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Siegfried: Page 462
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but wield the mighty shards which no art (Kunst) of mine can piece together.” This motif will from this point onward represent Mime’s inability to re-forge Nothung. As a symbol, #102 stands for Mime’s lack of the unconscious inspiration necessary to produce the truly new and original, the fact that his forge-work is motivated solely by conscious, practical need and profit. For this reason Mime is unable to re-forge the sword representing the Waelsung heroes’ restoration of lost innocence, i.e., Wotan’s hoped-for redemption from Alberich’s curse on the Ring. Dunning suggests, not surprisingly, that #102 is influenced by #37, the “Loveless Motif.”

It is often argued nowadays that Mime represents one of Wagner’s stereotypes for Jews. To my knowledge, on one occasion only did Wagner describe Mime as a Jew:

[P. 662] “First act ‘Siegfried.’ Mime ‘a Jewish dwarf,’ R. says, but excellent … .” [1082W-{5/3/81} CD Vol. II, p. 662]

Wagner was speaking of a particular singer who sang the role on the occasion to which he alludes, and we would need to learn whether that singer was himself Jewish, to speculate whether Wagner was speaking of the character Mime per se, or merely of the ethnic origin of the particular singer who performed the role of Mime.

This is an important question, because Wagner, taking his cue from Feuerbach, regarded the Jews (whether as a cultural norm alone, or as an actual inherited racial characteristic, is never quite clear from Wagner’s writings) as being bound by utilitarian, egoistic, earth-bound motives which preclude all longing for the ideal, the realm of spirit, and which disavow altruistic values like compassionate love and self-sacrifice. Surely, Mime fits this description. It is also true that Wagner described the newly emancipated Jews of Germany as mere imitators, while, according to him, authentic German geniuses alone produced what was truly new and original. This is verified by Mime’s name (the mime), and by the fact that Mime’s only creative act, the manufacture of the Tarnhelm, was done under Alberich’s direction, a fact Alberich is always quick to point out. However, even though Mime and Alberich are blood-brothers, it appears that Alberich, unlike his brother, is capable of originality, though only within the practical world, not the world of utmost importance to Wagner, the religio-artistic imagination. But perhaps Wagner distributed what he regarded as distinctly Jewish traits over several characters, like Alberich, Mime, and Hagen. The key to understanding the Ring, though, is that these are universal human traits found to one degree or another among all men, a fact of which Wagner was well aware, and any interpretation which is predicated on the assumption that the meaning of the Ring depends upon ascribing Jewish stereotypes to its less sympathetic characters misses the very essence of this all-embracing artwork, which is that it is an indictment of what Wagner believes is the very nature of man per se.

[S.1.1: B]

Mime now explains just how he plans to exploit Siegfried to win the Hoard and Ring from Fafner:

 

(He sinks further back, lowering his head in thought. #101; #48)

 

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