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Bruennhilde: Wotan's/Siegfried's unconscious Part A-4

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2016 11:16 am
by alberich00
Here Wotan informs us that the whole point of bringing to birth his Valkyrie daughters, including Bruennhilde, was to avert the fate Erda had made Wotan fear, the shameful twilight of the gods, by inspiring mortal heroes to martyr themselves so that, after death, they could share in the gods’ immortality and form an army of defense against Alberich’s threat to storm Valhalla and overthrow the gods (i.e., the truth’s threat to become conscious and overthrow religious belief, which is predicated on self-deception, the preservation of an illusion which masks the bitter truth). In other words, the Valkyrie muses transmit Wotan’s fear of the end to these heroes to unwittingly bind them to treacherous treaties, treaties made by Wotan of whose falseness Wotan admitted he’s been unwitting and unconscious. In other words, Wotan’s martyred heroes share in Wotan’s unconsciousness of their true source of inspiration, thanks to their Valkyrie muses. In my interpretation Wotan’s martyred heroes of Valhalla are a metaphor for all those culture-heroes who have helped sustain civilization predicated on religious belief and its ideal of transcendent human value, not only in religion but in philosophy and art, whose figurative immortality is in the legacy they have left after death.

Wotan: (#53: more muted again) (#21 bass:) there’s something else (:#21bass) (#19) – mark me well – of which the wala warned me. (#19:) Through Alberich’s host our end now threatens (:#19): (#46:) burning with envious [“neidischem”] rage, the Nibelung bears me ill-will; (more animated) but I’m not now afraid of his forces of night – my heroes would defeat him (:#46). (more muted: #19:) Only were he to win back the ring (even more muted) would Valhalla then be lost (:#19): he who laid a curse on love, he alone in his envy [“Neidisch”] would use the runes of the ring to the noble gods’ unending shame; my heroes’ hearts (more animated) he’d turn against me, forcing the brave to battle with me and, with their strength, wage war against me.

Wotan now expresses his concern that though his martyred heroes can defend Valhalla (religious belief) against Alberich’s forces of night, Alberich may one day win back his Ring, which will spell doom to the gods, because Alberich will then employ the Ring’s runes to turn Wotan’s own heroes against him and bring about the gods’ unending shame (i.e., exposure of religious belief as self-deception). This in my interpretation is Wagner’s metaphor that Alberich’s Ring, the bitter truth, may one day rise to consciousness and overthrow the gods (i.e., the truth which man has repressed and hidden will one day rise to consciousness and overthrow the illusory mask through which religious man has hidden the truth from himself). This is Wotan’s premonition that Siegfried will some day serve Alberich to overthrow the gods, as in fact Siegfried does under Alberich’s son Hagen’s influence in "Twilight of the Gods."


Wotan: ([[ #83ab: ]]; #57:) One man alone could do what I myself may not: a hero I never stooped to help; who, unknown to the god and free of his favours, all unwitting, without his bidding, by his own need [“Noth”] alone and with his own weapon (:#83; :#57) might do the deed which I must shun and which my urging urged not on him, though it were wished by my wish alone.

Now Wotan informs us that to preempt Alberich’s threat to win back his Ring (i.e., to make the bitter truth, which will overthrow belief in the gods, conscious), Wotan seeks a hero who will be freed from the gods’ rule (and therefore free from religious belief or motivation), who will unwittingly and unconsciously be prompted to act upon Wotan’s fear of the shameful end of the gods, by winning the Ring from Fafner of his own free volition, and keeping it out of Alberich’s hands. This concept is associated with the Gods’ Need Motif #83.


(#81:) How can I make that other man who’s no longer me (#83b [based on #53’s inversion]) and who, of himself, achieves what I alone desire (:#81)? – (#83a [based on #53]; [[ #84 embryo: ]]) O godly distress [“goettliche Noth”]! O hideous shame! (#21voc?:; [[ #84 embryo: ]] [in the harmony]) To my loathing [“Ekel”] I find only ever myself in all that I encompass (:#21voc?; :#84 embryo)! (#83:) That other self for which I yearn, that other self I never see; for the free man has to fashion himself – (#84 chords:; #79:) Serfs are all I can shape (:#84 chords; :#79)!

Wotan presents Bruennhilde with a unique problem here. Wotan needs to be able to influence the hero who is freed from the gods’ laws and influence, to do what the gods need for their redemption from Alberich’s curse and the shameful end of the gods. Wotan, in other words, needs another self, another identity, who will act upon Wotan’s once conscious motives, without, however, being conscious that he is acting upon them. Wotan loathes himself and desperately desires another self who will be purged of all that Wotan loathes in himself, or at least be freed from consciousness of Wotan’s loathsome self, freed from consciousness that it is this loathsome, fearful, craven self who seeks redemption from Alberich’s curse. Note that Motif #84, which will later be associated with Wotan’s anger against Bruennhilde for defying his law (the very law he here tells her he wishes for his free hero to defy), is introduced here in association with Wotan’s remark that he finds, with loathing, everything he does to secure the redemption of the gods from their fate, because he finds himself in these things. #79 reminds us that Fricka foresaw that by seeking redemption through the allegedly free hero Siegmund and by supporting the Waelsungs, Wotan would actually undermine the rule of the gods, because the Waelsungs have broken the gods’ laws. Wotan’s influence upon the allegedly free hero Siegmund I take to be Wagner’s metaphor for the influence of religious belief or its legacy on the conscience of individual social revolutionaries like Siegmund who (seemingly) instinctively seek social justice, even in the face of disapproval by established society. Wotan acknowledges this problem in his following remarks:

Bruennhilde: But the Waelsung, Siegmund? (#79 vari:; #62:) Does he not act of himself (:#79 vari; :#62)?

Wotan: (#62:) I roamed the wildwood with him (:#62); (#62) against the gods’ advice, I boldly urged him on – against the gods’ revenge, he’s shielded now by that sword (#57: slowly and bitterly) which the grace of a god bestowed upon him. (#81 vari) – How slyly I sought to deceive myself!


Bruennhilde: (#82:) And so you’ll not let Siegmund win (:#82)?

Wotan: (#19:) I once held Alberich’s ring, greedily grasped the gold (:#19)! (#19:) The curse that I fled won’t flee from me now (:#19): (#37 vari:) what I love I must relinquish, murder him whom I cherish (:#37 vari) and foully betray him who trusts me! (#51)


Bruennhilde: (alarmed: #83 agitated:) Speak, O tell me, what must your child do now (:#83 agitated)?

Wotan: (embittered: #83a , i.e. #53:) Fight bravely for Fricka (:#83a), (#68:) for her, guard both wedlock and vows (:#68)! (dryly) What she has chosen I choose, too: (#stark recitative:) What use would my own will be to me (:#recitative)? I cannot will a free man - for Fricka’s slaves now fight!

Several of the motifs heard during Wotan’s explosion of despair at the beginning of V.2.2, which prompted Bruennhilde to request that he confide the “Noth” which troubles him to her, are heard here again as Wotan recognizes he must disavow his hope that Siegmund would be that free hero who would take possession of Alberich’s Ring, so that Alberich could not use its power to destroy the gods, including #82, #51, and #37 (the so-called Loveless Motif, derived from Motif #18, to which Alberich renounced love for the sake of the Ring’s power). The presence of Motif #83, as Bruennhilde asks Wotan what she must do now, and as Wotan reluctantly tells Bruennhilde to fight bravely for Fricka, tells us subliminally that Wotan actually wishes for Bruennhilde to act in behalf of the gods’ need for redemption, by protecting Siegmund, though Wotan could not admit this to himself openly.

Since Bruennhilde has described herself as Wotan’s “will,” when Wotan here asks himself (in asking Bruennhilde) what use his own will would be to him, since he cannot will a free man into existence, Wotan is really asking what use Bruennhilde herself, the womb of his wishes, can be to him, in creating (or giving birth to) this free hero for whom Wotan longs. Wotan’s longing for this hero who will free Wotan and the gods from what they fear, the twilight of the gods, is the seed which Wotan plants in the womb of his wishes, his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, who figuratively, allegorically does give birth to the free hero Siegfried (i.e., the hero who will act upon Wotan’s will without being conscious of doing so), the hero who will be purged of all that Wotan loathes in himself, thanks to Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind, in whom Wotan has stored and repressed his unbearable self-knowledge.

Sieglinde: Whither should I turn?

Bruennhilde: Which of you sisters (:#83?) has roamed to the east?

Siegrune: (#19 chromatic vari on winds:; #48:) Away to the east a forest stretches: there Fafner has taken the Nibelung hoard (:#19 chromatic vari on winds; :#48).

Schwertleite: (#19:) The savage assumed the shape of a dragon and in a cave he guards Alberich’s ring (:#19).

Grimgerde: (#48:) No place it is for a helpless woman.

Bruennhilde: (#48:) And yet the forest will surely shield her from Wotan’s wrath: the mighty god shuns it and shies from the spot (:#48).

Initially I noted that Fafner is Wagner’s metaphor for one of our two basic animal instincts, the fear of death (i.e., the self-preservation urge) which, magnified by our power of conscious thought (Alberich’s Ring), becomes a lust for self-aggrandizement. But once man unwittingly and unconsciously establishes religious belief, the gods, on the basis of self-deceit, this fundamental fear of threat to life and limb becomes more abstract, a fear of all that threatens religious belief, of all that would undermine faith, of all that would deprive mortal man of his hope for immortality. Fafner, faith’s fear of the truth, has taken possession of man’s mind (Alberich’s Ring), man’s imagination (Alberich’s Tarnhelm), and man’s objective knowledge of the truth (Alberich’s Hoard of Treasure taken from the Earth, i.e., Erda, or Nibelheim) which collective, historical man (both Dark-Alberich and Light-Alberich, Wotan) accumulates through his experience of the earth (Alberich’s mining for gold in Nibelheim, which Mime describes to Wotan/Wanderer in S.1.2 as “Erde Nabel-Nest” - i.e., Erda’s Navel-Nest; or Wotan’s wanderings over the earth, Erda, in quest of knowledge, and visit to Erda in quest of knowledge), and watches over it as its guardian, just as religious faith censors all freedom of thought. It is for this reason that Wotan (in his role as Wanderer over the earth, i.e., collective, historical man) avoids Fafner’s lair. Motif #48, introduced in R.3 when Alberich described to Wotan how he could protect himself (using the Tarnhelm) from those who wished to co-opt his Ring power, is also heard here in association with Wotan’s shunning Fafner’s lair. In other words, #48, the Dragon or Serpent Motif, is fear of the truth which, if conscious, would unmask the self-deception through which the gods rule.

Bruennhilde: Then hurry away and head for the east! In brave defiance bear all burdens – hunger and thirst, thorns and stones: laugh if need [“Noth”] or suffering plague you! Know this alone and ward it always: ([[ #92ab: ]] the world’s noblest hero, O woman, you harbour within your sheltering womb (:#92ab)! ([[ #92a; #92c ]]) –

(She takes the fragments of Siegmund’s sword from beneath her coat of mail and hands them to Sieglinde.)

Bruennhilde: For him keep safe the sword’s stout fragments; from his father’s field I haply took them: [[ #92ab: ]] let him who’ll wield the newly forged sword receive his name from me (:#92ab) - [[ #92a:; #92c ]] may ‘Siegfried’ (:#57a) joy in victory! (57)

Sieglinde: (deeply stirred: [[ #93 voc: ]]) Sublimest wonder! Glorious maid (:#93)! You true-hearted woman, I thank you for sacred solace! (#92ab:) For him whom we loved I’ll save what’s most dear (:#92ab): may my gratitude’s guerdon smile upon you one day! Fare you well! (#93:) Let Sieglinde’s woe be your blessing (:#93)!

Bruennhilde Wotan calls the womb of his wishes. He imparted his fear of the inevitable, shameful end of the gods, and his sense of the futility of his wish for a free hero (a wish which he couldn’t afford to speak to himself, aloud, i.e., consciously) to Bruennhilde in his confession, so that his wish for a hero who would be freed from all that Wotan loathes in himself, and all of his corrupt history, is planted in the womb of his wishes, Bruennhilde, who, in a figurative sense, gives birth to Siegfried (whose literal birth mother is Sieglinde). Wagner hints at this here not only in having Bruennhilde convey knowledge of Sieglinde’s own pregnancy to Sieglinde here in V.3.1, knowledge of which Sieglinde seems previously to have been ignorant, but also in having Bruennhilde name Sieglinde’s child Siegfried, a responsibility which normally Sieglinde would have undertaken. Wagner will reinforce this later, in S.3.3, when Siegfried briefly confuses Bruennhilde with the mother, Sieglinde, who died giving him birth.

Wotan: (#81A) Know then, you whimperers, what she did wrong, for whom you fainthearts shed a hot tear. (#81A free vari or #81B?:) No one, as she did, knew my innermost thinking (:#81 free vari); (#81A free vari:) no one, as she did, watched at the well-spring of my will (:#81A free vari); (#81A free vari:) she herself was my wish’s life-giving womb (:#81A free translation): (#81A) – and now she has broken the holy bond by faithlessly flouting my will and openly spurning my sovereign command, turning against me the very weapon my will [“Wunsch,” i.e. wish] alone had created for her! (#82 vari) Do you hear me, Bruennhilde? You on whom brinie, helmet and weapon, bliss and favour, name and life I bestowed? Do you hear me make complaint [[ #81B: ]] and hide in fear from the plaintiff (:#81B) in the faint-hearted hope of avoiding chastisement?

This is one example among many in which Wagner subtly suggests to us that Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind. He states that no one, as she did, knew his “innermost thinking,” or watched at the “well-spring” of his “will,” and that she was his “wish’s life-giving womb.” Significantly, he accuses her of “openly spurning” his “sovereign command,” as if her crime consisted in openly supporting Siegmund instead of covertly doing so (i.e., in a manner Wotan could ignore, or of which he would remain unconscious, as will be demonstrated in the case of Siegfried, who in inheriting Wotan’s daughter Bruennhilde as his lover in S.3.3, also inherits Wotan’s unconscious mind and her secret knowledge of Wotan’s confession to her).

Bruennhilde: Will you take away all that you ever gave me?

Wotan: He who subdues you will take it away! (#5 vari: – [as heard in S.3.2 when Wotan warns Siegfried away from Bruennhilde’s rock, saying his ravens have scared Siegfried’s Woodbird guide away]); [[ #96a embryo voc: ]]) Here on the mountain I’ll lay you under a spell (:#96a embryo voc); [[ #94: ]] in shelterless sleep I’ll shut you fast (:#94); (#21 vari in triplets) the maiden shall fall to the man (#21) who stumbles upon her and wakes her.

Bruennhilde’s question is quite curious. What does she mean when she asks Wotan if he will take away all that he ever gave her? Does she mean her life? Obviously not. Does he mean her divinity or her chastity? Perhaps, because Wotan does indeed take away Bruennhilde's divinity, and because Siegfried, as Wotan’s unwitting heir, inherits something of his divinity, his divine legacy, though Siegfried remains unconscious of this. Siegfried will obviously take away Bruennhilde’s chastity in consummating a sexual union with her. Siegfried will also borrow her armor and her horse Grane. But, in view of the fact that Wotan states that the hero who subdues her (Wotan will leave her asleep as prey, as wife, to any man who finds her and wakes her) will take “it” away, it is surely possible that he is alluding covertly to the unspoken secret which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde. Wagner will later grant this supposition considerable support in both his libretto text and music.

Wotan: [[ #144 embryo: ]] Did you not hear what I decreed (:#144 embryo)? (#21) From your host shall your faithless sister be sundered; (#21) with you she shall nevermore fly through the air on her steed; (#21) (#87 drum rhythm – “crisis”; #96a embryo voc with #94’s harmony:) the maid’s maidenly flower will fade; a husband will win her woman’s favours (:#87 drum rhythm; :#96a embryo voc with #94’s harmony); (#47 or #82 free vari on cellos; #5:) henceforth she’ll obey the high-handed man (:#47 or #82 free vari on cellos; :#5); (#21) she’ll sit by the hearth and spin (#21), (#21 vari in minor:) the butt and plaything of all who despise her (:#21 vari in minor).

Wagner here associates a motival variant which seems to reference #47, Alberich’s Revolt Motif, and/or Motif #82, Wotan’s Revolt Motif, which is derived from #47, in association with the notion that Bruennhilde, in her banishment from the gods, will lose her former Valkyrie chastity to any man who wakes and wins her as wife. #47 was in R.3 initially associated with Alberich’s threat that he would turn Wotan’s own heroes (say, Siegfried?) against him, and that Alberich would force himself on the gods’ women though he feels no love (as Siegfried does to Bruennhilde under Hagen’s influence), and #82 is the motif which in V.2.2 heralded Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde of all that he dare not speak aloud lest he lose the grip sustaining his will, namely, Erda’s prophecy of the inevitable destruction of the gods by Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and Wotan’s acknowledgment that his hope for a free hero who could redeem the gods from this fate is futile. It is the planting of this seed of despair and futile hope for redemption in Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, that figuratively gave birth to Siegfried. #47 and/or #82 here also therefore is associated with the idea that this man will, in winning Bruennhilde, inherit Wotan’s confession to her.