Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 6

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 6

Postby alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:22 am

PH: Thus, for Siegfried and Bruennhilde, the laws of music, of aesthetic intuition, replace the objective world of sight, of all that was, is, and will be. Music provides, as Wagner said, a different kind of coherence to the world than scientific reasoning and knowledge.

K&S: “Why has Erda lost authority? In part, as Wotan points out to her, it is because the end of his dominion means the end of her power to know - an end signaled in her failure to recognize his change in his will. In part, it is also because his ‘taming’ of her (and the subsequent birth of Bruennhilde and the other Valkyries) has taken something from her, just as Wotan’s fashioning of his spear from a branch of the World-Ash took something from the tree, and diminished it. In her replies to his questions, we can hear the dilution of her primeval wisdom - the knowledge of ends and destinies is now distributed among different individuals (the Norns, Bruennhilde, Wotan himself) who have weaker versions of what she once possessed. He was the first to know her and the first to possess knowledge of her; in this way, he was the beginning of the end of her reign … ."

PH: It is not only that Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be is cast into oblivion figuratively in the redemptive art Bruennhilde will unconsciously inspire Siegfried to create (through the “Wonder” of Wagner’s musical motifs of reminiscence and foreboding, which can make all that is widely disbursed in time and space present here and now), but metaphysically, it is also possible that the phenomenon of the evolution of reflective consciousness in the cosmos plays some direct role in the very destiny of the cosmos itself. One can imagine a scenario (though whether this has any possible ground in hard science I don’t know) in which, as Wagner once said himself, human experimentation (or experimentation by some other reflectively conscious beings) with the very bonds of matter and energy might well unleash the chaos which is at the root of the cosmos. This would indeed make hash, at least for a while, of Mother Nature’s (the cosmos’s) coherent laws.

P. 99: K&S: “But why does Wotan call Erda out of sleep? His vocal lines are insistent, urgent … . He claims to want her knowledge. At the same time, he announces that her wisdom is at an end, endorsing her own judgments about her confusion and the clouded state of her mind. Small wonder that she chides him (‘You are not what you say you are!’), demanding to know why he has wakened her, for his ostensible aims do not seem to make sense. But we think that Wotan has three purposes. One is valedictory: by explaining his will to her, he acknowledges her old authority, acknowledges too what he has gained from her, and what she has given him, acquiesces in her judgment that his order must end, and bids her farewell. A second is probative: he is testing her, and her inability to provide him with information signals both the passing of her wisdom and the coming end of his own dominion. He suspects, of course, that Siegfried’s success in killing Fafner and in regaining the Ring already marks the beginning of the transition; but Erda’s confusion is further confirmation.”

PH: Again, in my prior remarks about the alternative kinds of knowledge Erda offers Wotan, and how Wotan hopes to escape the bonds of the fate Erda foresaw in his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde, I have already adequately addressed these questions. Wotan’s questions for Erda are rhetorical, an approximate repeat of the questions he said he wished to ask her in the final scene of "Rhinegold." He had already acknowledged to Alberich in "Siegfried" Act Two Scene One that one can alter nothing, and that Wotan would no longer directly intervene in the world, but only observe.

P. 99-100: K&S: “Beyond this, however, Wotan has a genuine question. That question concerns just the kind of issue on which Erda is authoritative.
What he wants to know is whether he has found the right ending. Will the advent of Siegfried give significance to all his strivings? Even if Erda’s vision is limited, there is a chance that her intuitive understanding will provide reassurance. But Erda cannot answer that. The significance of Wotan’s long quest for a grand new order cannot be assessed without knowing how the world will proceed in its new state. And that will depend on the actions of free beings - the beings whom Wotan has seen as his successors - and the course of events cannot be extrapolated from the rhythms that Erda intuitively understands.”

PH: But what if Erda’s prophecy of the gods’ end also embraces their proxies and heirs, the Waelsungs and Bruennhilde? It is noteworthy that the gods themselves do not come to their appointed end until Siegfried and Bruennhilde have betrayed each other, and also have come to their end, as prescribed by the Ring curse. In fact, Siegfried takes a direct part in fulfilling the Ring curse in his betrayal of his lover and muse Bruennhilde.

P. 100: K&S: “Thus it is left for Wotan to declaim what he believes - or at any rate, perhaps, what he hopes. (…) So he tells Erda: ‘… [Bruennhilde, whom you bore to me, the hero will lovingly waken: waking, your wise child will work a world-redeeming deed].’ This is, of course, rather vague. What sort of ‘redemption’ is he talking about, and what exactly is this redeeming deed supposed to be? Loving Siegfried? Returning the Ring? Something else? We think Wotan does not know. He has hope for something of enormous significance but has no idea what that might be. He would have liked Erda to have been able at least to confirm his great (if indeterminate) hope, but she cannot - or, at any rate, she does not. So, despite his apparent confidence, there is an anxiety behind this passage, as indeed there has been from the opening of the scene - an anxiety that emerges on the extraordinary harmonic change at the final syllable of the mysterious ‘… [world-deed].’ Acquiescent in many things, including his own passing, he still yearns to know what lies beyond and whether it will vindicate his strivings.”

PH: I have already in this critique covered in detail how my interpretation offers answers to these questions, but for convenience’s sake I’ll repeat the main point here. The only motif from the "Rin"g which Wagner ever verbally described as a redemption motif was #134, heard in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene One as Wotan tells Erda the following:

PH: Wotan: “Fear of the end of the gods no longer consumes me now that my wish so wills it! (#133 - [The motif representing Wotan’s loving union with Erda, which gave birth to Bruennhilde]) What I once resolved in despair, in the searing smart of inner turmoil, I now perform freely in gladness and joy: (#134) though once, in furious loathing, I bequeathed the world to the Nibelung’s spite, (#92 [Siegfried the hero Motif]), (#133) to the lordliest Waelsung I leave my heritage now (#20a [Valhalla]/#57 [Sword - or Wotan’s Great Idea). (…)

PH: Wotan: Bruennhilde, whom you bore to me, (#64 [Definitive Love Motif], the hero will lovingly waken: (#134) waking, your all-wise child (#134) will work the deed that redeems the world. And so, sleep on (#97 [Bruennhilde’s Magic Sleep]); close your eyes and, dreaming, behold my end! Whatever they do, (#134) to one who’s eternally young the god now yields in gladness. (#133) Descend then, Erda! (#133/#87 [Fate Motif]) Primeval mothers’ fear! Primeval care! (#133) Descend, descend (#97) to endless sleep!”

PH: The final occurrence of the definitive version of this motif #134, clearly associated here with the loving union of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, and with Wotan’s hope that what he valued in all that he stood for will live on in the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, is heard when Gutrune, in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Three Scene Three, accuses Bruennhilde of having brought all the “Noth” (or trouble) which culminated in Siegfried’s death, and Bruennhilde retorts that while Gutrune was only Siegfried’s wanton or slut, Bruennhilde was his true wife, and we hear #134 specifically when Bruennhilde sings that she was Siegfried’s rightful wife. The motif upon which most emphasis is placed during the final portion of Bruennhilde’s apostrophe to Siegfried in the finale of "Twilight of the Gods" is not #134, but #93, which was the motival embodiment of Sieglinde’s praise of Bruennhilde for having sacrificed herself for the Waelsungs, and particularly so that the as-yet-unborn, greatest of all heroes Siegfried, could come to birth. We hear no music here (in the passage quoted above), whatsoever, implying that Wotan expects Bruennhilde to return the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. As Wagner himself said to Roeckel, Wotan doesn’t contemplate that until he sees that Siegfried is going to fail, and that doesn’t become apparent until Siegfried falls under Hagen’s influence. It is for this reason, presumably, that Wotan’s whispered wish that Bruennhilde return the Ring to the Rhinedaughters so gods and world can be freed from the weight of the Ring curse influences Bruennhilde’s sister Waltraute to try to intervene with Bruennhilde, just prior to Siegfried’s betrayal of his love for Bruennhilde.

PH: The sum of all this is that Wotan looked to Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love to redeem gods and world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and when that love failed, the only alternative was to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. This proves that these two alternative means of redemption are entirely distinct. Evidently Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love must fail, and they must die, for the Ring to be released to the Rhinedaughters. My interpretation has the advantage of construing Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love as Wagner’s metaphor for unconsciously inspired secular art, as an alternative both to the perpetuation of the gods of Valhalla (religious faith), and the final victory of scientific thought (acknowledging the preeminence of Erda’s, Mother Nature’s, knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, and represented by Alberich and his son Hagen). My interpretation also has the advantage that this reading is backed up by literally over 1,000 extracts drawn from Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks, from at least the early 1840’s until Wagner’s death in 1883, and from those writings of Feuerbach which I have demonstrated influenced Wagner. Furthermore, it is backed up by a very close reading of Wagner’s libretto text, and very close attention to Wagner’s parallel language of music, his musical motifs in particular.


P. 101: K&S: Speaking of “Wotan’s final words to Mime,” K&S say: “… the advice to the dwarf to guard his own head well, set against the orchestral motif we associate with Loge, simply confirms Wotan in his new role as mocking ironist.”

PH: K&S have, as Sherlock Holmes says, seen, but they have not observed. Had they examined this passage from the end of "Siegfried" Act One Scene Two more closely, they would have noticed that Loge’s Motif #34 here (his one motif which most resembles fire) is a hint of the music which follows the Wanderer’s exit a few seconds later, in which we hear many other motifs associated with Loge also, namely #35, #33b, and #100 (the Magic Fire), in association with #48, the Dragon or Serpent Motif, as Mime has a panic attack of indeterminate fear culminating his his false assumption Fafner the dragon is about to eat him. Wotan has just informed Mime that he is to lose his head to the one who, because he knows no fear, alone can reforge the sword Nothung, and Mime’s fear actually calls up the music foreshadowing Siegfried’s penetration of Loge’s ring of fire around Bruennhilde. Siegfried will not learn fear from Fafner, but he will learn fear from Bruennhilde. That is why, near the end of Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love-duet in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, we will hear the Dragon Motif #48, the motif associated with Mime’s quest to have Fafner teach Siegfried fear, right at the apex of their ecstatic, loving union.

PH: Also, in my interpretation Mime actually figuratively represents Wotan’s head, all that Wotan so loathes about his own egoistic nature that he wishes, in effect, to be reborn as a self lacking Wotan’s prior corrupt history or even consciousness of his true identity, and Siegfried represents Wotan’s heart, purged of Wotan’s head. Having confessed this loathing of his own nature and desire for a hero freed from it, who can redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring (the curse of consciousness), to his daughter Bruennhilde, who describes herself as his own will (such that Wotan so identifies himself with herself that he says that in speaking to her he is speaking to himself), Wotan has actually repressed consciousness of his history and identity into his own unconscious mind, the womb of his wishes. Thus Bruennhilde figuratively gives birth to the hero Siegfried who, because he is Wotan reborn minus consciousness of his history, his loathsome nature and personal identity, and even his fate (the twilight of the gods Erda foresaw), Siegfried will tell Fafner: “I still don’t know who I am,” and Siegfried will also be fearless because he is unconscious of Wotan’s fear of the end. For the same reasons Siegfried will confuse Bruennhilde with his mother; for the same reasons Bruennhilde knew, when Siegfried’s birth mother didn’t, that Sieglinde was pregnant with Siegfried; and for the same reasons Bruennhilde, not Sieglinde, will name Siegfried; and lastly, for the same reasons Bruennhilde will tell Siegfried that she is his own self if he loves her in her bliss, and that what he does not know she knows for him, while we hear motif #87, the Fate Motif. So Wotan figuratively cut off his own head by repressing his conscious knowledge of self into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, in order that Wotan could be reborn as a purified heart, Siegfried, a man of spontaneous feeling, a man inspired by music rather than concepts, so to speak. But Bruennhilde, as she tells Siegfried, knows for Siegfried what he doesn’t know, Wotan’s hoard of knowledge, his unspoken secret, which, thanks to Bruennhilde, will inspire Siegfried subliminally.

P. 102-103: K&S: “We distinguish two levels of judgment. The most important claims to which Wotan is committed - framing judgments, as we shall call them - provide a relatively enduring background against which he searches for solutions to the problems that arise for him. (…) Wotan appears to subscribe to a broad normative judgment that sets the widest frame for his endeavors:

Life needs to be (made) meaningful if it is to be worthy living.

(…) It is hardly surprising that he reaches the conclusion:

It is important that an admirable order be established.

K&S: This commitment - to the idea of providing an admirable order for and in the world - frames all the particular judgments that lead him to action in the first three parts of the drama.

K&S: As we have suggested earlier, Wotan’s original concern with the possibility of the meaningfulness of this life in this world, which led him to the basic judgment that life needs to be made meaningful, was founded on dissatisfaction with the world’s primordial state. We can imagine the god recognizing the limitations of the mindless play of the Rhinemaidens and appreciating that the primeval state has within it the seeds of hideous pathologies: it allows for the emergence (or corruption) of Alberich and for the brutal harshness of the likes of Hunding.”

PH: K&S here are recapitulating some former arguments to arrive at a sort of epitome, a plateau from which to move on to new territory. However, it seems strange that they are so belaboring a point which I would have thought anyone with a modicum of sense would take for granted during their first experience of the entire "Ring," as if they were demonstrating something crucial that otherwise wouldn’t have been available for contemplation. The "Rhinegold" dramatizes, among other things, Wotan’s quest to rule the world through law and order. However, it wasn’t Wotan (Light-Alberich) who recognized the limitations of the Rhinedaughters’ so-called mindless play, but Alberich: [to the Rhinedaughters]: “Is the gold only good for your diving games? Then it would serve me little!” Furthermore, it is also entirely self-evident in anyone’s initial experience of Wagner’s "Ring" that along with order Wotan also longs for love and freedom, and he encourages the Waelsungs Siegmund, Sieglinde, and even Siegfried in their love and longing for freedom. Wotan clearly wishes for himself, and humanity, to rise above the base, animal egoism which seems to motivate Alberich. So far so good, but what is new or worthy of such verbiage here at the midpoint of their book?

P. 103: PH: And here, below, we have K&S offering their mind-numbing summation of all that has gone before:

K&S: “The kind of durable admirable order that would transcend the primordial state, and would be resistant to corruption and relapse, can only (or best) be achieved by extending the scope and sway of laws and contracts throughout the world.

PH: As if the god of gods would somehow neglect to extend the scope and sway of his divine law throughout the world he allegedly governs, or conquers.

P. 103-104: PH: And here, below, we are starting to see how K&S’s effort to construe Wagner’s allegory as a purely realistic drama begins to sound more absurd:

K&S: “… his [Wotan’s] problems in realizing this objective have led him to conclude that a stronghold (Valhalla) must be built. This strategy turned out to require making a contract with the giants Fasolt and Fafner, stipulating (at their insistence) that they would receive Freia in compensation for their efforts in building Valhalla. Now that they have completed the construction, Wotan’s belief in the importance of the rule of law commits him to holding that the contract with the giants must be kept by giving up Freia - or by finding a substitute that the giants will accept in place of her. When he learns of the theft of the Rhinegold and the forging of the Ring, Wotan realizes that the possession of the Ring by anyone not prepared to acknowledge the rule of law - as Alberich, its current owner, who acquired it by theft, clearly is not - presents a substantial threat to everything he is trying to achieve. He draws the obvious conclusion the Ring must be wrested from Alberich and must be retained.

PH: K&S speak as if Wotan was merely running into difficulties setting up a business, but Alberich’s alleged theft of the gold (Alberich has paid the price which the Rhinedaughters said had to be paid in order to make use of the gold’s potential power, the renunciation of love in order to forge a Ring of power from it) was a natural necessity, just as Wotan’s establishment of a heavenly abode for the gods, and a focus for mortal faith and hope, was inevitable, a necessity. Wagner is dealing with foundational matters here, offering his own modern take on our mythology, our origin myth, of the Fall, so it is not just a matter of Wotan finding the proper strategy to fulfill his needs and desires and bring a proper resolution to his plans. I have already written at length of the allegorical logic behind Wotan’s deal with the giants at, so I won’t repeat my thoughts here.

PH: Also, Wotan’s insistence on taking the Ring from Alberich in order to preserve the gods from Alberich’s threat is not motivated by Wotan’s wish to right a wrong, to punish Alberich for theft. Though Wotan later invokes the Rhinedaughters’ right to the gold which Alberich, as he says, stole from them, Wotan never expresses any wish that it be returned to them until Waltraute recounts his whispered words to that effect in "Twilight of the Gods" Act One Scene Two, to Bruennhilde, though he does admit to Bruennhilde in his confession to her that he did not return the Ring to them. K&S are also neglecting the all-important derivation of the first segment of the Valhalla Motif #20a from Alberich’s Ring Motif #19. Valhalla is already a direct product of the Ring as "Rhinegold" Scene Two opens, and the remainder of "Rhinegold" dramatizes the consequences which follow from this dependency, and Wotan’s need to somehow ignore or remain unconscious of it. Furthermore, at the very foundation of Wotan’s rule of law, he, with Loge’s collaboration and influence, was already looking for a way for Wotan to break it. Yes, on the surface Wotan wishes to improve the world through a rule of law, but all of these machinations to establish it, right from the beginning, should have suggested to K&S that something else, much deeper and more troubling, is at work here. Wagner is dramatizing the self-delusion which was necessary for mankind to establish society on the basis of a belief in the reality of gods who were actually products of mankind’s collective imagination. K&S are entirely ignoring the significance of Wotan’s characterization as a god of gods, and Freia’s status as the representative of all that mortal humans look to find in heaven. They are also ignoring the basis for the primordial giants’ claim to her, as they have not even asked themselves precisely what the giants might represent. Granted, in their opening remarks they informed us that they would not be offering a truly comprehensive interpretation of the "Ring," but instead an interpretation which might throw light on it by pursuing a few questions of interest to K&S. The problem is that no interpretation which cherry-picks and omits, where the "Ring" is concerned, has any hope of truly getting down to cases in it, because all parts of it are so organically interconnected both conceptually and through its motifs which link all parts of it with each other.

P. 104: PH: Here is an example they provide of Wotan’s dilemma for which my interpretation offers a solution, but which their attempt seems to fumble:

K&S: “… as Loge sees from the start and others eventually come to appreciate, it would make a mockery of the rule of law (…) to emphasize the supremacy of law and yet not recognize the right of the Rhinemaidens to the gold. … the only consistent extrapolation of the rule of law to a broader domain would demand that the Ring - into which the gold has been fashioned - must be returned to them. But it turns out that Alberich’s gold in its entirety - Ring included - is the only substitute for Freia the giants are prepared to accept (Loge’s judgment correct again).”

PH: Again, K&S speak of this timeless mythic event as if it involved realistic modern humans making occasionally flawed decisions and paying various prices for them, and seeking the proper strategies to bring their plans and hopes to fruition. But Alberich’s theft of the gold and forging of the Ring, and the Ring’s transmutation into the gods’ heavenly realm Valhalla, is as inevitable and necessary as the exile from the garden of Eden, man’s Fall, described in Genesis. These are myths by which mankind sought to explain why we are what we are, and why we live (and must live) as we do. What Wagner brought to the archetypical myth of the Fall was a modern artistic and scientific/secular consciousness, an analysis of the mechanics, so to speak, whereby man accomplished the astonishing feat of deluding himself into thinking that his own cultural achievements were the work, and under the rule, of gods. Also, Loge isn’t remotely interested in the consistency of Wotan’s rule by law, since Loge collaborated with Wotan at the foundation of the law, a foundation inconsistent from the start, because both Wotan and Loge planned to break the letter of the law. And of course throughout the remainder of the "Ring" until the time when Wotan has resigned himself to his self-destruction, Wotan looks for every means possible to insure that an allegedly free hero will break his own law for him. But this expedient is like somebody hiring a murderer who can take the rap for them, insisting they weren’t themselves guilty since they themselves didn’t pull the trigger.

P. 104-105: PH: The absurdity builds as K&S proceed:

K&S: “Wotan is brought to a vivid recognition of what the effects would be if Freia were to be abandoned to the giants. In addition to the unpleasant personal consequences for the gods (including Wotan himself), the weakening of his power would doom to failure his attempt to achieve the rule of law. Hence, he also has to think that Freia must not be relinquished.”

PH: The effect would be that the gods would not be gods, since a primary characteristic which distinguishes gods from mortal beings is that the gods are immortal, and therefore must partake of Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal. K&S speak of this as if it were some sort of temporary sickness or financial difficulty: unpleasant consequences indeed! Yes, of course if alleged gods are not gods, or not even held to be gods, then their divine law cannot operate, can’t be respected.

P. 105: K&S: “After Erda’s intervention, Wotan abandons the thought of keeping the Ring.”

PH: Note that Wotan was fully prepared to keep Alberich’s Ring (Alberich had accused Wotan of hypocrisy in Wotan’s claiming that Alberich had neglected to recall that the gold belongs to the Rhinedaughters, since Alberich knew quite well that Wotan wanted to retain the Ring and its power himself) until Erda’s proclamation of the nature of the world, and special prophecy of the twilight of the gods, gave him certainty that possessing it would be tantamount to willing an end to the gods, an eventuality which Erda’s prophecy declares is inevitable in the fullness of time in any case. Be that as it may, K&S’s own admission above should have told them they should correct their mistake stated elsewhere in their book, that Wotan seeks to have one of his heroes return the Ring to him so he can secure the gods’ rule. Wotan knows he can never again safely possess the Ring himself once he relinquishes it, under Erda’s influence, to the giants in "Rhinegold" Scene Four.

PH: K&S now reach the apogee of absurdity:

K&S: “At this point, we discern an important shift in Wotan’s attitudes: there is both an explicit continued commitment to securing the rule of law that motivates Project Siegmund, and a vague, intuitive, displacement of that framing judgment in favor of something different. The rule of law can only be insured if the Ring is no longer in dangerous hands. So Wotan comes to fix on the idea that the Ring must be wrested from Fafner (now a dragon). It would be inconsistent with his commitment to laws and contracts for Wotan to do this himself. But he has had a ‘great idea’: someone else can do it in his stead.”

PH: What would a professor, or an agent, of the law, say about this? Wotan requires first of Siegmund, and then later of Siegfried, that they somehow freely and spontaneously - without Wotan’s influence - break Wotan’s archetypal, foundational law, his social contract with the giants, in order to preserve Wotan’s rule by law? Wotan isn’t just afraid that the gods’ divine law will be overthrown if Alberich regains the Ring. Wotan is afraid that the very idea of godhead, the very concept of transcendent value (embodied in Freia as goddess of divine love and immortality), man’s very identity as an allegedly transcendent self, is at stake if Alberich regains the Ring. It should have dawned on K&S by now that something else is at stake here than questions of government and law, something that goes to the heart of what it means to be human in an even deeper and more comprehensive sense. Alberich is threatening nothing less than to compel all men to acknowledge the supposedly inherent lovelessness of the world, to acknowledge that all men are objects before they are subjects (which Roger Scruton has sometimes described, I think correctly, as the greatest threat we moderns face), that egoism is man’s root motive and stronger than love. What K&S have missed is that Wagner is addressing our most fundamental existential questions as a whole. Rule by law, and social order, is just one of them.

P. 106: PH: We find K&S in their remarks below getting into deeper trouble:

K&S: “Fricka’s contribution to Wotan’s development consists in her making it clear to him that this judgment … cannot be reconciled with his commitment to achieving a stable order based on law, because Siegmund is not truly independent of Wotan but rather an instrument of his will. The whole point of the project was, of course, for the Ring to be returned without any violation of law on Wotan’s own part. But when he comes to appreciate that Siegmund’s own actions are … simply his own by remote control, Wotan recognizes that the detour through Siegmund is pointless … .

K&S: Yet another equally deep and intractable difficulty has eluded his serious attention. Wotan is committed to the imperative to return the gold to the Rhinemaidens; and this part of his difficulty in keeping all his commitments has been left unresolved. It would not be addressed even if Project Siegmund were to succeed and Wotan were thereby to regain the Ring. (This, of course, is what Loge sees so clearly.). On the face of it, then, Wotan is just thoroughly confused. In the early parts of "Walkuere," the stress on the urgency of regaining the Ring suggests that he is still supposing that it will return to him rather than being used by Siegmund or given back to the Rhinemaidens. Even in the long exchange with Bruennhilde, Wotan seems obsessed with gaining the Ring for himself: ‘From him [Fafner] I must wrest the Ring … .’ “

PH: Again, there is no evidence either that Wotan wishes at this point to return the Ring to the Rhinedaughters (he doesn’t express this wish until "Twilight of the Gods," Act One Scene Two, when, as Wagner said, he can see that his hope that Siegfried and Bruennhilde would redeem the world and gods from Alberich’s curse, through Siegfried’s fearlessness and Bruennhilde’s love, has been crushed, since Siegfried has fallen into Hagen’s hands and is going to betray his love for Bruennhilde and fulfill the conditions of Alberich’s curse on his Ring), nor any evidence that he wishes to place the Ring back in his own hands. Erda had told him to yield the Ring (specifically to the giants, since that was the context in which she intervened with Wotan). There is no reason at any future point in the "Ring" that Wotan would wish to possess it, himself, again. His sole wish is that one of his allegedly free heroes take the Ring from Fafner in order that Alberich can’t regain possession of it, but nowhere does Wotan say or imply he wishes to regain possession of the Ring himself. Had Erda desired that Wotan restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters she would either have said so, or at least have been accompanied by one or more of the Rhinedaughter Motifs, such as #13, #15, or #16, or some other music associated with them, when she told Wotan to yield the Ring. In his confession to Bruennhilde in "Valkyrie" Act Two Scene Two he merely tells Bruennhilde: “Alberich … laid a curse upon love and, by that curse, won the glittering gold of the Rhine and, with it, measureless might. (#19 Ring Motif) The ring that he [Alberich] forged I cunningly wrenched away from him: not to the Rhine though did I return it; with it I paid for Valhalla’s battlements, (#20a - First segment of the Valhalla Motif, which is a transformation of #19) the bulwark that giants had built for me, (#20d) from which I now ruled the world.”

PH: What K&S are missing is that Alberich’s Ring was essential to Wotan’s rule from Valhalla, and his ruling the world by divine law. It is essential to his divine power. They are missing the fact that the Rhinedaughters aren’t just some vaguely primordial creatures given to senseless play, but represent for Wagner a stage of preconscious animal innocence (in spite of the cruelty of which so-called innocent animals are capable, something he also dramatized in the Rhinedaughters’ schadenfreude with respect to Alberich’s desire) which is superseded by the appearance in nature of human consciousness, represented by Alberich’s Ring. As Feuerbach said, the occurrence of reflective consciousness in the animal kingdom leads inevitably to the positing of transcendent godhead, which is man’s unconscious reification of the nature, the power, of his own mind, which seems, in spite of man’s physical limitations, to have infinite reach, through abstraction and imagination. Wotan simply says here that he didn’t restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, but instead gave the gold to the giants, as he was told to do by Erda herself, Mother Nature, whose motif (#53) is based on the same arpeggiated figure, the Primal Nature Motif #1, with which the Ring began, and is even more primal than the songs of the Rhinedaughters. The fact is, restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters would restore a preconscious state of nature. But all the accomplishments of human civilization, including the rule of law, required first the birth of human consciousness itself and its putting behind itself its preconscious past, and this Wagner dramatized allegorically in Alberich’s renunciation of love (which in my interpretation initially means that Alberich’s conscious mind has risen above animal dependence on mere instinct, or feeling, and has risen to symbolic thought). Wotan confesses to Bruennhilde that he must wrest the Ring from Fafner, in order to insure that Alberich doesn’t regain it and bring about the twilight of the gods, but that he must do this only through proxies, and in this he finally succeeds in the person of Siegfried, who has, however, no reason to return the Ring either to Wotan or to the Rhinedaughters. Siegfried will instead give Alberich’s Ring to Bruennhilde, Wotan’s and Siegfried’s unconscious mind, who becomes a surrogate for the Rhinedaughters.
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