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The Valkyrie: Page 301
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Sieglinde: But stranger, tell us more: where is your father now?

 

Siegmund: the Neidings launched a fierce onslaught against us: full many a huntsman fell to the wolves, in flight through the forest their quarry drove them: like chaff our foe was scattered. but I from my father was parted; the longer I searched, the more I lost his trail; a wolfskin was all that I found in the forest: empty it lay there before me, my father I could not find (#20a [with great emphasis!])

This passage introduces Hunding and his impressive motif #67, which may contain a glissando stemming from the Giants’ motif #26a, indicating a link between Hunding’s brutish, egoistic nature, and the Giants as metaphors for our egoistic instincts of self-preservation and desire. We also hear the motif #68, often called “Hunding’s Rights Motif,” associated with Hunding’s warning to Siegmund to honor the sacredness of Hunding’s hearth and home, by which of course he means his wife Sieglinde. Cooke demonstrated that #68 is based on #19’s chord. #68 therefore expresses “power” and “possession” as found in the honor of name, status, family, clan, unthinking obedience to the laws of the gods, etc. Cooke showed how it will later (in Twilight of the Gods) transform into #159, associated with an oath which Siegfried (Siegmund’s son) and his new blood-brother Gunther swear, that they will exact vengeance on anyone who dishonors the bond of the blood-brothers.

Again Wagner’s irony comes into play: Siegmund narrates the tale of how he lost his mother and sister to the predations of the Neidings (i.e., the envious ones) who, as we’ll see later, actually abducted Siegmund’s twin sister Sieglinde in her early youth and sold her in forced marriage to Hunding, a fact indicated motivally here by the presence of Hunding’s Motif #67 as we hear Siegmund’s description of the death of his mother and presumed death of his twin-sister Sieglinde. Therefore it is Siegmund and Sieglinde who are the honorable ones, Hunding and his minions merely unthinking and unfeeling slaves to the system, who have, one might say, learned to “play the game” to get along, while Siegmund is instinctively incapable of doing this. Wagner offers a vivid description of Hunding’s and the Neidings’ mindset in his following comparison between established society, and the individual who strives for freedom from society’s restrictions:

[P. 179] “The life-bent of the Individual utters itself forever newly and directly, but the essence of Society is use and wont and its ‘view’ a mediated one. Wherefore the ‘view’ of Society, so long as it does not fully comprehend the essence of the Individual and its own genesis therefrom, is a hindering and shackling one; and it becomes ever more tyrannical, in exact degree as the quickening and innovating essence of the Individual brings its instinctive thrust to battle against habit. (…) … Society appears as the conscious, the capricious (Willkuerliche), the true thing to be explained and exculpated.” [500W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 179-180]

One of the most moving examples of Wagner’s motifs of reminiscence is the sounding of the Valhalla Motif’s first segment #20a in the orchestra after Siegmund tells how he lost track of his father Wolfe in the forest after a battle with the Neidings. Wolfe is of course Wotan in disguise. It was while visiting the world of mortal men that Wotan fathered the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde

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