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Siegfried: Page 510
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This set of things that Wagner says we need to purge, to send far away, in order to leave the purely-human in its pristine innocence, includes all that is guarded by Fafner, namely, the Ring (the power of conscious human thought), the Tarnhelm (imagination as employed by Alberich for the sake of acquiring objective knowledge, rather than as employed by Loge, the archetype of artist-heroes, for the sake of self-deception), and the Hoard of knowledge, and includes Mime himself, who represents Wotan’s prosaic identity rather than his longed-for, ideal identity, incarnate in Siegfried. Mime, in other words, is loveless, and his sole redemption would lie in renouncing his own egoistic nature, by restoring lost love.

Wotan has now revealed to Mime what he needed to know. We hear a new motif, #118, as Wotan tells him that only he who never knew fear will forge Nothung anew. We hear #92, Siegfried’s motif, as Wotan adds that Mime’s head is forfeit to this man who doesn’t know the meaning of fear. The point quite simply is this: by repressing the contents of his mind, or head, in Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind and the womb of his wishes, Wotan metaphysically gave birth to Siegfried, the hero who doesn’t know who he is, and doesn’t know his true origin, because Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for him. Because Bruennhilde holds the knowledge of the inevitable end of the gods (inevitable end of belief in the gods) which Erda foretold, and which Alberich’s son Hagen will bring about, for Siegfried, Siegfried is protected from suffering the existential fear which has beset Wotan night and day (a fear and concern for self-preservation embodied by Mime), and paralyzed him into inaction. The point is, Wotan’s head, represented by Mime, was to all intents and purposes severed when Wotan confessed his unspoken secret to Bruennhilde, repressing conscious thought of all that he loathed about himself into his unconscious mind. Siegfried’s very birth is tantamount to the substitution of Wotan’s heart for his head, and therefore tantamount to Mime’s (i.e., Wotan’s) figurative decapitation by Siegfried. When Siegfried actually kills Mime with Nothung we are merely witnessing Wagner’s dramatisation of what has already effectively occurred. The same can be said of Siegfried’s killing of Fafner in S.2.2. Siegfried’s very fearlessness and innocence is the death of Mime, who represents the prosaic aspect of Wotan which Wotan (and Siegfried) loathes and wishes to eliminate, and also the death of Fafner. As Mime said earlier to Siegfried, “you’ll be the death of me yet.”

Mime surely was, by nature, not only incapable of being redeemed, but wholly incapable of grasping his need for redemption. Mime is effectively content with the real world as he finds it, in the sense that the means he seeks to satisfy his needs and desires and allay his fears are all to be found within the prosaic world, and his only means of dealing with any aspect of reality which threatens him is to find some practical means, within the real world, to overcome this threat and secure his advantage. He doesn’t reach out to art or metaphysics for consolation. He represents, we might say, the reality principle in Wotan, his objective side. Wagner, of course, said this about the Jews, imputing to them an inherent egoism which, of course, he suspected was the essential characteristic of all men. It is almost as if, by projecting his suspicion that all men’s strongest motive is self-preservation and self-assertion, onto the Jews, he could purge the remainder of humanity, and particularly the Germans, of this inherent egoism. Thus, when we read anti-Semitic passages in Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks such as the following, we need to remember that in the Ring what Wagner in his private life saw with racist eyes, was universalized to apply to all men. When Cosima records Wagner’s observation that the Jews can’t be redeemed because their nature condemns them to the real world, for instance, we find this very thought behind Wotan’s

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