There are two lamps of the Valar. They are Illuin and Ormal. They were brought on and built by Aulë at the prayer of Yavanna, in order to light Middle-earth – built along the encircling seas. This need for light was expressed after the Valar entered Middle-earth, subduing the fires of Melkor.
Table of Contents
Lamps of the Valar – Etymology
While it was unclear where the name Illuin came from, it was claimed by Paul Strack that it came from the terms Il- ‘sky’ and -luin ‘blue.’ The name meant ‘blue light.’
Ormal, on the other hand, stood in the south. It meant ‘lofty gold’ or ‘high gold,’ which suggest a golden light. It came from the terms Or- (‘rise, mount’) and -mal (which is unknown, but assumed to be ‘gold,’ or ‘golden light’, as it suggests a golden lamp).
In The Silmarillion
The Valar brought order to the seas, lands, and mountains, while Yavanna planted the seeds she’d suggested. After the fires were subdued, they saw a need for light.
Then, the lamps were built by Aulë, at the prayer of Yavanna. They were filled by Varda, hallowed by Manwë and the Valar set them up – “upon the high pillars, more lofty far than are any mountains of the later days.” This was according to The Silmarillion. After those mountains were overthrown by Melkor, the Inland Sea of Helcar was formed.
One of the aforementioned lamps of the Valar was raised near the north of Middle-earth, while the other was raised near the south. The one raised near the north was Illuin. The light that was raised near the south was Ormal. These two lamps continued to flow throughout the earth.
They shone for thousands of years during the Spring, as the Valar lived in peace.
After the installation of the lamps, Yavanna’s seeds started to sprout, and trees and plants started to grow. The flowers were still waiting to bloom.
They saw the growth and unfolding of things while resting, and Manwë ordained a great feast of the Valar. Aulë and Tulkas were weary as they were busy making the lamps of the Valar.
Melkor, who had gained a few friends to his cause, was jealous and angry at the Valar. He wanted it all to himself. So he gathered some spirits out of the halls of Eä, in order to proclaim his strength, and filled the lands of Arda with hate.
The Valar gathered in Almaren without fear as they knew of Illuin – because of which they didn’t fear the shadow of Melkor, as he’s become the Night of the Void.
Then, that spring, Tulkas married Nessa, and she danced in Almaren. While Tulkas slept, Melkor decided “his hour has come” to go to Middle-earth. But the Valar weren’t aware of him.
Eventually, they were broken down by Melkor, ending the Spring of Arda. As Melkor built a vast fortress under Earth where the beams were cold and dim. Before the Valar knew, Melkor’s hatred started showing, marring the Spring of Arda. All the plants, rivers and fens fell sick and poisonous. This was when the Valar started noticing Melkor and sought his hiding place.
However, Melkor, with the power of Utumno and his servants, struck his first blow, which was aimed at the lamps of the Valar, Illuin and Ormal, casting down their pillars and breaking the lamps. This ended the Spring of Arda, and the Valar left Middle-earth to go to Aman.
Earlier in The Book of Lost Tales, the lamps were a result of the Valar’s desire to obtain peace with Melkor.
The Valar wanted to obtain peace with Melkor, and asked him to fix the lamps in Arda. Melkor was still envious and hateful towards the Valar, but agreed to help. He let them do whatever they wanted until the lamps broke. This was NOT used in the publication of the Silmarillion.