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coefficients that individual force we have erstwhile foolishly dismissed with the appellation ‘Genius,’ and, according to our modern notions thereof, utterly annuls it. By all means, that associate, communistic force is only brought into play through the medium of the individual force; for it is, in truth, naught other than the force of sheer human individuality in general.“ [559W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 288-289]

An unexpected, indirect source provides us further evidence for our interpretation of the sword Nothung as the legacy handed down by Siegfried’s intellectual ancestors, the geniuses of the past. In the following passage Berthold Kellerman is quoting Count Apponyi, who evidently during a celebration attended by Wagner at the time of his 1876 premier of the Ring, spoke of Bruennhilde as a metaphor for Wagner’s new national art, and described Siegfried’s sword Nothung as the weapon which Wagner forged from the shreds of his fathers’, i.e., the German masters’, sword:

“A certain Count Apponyi from Hungary spoke next. He spoke in the form of a parable, taking his text from Wagner’s Nibelungs: ‘Bruennhilde (the new national art) lay asleep upon a rock surrounded by a great fire. The god Wotan had lit this fire, and only the victorious and finest hero, a hero who did not know fear, was to win her as his bride. (…) Along came a hero, the like of whom had never been seen before, Richard Wagner, who forged a weapon from the shards of the sword of his fathers (the classical German masters), and with this he penetrated the fire and with his kiss awoke the sleeping Bruennhilde.” [892W-{8/20/76} From a letter by Berthold Kellermann to his parents, reporting on the final performance of the RING and the subsequent celebrations: WR, p. 250]

It seems doubtful that Apponyi invented this allegorical reading for the occasion. I suspect that this reading of the Ring was common knowledge in Wagner’s intimate social and artistic circle at the time of the Ring rehearsals and performances, and presumably its source was Wagner himself. It is a debatable point, but this is a striking affirmation that several key aspects of our interpretation were known to Wagner and others and, I suspect, disseminated by Wagner himself to his immediate circle.

Wagner has provided us with a single rather explicit clue to what Siegfried’s sword Nothung might represent as metaphor. He said:

[P. 242] “… the artist, without his knowing it, is always creating forms … . (…) [P. 243] … has anybody ever seen a sabre borne without a hilt? Does not its swift and steady slash bear witness, on the contrary, that it is mounted in a good strong hilt? No doubt, this hilt does not grow visible and tangible for others, until the sword has been laid down; when the master is dead and his weapon has been hung up in the armoury, at last one perceives the handle (Griff) too, and haply plucks it from the blade – as an abstraction (‘Begriff’) – yet can’t imagine that the next man who sallies forth to fight must necessarily bear his sword-blade also in a hilt.” [649W-{2/57} On Liszt’s Symphonic Poems: PW Vol. III, p. 242-243]

 The relevance of Wagner’s curious remark to our present discussion of Nothung is that its swift slash, which Siegfried proved by cutting the means of its creation - Mime’s anvil - in half, might well represent the power of Siegfried’s art (or Wagner’s art), which of itself proves that it is grounded in solid and brilliant form. Wagner’s art was accused of formlessness throughout his life,

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