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The Valkyrie: Page 436
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wakes her. #95, which Allen Dunning suggests is likely a combination of #88 (representing the martyrdom of the heroes whom the Valkyries inspire) and #92, Siegfried’s motif, is associated here with the Valkyries’ and Bruennhilde’s horror at the thought that the once divine, chaste maid will now become the object of a mortal man’s desire. #88 and #92 are both, of course, part of that family of heroic motifs rising out of the last three notes of #53 (Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, which is the source of Wotan’s fear of the end), which also includes the Valkyries’ Motif #77, and #71, the motif representing the tragic fate of Wotan’s Waelsung heroes, whose sole purpose in life, unbeknownst to them, is to protect man’s religious heritage, Valhalla, from the truth contained in Erda’s knowledge. Another way of understanding the Valkyries’ horror at Bruennhilde’s punishment is that, for the first time, a mortal man will have uncensored access to Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge, hidden in his wish-womb Bruennhilde. They don’t grasp that the artist-hero must draw upon the forbidden knowledge Wotan fears, in order to obtain inspiration for his art, which is man’s preferred substitute for it. What Wotan (religious man) fears, will actually become an incentive for the artist-hero, what the religious man taboos become his object of desire. Wotan’s fear and longing for objective power will thus be transformed into love.

But what appears to be Bruennhilde’s punishment is actually a necessary precondition to the redemption which Wotan hopes Bruennhilde’s union with an artist-hero will bring to pass. Siegfried’s sexual access to the formerly chaste Valkyrie Bruennhilde is symbolic of the Feuerbachian notion that religious man deceives himself thinking he can renounce nature and his body and forsake the real physical world for a spiritual world in which he can be redeemed from reality: in point of fact, Feuerbach says, the utopia to which the religiously faithful aspire is nothing more than the physical world they’ve renounced, reconceived by the imagination as freed from contradiction, pain, and death, in which the bliss of life can exist unencumbered by life’s anguish, forever. The retreat from religious belief to secular art acknowledges this fact, which religious man had suppressed.

A third new motif is introduced only in embryonic form, #96a, as Wotan threatens to place Bruennhilde under a spell in order to put her to sleep so she can wake for – and belong to – any man who finds her. #96a is the basis for one of the most exalted motifs of the Ring, first heard in a more developed form (#96b) in V.3.3, when Bruennhilde strives to persuade Wotan either to relent and not leave her vulnerable, asleep on the mountaintop, or, if that must be, to insure that only a worthy hero win her hand. As we’ll see, it is, as demonstrated by Cooke, based upon a baroque transformation of #81, the Motif of Wotan’s Frustration in finding a truly free hero, which is based in turn on #21, the Spear Motif. Cooke’s reading is astute: by musically softening the sharp-edged #81 during her appeal to Wotan’s mercy, Bruennhilde effectively blunts the categorical authority of Wotan’s spear and its law in favor of her prospective love for the free hero Siegfried.

Wotan closes this scene by warning Bruennhilde’s eight Valkyrie sisters to avoid this crag and never to help their sister, lest they share Bruennhilde’s fate. This is reminiscent of Zeus’s punishment of Prometheus (foreknowledge) for stealing the Olympian Gods’ divine gift of fire and privilege of foresight, and granting it to mortal man. Zeus pins Prometheus to a high rock, leaving him vulnerable to a vulture which will eat his liver without rest, thereby condemning him to suffer from an unhealing wound, and an inability to escape his suffering through death. Hermes (Zeus’s spokesman), like Wotan, warns that anyone who tries to intervene and help Prometheus will share his fate. But Prometheus possesses fateful foreknowledge - granted to him by his mother, the Titan

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