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The Valar (singular: Vala) were angelic guardians created by Eru Ilúvatar before the world, and are the greatest of his creations in majesty and power. Ilúvatar created the world in song (and thought) through them, and allowed as many as would to enter therein. Those that did were then tied to Arda (the Earth) until the end of all things. They came to prepare Arda for the Children of Ilúvatar, the Elves and Men, and to act as protectors of the Earth. Their numbers are legion, but the great Lords and Ladies of the Valar number fourteen. The true names of the Valar are kept secret from all but themselves, but their Sindarin names, as given by the Elves are listed here. Manwë, Ulmo, Aulë, Oromë, Namo (Mandos), Irmo, (Lorien), and Tulkas are counted among the lords. Varda, Yavanna, Nienna, Este, Vaire, Vana, and Nessa are counted among the Queens of the Valar. Melkor (Morgoth), the fallen Vala, is no longer counted among the lords of the Valar.

The Valar are known and honored by the Elves, many of whom once dwelt among them in the Undying Lands. Men remain largely ignorant of the Valar's true nature but some peoples of Middle-earth worship the Valar in altered form as their gods. The Valar reside in the Undying Lands of Valinor within Aman, an island paradise that exists beyond the circles of the world. From there, they watch over the Free Peoples of Middle-earth.