Okay, because of a joke I made for a fanfic, I’ve been wondering a couple of things that all interconnect in some way.
Can the Valar have children?
Why are they male and female? Can they decide? Can they switch what sex they are?
Is there some symbolic reason…
The Valar are indeed based on Pantheons, Tolkien said so in one of his letters (although which escapes me).
Why wouldn’t you change gender if you were a nigh all powerful god thing? Because they are NOT gods. They may be nigh all powerful in Middle Earth, but not before Iluvatar. Ainulindale is very explicit in showing that the Ainur are all created beings. As such they are, as we all are, slaves to their own temperaments. Whether you take gender to be a function of sex or of temperament, or of anything else, everyone (I think) agrees that if you are a set gender then that is it. The Ainur are created with their genders clearly set in their temperaments. Tolkien, as a Catholic, believed that all Humanity are created with their genders clearly set in their bodies.
The Church will likely discuss this one day in more detail with experts in Gender theory and Theology. I do not know what conclusions they will draw, but I am certain that they will be more nuanced and more consistent than anything anyone has come up with so far.
That’s an excellent point on the immutability of their sexes given that they were specifically created! But my main point/the thing that sort of stuck for me was the idea that those sexes were determined by their temperaments. I get the impression he’s saying that certain personality types must be attached to certain genitalia (warlike Tulkas is male, nurturing Yavanna is female, etc, although I was pleased to see that traits like wisdom and even foolishness were portioned out pretty equally), and that does cause me to make a slightly frowny face.
Gender isn’t necessarily set, and the social mores that comprise it vary from culture to culture. I would love to see someone more knowledgable give their thoughts on the inclusion of genderfluid or genderqueer perspectives in this narrative as we go along! That’s kind of the best part about reading an older classic from a modern perspective - there’s no need to disregard the things we’ve come to better understand about representation!