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The Valkyrie: Page 315
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In the following passage, previously cited, Wagner provides the conceptual justification for our reading of Wagner’s employment of #18 to express Siegmund’s acceptance of the tragic destiny which is the consequence of taking possession of Wotan’s sword Nothung and wedding Siegmund’s sister Sieglinde with it. It is the notion that the Waelsung heroes are in the greatest need of love in the loveless world produced by Alberich’s forging of his Ring and renunciation of love, a loveless world perpetuated in a different way by the gods’ alleged refuge from Alberich’s abhorrent knowledge of the truth, Valhalla (#20a), the sublimation of Alberich’s Ring (#19):

[P. 284] “I have succeeded in viewing natural and historical phenomena with love and with total impartiality as regards their true essence, and I have noticed nothing amiss except for – lovelessness [#18]. – But even this lovelessness I was able to explain as an aberration … which must inevitably lead us away from our state of natural unawareness towards a knowledge of the uniquely beautiful necessity of love; to acquire this knowledge by active striving is the task of world history; but the stage on which this knowledge will one day act out its role is none other than the earth and nature herself [Erda, whose umbilical-nest is Alberich’s Nibelheim, and whose knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, Alberich affirms, and Wotan renounces], which is the seed-bed of all that will lead us to this blissful knowledge.” [597W-{4/13/53}Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 284]

Siegmund has forcibly removed his birthright from Hunding’s house-ash, the sword Wotan left for him, thereby severing the Waelsung race symbolically from all dependence on Wotan’s divine authority embodied in the Spear, which is embodied by the house-ash which sustains Hunding’s habitation and life. This is the spear – as Erda’s daughters the Norns will tell us in T.P- made from the most sacred branch of the once living World-Ash tree, which is now, like the Spear whose removal fatally wounded it, merely dead wood.

Sieglinde’s ecstatic response as Siegmund pulls Nothung from Hunding’s House-Ash can of course quite easily and appropriately be given a phallic reading. This is not a strained interpretation: Wagner will later, both in explicit sexual imagery during Siegfried’s re-forging of Nothung in S.1.3, and in Bruennhilde’s chastisement of Siegfried in T.2.4 for denying his prior sexual involvement with her (by invoking his sword, i.e., Siegfried’s phallus, and its sheath, i.e., Bruennhilde’s vagina), link Nothung (natural necessity) with the penis. But Wagner’s sexual metaphor here does not represent carnal or even romantic love, but rather, the unconscious mind’s (i.e., the female muse’s) inspiration of the moral hero or artistic genius.

Both Feuerbach and Wagner provide persuasive evidence for this reading of Nothung as Wagner’s metaphor for the natural necessity, or creativity, of nature, symbolized in Wagner’s music-dramas by the loving union of hero with heroine, which the moral hero (Siegmund) and the artist-hero (Siegfried) embody. There is an extensive series of extracts from Wagner’s writings, most of which I will not reproduce here since many of them will be introduced at more appropriate points in this study, which show beyond doubt that for him sexual union between the heroes and heroines in his music-dramas was his chosen metaphor for the unconscious artistic inspiration of his hero by his muse, and which also prove that Wagner traced artistic creativity back to “natural necessity,” as Feuerbach described it. But Wagner also traced that other – for him antithetical – form of creativity, scientific discovery and the advancement of knowledge, as exemplified by Alberich’s and Wotan’s accumulation of their hoards of treasure and knowledge, respectively, back to natural necessity as

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