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From all my readings of The Silmarillion and other Middle-earth writings (such as the HoME series), I always got a clear impression that the Valar were much taller than the Elves or Men. However, I came across someone's opinion that the Valar were of the same stature as Elves, quoting that the Valar assumed the shapes of the Children of Ilúvatar, save only in majesty and splendour, and saying that majesty and splendour don't refer to physical size.

Have you come across anything in Tolkien's works that gives an idea about how tall the Valar were?

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    My guess is that they could be as tall or short as they chose to be.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 4, 2015 at 7:35
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    I know that they could. But the Valar also lived in Valinor in houses, and interacted with the Elves who lived there on a regular basis. Were they constantly enlarging or shrinking their stature depending on how much impression they wanted to make? I don't think so. I get a fairly clear impression that, "normally", the Valar's physical raiment was of a constant size, chosen by them when they entered the World.
    – Maksim
    Jul 4, 2015 at 7:43
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    @Maksim Eh, that's not an entirely valid assertion. Recall Ainulindalë: "But the shapes wherein the Great Ones array themselves are not at all times like to the shapes of the kings and queens of the Children of Ilúvatar; for at times they may clothe themselves in their own thought, made visible in forms of majesty and dread." Maybe they do have day-to-day bodies, but off the top of my head I can't recall them ever being described. Possibly Lost Tales, for whatever that's worth Jul 4, 2015 at 8:23
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    As tall as they want to b... oh, @WadCheber has got it. :)
    – Lexible
    Jul 4, 2015 at 18:03
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    "Not at all times" or "at times" suggests an exception to the rule. Lost Tales also have numerous hints that the Valar were of great stature (such as numerous seabirds coming to rest on Osse's shoulders). Thanks for your answers and comments so far, but saying "as tall as they wanted to be" hardly cuts it for the purposes of this particular question.
    – Maksim
    Jul 4, 2015 at 23:04

3 Answers 3

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As tall as they wanted to be. Some of the most famous illustrators of Tolkien's work routinely depict Valar as being extremely large:

The giant mailed figure of Ulmo, with a flowing white beard, a winged helm and a six-pronged fork in his left hand, squats amid crashing breakers and leans forward to to face Tuor.  Tuor, unhelmed and in loose windblown garb, is facing away from the viewer, at the edge of the surf, holding his triangular shield and giant sword, in left and right hands respectively, above shoulder height.  The confrontation takes place in the right third of the panel, with towering breakers beneath a lowering sky and tall shadowy rocks in the distance filling the remainder.  A single phlange of Ulmo's hand is longer than Tuor's forearm.

Ulmo and Tuor, by John Howe

Fingolfin, entirely in white over gleaming mail with long blonde hair under a shining helm and a billowing white cape, fights Morgoth, entirely in black, black surcoat over black mail, black cape, spiky black helmet.  Both are wielding their weapons, sword and mace, in their left hands while their right arms bear their shields.  They fight on a crusted, spiky field of lava with smoking, glowing spots breaking the crust; the valley they stand in is surrounded by spiky peaks and filled with low clouds of smoke beneath a smoky yellow sky.  Morgoth is at least twice as tall as Fingolfin.

Morgoth and Fingolfin, by John Howe

Mandos sits on a throne carved from the rock, raised almost Lúthien's height above the floor where she kneels, cowled, arm gesturing.  It is dark, and the stars are visible through arches in the wall behind Mandos; two braziers, left and right, shed a little light.  Mandos is seated, impassive; he is robed, cowled, and has a dark goatee.  Mandos is at least twice as tall as Lúthien

Mandos and Lúthien, by Ted Naismith

The Valar are archangels. They can do whatever they want. They could be an inch tall if they chose, or they could be a hundred miles tall. There are no limitations on their sizes, as far as we know.

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  • Where are there depictions of them being anything other than giant-sized then?
    – J Doe
    Sep 5, 2021 at 16:29
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    How does this provide any information about the question. It's likely just the whim of the artists.
    – Spencer
    Aug 31, 2022 at 14:01
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    How many of them fit on the head of a pin?
    – Lexible
    Aug 31, 2022 at 15:16
  • @Lexible What's more important is what kind of dances do they engage in.
    – Peter M
    Aug 31, 2022 at 19:38
  • @PeterM Clearly the Valar dance The Funky Chicken. #HeadCanon
    – Lexible
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:09
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As tall as they wanted to be, which was usually very tall

The fanar[= visible form] of the great Valar were said by the Eldar who had dwelt in Valinor usually to have had a stature far greater than that of the tallest Elves, and when performing some great deed or rite, or issuing commands, to have assumed an awe-inspiring height.
The Nature of Middle-earth - "The Visible Forms of the Valar and Maiar"

For comparison, Tolkien has said that the taller elves were over 6 foot 6, so the Valar were "far greater" than that normally, and even more so when doing important things.

The Quendi were in origin a tall people. The Eldar were those who accepted the invitation of the Valar to remove from Middle-earth and set forth on the Great March to the Western Shores of Middle-earth. They were in general the stronger and taller members of the Elvish folk at that time. In Eldarin tradition it was said that even their women were seldom less than 6 ft. in height; their full-grown elfmen no less than 6 ft. 6, while some of the great kings and leaders were taller.
The Nature of Middle-earth - "Descriptions of Characters"

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When Melko Morgoth first came to Earth, he took a form like a mountain that has its feet in the sea and its head in the clouds, etc., etc., a descripiton which gives the impression of a vast size.

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