The Vanyar, Elves of Valinor
Much of the information we have on the Vanyar come from HoME. References to HoME volumes have been put through the text where necessary.
The Vanyar were the “fair-elves”, first of the Eldar hosts to follow Oromë to the Undying Lands. Their king was Ingwë. They had a generous spirit, “noble and gentle temper” and love for the Valar (The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, “Unfinished Tales”). They were regarded, and regarded themselves, as the leaders and principal kindred of the Eldar.
Also known as: Blessed Elves, Spear-elves, Elves of the Air, friends of the Gods, Holy Elves, the Immortal, Children of Ingwë, Fair Folk, the White (list from The Later Quenta Silmarillion I, “Morgoth’s Ring”)
Vanyar – the name
Among themselves, the Vanyar elves referred to themselves as the Minyar or the Ingwer, though the world knew them as the Vanyar, a name that the Noldor gave to them.
They were also known as the Vaniai in Amanyar Teleri, and as the Miniel (pl. Mínil) in Beleriand. In early versions of Tolkien’s works, they were known as the Lindar, but then that name was transferred over to the Teleri.
The word Vanyar comes from an adjectival derivative wanjā from the stem wan. Its main meaning seems to refer to hair colour and complexion, though in an absolute way, with any implication of beauty coming second. The name Vanyar referred to their hair colour – which in nearly all members was yellow or deep golden. Owing to intermarriage the golden hair of the Vanyar sometimes later appeared among the Noldor: notably in the case of Finarfin, and in his children Finrod and Galadriel.
The Vanyar through the First Age
The Vanyar were the first of the three clans of elves:
“According to the legend, preserved in almost identical form among both the Elves of Aman and the Sindar, the Three Clans were in the beginning derived from the three Elf-fathers: Imin, Tata, and Enel … and those whom each chose to join his following. So they had at first simply the names Minyar ‘Firsts’, Tatyar ‘Seconds’, and Nelyar, ‘Thirds’. These numbered, out of the original 144 Elves that first awoke, 14, 56, and 74; and these proportions were approximately maintained until the Separation.” (Quendi and Eldar, “War of the Jewels”)
Ingwë, the Lord of the Vanyar, was one of the three elves who went to Aman with Oromë, and he came back full of the delights and splendour of that land, urging his people to seek out Valinor. The Vanyar agreed, and were the first to follow Oromë, not stopping at any point on their way to the Sea. All the Vanyar went to Aman, leaving none behind to become part of the Dark-elves.
When the Vanyar first arrived in Aman, they lived in Tirion with the Noldor, but eventually they moved away to Valinor to be closer to the Valar.
The only other time the Vanyar are mentioned is during the War of Wrath where:
“the host of the Valar prepared for battle; and beneath their white banners marched the Vanyar, the people of Ingwë” (Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath, “The Silmarillion”)
The Vanyar and the Valar
The Vanyar had the closest relationship of any of the Eldar to the Valar, living near and seeming to spend a good amount of time with them.
“Only the Vanyar remained in constant association with the Valar.” (Quendi and Eldar, “War of the Jewels”)
“The Vanyar he [Manwë] loved best of all the Elves, and of him they received song and poetry” (Of the Beginning of Days, Silmarillion) Beloved of Manwë and Varda (Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor, “The Silmarillion”)
After Morgoth had escaped, the Valar remained seated on their thrones in the Ring of Doom, and the Maiar and Vanyar stayed with them, weeping (Of the Flight of the Noldor, “The Silmarillion”). They were also with the Valar when messengers delivered the news that Fëanor would still leave after the Doom of the Noldor had been pronounced.
There is also an intimation that the Valar told the Vanyar more about Arda than the rest of the Eldar. In an early version of the Tale of Years (“Morgoth’s Ring”):
“…of the whole history of Ëa from its beginning to the End that shall be. But these things are not certainly known even to [the] Vanyar.”
The Vanyar and Melkor
The Vanyar would have no dealings with Melkor – Ulmo had warned them against him, and the elves took great notice of his words (The Later Quenta Silmarillion I, “Morgoth’s Ring”).
Ingwë was the Lord of the Vanyar. His name was related to the Quenya inga (‘top’, ‘highest point’) used adjectively as a prefix. His proper title was Ingwë Ingweron – ‘chief of the chieftains’.
Indis was said to be ‘close kin’ to Ingwë in The Silmarillion, but in earlier versions of the mythology, e.g. The Later Quenta Silmarillion I, II (“Morgoth’s Ring”) she was his sister.
A good description of her, and her love for Finwë was given in “Morgoth’s Ring”:
“She was golden-haired, and tall, and exceedingly swift of foot. She laboured not with her hands, but sang and made music, and there was ever light and mirth about her while the bliss of Aman endured. She loved Finwë dearly, for her heart had turned to him long before, while the people of Ingwë dwelt still with the Noldor in Túna. … Therefore, she remained unwedded, when her people departed to Valinor, and she walked often alone in the fields and friths of the Valar, filling them with music. … [After Míriel's death] when Indis saw Finwë climbing the paths of the mountain (and the light of Laurelin was behind him as a glory) without forethought she sang suddenly in great joy, and her voice went up as the song of a lirulin in the sky. And when Finwë heard that song falling from above he looked up and saw Indis in the golden light, and he knew in that moment that she loved him and had long done so. Then his heart turned at last to her, and he believed that this chance, as it seemed, had been granted for the comfort of them both.” (The Later Quenta Silmarillion II, “Morgoth’s Ring”)
She was the mother of Fingolfin and Finarfin.
Amarië was the love of Finrod, but she was not “permitted to go with him into exile.” (Maeglin, “War of the Jewels”)
Elenwë was the wife of Turgon, and the mother of Idril. She perished in the crossing of the Helcaraxë.
Elemmirë was the creator of the Aldudénië, the Lament for the Two Trees.
- The Silmarillion
- Morgoth’s Ring
- The War of the Jewels
- The Peoples of Middle-earth