Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 7

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 7

Postby alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:19 am

In fact, Wotan expresses his hope to Erda that Siegfried’s freedom from fear and envy, and Bruennhilde’s act upon waking (by which he means her loving union with Siegfried, not her ultimate restoration of the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, which Wotan expressed as an afterthought in Waltraute’s presence in "Twilight of the Gods" Act One Scene Two), will redeem the world from Alberich’s curse, without any appeal to the Rhinedaughters for aid. Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love is a temporary substitute for returning the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, a wish that doesn’t occur to Wotan until after his hope that their love will redeem the world has failed. The whole point of Wotan finding a substitute in Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love for restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters is to be found in Wagner’s belief that inspired secular art, particularly the art of music, artificially restores the innocence mankind lost through the acquisition of consciousness, i.e., through Alberich’s forging of his Ring of power.

P. 106-107: PH: More of the same from K&S:

K&S: “If that were all there were to Wotan’s intentions, then he would be continuing to miss the point, for nothing in Project Siegmund addresses the need to keep faith with the Rhinemaidens.”

PH: Right you are, K&S. This should have told you you’re barking up the wrong tree. Wotan has no intention until late in the "Ring" of restoring the Ring to them. The fact that Loge suggests no less than five times to Wotan in "Rhinegold" that Wotan restore the Ring to them I read in my interpretation as not only Loge’s ironic commentary on the fact that he knows Wotan won’t do it, but also as Loge’s premonition that Wotan will for a time be able to artificially restore lost innocence by making Siegfried the artist-hero and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde (Siegfried’s music, or aesthetic intuition), his heirs. This is a figurative restoration of the Ring to the Rhine’s waters, which temporarily suspends Alberich’s curse on his Ring, until Siegfried unwittingly gives up the protection Bruennhilde provides by keeping the Ring safe, by giving her (and therefore Alberich’s ) Ring away to another man (a metaphor for Wagner's own audience), Gunther, while under Hagen’s influence. Siegfried’s betrayal of Bruennhilde recapitulates the Fall, through the birth of human consciousness, which was depicted in Alberich’s Rape of the Rhinegold and forging of the Ring at the beginning of the tetralogy.

P. 107: PH: K&S now take a more promising turn in their argument:

K&S: “At the nadir of his hopes, Wotan’s apparent assumption of this bleak vision of what a world without omnipresent law would be like combines with the failure of Project Siegmund to yield his bitter conclusion that the triumph of darkness is inevitable. But the turn to Erda suggests his openness to exploration of other ends and values, and his growing readiness to question whether the establishment of law is really an indispensable precondition of meaningful life. The questioning is most evident in the character of Siegmund himself, who has been bred to transcend the order of mundane laws and customs. Out of the dialogue with Fricka come two important ideas: Wotan’s own emphasis on the importance of a being who can transcend his own order, and Fricka’s point about freedom as an essential attribute of any such being.”

PH: This is a promising turn in their argument, but I believe they have misconstrued Fricka’s motives. Fricka does not impugn Siegmund’s alleged freedom of will because she is hoping that Wotan will actually seek out some other hero who really is free, so he can do what the gods can’t do, win back the Ring from Fafner so Alberich can’t regain its power. Fricka never shows any interest in, or concern about, Wotan’s need for a free hero. Fricka, in effect Wotan’s divine conscience, can’t afford to admit that there could ever truly be any threat to the gods’ rule (that is, if they truly are gods), can’t afford to admit that there could be any questioning of the immutability of the gods’ laws. In her critique of Wotan’s claim that Siegmund is a free agent Fricka is simply mouthing Feuerbach’s critique of the notion that a God who had made human beings could grant them freedom of will, and mouthing also Wagner’s own notion that there can’t be freedom of will because any human action either stems from one’s own inherent nature, and therefore is inevitable and not free, or it stems from outside coercion, in which case it not only is not free, but also doesn’t even reflect the person’s own will. In Fricka’s intent that Wotan punish this allegedly unfree Siegmund, we find an illustration of Feuerbach’s critique that it would be absurd for a god to grant mortal men no credit for the good they do, yet punish them for the evil they do, if all mortal men’s actions are unfree.

K&S: “So, instead of fixing all his hopes on establishing the sway of law, Wotan will now seek different realizations of the order that he takes to be necessary if life is to be meaningful.”

PH: In my interpretation Siegmund’s and Sieglinde’s compassionate love, which Wotan hopes will become an alternative to the divine order, represents Wagner’s depiction of an attempt to posit an ethic of compassionate, altruistic human feeling and action without the foundation of religious faith. Note, for instance, that Siegmund rejects Bruennhilde’s offer of sorrowless youth eternal in Valhalla, because accepting his martyrdom in service of Valhalla would cut him off from his earthly, mortal love for his sister/lover Sieglinde. In my interpretation Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love represents Wagner’s allegorical depiction of his own secular art (with Siegfried the music-dramatist and Bruennhilde his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, his music, his unconscious mind) as another alternative to religious faith. This is on the basis of Wagner’s own stated enthusiasm for Feuerbach’s notion that the only truly immortal things are great moral actions (like Siegmund’s breaking social norms in order to save two women from a forced, loveless marriage) and inspired works of art (Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s loving union in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three is, in my interpretation, Wagner’s metaphor for Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration, and Siegfried’s sung narrative of how he learned the meaning of birdsong in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Three Scene Two is construed as Wagner’s metaphor for his own Ring). These two alternatives to religious faith in my interpretation are the answer to K&S’s question, how does Wotan seek another means beyond divine law to make life meaningful, that will salvage something of Wotan’s original hopes and ideals.

P. 108: K&S: “Quite independently of his commitments to laws and contracts, Wotan should see Fafner’s possession of the Ring as a problem for any form of stable order, since in the wrong hands the Ring could be used to wreak havoc with any form of admirable order.”

PH: K&S are flatly wrong here. Fafner never uses Alberich’s Ring, never attempts to employ its power, and never attempts to increase Alberich’s hoard of treasure (which, in my interpretation, is Alberich’s hoard of knowledge of the world, Erde, or Erda). Fafner’s sitting inert on Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, is actually the embodiment of Wotan’s original shady contract with the giants, the embodiment of his hope to rule the world by law. For Wagner himself said that law stopped the free flow of spontaneous life and love, law, that is, considered in its deepest sense as an expedient agreement between competing egos (what Wagner called the “prudence of egoism”) to give up the full freedom of their individual wills in order to maintain enough order that they can satisfy what remains of their individual needs and wishes. This, and also man’s hope for Freia as what man looks for in paradise (divine love and sorrowless youth eternal), is the basis for the giants’ (man’s ego’s) contract with Wotan. This also embraces all those traditions, mores, taboos, folk wisdom, etc., which help to maintain what Wagner called the prudence of egoism, social quiet. To accomplish this security of the many, Wagner noted that the true source of renewal for society, the originality of particularly gifted individuals, was often crushed, as Fricka expects Wotan to crush the Waelsungs for disobedience. And for Wagner, fear is the foundation not only for such laws but is the very foundation of the first, allegedly divine laws, secured by religious faith, which, according to both Wagner and Feuerbach, takes the the mind prisoner, making it unfree. This is what the egoist Fafner, sitting on Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, not using their power himself, and not letting anyone else use it, represents. Feuerbach himself described religious faith as egoism and fear, religious man’s hope for an afterlife a product of fear, and contrasted love, and the aesthetic sense, with this egoism.

PH: Fafner in my interpretation therefore represents initially the self-preservation instinct, or fear (while his brother Fasolt, by contrast, represents man’s instinct for sexual reproduction, which includes not only egoistic lust, but also some of the gentler impulses related to family life), which is why Mime wishes to have Fafner teach Siegfried fear. Once Fafner takes sole possession of Alberich’s Ring, he makes his only use ever of Alberich’s lost powers by employing the Tarnhelm to turn himself, like Alberich, into a serpent or dragon, but unlike Alberich Fafner merely guards the sources of Alberich’s power, not using them himself, and also keeping anyone else from using them. This in my interpretation represents the stranglehold which religious faith (because the giants’ contract with Wotan actually set the gods up in their heavenly realm, from which they could rule men’s hearts) holds on freedom of inquiry, freedom of thought. Fafner is not himself now, or ever, likely to be a threat to the gods, because while he sits on his hoard and Ring, sleeping and inert, the gods are still safe. Fafner is, quite frankly, Wotan’s fear, his fear of truth. It is only if Alberich someday can break the stranglehold which religious faith maintains on freedom of inquiry that the gods, i.e., mankind’s belief in the gods, will be under threat. Therefore, in my book, K&S got this completely wrong: Fafner is in fact the guarantor, so long as he sits as he does now on the Ring and and Tarnhelm and Hoard, of Wotan’s rule by law. That is why Wotan tells Bruennhilde that Wotan’s own martyred heroes of Valhalla will be adequate protection for the gods from Alberich’s threat, unless Alberich regains the Ring from Fafner.

PH: However, Wotan needs a hero who will be free to break Wotan’s own law (in this emulating Loge’s original plan to find Wotan the means to break the original intent of his contract with the giants), so that the hero can win the Ring from Fafner, in order that Alberich can’t regain the Ring and overthrow the gods. My interpretation makes full sense of this. Wotan knows, at least unconsciously (since he’s confessed it in detail only to Bruennhilde) that the gods are destined to destruction because religious faith is destined to end. The question is, will Alberich bring this about by taking the Ring from Fafner (i.e., when man has sufficiently emancipated himself from the fear of the truth incarnate in religious faith to inaugurate the scientific age, in which Alberich figuratively regains possession of the Ring of consciousness), and bringing the gods to a shameful end by exposing man’s belief in them as an illusion, and turning man away from the old faith toward the scientific view of man as a mere object, or will Wotan’s own allegedly free hero win Alberich’s Ring from Fafner and somehow redeem or salvage what is most worthy of value in the legacy of the gods (religion), and thereby keep Alberich from winning back his Ring, thus in some sense preserving the value of man as what Roger Scruton calls a transcendental subject. According to both Feuerbach and Wagner, religious feeling (Feuerbach said the essence of religion is feeling, musical feeling) can live on when religion as a belief system must die out in the face of science’s advancement in knowledge. Inspired secular art, and particularly the art of music, need not, according to them, fall before scientific knowledge, because the artist stakes no claim to the power of truth, a claim which once made could be contradicted by reason and by factual, objective knowledge. According to both Feuerbach and Wagner the artist confesses his art is a fiction, or game, and in music is entirely freed from the question concerning truth and illusion, since music is not conceptual. Thus Siegfried the artist-hero doesn’t make practical use of the Ring’s power, but takes possession of it aesthetically, and to this degree is freed from its curse.

P. 108-109: K&S: “… he [Wotan] has come to have reasons for believing that a free being, truly independent of his will, and therefore capable of opposing it, must be created to defeat Fafner and obtain the Ring. In the despair that marks Act II, Scene 2, of "Walkuere," Wotan laments that he cannot see a way to fulfill this imperative: ‘… [Servants are all I can produce!]’ This is why the failure of Project Siegmund seems so complete. For if any stable order depends on an action of a free being, and if there is no possibility of producing a being who is free in the appropriate sense, then the situation appears hopeless.

K&S: Ironically, while Wotan is expressing his despair, he is initiating a process that will unwittingly produce (where he least expects it) the very thing he seeks: a free being who is more than capable of opposing him - even if initially only out of deep devotion to the fulfillment of his (true) will. (…) Love for her father and compassion for his despair begins the process of Bruennhilde’s transformation into an independent agent … .”

PH: In my interpretation, Siegfried the artist-hero will seem to be freed from the gods’ (religious faith’s) protection and influence, because, as Wagner himself put it when describing to Ludwig II of Bavaria how his unique music-drama could offer redemption where religion can’t, he noted that unlike religion, which seeks redemption by transcending the real world, Wagner’s redemptive art would confess itself as being Wahn (illusion, self-deception), and, while remaining within the real world of “Noth” (anguish, pain), raise man above it and make him feel as if he had been redeemed. This Wagner said was art’s true serenity. Siegfried will be ignorant of his role as Wotan’s heir, and will seemingly do, spontaneously, what Wotan wished, kill Fafner and take his dangerous Ring, and then store it safely where Wotan himself had originally stored and repressed his hoard of dangerous knowledge in his confession to Bruennhilde, by leaving Alberich’s Ring with Bruennhilde, who will keep it safe. But Siegfried will be no freer of Wotan’s influence than Siegfried’s father Siegmund. Siegfried is influenced subliminally, unconsciously, to fulfill Wotan’s wishes, because Bruennhilde, from the time that Wotan confessed to her his knowledge of the gods’ fate, and his longing for a free hero who would redeem the gods from it, has been holding this unspoken secret, Wotan’s hidden hoard of runes, for Siegfried. Thus what Wotan thought, Bruennhilde feels, and conveys Wotan’s now unconscious intent to Siegfried subliminally.

P. 109: K&S: “Thus Wotan is wrong … to judge that the free being required by his plan is impossible … . Believing that he cannot produce a free being, he expresses his dejection and anger in ways that cause Bruennhilde to act against his explicit directive - thus (ironically but serendipitously) beginning her transformation into just the sort of being he had deemed impossible. (…)

K&S: When Wotan does come to think that he can hope for the achievement of an admirable and durable order, he bets on the wrong horse: Project Siegmund gives way to Project Siegfried, as Wotan comes to the idea that Siegfried can and must become truly free as well as valiant - and so capable not only of besting Fafner but also of defying Wotan himself.”

PH: K&S are neglecting something important. Yes, it is true that Bruennhilde, in her rebellion against her father Wotan, makes herself a free heroine in much the sense of the free hero Wotan longs for, but Bruennhilde is free only because, as he points out to her in their debate in "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Three, she is free to live for love while Wotan himself, i.e., his thinking, has become too encumbered by the objective limits which bind him. Thus Wotan tells her that having ignored the “Noth” (necessity; anguish) which binds him, she has cut herself off from him and she can freely pay the price of living for love. Wotan learned from Erda that the gods are predestined to fall before Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and this curse will also take down Wotan’s proxies, as it does by the finale of "Twilight of the Gods." But the main thing K&S are neglecting is Wotan’s remark to Bruennhilde during his confession: “… what use would my own will be to me? I cannot will a free man … .” The whole point of this remark is that Bruennhilde had called herself Wotan’s will, and Wotan had endorsed her as his will, in whom (since he had confessed it to her) his knowledge of Erda’s prophecy and hope for a free hero who will redeem the gods has been stored as a secret which he says will remain forever unspoken. It is not, as K&S suggest, that Wotan makes a false start with Siegfried, but then can only obtain redemption through the free hero he had not recognized as such, Bruennhilde. Rather, it is through Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind and womb of his wishes, that the free hero Siegfried can come to birth. Thanks to Wotan having repressed his loathsome knowledge of himself and his corrupt history into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, Wotan plants the seed in Bruennhilde (the womb of his wishes) which figuratively gives birth to the hero who, because Bruennhilde holds Wotan’s repressed knowledge of his loathsome motives, and the fearful end Erda foresaw, for Siegfried, Siegfried is freed from consciousness of Wotan’s objective identity and history and fear of the end. Siegfried is the free hero Wotan longed for because he is Wotan himself, minus consciousness of all that Wotan loathed about himself, and feared. It is not, then, that Siegfried is a first, bad option, and Bruennhilde a better, second option, for Bruennhilde is (as she was for Wotan) Siegfried’s unconscious mind, through whom Siegfried will fall heir to Wotan’s hoard of runes which he confessed to Bruennhilde. This then, is the use of Wotan’s will. Wotan confirms that Bruennhilde redeems Wotan from the paralyzing effect of his rising knowledge of the bitter truth when he tells Erda (who imparted to Wotan the fearful knowledge of the gods’ inevitable end) that Erda’s knowledge (of all that was, is, and will be, knowledge which includes consciousness of the inevitability of the twilight of the gods) wanes before his will. Again, his will is Bruennhilde, and Erda’s knowledge waned before Bruennhilde when Wotan confessed it to her, thereby repressing this knowledge into his own unconscious mind.

P. 110: PH: K&S try to explain Siegfried’s failure as a miscalculation on Wotan’s part:

K&S: “Once again, … Wotan is shortsightedly obsessing about a part of the general problem of creating admirable order while ignoring the complications. Just as earlier he had focused on the need to repay the giants and ignored Loge’s advice about the claims of the Rhinemaidens, he now worries far more about the hero’s obtaining the Ring than he does about the likelihood that a better order will actually ensue.

K&S: Wotan is mistaken in concluding that Siegfried is the Great Hope; but he is not alone in his misjudgment. Bruennhilde herself takes over from him the idea that the crucial free actions involve the defeat of Fafner and the reclaiming of the Ring, and that this is to be accomplished by Siegfried, Sieglinde’s yet unborn son.”

PH: I have already explained why Wotan had to ignore the advice of Loge to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters (the Ring of human consciousness is the precondition for all the actions of not only Alberich but also Wotan, including Wotan’s lifelong quest to restore the innocence lost through the Fall, Alberich’s forging of his Ring), and similarly I must add that in trying to distinguish Siegfried from Bruennhilde, as if these two characters represent two distinct strategies Wotan might try out in order to make an admirable order which will survive the twilight of the gods, they are again barking up the wrong tree. Siegfried and Bruennhilde are one, their destinies identical. The only difference between them is that Siegfried represents the artist-hero, and Bruennhilde represents his unconscious mind, his muse of inspiration for his art. Siegfried’s art is subliminally inspired by Wotan’s hoard of runes which he confessed to Bruennhilde. When Siegfried betrays his love for Bruennhilde by unwittingly giving her to another man, Gunther, Wagner is allegorically representing the artist-hero’s betrayal of the previously unspoken secret of the function and mechanism of religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration to the light of day, and exposing to the daylight also the forbidden knowledge, the unspoken secret which religious faith and inspired art had kept safe. Thus Siegfried unwittingly fulfills Alberich’s threat that his hoard would rise from the silent depths to the light of day and destroy the gods (including the gods’ proxies). Bruennhilde’s restoration of Alberich’s Ring (of human consciousness) to the Rhinedaughters in order to end its curse is actually a metaphor for Wagner’s notion that the authentic hero would rather die than live in a world in which humans accept their status as mere objects, as selfish egos motivated by fear, which is the only alternative when religion (the gods), and the moral-heroes (Siegmund and Sieglinde), and artist heroes (Siegfried and his muse Bruennhilde) have failed to redeem man from the bitter truth. However, there is a related interpretation in which, for Wagner, restoring the Ring to the Rhine may be a metaphor for his retreat from drama back into pure music (a desire he expressed in his last years).

K&S: “Accepting her [Bruennhilde’s] plan that the rock shall be guarded by fire, he [Wotan] assures her that the man who will wake her (and to whom her human life will be bound) will be the envisioned and desired hero: ‘one freer than I, the god! … .’ “

PH: Siegfried is freer than the god because Siegfried has overcome the fear which is, according to both Feuerbach and Wagner, the basis of religious faith. Secular art, being freed from this fear, is also free to love, in Wagner’s sense of the word. For Wagner, the loving union of hero and heroine is a metaphor for the loving union of word/drama with music, i.e, the Wagnerian music-drama.

P. 110-111: K&S: “In the last scene of "Walkuere," both Wotan and Bruennhilde accept the idea that what is needed is a free being who can defeat Fafner and secure the Ring. Thoroughly convinced by Fricka’s points about his training of Siegmund, Wotan judges that the fulfillment of this idea depends on his doing nothing to assist Siegfried. In consequence, from this point on, he becomes little more than an observer rather than a shaper of the action. His last major act is to create the conditions under which Siegfried alone will be able to win Bruennhilde (Appropriately enough, Loge is the instrument of this final intervention.)

PH: Though Wotan’s intervention on Siegfried’s behalf seems to be at a further remove than Wotan’s hands-on upbringing of his son (Siegfried’s father) Siegmund, it is just as much an intervention, a fact which K&S seem to confess above, in spite of trying to make a case that Siegfried is his own man. The proof of this is that in Bruennhilde’s final words of wisdom before she rides Grane into Siegfried’s funeral pyre to join him in death in the finale of the "Ring," she tells Wotan that Wotan doomed the hero, through his freest act (Siegfried’s killing Fafner and winning Alberich’s Ring from him), to suffer the same fate to which Wotan succumbed. Also, in my interpretation Mime represents all that Wotan loathed about himself (remember that Wotan is Light-Alberich, and the Ring Motif #19 transformed into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif #20a), and it is Mime who leads Siegfried to Fafner’s cave so that Fafner can teach Siegfried fear (for fear that Siegfried will take Mime’s head if Siegfried doesn’t learn fear), though Mime also knows that only if Siegfried is fearless can Siegfried re-forge the sword Nothung, kill Fafner with it, and win Alberich’s Ring for Mime. Mime, in other words, represents the prosaic, ego-driven motives which lie behind Wotan’s more ideal, poetic/spiritual motives in seeking redemption through Siegfried. And Mime’s conundrum is Wotan’s conundrum: how can Mime influence Siegfried to do, freely, what he wishes for Siegfried to do, when Siegfried is his foe?

PH: I have to stop at this point to express my feeling that it astonishes me that K&S could imagine that their confused and confusing attempt to get at the essence of Wagner’s "Ring" really tells us anything new about its seemingly preternatural power as a work of art which has philosophical implications. They clearly have put a great deal of thought into their book, yet seem to have misread quite a number of points which are crucial to grasping the "Ring" as a whole.

P. 112-120 CHAPTER TWELVE - PROJECT SIEGFRIED

P. 113: K&S: “The free hero, Siegfried in prospect, may create an order that allows new possibilities of meaningful life. Wotan … has come to accept that a further alternative to the world-possibilities considered so far - both the order based on laws and contracts and the reign of dark forces that laws are intended to check - would be a world governed by free and noble beings.

PH: K&S have already confessed that up to this point they don’t know precisely how Siegfried is to accomplish this, or know what this order would be, and they also suggest that Wotan hasn’t thought it through. However, they do correctly state that Wotan doesn’t openly proclaim his acceptance that the order of the gods will end until his second confrontation with Erda in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene One:

K&S: “… the appearance of Siegfried, as a hero of the appropriate type, must spell the end of the rule of the gods and of Wotan - and therewith, of Wotan’s kind of order. … the dream of a divinely ordained world-order based upon laws and contracts is to be replaced by the goal of a noble human order anchored in the sway of heroic virtue. If this can be achieved, then despite his own failure - and the passing of his own order - Wotan will nonetheless have prepared the way for a fulfillment of his deepest aspirations … .”

PH: What amazes me is that the sheer volume and quality of documentary evidence from Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks, not to mention the numerous clues from the "Ring" libretto and music which support, and are supported by, that evidence, that Wagner’s primary agenda in the "Ring" is to dramatize the transition from a world under the influence of religious belief, to the modern world in which science and art have replaced religion as value-givers, has not clued K&S into the allegorical logic at work throughout the "Ring." There are so many problems in interpretation which they have discussed, which can be solved from this alternative standpoint, that I am astonished that their book contains little or no hint of this. Therefore, as late as this point in their 201 page book (more than halfway through), they are still vague about the new order which Siegfried is to bring into the world, calling it merely the sway of heroic virtue. Certainly Siegmund already fit that description, and, as I have suggested, Siegfried is no freer of Wotan’s influence than Siegmund, so we can’t dismiss Siegmund’s claim to heroic virtue on the basis that Siegfried is truly free and Siegmund was not. Also, Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde that with Alberich’s son Hagen’s birth, the gods’ end would not be long delayed, but so far there is no mention of that here. Furthermore, the more vague K&S become the more pedestrian and repetitive becomes their prose, so that the text now seems more and more redundant and rambling.

P. 114: K&S: “Wotan commits himself to the passing of his order and its replacement by the sway of heroic virtue in his final scene ["Siegfried" Act Three Scene Two]. Confronting Siegfried, he declares that the awakening of Bruennhilde, by one having the exceptional and yet distinctively human virtues this will require, will mean the end of his rule: ‘… [whoever awakens her, whoever wins her, makes me powerless for ever!].’ … we can view him [Wotan] as trying to solve the problem of admirable order in a way he has not previously anticipated, in the belief that a counterpoise to the vengeful and destructive egoism of Alberich and Hagen is the dominance of a contrasting set of (heroic) dispositions and qualities - even though it spells his end, and indeed requires it.

K&S: (…) Wotan’s divine (but, as it turns out, transient) order thus assumes the significance of a transitional stage that must give way to something nobler still; and the god will have found an acceptable ending.”

PH: In a number of other interpretations the assumption is made that the "Ring" plot, overall, reflects Feuerbach’s notion that man eventually matures to the point that he recognizes the gods as its own creation, and finally stands on its own feet as independent human life, and if this is what K&S mean by the heroic, as opposed to the divine, then to that degree they are accurate. But what both these alternative interpretations, and K&S’s book, neglect, is the vast evidence pointing to our reading of Siegfried and Bruennhilde as representing specifically Wagner’s notion of the artist-hero and his muse. In Siegmund and Sieglinde he has already offered us a vision of loving and heroic mortal humanity, and Siegmund failed as Wotan’s longed-for hero of redemption because Wotan could trace Siegfried’s nobility and love and freedom back to Wotan’s own egoistic fears. In my interpretation Wotan in a sense subsumes all the other characters because he is collective, historical humanity, which did indeed begin to emancipate itself from the bonds of religious faith in modern times and, as Feuerbach noted, this allowed science (in my interpretation Hagen) and the arts (Siegfried and Bruennhilde) to free themselves from their former subservience to religious dogma.

PH: By the way, the music to which Wotan sings “… he who awakens her [Bruennhilde], he who wins her, would make me powerless for aye [ever]!,” sounds very like a variant of Motif #23, which not only was the motif which accompanied the wish Fricka expressed in "Rhinegold" Scene Two, that: “(#23) … a glorious dwelling [Valhalla], domestic bliss were meant to entice you to tarry and rest (#23 stops here), but in having it built, you thought of bulwark and berm alone: it is meant to enhance your dominion and power … .” In other words, Fricka contrasts Valhalla as a refuge of domestic bliss which she hoped would satisfy Wotan so he wouldn’t seek to conquer the outside world and risk infidelity to her, with Wotan’s quest for worldly power. Thus #23 is linked here with the notion of the gods’ heavenly abode, or paradise, as powerless (i.e., in the sense of not having objective power in the real world, which is what Alberich’s possession of his Ring represents). What is most remarkable is that Siegfried’s aesthetic arrest, once he has passed through Loge’s ring of protective fire and gazes, while at the mountain’s crest, on the sleeping Bruennhilde, is captured by a definitive development of Motif #23 in the orchestra, as he gazes at this scene. What is at stake here is that the unconsciously inspired art which the artist-hero Siegfried’s loving union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration will produce, is supposed to be powerless in the sense that it is freed from Alberich’s Ring of power and its curse. In other words, it doesn’t make religion’s claim (a false claim, liable to contradiction by reason and objective knowledge) on the power of truth.

P. 115: K&S: “Bruennhilde’s great significance in the "Ring" is her evolution into one of Wagner’s several supreme embodiments of his vision of the ultimate in human love. Indeed, her eye-opening and will-liberating discovery of the possibilities of love, in her encounter with Siegmund, begins her own transformation, even if she is initially led - by both her own warrior-like predilections and Wotan’s focus on the heroic ideal - to esteem the qualities Siegmund displays and that Siegfried is literally conceived to epitomize; but that is because her sensibility has not yet caught up with her recent revelation.

K&S: Once the new order arrives, then, the heroic alternative - the idea that what will replace Wotan’s rule of law is the triumph of heroism - is accompanied by a second option: the possibility of an order based on the sway of love.”

PH: There are, in my view, no grounds whatsoever for K&S distinguishing Siegfried’s heroism from Bruennhilde’s love (and her sacrificial compassion for the Waelsungs in general, which made Siegfried’s birth, and her loving union with him, possible). They are one and the same. Siegfried would not be fearless, and would not be a hero, and would not have found himself in the domain of Fafner’s cave (and therefore Alberich’s Ring), had it not been for Wotan repressing his self-knowledge into his daughter and unconscious mind Bruennhilde through his confession to her of thoughts which he said he dare not speak aloud. This is how Bruennhilde, as she says in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, came to know for Siegfried what he doesn’t know, and is his own self if he loves her in her bliss, and why Siegfried tells Fafner “I still don’t know who I am.” Bruennhilde’s love is the source of Siegfried’s heroic fearlessness, all Siegfried’s inspiration, and its sole purpose. Read, for instance, this portion of their dialogue from the "Twilight of the Gods" Prelude:

Bruennhilde: (#149) To new adventures, beloved hero, what would my love be worth if I did not let you go forth? (…) (#150) What gods have taught me I gave to you: a bountiful store [“Hort” = Hoard] of hallowed runes … . (…)

Siegfried: (#150 - A motif first associated with Bruennhilde’s statement to Siegfried that she imparted to Siegfried the runes which the gods - she refers here to Wotan’s confession to her - taught to her) Through your virtue alone (#77 - Valkyrie Motif) shall I still undertake adventures? Is it you who will choose my battles, you to whom all my victories redound? … (#111) no more do I think of myself as Siegfried, I am Bruennhilde’s arm alone! (…) Through her my (#150) courage is kindled.”

PH: In other words, Siegfried credits Bruennhilde as being the source of his courage (i.e., fearlessness), and credits her for inspiring his heroic adventures which, in my interpretation, are actually his works of art she inspires him to create. His final work of art is the narrative he sings for an audience of Gunther and the Gibichungs, at Hagen’s behest, of how he learned the meaning of birdsong, a narrative which is actually Wagner’s play within the play, a metaphor for his own "Ring." And note here that Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that she imparted to him what Wotan imparted to her, Wotan’s hoard of runes, i.e., his confession of Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, to Bruennhilde. This in turn inspires Siegfried who, as he says near the end of the love duet in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, learned fear from Bruennhilde, and also through her love was able to forget the fear she taught (just as Wotan learned the meaning of his fear from Bruennhilde’s mother Erda, and through Bruennhilde can now, in his new incarnation as Siegfried, end the care and fear which Erda and Bruennhilde taught). Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind, through whom he can both possess knowledge and remain unconscious of it. For this reason Siegfried also tells Bruennhilde in this second love duet, in the Prelude to "Twilight of the Gods":

“Siegfried: You gave me more, o wondrous woman (#150), than I know how to cherish [protect; guard]: (#150; #149) chide me not if your teaching (#150) has left me untaught!”

P. 115-116: PH: K&S’s argument remains so vague and general this late in the game because they haven’t even a glimmer of the allegorical logic which streams through the text and music continuously. Given my demonstration in detail of this contrast between the generality and vagueness and confusion of their interpretation and the specificity of my own, their following remark seems particularly naive:

K&S: “Bruennhilde’s dawning new capacity for love is a very different thing from the heroism that is Siegfried’s primary stock-in-trade, and also from the adolescent style of love he brings to her - even if he himself begins to discover the possibility of a richer love through her, and perhaps at the end has grown enough to be capable of realizing it with her.”

PH: K&S can only say such things because they are virtually ignoring the significant detail in the libretto text and musical motifs in play.

P. 116-117: K&S: “It is not a happy solution, if either heroism or love - and it turns out to be love - may be the best we can achieve, since both tend to self-destruct. This is, after all, tragedy on the grandest of scales. Seen with the right eyes and attained sensibility, however, this could prove to be a solution nonetheless, and a powerful one at that. The attainment of this sensibility is a real and difficult accomplishment. It is the work and great achievement of tragic art.

PH: It is amazing to me that K&S see this much, but don’t grasp that Wagner has actually dramatized this point in the plot of the "Ring," because the tragic love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde is Wagner’s metaphor for his own tragic art, and its destiny. The Ring’s libretto text and music virtually scream this at us.

P. 117: PH: K&S, speaking of Wotan’s withdrawal from the world (and from active involvement - with the exception of his whispered words in Waltraute’s hearing of which she speaks to Bruennhilde in "Twilight of the Gods" Act One Scene Two - in the "Ring" plot) after his confrontation with Siegfried, in which Wotan relinquished power to Siegfried, say:

K&S: “… even for a god who has acquiesced in his own passing, the end comes hard; but it leaves entirely open the possibility that he can console himself at that point with the thought that Project Siegfried is well and truly launched, and that the establishment of a noble human order of heroic dimensions and lineaments might be realized. The death of Siegfried certainly shatters whatever might have been left of that hope by the end of the penultimate scene of "Goetterdaemmerung" - as well as apparently spelling doom for the other possible solution to the problem of order, represented by the rule of love.
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