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"'Ilúvatar was the first beginning, and beyond that no wisdom of the Valar or of Eldar or of Men can go.'
'Who was Ilúvatar?' asked Eriol. 'Was he of the Gods?'
'Nay,' said Rúmil, 'that he was not, for he made them. Ilúvatar is the Lord for Always who dwells beyond the world; who made it and is not of it nor in it, but loves it.'
The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Music of the Ainur"
Eru Ilúvatar
Jerrel Salvatierra - Eru Iluvatar.jpg
Biographical Information
Other namesThe One
LocationThe Timeless Halls
Notable forCreating the Ainur
Creating (including Arda)
Creating the Eruhíni (Elves and Men)
Providing the Dwarves with fëa (and perhaps the Ents and the Eagles too)
Destroying Númenor and causing the change of the World
Indirectly causing the destruction of The One Ring and dissipation of Sauron
GalleryImages of Eru Ilúvatar

Eru Ilúvatar or The One is the single omniscient and omnipotent creator. He has been existing eternally in the Timeless Halls and possesses the Flame Imperishable in his spirit which kindles existence from nothingness.


The Creator

Eru during the Great Music.

Eru created the Ainur before anything else, whom He kindled with the Flame Imperishable. Each Ainu came from a part of His mind. To further their comprehension, he presented his thought in the form of music, and listened as the Ainur picked up his themes and elaborated on them, slowly learning to sing in harmony with each other. Eventually he showed them his greatest theme, and made them sing it in harmony and develop it with newly granted powers. This was the Music of the Ainur.

Out of this great music, Eru showed them the Vision which showed vast halls of spaces and stories unfolded in the deeps of Time, and some Ainur were drawn to it. Eru said "" ("let it be") and thus , the universe, was created.[1]

The God

The Ainur entered Eä and shaped the world according to the Music. Eru delegated most direct action within to the Ainur, including the shaping of the Earth (Arda) itself.[2]

The Ainur were not omniscient and there were some things beyond their comprehension; those were the creation of the Elves and Men, who are directly the Children of Ilúvatar (Eruhíni) created without the delegation of the Ainur. Other things known by Eru alone are their destiny, and the End itself.

The activities of Eru in regard to the life of Arda or Eä are not clear. Manwë was the vicegerent[2] of Eru on Arda and it is known that he sought for his consent several times. Instances of Eru's direct intervention were:

According to Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth Eru would someday enter Eä to save his Children. It is said that after the end of days, Eru will unite the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar to create a music even greater than the one of creation.

Worship of Eru

"For that name we do not utter ever in jest or without full intent"
Finrod Felagund[7]

Eru was considered transcendental, removed and distant from the affairs of Arda and was seldom worshiped and His name was too holy to be invoked.

Manwë made a high feast in praise of Eru to celebrate each gathering of fruits.[8] The Númenoreans worshiped Eru in the Three Prayers held during the course of a year.[9]

Fëanor swore his Oath in the name of Eru.[10] Elendil bound the Last Alliance of Elves and Men with an oath to Eru; the next known instance when a Man invoked Eru's name "who is above all thrones for ever", was by Cirion, millennia later.[11]



Eru is a Quenya name meaning "He that is Alone".[12]


Ilúvatar (pron. N [iˈluːvatar], V [iˈluːβatar]) is Quenya for "the Father of All", more commonly referred to as Eru.

The name Ilúvatar is a compound of two words, ilu and ilúvë "universe" and atar "father."

Other versions of the Legendarium

Ilúvatar appears since the earliest form of the Legendarium, in The Book of Lost Tales. It is to be noted that in earlier works of the legendarium the name Ilúvatar meant "Sky-father" since the element il- refers also to the sky (cf. Ilmen), but this etymology was dropped in favour of the newer meaning in later revisions.

In the earlier versions Ilúvatar was the main name of God used. Another name was Ainatar "Father of Gods"[13] — the word Eru first appeared in The Annals of Aman.[14]


Tolkien understood Eru not as a "fictional deity" but as a name in a fictional language for the actual monotheistic God, although in a mythological or fictional context. In a draft of a letter of 1954 to Peter Hastings, manager of the Newman Bookshop (a Catholic bookshop in Oxford), Tolkien defended non-orthodox aspects as rightly within the scope of his mythology, as an exploration of the infinite "potential variety" of God. Regarding the possibility of reincarnation of Elves, Hastings had written:

"God has not used that device in any of the creations of which we have knowledge, and it seems to me to be stepping beyond the position of a sub-creator to produce it as an actual working thing, because a sub-creator, when dealing with the relations between creator and created, should use those channels which he knows the creator to have used already"
― Peter Hastings

Tolkien's reply contains an explanation of his view of the relation of (divine) Creation to (human) sub-creation:

"We differ entirely about the nature of the relation of sub-creation to Creation. I should have said that liberation "from the channels the creator is known to have used already" is the fundamental function of "sub-creation", a tribute to the infinity of His potential variety [...] I am not a metaphysician; but I should have thought it a curious metaphysics — there is not one but many, indeed potentially innumerable ones — that declared the channels known (in such a finite corner as we have any inkling of) to have been used, are the only possible ones, or efficacious, or possibly acceptable to and by Him!"
― J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 153

Hastings had also criticized the description of Tom Bombadil by Goldberry: "He is", saying that this seemed to imply that Bombadil was God.

Tolkien replied to this:

As for Tom Bombadil, I really do think you are being too serious, besides missing the point. [...] You rather remind me of a Protestant relation who to me objected to the (modern) Catholic habit of calling priests Father, because the name father belonged only to the First Person.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  2. 2.0 2.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Beginning of Days"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Aulë and Yavanna"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past", Gandalf: "Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of [Sauron]. [...] Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by [Sauron]. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 156, (dated 4 November 1954)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Four. Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth: 'The Debate of Finrod and Andreth'"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Darkening of Valinor"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "A Description of the Island of Númenor"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Flight of the Noldor"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Qenya Noun Structure", in Parma Eldalamberon XXI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Patrick H. Wynne and Arden R. Smith), p. 83
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, Appendix: Names in the Lost Tales – Part I
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring