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The Valkyrie: Page 341
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revenge upon themselves through their own actions). Finally, #47 accompanies Alberich in R.3 when he warns Wotan that he’ll force his lust upon the gods’ women. Alberich’s threat foreshadows Siegfried’s forcing himself, under the influence of Alberich’s son Hagen, upon Bruennhilde and stealing the Ring from her. The last three notes of #53 which brings up the rear of this compound motif remind us of Erda’s knowledge that all things end, and that the gods themselves will come to an end. If one were to sum up the range of meaning of this compound motif, it would be that Wotan has become aware not only of the inevitability of Alberich’s victory (and therefore of the fact that Alberich stands for the truth, while the gods depend upon illusion), but of the ironic role that Wotan and his heroes will necessarily play in bringing about their own demise in their futile attempt to thwart Alberich’s curse, and the tragic pathos engendered by this irony.

As Cooke pointed out, the other motivic elements at work here in this intense, compact passage, include #51, a motif which identifies Alberich’s curse on his Ring, a curse whose intent is to force the gods to pay the same price Alberich did, of lovelessness, in exchange for the power of the Ring. Then there is the tragic version of the main love motif, #40, influenced by the Ring’s (#19’s) harmony, first heard in definitive form during Wotan’s and Loge’s descent to Nibelheim during R.2-R.3, which, as Cooke said, conveys the notion that love is missing from Alberich’s world, that lovelessness is the necessary cost of possessing the Ring’s power. As Wotan exclaims “Gods’ Noth,” we hear #79, associated in V.2.1 with Fricka’s accusation that the Waelsung lawlessness which Wotan has encouraged (but only so they might redeem the gods from the trap which the gods unwittingly set for themselves), will bring about the end of the gods. #79 is of course based on #58b, the motif Wotan sang as he contemplated his grand idea that his Waelsung heroes would preserve Valhalla’s gods from the dread and dismay caused by Erda’s prophecy of the god’s doom at Alberich’s hands. And last, we hear #37, often called the “Loveless Motif” because it stems from #18, the so-called “Renunciation of Love Motif,” as Wotan says he’s the saddest of all living things. These motival references draw to mind, at least subliminally, the universal, tragic implications of all that has come before, and Wotan’s desperate situation, which is the inevitable culmination of all that has come before.

There is no more important passage in the Ring than Wotan’s confession, to which this explosive passage acts as prelude, since Bruennhilde’s request that Wotan explain his despair prompts his confession to her. To grasp its secrets we will examine its elements in detail one at a time. Let’s begin by looking at Wotan’s conundrum: he tells Bruennhilde that he, the God, unlike the God of the human imagination who is the sole truly free spirit, autonomous even in respect of the whole cosmos, is the unfreest of men, caught in the fetters of his own law which compels him to banish, disavow, punish, and perhaps ultimately destroy those free individuals to whom he had looked for redemption from Alberich’s curse. To fully grasp the irony of his position, note Feuerbach’s remark below that the very definition of a God is someone who can make, and unmake, his own laws:

“ … just as a prince proves he is a true ruler only by his ability to make and unmake laws, so a God can only prove His divinity by His power to abolish laws, or at least to suspend them temporarily when the situation demands. The only proof that He has made the laws is that He also unmakes them. And such proof is provided by miracles.” [292F-LER: p. 241]

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