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The Valkyrie: Page 437
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Themis - of the Olympian Gods’ predestined doom, and how to avert that doom. The Olympian gods’ predestined doom is the consequence of the curse of the Titan Cronos - i.e., time, Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be - on the Olympian gods who overthrew the Titans, usurping their power. [Prometheus Bound – from ‘The Complete Greek Drama’: p. 152-156] This is a model for Alberich’s cursing his Ring in vengeance against the Valhallan gods for usurping his rightful power. In Aeschylus’s Prometheus we find a model for Bruennhilde, who possesses knowledge inherited from her mother Erda - and repressed into Bruennhilde by Wotan during his confession to her - of the gods’ predestined end which Erda foretold, and who also, again like Prometheus, knows how the gods can allay their fear of this doom.

Having broached the remarkable influence of the Greek tragedy, Prometheus Bound (attributed to Aeschylus), on Wagner’s Ring plot, it seems appropriate, before moving on to our final scene of The Valkyrie (during which Wotan, like Zeus, will figuratively martyr mortal man’s savior from the gods’ wrath, to punish her for disobedience to the gods), to record some other striking similarities between these two great artworks, which provide further evidence for our overriding thesis that the Ring can best be construed as one single, coherent narrative, of immense dramatic force and unity. For it is clear that just as Wotan is to some extent modeled on Zeus, Fricka on Zeus’s wife Hera, and Bruennhilde on both Prometheus and Athena (the latter referencing the influence of Aeschylus’s Oresteia), Siegfried is partly modeled on Herakles. According to Prometheus himself, Herakles, Wotan’s mortal son, will some day liberate Prometheus and overthrow those very gods who brought Herakles into the world in the first place to serve them. Speaking of Zeus, Prometheus tells his lackey Hermes: “A mighty wrestler he is preparing against himself, an irresistible champion, … who shall break in pieces that sea-scourge and shaker of the earth, the trident-spear of Poseidon. And Zeus, broken on this rock, shall learn how far apart it is to rule and be a slave.” [Prometheus Bound – from ‘The Complete Greek Drama’: p. 153] Prometheus’ description of Herakles is echoed in Wotan’s description of that hero, who alone can free the gods from Alberich’s curse, as Wotan’s friendly foe, and Herakles breaking the god Poseidon’s Trident to give expression to his emancipation from the gods’ rule, is undoubtedly a basis for Siegfried’s breaking of Wotan’s spear in S.3.2.

Because Bruennhilde possesses Wotan’s forbidden hoard of knowledge of the gods’ predestined end, and waking it, making it conscious, risks bringing this prophecy to fulfillment, Wotan can’t afford to leave Bruennhilde vulnerable to being woken by just any man, perhaps an unworthy, inartistic, uninspired man who chances along. He requires a hero who will do, of his own nature, spontaneously, what Wotan requires, i.e., an artist who will act subliminally on collective man’s religious impulse to posit man’s transcendent value, but in an artistic form which won’t be subject to Alberich’s curse of consciousness. That is, Wotan’s hero must somehow preserve the religious mysteries of Valhalla, and never expose their hidden contradictions to the light of day where Alberich, or his proxy Hagen, would employ this knowledge to the gods’ (religion’s) dismay and destruction.

One other point of motival interest is that we hear a free variant of either #47 or its relative #82 on cellos as Wotan tells the Valkyries that Bruennhilde’s maidenly flower will fade for the hero who wakes her and wins her favors, and that she will be subject to unbearable humiliation. In one of its earliest occurrences, in R.3, #47 accompanied Alberich when he predicted he would some day force his desire upon the gods’ women, even without love. And #82 also bespeaks Wotan’s

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