The Ainur, also known as the Holy Ones, are beings encompassing both the Valar and the Maiar. They were the first and mightiest beings created by Eru Ilúvatar in the depths of time before the beginning of the World.
- "There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought..."
- —First words of the Ainulindalë
They were primordial spirits who existed with Ilúvatar, and with him created the world through the Ainulindalë, the Music of the Ainur. After the creation of Arda, many of the Ainur descended into it to guide and order its growth; of these there were fifteen more powerful than the rest. Fourteen of these great Ainur became known as the Valar, or Powers of Arda. The fifteenth, Melkor, turned aside from that path and became the first Dark Lord. The many lesser Ainur that accompanied the Valar into Arda are known as Maiar.
The Ainur were the 'offspring of Ilúvatar's thought' and each was given understanding only of that part of the mind of Ilúvatar from which he or she came. The exception to this was Melkor, a brother in spirit to Manwë, who later became The Lord of the Valar and he was given some of the parts from which the others had come, but for all his gifts he did not know the full mind of Eru. Melkor and Manwë were the most powerful of the Ainur.
The Ainur were 'kindled with the Flame Imperishable', which can be taken to mean that they were granted free will by their Creator. Ilúvatar instructed them in the arts of music, until he brought them together to make the Music of the Ainur: the great song that created the Vision of Ilúvatar and ultimately the real world. In the beginning of the Music, the Ainur were all in harmony with Eru and one another, but Melkor turned instead to his own pride, seeking power for himself and bringing discord to the Great Music. He later led many of the Maiar astray as well.
The Ainur and the World Edit
Through the Music of the Ainur, Ilúvatar created a Vision of the World; he showed it to the Ainur, and explained much of its nature and destiny to them - the Ainur therefore have much knowledge of the World, but are not themselves omniscient. Ilúvatar then granted the World true being by declaring "Eä", causing these visions to come into being. Melkor and many of the other mighty Ainur desired to descend into it and form it in readiness for the coming of the Children of Ilúvatar (that is, Elves and Men). Upon descending into the World, the Ainur became known as the Valar and the Maiar.
Those Ainur who entered the World and chose to live in it at its beginning remain bound to it until its end. Though Melkor was eventually thrown into the Void by the others, he is prophesied to return before the end in the Dagor Dagorath, the final battle. Little is known of the ultimate future of the Ainur, even by themselves, but it is said that after the great battle at the end of the World, they will make a Second, even greater Music with the Children of Ilúvatar.
The Line of Melian Edit
Among the many Ainur who entered the World long ago, there was one of the order of the Maiar named Melian. Alone of all the Ainur, she wedded one of the Children of Ilúvatar, King Elu Thingol of Doriath, and wove the Girdle of Melian that protected Doriath for many centuries. Through her, an essence of the Ainur entered the bloodlines of the Elves and Men, passed down through generation after generation, and was still present at the time of the War of the Ring. Elrond was Melian's great-great-grandson, and Aragorn, too, was her descendant, though through many more generations than Elrond.
Ainur is a Quenyan word originating from Valarin and means "Holy ones". It appears to come from the word aina, meaning 'holy'. Although the origin of the second element ur is less clear, it is possible there is a link between the word 'Ainur' and the word 'Eru' as the first element 'er' means 'one', though this may not be true as there is no further elaboration on this.
The singular form of Ainur is Ainu, simply meaning "Holy one".
- Ainu, the singular form of Ainur, is also the name of an indigenous people of Japan.
Races of the Creatures of Arda
Servants of the Shadow: