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The Rhinegold: Page 139
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seeped out from under its roots. Cooke noted the underlying similarity of these two seminal events. [Cooke: P. 146-149]

Since, when we first see the gods Wotan and Fricka, they are asleep, but evidently have previously been involved in negotiations with the Giants to get them to agree to a contract to build the gods’ abode Valhalla, it appears the gods have had a long prior existence, presumably even long before Alberich stole the Rhinegold and forged a Ring from it. The subject of their origin is never broached in the Ring, but it is made quite clear that they are immortal, though their immortality is contingent. However, there is no definitive evidence that the gods existed prior to Alberich’s theft of the Rhinegold. There are, in fact, many reasons for taking Alberich’s theft of the Rhinegold and forging of the Ring as the truly primal act which set in motion all the other actions described in the Ring, including not only Wotan’s contract with the giants to build Valhalla, but even his breaking a branch off of the World-Ash to make the Spear which is the symbol and enforcer of his authority.

Warren Darcy, for instance, distinguished R.1, the opening scene of The Rhinegold during which Alberich steals the Rhinegold, from all the other scenes in the Ring, as standing outside of the time-frame of the rest of the drama. [Darcy: P. 87]

For not only does Alberich’s Ring (#19) give musical birth to Wotan’s heavenly abode Valhalla (#20a), but Wotan in S.1.2 describes himself to Mime as “Light-Alberich.” Since Alberich is also described on at least one occasion as Dark-Alberich, it might appear Alberich and Wotan are two sides of the same coin, two aspects, dark and light, of the same personality. Now some scholars argue that this distinction reflects nothing more than Wagner’s reference to Teutonic and Norse myth, in which Alberich would be Lord of the dark elves (Nibelungs), and Wotan Lord of the light elves (gods). On this view, the name “Alberich” is construed as “Elf-Lord,” Albe being “elf,” and “reich,” the German word for kingdom, implying that this elf rules a kingdom, a kingdom of elves, dark or light as the case may be. A key problem with this reading is that Alberich alone possesses the generic name “Alberich.” Alberich is never called, for instance, “Dark-Wotan,” but Wotan calls himself “Light-Alberich.” The fact that Alberich alone possesses and holds the name for Elf-Lord in general, suggests that Alberich is in a sense Lord of all the elves, both dark and light. In my interpretation it is not so much that he is lord of all the elves, both Nibelungs and gods, but that he is the precondition necessary for the creation of the gods, Wotan in particular. The reason for this I provided in our prior discussion of the influence of the very nature of the mind itself (of which Alberich’s Ring is the symbol) on the invention of the concept of Godhead.

Both Feuerbach and Wagner provide impressive evidence for our reading. Feuerbach, for instance, describes the oldest god as physical need (which we can safely construe as Alberich in his quest for worldly power), which he says is both before and behind the ethical and spiritual god, which in the Ring is obviously represented by Wotan:

[P. 294] “… man’s first god is need, and specifically physical need … . (…)

[P. 295] … the first and oldest God, the God before and behind the ethical and spiritual God is the physical God … . (…) This makes it clear that the abstract concept ‘being’ has flesh and blood, truth and reality, only in nature and that consequently, just as being precedes wisdom and goodness, so the physical God precedes the spiritual and the ethical God … .” [322F-LER: p. 294-295]

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