The LOTRO Lorebook tell us that the Minstrel class was "inspired by Lúthien Tinúviel, whose Elven voice beguiled friend and foe alike." They have skills such as Cry of the Valar, Call of Oromë, Invocation of Elbereth, Song and Gift of the Hammerhand - from what or whom do all these names come?
Let me start by taking several steps back, which is quite necessary when talking about many Minstrel skills and where they come from. I mean way, way, way back to the start of things as chronicled by The Silmarillion!
In the beginning, there was Eru. "There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad."
Ilúvatar is the monotheistic creator entity of Tolkien's world. He created this group of spirit beings called the Ainur, for whom music was their first and foremost means of expression and action. Then Ilúvatar revealed his great plan to them and bade them "make in harmony together a Great Music," whereby the "voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words" created a music that began to fill the Void (I don't think Eru had invented the Pibgorn yet). As Ilúvatar later showed them, the Void was no longer void, but a new World had appeared of their creation. Ilúvatar showed them a vision of what this world, Arda, could be like, populated with the Children of Ilúvatar, who would be the first Elves and Men. Throughout the first pages of The Silmarilion music - harmonies, melodies, parts - is the critical ingredient in creating and expanding the Universe of Ilúvatar, and also is the means to introduce the first strife and tension. Because of their musical skills Minstrels are tapped into the foundations of creation; little wonder that their skills can give so much healing.
Some of the Ainur were so taken with the idea of Arda and the Children of Ilúvatar that they wished to help this new creation develop, and were bound to Arda by Ilúvatar so "that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefor they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World."
There were originally 15 Valar, each generally "in charge" of a specialty based on what part of Ilúvatar was put into them when they were created. For example, Ulmo was the Valar connected with water; Aulë the one who built landmasses, gems, ore, and created crafting (and also created the race of Dwarves). However, one Valar was more of a "generalist" with a broad understanding of the knowledge of all the other Valar, and was more powerful than the others. His name was Melkor, later known as Morgoth.
The Valar often had "companions" of "lesser Ainur," who became known as the Maiar, who would learn the expertise of their Valar tutors. The Wizards in Middle Earth were Maiar. Gandalf, originally known as Olórin, was most associated with Manwë and Varda, the "leader" of the Valar and his "wife," who is also known as Elbereth. Radagast the Brown was associated with the Valar known as Yavanna, the "Giver of Fruits" who loved all the things growing on Arda. Curumo (Curunír, or Saruman) and even Sauron (yes, he was of the Ainur) were associated with Aulë, at least initially. Melkor, who is no longer counted as one of the Valar because of all his naughtiness, corrupted several Maiar who later became Balrogs. Kind of interesting connections being made now, huh?
So back to Lúthien Tinúviel - she was the daughter of King Thingol, one of the Eldar, and his wife Melian, one of the Maiar. Basically,Lúthien liked to dance and sing a lot and was pretty good at it. She fell in love with Beren, a mortal Man. King Thingol, who like so many dads in Middle Earth want the guys interested in their daughters to first prove themselves, sent Beren on an ambitious quest to steal a Silmaril from the crown of Morgoth. When Lúthien discovered this, she went to help him, which was fortunate as Beren had been captured by Sauron, who was now a servant of Morgoth. She then helped Beren later to obtain the Silmaril, singing a song that distracted Morgoth and his minions, keeping them from realizing what was happening until it was too late. (Sounds like Song of Distraction, doesn't it!). As often happens in such stories, Beren and then Lúthien died soon after, but her singing as a spirit brought them both back to live out long lives. Elrond is descended from Beren and Lúthien, as was his brother Elros. And that means that far, far down the line, so is Aragorn.
Varda, or Elbereth, as mentioned above is the spouse of Manwë, the "leader" of the Valar. Together their powers complemented each other. Elbereth created the stars and constellations, and is also called Gilthoniel, or "Star Kindler" (not "Stir Kindly" if you listen to the tipsy Elves near the Vineyards of Lorien). She was said to be the most beautiful being, and became the favorite Valar of the Elves. For a Minstrel, calling upon her name will cause mobs to run in fear - a bit of an odd choice for such unsurpassed beauty, but there's no accounting for the taste of the minions of Morgoth.
As for the Song and the Gift of the Hammerhand, I already mention the noble behavior of Helm Hammerhand in my post "A Dunlending and Rohirrim Romance" found here. As the skill text describes, "the name comes from the adage that those who know this lay were said to have been able to take a blow from Helm Hammerhand himself." Not the most admirable behavior in a guy so revered by the Rohirrim, but that's probably why they hold some of the prejudices that they do.
|Call of Oromë - "sheer lightning cleaving the clouds"|
Once during one of my annual readings of the Lord of the Rings, I was flipping through Appendix A and came across a name that jumped out at me. I had been playing my Mini frequently, and absolutely recognized the name Oromë from the skill Call of Oromë ("This piercing call, a lesser echo of one used long ago by Oromë the Great, demoralizes a group of your foes and reduces their resistance to further attacks."). In a teeny tiny little footnote, I read: "The wild kine that were still to be found near the Sea of Rhûn were said in legend to be descended from the Kine of Araw, the huntsman of the Valar, who alone of the Valar came often to Middle-earth in the Elder Days. Oromë is the High-elven form of his name." The footnote also refers the reader to the last page of the chapter "The Ride of the Rohirrim" in The Return of the King, where Éomer says: "Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young."
Oromë was one of the Valar, described as a "mighty lord" in The Silmarillion. It was said he loved the lands of Middle Earth, and was the last of the Valar to go to Valinor. He was a lord of the hunt, loved all trees, and horses, and hounds. His steed was named Nahar, and thus is revered by the Rohirrim, who said the mearas must have been descended from horses brought by Oromë out of the West. He also carried a great horn called the Valaroma. The horn is described as being heard above all other horns, "the sound of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds."
Oromë it was who first encountered the Elves soon after they awoke, and called them Eldar. Interestingly, it seems that Morgoth, or Melkor at that time, was aware of the awakening of the Elves before any of the Valar, and so through either disguised minions and/or rumors, caused some of them to fear Oromë as being a dark, shadowy hunter who would come to steal them. The fact that solitary or small groups of Elves who ventured too far from their original home would disappear, never to be seen again, bolstered this notion. And these, according to The Silmarillion, were the Elves who were taken captive and slowly broken and corrupted by Melkor, thus leading to the race of Orcs "in envy and mockery of the Elves."
References: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Appendix A; The Silmarillion; Unfinished Tales