The Valar were the “angelic powers” of Arda, created by Ilúvatur before the Creation itself. They participated in the making of the universe (Eä) and the world (Arda).

The names of the Valar were Manwë, Aulë, Ulmo, Tulkas, Oromë, Lórien (Irmo), Mandos (Namo), Varda, Yavanna, Nienna, Nessa, Vána, and Vairë. Also among the Valar at the beginning of time was Melkor, but he was disallowed from their ranks later on.

During the Music of the Ainur, the Valar sung the shape of the future world into the thoughts of Ilúvatur. As was described in “The Road Goes Ever On”:

”They did so because of their love and desire for the Children of God – Elves and Men – for whom they were to prepare the ‘realm’. The future forms of Elves and Men had been revealed to them, though they had no part in their design or making, and the precise time of their appearance was not known.”

After the physical Creation of the world, the Valar came down into Middle Earth, and were based in the Isle of Almaren along with the Maiar. They moved through the world, creating its landscapes and filling it with the first living things – the kelvar and the olvar. They also brought light to the world, with the great lamps Ormal and Illuin, whose lights mingled over the Isle of Almaren. This time was known as the Spring of Arda, and was marred only by the mischief of Melkor.

After losing one war against the other Valar, Melkor had retreated into the outer darkness, but he then returned to Middle Earth and threw down the Lamps of the Valar. This plunged the world into darkness, and destroyed the Isle of Almaren.

The Valar then set about restoring the balance of the world, and they created a new home for themselves in Aman – the Blessed Realm in the West. There, the Valar built their city, Valmar (also known as Valimar), and it was there that Yavanna brought forth the Two Trees of Valinor, bringing light to the West, but leaving Middle Earth still shrouded in darkness.

Eventually, news came to the Valar of the appearance of the Elves – the First Born Children of Ilúvatur. Varda then created the stars for them so that the darkness would not be absolute. Shortly after that, the Valar came back to Middle Earth to fight the Battle of the Powers against Melkor – an attempt to stop Melkor corrupting and perverting the newly-born Elves. Melkor was taken prisoner, and Utumno was destroyed. The Valar then decided that the Elves should be summoned to live in Valinor – an attempt by the Valar to keep the Elves from further evil.

After three Ages, Melkor was released, and he stole the Silmarils and poisoned the Two Trees of Valinor with the aid of Ungoliant. He fled to Middle Earth, followed by the Noldor whose minds he had poisoned against the Valar. By the end of the First Age, the Valar realised that they must intervene in the doings of Middle Earth, and they sent a host to crush Melkor. In the process, the land of Beleriand was destroyed, and Melkor was cast into the Void.

At the start of the Second Age, the Valar gave the Atani the land of Númenor, far out in the Western Seas, and seemingly removed from the perils of Middle Earth. However, after the kingdom had become ever more proud and had fallen under the guile of Sauron, the Valar called upon the mercy of Ilúvatur, and he changed the world – throwing down Númenor and swallowing it in Sea. At the same time, the Undying Lands were removed forever from the circles of the world.

In the Third Age, the Valar decided to send emissaries to Middle Earth, rather than interfering directly in the affairs of Men and Elves. In this way, the Istari were brought into the world.

What happened to the Valar is not known after the end of the Third Age.

Research: Hathaldir
Commentary: Hathaldir