Bruennhilde: Wotan's/Siegfried's unconscious? Part A-18

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Bruennhilde: Wotan's/Siegfried's unconscious? Part A-18

Postby alberich00 » Tue Oct 11, 2016 10:34 am

The significance of hearing these specific motifs at this point is that Siegfried is now remembering the moment when he had emerged from Fafner’s Envy-Cave with Alberich’s Ring and Tarnhelm, but had already forgotten their use, which the Woodbird had just finished telling Siegfried just before he entered the cave following the Woodbird’s instructions. This is analogous to Siegfried forgetting the fear which Bruennhilde had just taught him in the finale of S.3.3, or in T.P his telling Bruennhilde that her teaching (of Wotan’s Hoard of runes) had left him untaught. In other words, Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind.


Bruennhilde: (crying out in the most terrible anguish: #165 vari/#161 chord:) Deceit! Deceit! :#165 vari/#161 chord)! (#19 vari:) Most shameful deceit (:#19 vari)! (#165 vari/#161 chord:) Betrayal! Betrayal (:#165 vari/#161 chord)! (#170/#164:) As never before avenged (:#170/#164)!

Gutrune: (#164 vari:) Betrayal? Of whom (:#164 vari)?

Women and Vassals: (#164 vari) Betrayal? Of whom?

Bruennhilde: Hallowed gods! heavenly rulers! (#164:) Was this what you whispered within your council (:#164)? (#50:; #164:) Would you teach me (#40:) suffering as none yet suffered (:#164; :#40; :#50)? (#164:) Have you caused me (#40:) shame more painful than any yet felt (:#164; :#40)? (#45a:) Now teach me (#19 vari:) revenge as never yet raged! Kindle such (#19 vari:) wrath as has never been tamed (:#19 vari; :#45a)! (#59a varis:) Bid Bruennhilde break her heart in twain (:#59a varis) to destroy the man who betrayed her!

What the gods whispered in their counsel, i.e., what Wotan whispered in his confession to Bruennhilde, was that the gods and their proxies were predestined to succumb to Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and that Wotan’s hope that a free hero would, of his own spontaneous need, redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring by taking possession of it to keep Alberich from doing so, was futile. This terrible truth is conveyed by Motif #164, which is a variant of Motif #137 (which expressed Siegfried’s fear of the consequences of consummating a loving union with the repository of the hoard of knowledge which Wotan couldn’t bear to speak aloud to himself), which in turn is a variant of Motif #81, the so-called Wotan’s Frustration Motif, which conveyed Wotan’s understanding that Siegmund was not the free hero Wotan had hoped would redeem the gods. #164 tells us that Siegfried isn’t that free hero also. What Wotan whispered to Bruennhilde in his confession to her, was, in so many words, that it was inevitable Siegfried would betray Wotan’s hope for redemption, and that by extension the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde shared will betray that hope. Bruennhilde’s shame is unbearable because mankind’s bid for transcendent value in religious faith, altruistic ethics (selfless love), and inspired art is futile (at least according to the hard reading of the libretto text and music, which is one strongly vetted option for understanding the "Ring."). Wotan (collective, historical man, who first posited the gods), and Loge (man’s artistic capacity for self-deception) set mankind up for failure. Bruennhilde, like Wotan before her in nihilistically wishing for the destruction of the gods in despair during his confession in V.2.2, now, equally in despair, wishes to destroy her artist-hero lover Siegfried and herself, and therefore destroy religion’s last refuge, inspired secular art. Interestingly, we again hear a segment of the Rhinedaughters’ Lament for their lost gold, #59a, as Bruennhilde expresses her wish to break her heart in twain in order to destroy the man who betrayed her, Siegfried. In other words, thanks to this betrayal, Bruennhilde can no longer serve Siegfried, or mankind, as a surrogate for restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters to end its curse.

Gunther: (#5/#172:) Bruennhilde, wife! Control yourself (:#5/#172)!

Bruennhilde: (#164 vari:) Keep away, betrayer! Self-betrayed (:#164 vari)! – Know then, all of
you: (#101 unison:) not to him (:#101 unison), but to that man there am I wed.

Women: (#164:) Siegfried? Gutrune’s husband (:#164)?

Vassals: (#164:) Gutrune’s husband (:#164)?

Bruennhilde: (#37 vari:) he forced delight [“Lust”] from me, and love [“Liebe”] (:#37 vari).

Siegfried: Are you so careless of your own honour? (#15 vari:) The tongue that defames it, (#164:) must I accuse of lying [“Luege”] (:#15 vari; :#164)? – Listen whether I broke my faith! (#157:) Blood-brotherhood (:#157) have I sworn to Gunther. (#165) (#165:) Nothung, my worthy (#21/#151b:) sword, defended the oath of loyalty (:#21/#151b; :#165); (#57 vari) its sharp edge sundered me from this unhappy woman (:#57 vari). (#164)

Bruennhilde: (#164:) You cunning hero, look how you’re lying [“Lueg’st”] (:#164), just as you’re wrong to appeal to your sword! (#59a vari) Well do I know (#57) its sharp-set edge, but I also know the scabbard in (#150 vari:) which your true friend (:#150 vari), (#57 vari) Nothung, rested (#150 >> :) serenely (#57:) against the wall while its master won him his sweetheart (:#150; :#57).

Bruennhilde here confirms that we may regard Siegfried’s reforged sword Nothung as, among other things, a metaphor for his phallus, in the allegorical sense that mankind’s age-old quest to restore lost innocence through religious faith and inspired art figuratively inseminates mankind’s collective unconscious (Bruennhilde, who is also Siegfried’s personal unconscious), and in a sense plants the seed which Wotan planted in the womb of his wishes Bruennhilde in his confession to her, unbearable knowledge of man’s wholesale subjection to natural law and to animal egoism, knowledge from which man seeks redemption in religious belief and inspired art. Significantly, in comparing Siegfried’s sword Nothung with his phallus we hear not only its Motif #57 (which is based on the Primal Nature Motif #1, which symbolizes the innocence before the Fall), but also the Rhinedaughters’ Lament for their lost gold #59a, symbolic of Bruennhilde as a substitute Rhine who offers temporary redemption from Alberich’s curse on his Ring (the curse of consciousness), and in comparing herself with the scabbard (figurative womb) for Siegfried’s sword, or phallus, we hear Motif #150, which was introduced in T.P as a symbol for the Hoard of Runes which Wotan imparted to his unconscious mind Bruennhilde in his confession, and which she imparts subliminally to Siegfried, but which leaves Siegfried untaught (safely unconscious of it, but subliminally influenced by it).


Bruennhilde: (striding furiously into the circle, tearing Siegfried’s hand away from the spear and seizing the tip of it with her own hand: #77/#78; #150 vari [as an orchestral explosion]; #173:) Shining steel! Hallowed weapon! Assist my eternal oath (:#173)! (#164/#173:) By the point of this spear I swear this oath: (#151:) spear-point (:#151), mark what I say (:164/#173)! – (#167:) I hallow your thrust that it overthrow him (:#167)! (#167:) I bless your blade that it bleed him (:#167): (#165; #164) for just as he broke every oath he swore, this man has now forsworn himself!

Vassals: (in utter turmoil) Help, Donner! Let your tempest roar (#150 vari:) to silence this raging disgrace (:#150 vari)! (#19 vari &/or #20a?)

Siegfried: Gunther! (#150 vari >> :) Stop your wife from shamelessly bringing dishonour upon you (:#150 vari)! Grant the wild mountain woman a moment’s respite and rest that her brazen rage may abate, which a demon’s cunning craft [“Unhold’s arge List”] has roused against us all! You vassals, withdraw and leave this women’s wrangling! (#36 vari:) Like cowards we gladly give ground when it comes to a battle of tongues (:#36 vari).

(He goes right up to Gunther: #33b)

Siegfried: (#33a:; #42 >>:) Believe me, it angers me more than you that I took her in so badly: (#33b) I almost think that the Tarnhelm must have only half concealed me. (#19 frag: [lyrical vari]) But women’s resentment (#37 frag:) quickly passes (:#19; :#37): (#59 >>:) that I won her for you (:#59) (#150 >>:) the woman will surely be thankful yet (:#150).

Bruennhilde’s rage against Siegfried is, on the surface, merely the rage of the spurned woman, but what the accompanying motifs here tell us is that the deepest source of Bruennhilde’s rage is the fact that Siegfried, to whom she had imparted Wotan’s unspoken secret in trust, in betraying her by giving her away to another man (Gunther, Wagner’s metaphor for the artist-hero Siegfried’s audience), has betrayed Wotan’s unspoken secret, represented by Motif #150, to the light of day. Bruennhilde’s former role as a surrogate Rhine, a role now lost to her thanks to Siegfried’s betrayal of her former function as his unconscious mind and temporary protection from the wounds of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, is represented by the Rhinedaughters’ Lament for their lost gold #59a. Just as the gods called upon Donner to sweep away the taint of disgrace in the corrupt manner in which Wotan secured the gods’ rule in Valhalla, in the finale of R.4 when #59 was introduced, so the Gibichungs call upon Donner to silence this raging disgrace as we hear Motif #150 and Motif #59a. Curiously, just after Siegfried has speculatively invoked a “demon’s cunning craft” as the explanation for this disgrace, we hear a motif initially associated with Loge in R.2 when Wotan said that Loge’s advice is best when he delays giving it (his primary advice had been to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters), Motif #36. Is Loge, mankind’s artistic gift of self-deceit, this demon?

It was also Loge (man’s gift of artistic self-deceit) who lured Wotan to posit godhead and to construct the realm of the gods Valhalla on a corrupt basis of self-deceit in the first place, so perhaps Siegfried and Bruennhilde are both invoking Loge as the ultimate cause of their problems, just as Wotan blamed Loge for luring him into the pickle in which the gods found themselves in R.2.


Bruennhilde: (wholly absorbed in her thoughts: #164:) What demon’s art [“Unhold’s List”] lies (#87:) hidden here (:#87)? (#167) (#164:) What store of magic (#87:) stirred this up (:#164; :#87)? (#87) Where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? (#87) Where are my runes against this riddle? (#87) Ah, (#5:) sorrow! Sorrow (:#5)! (#5:) Woe! (#5:) Ah woe (:#5)! (#134:) All my wisdom I gave to him: (#150) (#150 varis:) in his power he holds the maid; in his bonds he holds the booty which, sorrowing for her shame, the rich man exultantly gave away (:#150 varis) (#164)

As Bruennhilde, alone, takes up Siegfried’s accusation against this demon’s art as the cause of their troubles, we hear motifs #164 again, but also Motif #87, the Fate Motif. Again, Wotan had told Bruennhilde in his confession to her that the gods’ end was fated, and that his hope for a free hero who could redeem the gods was also fated to destruction. This is the knowledge, represented now by Motif #150 (which stands for the hoard of runes Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde and which she in turn imparted to Siegfried), for which Bruennhilde has been the trustee and repository since Wotan confessed it to her. As Bruennhilde asks where her wisdom is against her bewilderment, the runes against this riddle, we hear the Fate Motif #87. But then Bruennhilde has a revelation of the answer. As we hear Motif #134, the so-called World-Inheritance Motif to which Wotan told Erda that he no longer feared the gods’ end since all that he valued would live on in his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde, whose love (inspiration, upon waking, of Siegfried’s redemptive work of art) would bring Alberich’s Ring curse to an end, and which Bruennhilde identified with both Wotan’s thought and Siegfried’s love for her, and as we hear Motif #150 (representing Wotan’s runes which Bruennhilde had imparted to Siegfried but which left Siegfried untaught, since Siegfried’s unconscious mind Bruennhilde has known this for Siegfried so he would be protected from the price of knowing it consciously), Bruennhilde cries out in despair “All my wisdom I gave to him: in his power he holds the maid; in his bonds he holds the booty which, sorrowing for her shame, the rich man exultantly gave away.” This booty is the Nibelung Hoard, now embodied by Alberich’s Ring, in its sense as a hoard of knowledge, which is conflated with the Hoard of runes which Erda imparted to Wotan, he imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession, and which Bruennhilde imparted to Siegfried to inspire him to undertake new adventures (of redemptive art).


Hagen: (#173:) Would not his false oath mark him out for my spear (:#173)?

Bruennhilde: (#15 vari:) Oaths true or false – an idle concern (:15 vari)! (#92) (#15 vari >>:) Seek stronger means to arm your spear if you’d best the strongest of men (:#15 vari) (#167)

Hagen: How well do I know his conquering strength, how hard it would be to kill him in battle: (#33a>>:) so whisper me sound advice and say how the hero may yield to my might (:#33a>>).

Bruennhilde: O rank ingratitude! Shameful reward [“Lohn”]! ((#@: d or e?) = #150 vari/#15 vari: [spectacularly expressive music!!!]) Not a single art [“Kunst”] was known to me (:(#@: d or e?) = #150 vari/#15 vari) that did not help to keep his body safe! (#141 vari>>:) Unknown to him, he was tamed by my magic spells (:#141 vari) which ward him now against wounds.

Hagen: (#173 vari:) And so no weapon can harm him (:#173 vari)? (#167)

Bruennhilde: In battle, no! (#50>>: [did Dunning intend to place #150 vari here?]) but – if you struck him in the back (:#50 [or perhaps #150 vari?]). (#15/#150 vari = (#@: d or e?:) [the spectacularly expressive music from Bruennhilde’s remark above: “Not a single art was known to me … .”]) Never, I knew (:#15/#150 vari = (#@: d or e?)), (#92:) would he yield to a foe, (#92:; #15 vari:) never, fleeing, present his back (:#92); (#57) (#150/#15 vari = (#@: d or e?:) [from Bruennhilde’s remark: “Not a single art was known to me … .”]) so I spared it the spell’s protection (:#150/#15 vari = (#@: d or e?). (#141 frag; #150 vari)

Hagen: (#164::) And there my spear shall strike him (:#164)!

Oaths true or false are an idle concern for the artist-hero Siegfried because his musically transfigured art is not subject to the debate between truth and falsehood (science vs. religion), since its music redeems it from conceptual knowledge of the world subject to time, space, and causation. For Bruennhilde’s art, her magic spells (i.e., her unconscious inspiration of his art) have, unknown to him (unconscious for him) kept his body safe. This remark is accompanied by an extraordinarily expressive motival synthesis of #150 and #15 which is effectively a new motif, associated here with the notion that Bruennhilde has, up until now (when Siegfried has betrayed the secrets of his unconscious mind Bruennhilde to consciousness, and therefore lost the redemptive virtue of his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration) protected Siegfried from the wounds of consciousness, from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, whose power she had kept safe until Siegfried forcibly took possession of it from her. In other words, thanks to Bruennhilde, Wotan’s hoard of runes represented by #150 has been, up until now, figuratively restored to the pristine innocence of the Pre-Fall Rhinegold represented by Motif #15. To Motif #141 Bruennhilde says her magic, unknown to him, protected protected him wounds. Motif #141 was first associated in S.3.3 with the notion that Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s self, who knows for him what he doesn’t know (his true identity as Wotan reborn minus consciousness of his true identity).

Accompanied by this same array of motifs Bruennhilde declares that her magic had protected Siegfried only at the front from wounds, but that Hagen can pierce him in the back with his spear, where Siegfried is vulnerable. The symbolism of her remark is the following: thanks to the fact that Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, knows for Siegfried Wotan’s hoard of knowledge of the inevitable twilight of the gods which Erda had imparted to him, fearful foresight of which paralyzed Wotan into inaction, Siegfried has been protected from Wotan’s fearful foresight of the end, and was able to fearlessly but unwittingly act in Wotan’s behalf. Thanks to Bruennhilde Siegfried is a fearless hero who doesn’t know himself. But Wotan had repressed his knowledge of his guilty past and fearful future into Bruennhilde during his confession to her. Should Siegfried wake this repressed knowledge, this repressed memory of Wotan’s past, which can only happen if Siegfried betrays his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration and her secrets to the light of conscious, waking day, then Siegfried can be stabbed, from behind, by a memory. And note, Hagen’s spear of revenge and atonement for lying is embodied here by Motif #164, which as I said before can be traced back to Motif #137, from there to Motif #81, and from there ultimately to the Motif of Wotan’s Spear #21. Hagen’s spear is a substitute for Wotan’s spear of divine authority and law, whose contradictions finally catch up with Wotan in his proxy and reincarnate self Siegfried, and stabs him in the back for breaking his own law, in the person of Hagen.

Keep in mind also that Wagner very deliberately conceived of Bruennhilde as a sort of Prometheus Bound, who held knowledge of the inevitable end of the gods of Olympus, gods who would be brought down by the mortal hero Herakles (whom Wagner compared with Siegfried), and who was punished by Zeus for aiding mortal man against the law of the gods, just as Bruennhilde did. “Prometheus” means foresight or foreknowledge in Greek, but, just like Bruennhilde, it is said in “Prometheus Bound” that thanks to Prometheus mankind ceased to foresee death, which is a figurative way of saying that man’s unique ability to foresee his inevitable death inspired man not only to invent those sciences through which he can forestall death for a time, but also to involuntarily invent the gods, in whom man can imagine himself immortal and freed from death and the fear of the end, and ultimately inspired secular man to create redemptive art as a substitute for lost religion. As Wagner himself said, when god had to leave us he left us, in remembrance of him, music. Let me add also that Bruennhilde in V.3.3 told Wotan that in wartime she guards his back, but here she tells Hagen and Gunther that she protected Siegfried, unbeknownst to him, with her magic (#150/#15) only at the front because he would never in fear turn his back on the enemy. It is Bruennhilde who protects Siegfried from Wotan's unhealing wound of foresight of the end.
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