In the Valaquenta, we meet the first cast of characters to play a role in The Silmarillion: the Valar and some of the Maiar most influential in the world. There are seven Lords of the Valar and seven Queens of the Valar (called “Valier” here, although this term is never used outside the Valaquenta.) Melkor is not counted among their numbers.
Manwë and Melkor were brothers in the thought of Arda, and while Melkor was the more powerful of the two, Manwë was Ilúvatar’s favorite and also better at understanding Ilúvatar’s purposes. Manwë—who governs the wind and weather—was appointed at the first king of the earth, and he is credited with seeing more of the world’s happenings than anyone else. His wife is Varda (called “Elbereth” in Sindarin), and she delights in the stars and knows best the depths of the universe. To Varda, the Elves gave the greatest reverence, for while her spouse Manwë saw the farthest, Varda heard voices that cry to her for help, even from the darkest places of the earth.
Ulmo is the Lord of Waters, closest to Manwë in friendship, and he is said to exist in all of the waters that cross above or underneath the earth, thus coming to knowledge beyond even Manwë. Ulmo loved both Elves and Men and would forsake neither.
Aulë is the lord of the substances of which the world is made, and he is credited with shaping the land. Aulë is most alike to Melkor in thought and powers, and the two often strove against each other in the making of the world, although Aulë was not guilty of envying the skills and works of others. Aulë’s spouse is Yavanna, and she watches over the plants and animals of the earth.
Mandos and Lórien are also brothers, and they are charged with keeping spirits. Mandos is known best for his halls, where he keeps the spirits of the dead Elves prior to re-embodiment. Mandos is also gifted with foresight and can see all of the future except that which has yet to be revealed by Ilúvatar. He is wed to Vairë, who weaves all events of history into tapestries that adorn the halls of Mandos. Lórien and his spouse Estë, on the other hand, care for the spirits of the living and give rest and repose to those who come to their gardens.
Nienna is the sister of Mandos and Lórien, and she is acquainted with sorrow and grief, but from her, spirits who grieve may turn their sadness to wisdom.
Tulkas was the last of the Valar to come to Arda, and he delights in contests of strength and came to assist in battling Melkor. His wife is Nessa, who loves dancing and running. Oromë is also fearsome in battle, but he loves the forests and only reluctantly left Middle-earth, although he continued to return throughout history. Vána is his spouse, and flowers open and birds sing in her presence.
The Maiar are the servants of the Valar, and most are not known to Elves and Men, as they seldom appear in forms visible to them. Ilmarë serves Varda and Eonwë serves Manwë. Ossë is the master of the seas, and he was almost corrupted by Melkor but persuaded by his spouse Uinen to restrain himself. Melian and Olórin are later renowned for their deeds in Middle-earth. (Olórin is probably best known as Gandalf.)
Finally, more is said of Melkor as an enemy, that his desire for Light—and inability to possess it solely—led him to fire and finally into darkness. Melkor did corrupt others of the Ainur, and Balrogs are Maiar corrupted to his service, as is Sauron, who was initially a servant of Aulë.