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Siegfried: Page 566
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Mime: Poisonous spittle spews from his lips: if you’re spattered by gobbets of spit, your flesh and bones will waste away.

 

Siegfried: That the spittle’s bane won’t harm me, I’ll step to one side of the beast.

 

Mime: A serpent’s tail he uncoils: if he twines it about you (#126?) and grips you tight, your limbs will break like glass.

 

Siegfried: To save me from the lash of his tail I’ll keep the wicked beast in view.

Mime has tried to allay Siegfried’s doubt by assuring him that if Siegfried doesn’t learn fear here at Fafner’s cave, he’s unlikely to learn it at any other time or place. This is an oblique reference to the fact that Bruennhilde, who received Wotan’s confession, protects Siegfried - who is Wotan reborn minus consciousness of his loathsome identity and corrupt history – both from Wotan’s remembrance of his disreputable past, and from foresight of the fearful end which Erda predicted. Thanks to Bruennhilde, Siegfried lives wholly in the present. And of course Fafner, a metaphor for man’s universal, existential fear, which takes into account things which are present neither in time or space, transcends the limits of time and space, and of the individual man’s consciousness.

When Mime describes in prosaic terms the specific ways in which Fafner can physically harm Siegfried, Siegfried self-confidently asserts, in response to each specific threat, that he will be appropriately prudent in avoiding them. But of course it is not so much Fafner, Wotan’s guardian of the Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, that is to say, religious faith’s fear of objective knowledge, which is the threat, but that knowledge itself. Because Siegfried is protected by Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, from suffering consciousness of that threat which paralyzed Wotan, Siegfried does not foresee any harm that Fafner (i.e., that what Fafner guards, forbidden knowledge) could possibly do to him. It is for this very reason that Siegfried is destined to kill Fafner, for Fafner’s death is an automatic consequence of Siegfried’s existence.

Before we are well embarked on a consideration of S.2.2 we need to examine more closely the link between imagination, for which the Tarnhelm stands (considering it was through the Tarnhelm’s magic that both Alberich and Fafner transformed themselves into a Serpent, whose motival incarnation is #48), and the self-delusion which religious faith encourages. Feuerbach argues that faith expresses imagination’s power to transform reality into something considered to be illusory, and to transform what is illusory into something held to be true:

“Faith is the power of the imagination, which makes the real unreal, and the unreal real: in direct contradiction with the truth of the senses, with the truth of reason.” [132F-EOC: p. 242]

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