In which the Elves (Eldar) tell us about the Valar and Maiar.
Remember last week when I paraphrased a Bible verse? Well, we get some Book of Genesis here.
In the beginning... Iluvatar created the Ainur, who made his Music and set forth to fulfill the visions of Earth and Iluvatar's beings within. Which, we've already covered, so let's keep going into the nitty gritty of pantheons and numerology. Or at least lightly brush up against them.
Of the Valar, the "angels" and the Ainur on Earth we go from less exciting "beings without sex but their own gender determination" to two nicely matched sets of seven Lords and seven Queens (plus Melkor of whom they don't like to speak). The Ainur are often viewed as gods, and are at the very least, the intermediaries that are most likely to have any impact on one's life. They preside over different areas of the Earth, in a manner familiar to Greek mythology, including Manwe and Varda residing in halls in the tallest tower on the highest mountain in all of Earth.
We've already met Varda, or at least her stories and her blessing, under the name of Elbereth. Elbereth of the starlight and who's essence burns the evil creatures of shadow that are encountered in the Quest of the Ring.
The Valar will come up again, and for the most part I'll have to check their names against an index when they do.
Meanwhile, let's touch in on the Maiar. I've called the Valar/Ainur angels... which does generally apply, especially if we're looking at a monotheistic world religion. In that set up the Maiar would be a lesser chorus of angels. But with Iluvatar existing largely outside of the sphere of Middle Earth interactions, the Valar are half promoted into the deities of a polytheistic world religion with the Maiar as demigods (we'll get to the Istari later). The Maiar took a more direct hand in the mortal world, dwelling on land, sea, and forest. We'll be reading more of them going forward.
Lastly, we come to Melkor. I said this last week, and I'll say it again, he is serious business. He's not just greatest of the Ainur, but he is enough to stand against the collective Valar, through his own might and through the Maiar that flocked to his banner. Of those that were drawn to Melkor, one name stands out, that of Sauron, also known as Gorthaur the Cruel. If Melkor stands as a Lucifer analog, then Sauron is his chief lieutenant roaming the world.