The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Entered the world at its beginning; immortal
Originally dwelt in Almaren in Middle-earth, but long ago removed with the Valar to Aman in the West
Beings created by Ilúvatar before the making of the world
my'arr (the final 'r' should be pronounced; 'rr' is used here to emphasise this)1
Maiar is a plural term; the singular form is Maia


About this entry:

  • Updated 1 January 2008
  • This entry is complete


Lesser Ainur of Arda

Of the many spirits that descended into Arda at its beginning, there were those of lesser stature than the Valar (though they were still powerful) who were known as the Maiar. Each of the Maiar was attached to the 'people' of a particular Vala. So, for example, the Maia Ossë, as a spirit of the sea, belonged to the people of Ulmo, while Curumo, the Maia who came to Middle-earth as Saruman, belonged to the people of Aulë the Smith.

In the Third Age, there were still Maiar in physical form to be found in Middle-earth. The most important of these were Saruman, Sauron (originally also of Aulë's people), and Olórin, known as Gandalf, who belonged to the people of Manwë and Varda.

The list below includes the few Maiar who were known by name outside Aman. Beings of uncertain status, such as Ungoliant, are not shown here.

Aiwendil A Maia of Yavanna's people, and a friend to birds, he was one of those who crossed the Great Sea in the Third Age to become Wizards, and is better known by the name he received in Middle-earth: Radagast the Brown.
Alatar One of the Maiar of Oromë, he was among the original three Wizards selected to voyage across the Great Sea to Middle-earth. Once there, he passed into the East with Curumo and Pallando, and never returned to the western lands.
Arien A spirit of fire, and one of the Maiar of Vána. When the Sun was newly made, Arien was chosen to be its guide, and she took on the form of a brilliant flame before travelling into the skies of Arda.
Curumo One of Aulë's Maiar, who was noted for his inventiveness and ingenuity. He was the foremost of those chosen to make the journey into Middle-earth as Wizards, and there he became better known by the name Saruman.
Eönwë One of the most powerful of the Maiar, the standard-bearer and herald of Manwë himself. It was Eönwë who led the host of the Valar into Middle-earth to fight the War of Wrath.
Gothmog A Maia subverted by Melkor, who became one of the Dark Lord's greatest servants. He was known as the Lord of Balrogs and High-captain of Angband. He met his end in Morgoth's invasion of Gondolin, where he was slain by the Elf-lord Ecthelion.
Ilmarë The handmaid of Varda, and thus one of the most important of the Maiar. Ilmarë was said to be one of the best known of the Maiar in later ages, though she appears in no tale, and little is known of her beyond her name.
Melian Originally from the people of both Vána and Estë, Melian was the only Maia to wed a Child of Ilúvatar. Travelling to Middle-earth, she met Elu Thingol in the wood of Nan Elmoth, and they wed to become King and Queen of Doriath. They had a daughter, Lúthien, through whom the line of the Maiar entered the peoples of Middle-earth. Melian remained in Doriath until the time of Thingol's death, and then returned to Valinor.
Olórin Regarded as the wisest of all the Maiar, Olórin was selected as one of those to travel east to Middle-earth in the Third Age. There, he took on the guise of a Wizard, and as Gandalf he helped to oversee and direct the resistance against Sauron.
Ossë The tempestuous Maia of the coastal seas, Ossë was a vassal of Ulmo and spouse to Uinen. For a time, he turned to Melkor's side against the Valar, but he was pardoned and returned to his former master. It was Ossë who persuaded the Falathrim to remain in Middle-earth, and who taught the Teleri of Tol Eressëa the art of ship-building so that they could travel to the shores of Eldamar.
Pallando A friend of Alatar among the Maiar of Oromë, Pallando was chosen as one of the five to be sent across the Great Sea to aid Middle-earth, where they became known as Istari or Wizards. With his friend Alatar, Pallando travelled into the eastern lands. Together they became known as the Blue Wizards, but little is known of their travels in the East.
Salmar A follower of Ulmo, who made the Ulumúri, the horns of white shell borne by his master. The music of the Ulumúri could create a yearning for the sea, and was never forgotten by those who heard it.
Sauron Among the most powerful of the Maiar, Sauron was originally one of Aulë's people, but he was corrupted and became one of Melkor's greatest servants. After Melkor was banished from the world at the end of the First Age, Sauron took on the mantle of the Dark Lord, and threatened the Free Peoples of Middle-earth for many centuries until his final defeat at the end of the Third Age.
Tilion A member of Oromë's hunt, who carried a bow of silver. He loved the silver rays of Telperion, and when the White Tree was destroyed he asked for the honour of steering its last flower into the sky. So Tilion became the steersman of the Moon, guiding it across the sky to bring silver light to Middle-earth.
Uinen Called the Lady of the Seas, Uinen is the spouse of Ossë, and a follower of Ulmo. Her hair was said to spread through all the seas of the world, and she could gentle Ossë and thus bring calm seas. For this, she was an important Maia to seafarers, and she was particularly revered by the Venturers of Númenor, who called themselves Uinendili, the 'devotees of Uinen'.



At least, 'my'arr' would be the usual Elvish pronunciation of a word spelt Maiar. In material reproduced in The Nature of Middle-earth, however, Tolkien uses the alternative spelling Máyar, which in turn would produce a different pronunciation. Following that version of the name, the pronunciation would include a long a sound, so the name would be pronounced as something like 'maa'yar'.


We're given no explanation of the word Maiar, and only scarce clues to even point to a possible meaning. In earlier texts, before the word Maiar had appeared, these beings were known as Vanimor the 'Beautiful' (with a corresponding Úvanimor, the 'Ugly', for the monsters of Morgoth). The word Maiar first arose in an amendment to a reference to the Vanimor, so there is evidence that the word Maiar can also be taken to mean the 'Beautiful'. It is perhaps curious that this would make beings such as Balrogs 'beautiful', as they were also accounted Maiar. In fact there is a an alternative, negative version of the word, Úmaiar (equivalent to older Úvanimor), used for beings such as this who entered the service of Melkor.


About this entry:

  • Updated 1 January 2008
  • This entry is complete

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