As noted in 4.11, Eru’s thought gave birth to the Ainur, the Holy Ones, including those who would become the Valar and Maïar. Through the Great Music conceived by Eru and sung by the Holy Ones, the pattern and being of all that exists was born. Eä — the World and the Heavens — grew out of the Song, as did Fate.
The Maïar served the Valar before the latter entered Ea. They were the lesser Ainur loyal to the fifteen (counting Morgoth) greater Ainur who accepted wardship over the newborn World. When the Valar left the Timeless Halls of Eru and ventured into Eä, the Maïar followed.
After the Valar and Maïar came into the World, they set about shaping Arda. The Maïar’s role was, as always, to aid their lords in completing the scheme envisioned by Eru. However, with Morgoth’s Rebellion, many of the Maïar fell away from their appointed path. Some, like Aulë’s high servant Sauron, actually entered Arda in the service of the Black Enemy; others, like the Fire Spirits who would become known as the Balrogs, succumbed to Darkness at a later time.
Only one Maïa who submitted to Morgoth’s soothing flattery was restored to grace. Ulmo’s servant Ossë was the only fallen Maïa to be saved. With the aid of his spouse Uinen, Ossë returned to the righteous fold and was pardoned.
The Destruction of the Two Lamps and the Rise of Aman
The struggle between the Downfallen Morgoth and the other four¬teen Valar lasted throughout the First Age. From his holds at Utumno and (later) Angband, Morgoth defied his brethren and assailed their creations. In his first assault, the Black Enemy ruined the two lamps that lit the World during the Spring of Arda, and the cataclysmic aftermath forever ruined the conception of a perfect, symmetrical landscape. Almaren, the home of the Valar and Maïar, perished in the flood.
The continents that now compose Arda arose out of this destruc¬tion. The Valar and Maïar occupied their current home in Aman. Morgoth remained in Endor. Seeking his overthrow, the Valar — in an act that presaged the mobilization that began the War of Wrath — assembled the first host of Maïar. This army drove the Black Enemy into his refuge at Utumno in the north of Middle-earth, but they failed to bring about his surrender.
A long period of uneasy peace followed. For a while, Arda was illuminated only by starlight, but eventually the Two Trees sprouted and gave their light to the World. The Count of Time began. The Dwarves were created, and then the Elves awoke and started to ex¬plore the East. Soon thereafter, the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves arose.
The Battle of Powers
All the while, Morgoth plotted his conquest. He conceived the race of Orcs from captured Elves, and created the trolls in mockery of Ents. His armies grew in the breeding pits deep beneath the earth. Eventually, his minions delved a new fortress in Endor’s Far North, founding Angband. From this lair, the Black Enemy’s lieutenant Sauron threatened those regions that served as the gateway from Aman into Middle-earth. Morgoth prepared to enslave the Elves and armed his hordes in Utumno.
It was at that bleak moment that the army of the Maïar returned to Endor. Led by the Maïa Eönwë and the Vala Tulkas, this Host of Valinor swept across Middle-earth, protecting the Elvenhome and driving the Black Enemy into Utumno once again. This time, however, the Fallen Vala did not escape justice; his hold was broken and razed. Captured and chained, Morgoth was imprisoned in Aman. The over¬whelming army of the Maïar prevailed in its first test of arms.
Settlement in Valinor
In the safe years that followed, the Elves began their Great Journey westward, and many reached Aman. Others settled in the West of Endor. It was there, in Beleriand in the early First Age, that the Maïa Melian met and married the Elf-lord Elwë (Elu Thingol). Together, they founded the Kingdom of Doriath.
Few of the other Maïar — save those that served the Black Enemy — remained in Middle-earth. Those that did were like Goldberry, Nature-spirits bound to Endor itself. The majority of Maïar stayed in Valinor in Aman under the lordship of the Valar. There, they formed the middle strata of a society that included the Vanyar Elves.
Morgoth’s Repentance and the Long Night
After three ages in imprisonment, Morgoth was pardoned. Peace ended soon thereafter. Not long after his release into Aman, the Black Enemy struck against the Ainur once again, this time in conjunc¬tion with the demon Ungoliant. Poisoning the Two Trees and drain¬ing the Wells of Arda, the Evil Vala and his unspeakable companion threw the World into Darkness. Thus, began the Long Night.
Taking Fëanor’s Silmarils, Morgoth stole away to Angband in Middle-earth and joined his surviving minions. The Fallen Maïa Sauron and the Balrogs awaited their lord’s return. Upon his arrival, they strengthened his kingdom, carving new delving deep into En¬dor’s bowels. With the refuse of their toil, the Black Enemy raised the triad of peaks called Thangorodrim (S. “Mountains of Tyranny”).
Morgoth’s armies quickly multiplied, and soon he made war on the Elves of Beleriand. Once again, downfallen Maïa lords led his hordes to battle. The doom of the Sindar neared as events in Aman laid the foundation for their rescue.
The Creation of the Sun and the Moon
Two events intervened to halt the onslaught of the forces of Evil. First, the greater part of the Noldor began their march back to Middle-earth in order to reclaim the Silmarils and avenge the slay¬ing of their King. Secondly, the Valar chose two Maïar to journey into the heavens and restore light to Arda.
With the last Silver Flower of Telperion and the sole remaining Golden Fruit of Laurelin, the Valar rescued the essence of the Light of the Two Trees. Placing them in vessels, they sought to create new lamps to illuminate the World, and so created the Moon (Isil) and the Sun (Anar). Two Maïar — Arien, the Queen of Fire-spirits, and Tilion the Hunter — came forth to guide them into the sky and toward them in the Heavens. As they rose, daylight once again graced Arda and Morgoth’s host was stunned and in disarray.
The Last Days of the First Age
After the ascension of the Sun and the Moon, none of the Maïar — save Melian — actively campaigned against Morgoth’s forces un¬til the very end of the First Age. Instead, the burden of the wars ver¬sus the Great Evil fell upon the Elves and their allies, the Edain. The struggle raged for centuries. With the death of Thingol and the depar¬ture of Melian, however — after five major campaigns — Morgoth was prepared to launch the final blow against the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. The Elves appealed to the Valar for aid against the Black Enemy.
Once again, the Host of Valinor sallied forth from Aman. Led by Manwë’s Herald Eönwë, the army of the Maïar was the greatest force ever assembled. Sweeping into Endor from the Northwest, they fell upon Angband and decimated Morgoth’s seemingly invincible horde of Orcs, Trolls, Dragons, Fell Beasts, and Men. Maïa fought Maïa as the servants of the Valar smote the Balrogs in the Great Battle.
This War of Wrath marked the last time that the Maïar intervened so directly in the affairs of Endor. It was a cataclysmic event, ending in the complete destruction of northwest Middle-earth. Vast regions slipped into the sea amidst the engulfing thunder. Morgoth was cap-tured and shackled in his own Iron Crown. His highest Maïa ser¬vant, Sauron, humbled himself before the victorious Eönwë.
With the War of Wrath, the Black Enemy was cast into the Void outside Eä, and the First Age ended. The cause of Darkness was set back; however, at the same time, the Valar’s direct guardianship over Endor ended. A new era began as those of Aman retreated from the affairs of Eru’s Children. Still, they remained responsible for the Balance of Things, but their methods changed.
The Maïar in the Second Age
In return for the Edain’s loyalty to the Elves and the cause of Freedom, the Lords of Aman called upon the Maïa Ossë to raise a great island continent which would serve as the new home of High Men. Ossë cleared the waters of the central Belegaer and summoned the land from beneath the surface, thus creating Númenór.
Númenór (S. “Andor;” W. “Westernesse”) prospered and gave birth to a flowering of Mannish culture. Its inhabitants developed under the guidance of their Elven friends, creating a wonderous Kingdom. Their ships returned to explore the coasts of Endor and to teach their less fortunate kinsmen. In time, though, Númenór might fostered hubris. Explorations became colonization and then conquests. The gifted became proud.
About thirty-three centuries after its settlement, Númenór reached the apogee of its power under the rule of Ar-Pharazôn. His armies challenged Sauron’s dominion in Endor and captured the Dark Lord of Mordor. But the keepers became captives, as the smooth tongue of the Lord of the Rings wove gentle deceptions and preyed upon Númenórean pride.
Eventually, Sauron’s plots corrupted Andor, culminating in the Great Armament. Believing that mere residence in the Undying Lands would confer immortality for Men, Ar-Pharazôn launched an awesome fleet in hopes of conquering Aman. The High Men of Númenór defied the age-old Ban of the Valar, which decreed that Mortals should not set foot in the Immortal homelands.
The Maïar and Their Adoption of Form
The Mortal Lands exert an even more physically-oriented force than Aman. Life in Middle-earth is tied to spirits which are completely interwoven with form. After all, Endor was the birthplace of Eru’s Children and remains their home. The land reflects the nature of the Free Peoples, all of whom require bodies. (Even the immortal Elves require form.) Although they are perhaps only transient residents in Middle-earth, they are Children of Arda.
The Maïar are not of Arda; instead, they entered Eä as caretakers — servants of the higher guardians, the Valar. Yet Maïa spirits, while originally free, can become entombed in form. In every physical act of creation outside the scheme conceived by Eru, a part of the creator is tied to the physical world; and this rule holds true for Eru’s Children and the Ainur alike. All the Fallen Ainur gradually became tied to their bodies. As they sought to manipulate the World they were entrusted with guarding and cultivating, they became a part of that world and suffered its weaknesses. Nowhere was the danger greater than in Endor. This change occurred in Morgoth himself, as well as his Maïa underlings — notably Sauron and the host of Balrogs. Tom Bombadil and Goldberry also became rooted in form (as well as wedded to a specific area in Middle-earth). Later, it affected the Istari.
The Immortality of the Maïa Soul
All Ainur are immortal, of course, and the destruction of their form merely serves to sever their spirit from their corporeal bodies. Without a body, however, a Maïa cannot affect the physical world, except in some cases indirectly. In the time that it takes a Maïa to reassume form, he is effectively apart from Arda and outside the concerns of Eru’s Children.
This breach of faith, this act of defiance, spelled the end of Númenór. Realizing that their wardship over Arda had failed, the Valar temporarily laid down their guardianship and called upon Eru to right the Balance of Things. Eru intervened and, in the Change of the World, Númenór was swept into the tumultuous maelstrom, perishing beneath the waves of the Belegaer.
Aman was removed from Arda in the Change, and new lands and seas were formed. Middle-earth was forever sundered from the Un¬dying Lands as Arda was reformed. From this time onward, Aman could only be reached by traveling the elusive Straight Way across the Bent Seas.
The Maïar Called Istari
With the Change of the World, the Maïar became further removed from life in Endor. Travel between Middle-earth and Aman all but halted, except for those Elves who longed for the Light of the lands undying. Nevertheless, the Valar and their Maïa servants remained protectors of the Balance of Things. With the rise of Sauron in the Third Age, Darkness once again threatened to enslave all of Middle-earth.
Manwë chose indirect means to combat the threat posed by the Evil One. Selecting trusted Maïar from the Order of the Wise — the Istari — the Vala King hoped to send emissaries to Endor who might unite the Free Peoples and spur them to overthrow the Lord of the Rings. Thus, five Maïar set out to combat the greatest of their brethren, the fallen Sauron. Disguised as old men, these Wizards entered Middle-earth around T.A. 1000.
Only one of the five remained true to his quest. Four of the Wise became tied to Endor through their adopted bodies, eventually fall¬ing prey to their emotions and sliding away from their appointed mis¬sion. Gandalf (Olorin), wisest of the Maïar, prevailed over tempta¬tion and pride and ultimately fostered the alliance that defeated the Dark Lord.
Despite the fact that Maïa, like all beings, could succumb to the frailties of the flesh, Gandalf the Grey remained purposeful. He helped to ensure that the Balance of Things was maintained without intervening beyond the point of employing his power only to com¬bat an equal or greater threat. The Grey Istar fought Sauron and his minions, and sacrificed his body in the struggle against the Balrog of Moria, one of the fallen Maïa Fire-spirits. In the end, the One Ring was destroyed and the Dark Lord’s spirit, unable to reassume form, passed from Arda.
With Saruman’s death and Gandalf’s departure at the end of the Third Age, three Wizards remained in Middle-earth. Like the Maïa Nature-spirits that inhabited the land, and like the Maïa demons locked deep beneath its soil, these Maïar stayed away from their home in Aman. As the years passed, they became more tied to their form and gradually changed, remaining Maïa in spirit but losing much of the strength of their origin. Their fate explains much about the Maïar’s desire to remain apart from Eru’s Mortal Children.
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