that Gil-galad is the son of Fingon, so grand-son of Fingolfin. This said, I know Tolkien played a lot with the Elven family trees and it may have been otherwise somewhere else. – Joel May 14 '15 at 16:14
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    @Joel Gil-galad's parentage is complicated (There's a whole essay on it in HoME 12), but suffice it to say that Tolkien changed his mind on the subject repeatedly, and his being the son of Orodreth was the last word on the subject. Christopher Tolkien made an editorial decision, that he came to regret, to make him Fingon's son in The Silmarillion – Jason Baker May 14 '15 at 17:18

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