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The Rhinegold: Page 231
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because, as Alberich will point out shortly, Wotan has no intention of restoring the Ring to them, and furthermore, as Loge implied, unlike Alberich, Wotan didn’t have the courage to make the sacrifice Alberich made to obtain it. However, as I will explain momentarily, Wotan will in a figurative sense restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters long before its actual restoration to them in the finale of Twilight of the Gods.

This fragmentary premonition of the definitive motif #58ab anticipates, as I said, Wotan’s salute to the gods’ abode Valhalla near the end of The Rhinegold, when he sings: “(#58a) Thus I salute the fortress, (#58b) safe from dread and dismay.” Cooke demonstrated that #58b is heard again quite often during the unfolding of the Ring drama, especially (as it does in this first instance, for the Sword Motif #57 is heard both before and after the introduction of the definitive version of #58ab in R.4) in association with Wotan’s manufacture of the sword (Nothung), which will be wielded by the race of Waelsung heroes to whom Wotan looks to redeem the gods from Alberich’s threat. #58b will also evolve, Cooke noted, into another motif, #79, associated with Wotan’s wife Fricka’s warning that the lawlessness of the heroes to whom Wotan looks for redemption are placing the gods’ rule in Valhalla at risk. It is ironic, then, that Wotan produces this race of heroes precisely in order to protect his refuge, Valhalla, from the dread and dismay caused by Alberich’s curse.

What then is the significance of #58b’s being first heard here in embryonic form as Wotan protests Alberich’s right to claim the Ring, on the plausible argument that the gold from which Alberich forged it belonged to the Rhinedaughters, when Wotan himself has no intent to restore it to them? It must, one would suppose, have something to do with the fact that Alberich’s Ring (#19), and the sacrifice he made, his renunciation of love, in order to forge it and obtain its power, gave birth to the gods’ abode Valhalla (#20a). It must have something to do with the fact that Wotan would never have sought redemption in the restoration of lost innocence if Alberich had not precipitated man’s “Fall” in the first place.

Valhalla is of course the fortress Wotan hopes will provide the gods - who have co-opted Alberich’s Ring power - a refuge from Alberich’s threat to employ the Ring to overthrow the gods’ rule. Since Wotan is Light-Alberich, when Wotan co-opts Alberich’s Ring power, the Ring in a certain sense remains in Alberich’s hands. And it is also certain that the gods’ debt to Alberich for the role his Ring played in creating Valhalla, and the role his Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard will soon play in paying the debt the gods owe the Giants for building Valhalla, of itself undermines the security of that refuge from Alberich’s Ring power which was created in the first place by virtue of that very power. That is, in both instances egoism is at the root of their quest for power, both Alberich’s worldly and Wotan’s allegedly spiritual power, the only difference being that Alberich has the courage of his convictions and willingly admits he is driven solely by loveless egoism (which is why he alone is truly worthy of the Ring’s full, objective power), whereas Wotan can only abide the Ring (loathsome egoism) in its sublimated form as the noble abode of the gods (and the foundation of man’s idealism), Valhalla. In other words, Wotan can possess and use the Ring’s power in dilute form, but he is unworthy of it, because he can’t bear to pay the full price of possessing the truth, the acknowledgment that loveless egoism rules the world. He can only tolerate the Ring’s power (loveless egoism) when it is disguised as religious faith. Thus we have one plausible, though roundabout, justification for the presence here of the embryo for #58b.

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