a. Eru, Valar & Maiar
Eru Ilúvatar [‘eh-roo ih-‘loo-vah-tar] – the Creator; ‘God’ in Tolkien’s world; created the Ainur, Elves, and Men; created the world; caused the drowning of Númenor and removing of the Undying Lands (Valinor) beyond the spheres of earthly existence; he alone could create independent life, which he granted to Aulë’s Dwarves.
Ainur [‘eye-noor] – holy spirits, offspring of Eru’s thought; they may choose to be disembodied or to assume a body of their choice; they include the Valar and the Maiar, and possibly other spirits.
Valar [‘vah-lahr] (singular Vala) – 7 male (Valar) and 7 female (Valier, singular Valië) angelic spirits that entered the world and completed its material development; Melkor (Morgoth) is not counted among them anymore although he is also a Vala; created out of the thought of Eru; their most famous residence is Valinor (Undying Lands, Aman); they created all sources of illumination in the world- the Two Lamps, the Two Trees, the stars, the Sun and the Moon.
When the Elves awakened in Middle-earth, the Valar invited them to dwell in Valinor. Only two Valar still visited Middle-earth by this time- Ulmo and Oromë. Later on the Valar closed Valinor to those Elves who left for Middle-earth. They lifted the ban for the exiled Elves after the defeat of Melkor.
In the Second Age, the Valar gifted the island of Númenor to Men. By this time, they seem to have stopped visiting Middle-earth, although they possibly have messengers there (Great Eagles).
Also called: the Powers of Arda
You know them from: the peoples of Middle-earth call to them for protection and spiritual help (Ithilien Rangers facing oliphaunts). It is also possible that the “crowns of the seven kings” in Saruman’s speech refer to the male Valar. (TTT)
Among his servants are: the Great Eagles, Eönwë, possibly Olórin (Gandalf).
Also called: The Elder King; Súlimo
You know him from: Bilbo mentions him as the Elder King in his song of Eärendil in Rivendell.
Among his servants are: Ossë, Uinen.
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Among his servants were: the balrogs, Sauron, and Curumo (Saruman), before they turned to evil.
You know him from: Théoden was likened to him when the Rohirrim charged at Pelennor Fields. (RotK) The Horn of Gondor comes from the descendants of his kine.
His strive to gain dominion of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants’ desperate fight against him is the main theme of the Quenta Silmarillion.
Among his servants are: balrogs, werewolves, wolves, dragons, Sauron, orcs, trolls
Also called: the Black Enemy of the World (translation of the name Morgoth)
You know him from: the balrog of Moria is identified as a ‘balrog of Morgoth’. When Aragorn tells the tale of Lúthien on Weathertop, he refers to Morgoth as the Great Enemy. (FotR)
Also called: Elbereth Gilthoniel, the Star-kindler
You know her from: her name is often uttered by Elves and Elf-friends in distress, wonder, or when wishing for protection: by Frodo on Weathertop, by Sam when facing Shelob, or by Gildor when wishing the hobbits a safe journey. She appears in songs- Gildor’s company and Rivendell elves sing of her, as well as Galadriel in her Lament. Bilbo mentions her in his song of Eärendil. Her name breaks the will of the Silent Watchers in Cirith Ungol, and disturbs the Witch King on Weathertop.
Among her servants are: possibly Radagast the Brown Wizard, and the Ents.
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Maiar [‘my-ahr] (singular Maia) – male and female spirits (Ainur) of a lesser kind than the Valar; some serve a particular Vala; some became corrupted; created out of the thought of Eru; they can assume various forms or walk disembodied.
Eönwë [eh-‘on-weh] – chief among the male Maiar; herald of Manwë; the greatest warrior in Arda and leader of the armies of the Valar.
Ossë [‘os-seh] – male servant of Ulmo; commands the Middle-earth seas; known for his wild temper and love of storms; feared by mariners; married to Uinen.
Istari (Wizards) [‘ih-stah-rih] – a small order of five male Maiar sent to Middle-Earth in the Third Age to assist the peoples in their struggle against Sauron; assumed the likenesses of Men. The chief ones were Curumo (Saruman), Olórin (Gandalf), and Aiwendil (Radagast).
You know them from: both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Saruman mentions their full number in his speech in The Two Towers (“the rods of the Five Wizards”).
You know them from: the balrog of Moria was one of the last balrogs; Legolas refers to him as elf-bane in Lórien, hinting at the elf-balrog encounters in history.
~ Gothmog– the greatest of the balrogs; slew some of the mightiest elves- Fëanor, Fingon and Ecthelion, by whom he was slain in the Fall of Gondolin.
Among his deeds of the Second Age are: deceiving the Elven-smiths of Eregion (Hollin) into forging the Rings of Power; forging the One Ring; war on and destruction of Hollin; beguiling the last Númenorean king into making war on to Valinor resulting in the destruction of Númenor; war against the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
His Third Age deeds are more closely described in LotR.
Also called: Annatar (“Lord of gifts”; his name in fair form), Gorthaur the Cruel.
You know him from: both LotR and The Hobbit (here as The Necromancer).
Among the other possible Maiar are the Ents and the Great Eagles.