A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
The Valkyrie: Page 323
Go back a page
323
Go forward a page

hero with a social conscience inspired by love, is to live rather than die. Siegmund is to redeem the gods from the end Erda foresaw, during his life, rather than solely through a legacy of remembrance he leaves behind after death.

The reason for this is that, during the mytho-poetic phase of human history, when religious illusion was the primary source of value and of knowledge, faith could not be openly, consciously questioned, and when it was questioned by reformers (who often wished merely to return to purer, holier times) they were often martyred as threats to the establishment. But as the Ring drama proceeds we are approaching that phase of human history during which individual men and women of genius gradually emancipated themselves from what had been regarded as divine authority, and with the eventual acceptance of individualism and originality as a value, a culture-hero could make a signal contribution to civilization and be honored for it rather than martyred as a potential (or real) threat. Thus Wotan (who though he represents godhead, is also Feuerbach’s collective, historical man), presumably for the first time, will let his chosen hero fight for Valhalla’s survival in life rather than after death.

Bruennhilde warns Wotan that Wotan’s wife Fricka draws near, madly whipping the rams (symbols of stubbornness) who draw her chariot ever closer. Some of the music portraying Fricka’s progress in her chariot is reminiscent of music heard in association with Alberich earlier, such as #5 and a #41 Variant, and we’re reminded that he whipped his fellow Nibelungs. Wagner is drawing a telling parallel between Fricka’s current anger at what she regards as the illicit Waelsung twins’ affront to the gods’ dignity and their loyal minion Hunding’s honor, and their insult to the society established under the gods’ rule, and Alberich’s power-lust. Both represent Wagner’s concept of “possession” in different senses. Fricka is coming to compel Wotan to exact the gods’ vengeance upon the Waelsung twins for breaking the divine the laws against adultery and incest and eloping to carry on their illicit love. Like Alberich, Fricka, as a symbol for Wotan’s (religious man’s) conservatism, is now aligned with the forces which are inimical to the free expression of feeling, self-expression, subjective creativity, loving kindness and affection, and individual conscience.

Wotan, who favors the Waelsungs and brought Siegmund up expressly to challenge the gods’ rule, complains - accompanied by a new motif #79 - that the same old storm and strife approaches. #79 is based on #58b, which was introduced in R.4 as Wotan saluted the fortress Valhalla, saying it will protect the gods from dread and dismay. We should recall also that it was to this motif that Siegmund sang how desperate he was to obtain the sword, now christened “Nothung” by Siegmund, which his father Waelse (Wotan) had promised him in his time of need, or “Noth.” Nothung represents the need for love in a loveless world, the need for a refuge from the bitter truth. As we will soon learn, Fricka is terribly concerned that the rule of the gods is actually threatened by the lawless behavior of the Waelsung twins Wotan spawned, ironically, with the sole purpose that they will redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on the Ring. Therefore #58b, in its new incarnation as #79, expresses the ambiguity that though both Fricka and Wotan seek to preserve Valhalla, Fricka’s insistence on the infallibility and eternal truth of the gods’ laws will insure Valhalla’s destruction. Wotan knows better: he knows the only way for the gods to survive is to break divine law and breach faith, by acknowledging mortal man as the author of the gods’ divinity, so mortal man can take responsibility for him-and-her-self. Because Alberich’s victory over the gods is predestined, Wotan can only redeem the essence of religion through his Waelsung heroes. But Fricka, faith’s conscience, can’t afford to admit this.

Go back a page
323
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.