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Siegfried: Page 533
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Siegfried: (brandishing the sword in front of him: #119:) Nothung! Nothung (:#119)! Envied sword! (#57 or #109?) (#?: [possibly music from V.1.1-3?]) I’ve wakened you to life again, you lay there, dead, in ruins (:#?); [[ #125: ]] now you glisten, defiant and glorious (:#125). (#125)

 

Mime: Hey, Mime, how did you manage! Whoever would have thought it?

 

Siegfried: To felons show your shining blade! [[ #125 ]] Slay him who is false (#120:) and fell the offender (:#120)! – (#103 frag:) See, Mime, you smith: (He raises the sword to strike a blow: #57 or #109?:) thus severs Siegfried’s sword! (#103/#109/#57 varis: He strikes the anvil, which splits from top to bottom and falls apart with a loud crash. Mime, who has climbed on to a stool in his delight, falls to the ground in terror, landing on a sitting position. Jubilantly, Siegfried holds the sword aloft. …)

In this final frenetic passage Wagner starkly contrasts the ultimate degradation of fallen, egoistic man, with the idealism through which man, at his best, seeks to restore lost innocence and build a sublime future. Mime’s self-delusion, his grandiose vision of absolute power over man and cosmos, unfettered by any illusion of man’s transcendent value, is perhaps Wagner’s premonition of what the world would be like if the common man, the vulgar mass, held all the power, or worse, if collective humanity, including all higher men, embraced Alberich’s notion that all human feeling, thought, and action, stem from egoism and self-aggrandizement. But the real pathos of this climactic moment is that Mime’s claims (like Wotan’s claims) on Siegfried are real. Siegfried at no time ever truly attains independence of them. For Siegfried’s greatest achievement, the Wagnerian music-drama, the culmination of man’s religio-artistic imagination, is itself an expression of man’s primal will-to-power, an attempt by man to play god by recreating the whole world in his own image. We will see in Twilight of the Gods that Wotan’s ideal hero Siegfried, Wotan’s hoped-for agent of final redemption, is not so unlike Alberich as one might suppose.

One can’t help acknowledging that the tools with which Siegfried, in effect, creates himself in re-creating, and bringing back to life, his dead father’s broken sword, are Nibelung tools, the hammer and anvil. But in Siegfried’s first true test of the now finished Nothung, he splits Mime’s anvil, as if through his labor he has transcended and overcome the very conditions which made it possible for him to re-forge Nothung and forge his own being. But that is, after all, what Wotan is trying to do in seeking to create a hero, a new self, who would owe nothing to Wotan’s original self, but would somehow fulfill Wotan’s wishes. The mere fact that such a hero would fulfill Wotan’s wishes tells us that this hero is not the free hero Wotan imagined.

The astonishing display of vital force, or will-to-power, expressed by Siegfried in his re-forging of Nothung - or, as it were, his forging of his own identity - is a reflection of the distinction between himself and Mime: Siegfried is truly inspired, while Mime is only a journeyman, a craftsman, who has learned his craft merely through hard labor, but not by native genius. Mime expects thanks and

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