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The Rhinegold: Page 232
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Though Wotan invokes the Rhinedaughters’ supposed right to Alberich’s Ring (even though Alberich willingly paid the price they demanded of him for the privilege of forging it, the renunciation of love), Wotan has no intention of returning it to them, except in a figurative sense which I will explain here. In Siegfried, both Wotan’s grandson Siegfried - in whom Wotan is virtually reborn - and his daughter Bruennhilde will figuratively recreate Valhalla, producing a new Valhalla, a new religious faith, through their loving union (Wagner’s metaphor for the artist-hero Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde). The rebirth of man’s waning religious faith (belief in the gods of Valhalla) in secular art, particularly Wagner’s special art, the music-drama, is central to the plot of the Ring. Furthermore, when Siegfried gives Bruennhilde Alberich’s Ring so that she can keep its power safe, Bruennhilde will temporarily redeem Siegfried from the curse on Alberich’s Ring and in this way become a sort of surrogate for the Rhinedaughters, who alone can redeem the world from the weight of Alberich’s curse by dissolving the Ring in the Rhine’s purifying waters. Thus in a sense Wotan’s invocation of the Rhinedaughters’ right to the Ring has a figurative value.

[R.4: B]

As we might have anticipated, Alberich is on to Wotan’s hypocrisy. He notes with bitterness that Wotan, intending to co-opt Alberich’s Ring and its power, not only has motives no more noble than those which impelled Alberich to forge the Ring in the first place, but what is worse, Wotan hypocritically has drawn advantage from Alberich’s sacrifice, his renunciation of love, so that Wotan can, Alberich fears, employ the power of Alberich’s Ring without paying Alberich’s price:

 

Alberich: (#5 vari?:) Disgraceful trickery! Shameless deceit (:#5 vari?)! You upbraid me, you crook, for the wrong you so fondly desired? (#7) (#19:) How glad you’d have been to have robbed the gold from the Rhine (:#19), were the skill to forge it so lightly gained! How lucky for you, you smooth-tongued god, that I, the Nibelung, from shameful necessity [“Noth”], slave to my anger, mastered the fearful magic whose work now smiles so gaily upon you. (#19 varis:; #5 varis:) Shall the curse-heavy, harrowing deed of the hapless, fearstricken dwarf serve haply to gain you a princely toy? Shall my curse redound to your joy? – (#19)

Froh was the first to suggest that since Alberich had already renounced love to forge the Ring, the gods could take advantage of his sacrifice and win his Ring and its power without renouncing love. And of course, this had in a sense already transpired in the sublimation of Alberich’s Ring (#19), forged by him in the nightmarish realm of darkness, Nibelheim, into Wotan’s waking dream Valhalla (#20a). For though Wotan seemed to be emulating Alberich’s willingness to renounce love for the sake of the Ring’s power, by making a contract with the Giants to pay them the goddess of divine love and immortality in exchange for building the bastion of the gods’ power, Valhalla, Wotan made this deal only because Loge promised Wotan would never actually have to renounce Freia for Valhalla’s sake, since Loge intended to offer a payment to the Giants as a substitute for Freia which they would regard as of far greater value. In the end, however, the Giants, representing

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