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Siegfried: Page 650
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Siegfried: (#103 forging frag or #120 or #124 &/or #104?:) What do I know of that? (#124 varis:) I know only (#?: [music drawn from Siegfried’s angry description of Mime’s oddities of behavior, locomotion, demeanor, and appearance?]) that the bits were no use (#58b?:) unless I re-made the sword (:#124 varis; :#? [Siegfried’s musical description of Mime?]; :#58b?).

 

Wanderer: (breaking into cheerfully good-natured laughter: #135) That I can well believe! (He observes Siegfried, well pleased. #66)

Something curious is at work here. The Woodbird, Wagner’s metaphor for the new kind of music which will artificially restore lost innocence (as opposed to the mother-melody, or natural instinct, Woglinde’s Lullaby #4, which gave birth to the word and thus to the Fall of man), leads Siegfried to Bruennhilde, i.e., to explore the depths of his unconscious mind. Wagner had always said that music was the link between the outer and the inner worlds, the ladder one could climb down into the silent depths of one’s self (Wagner once called music “sounding silence.”). Now the Woodbird has flown off, alarmed by the sight of Wotan (or, as Wotan will tell Siegfried momentarily, scared off by Wotan’s messengers, his two ravens).

Wotan, in Wanderer guise, asks Siegfried a series of questions intended to determine how far back Siegfried can trace his history, because Wotan wants to insure Siegfried is not conscious of Wotan’s influence on his history, since Siegfried is only of use to him if he does, spontaneously, of his own “Noth,” what Wotan needs but can’t do himself. Wotan first asks where Siegfried is heading. Siegfried’s answer is that he is seeking to wake a sleeping woman encircled by fire. Wotan then asks who bid Siegfried to seek this woman. After Siegfried answers that it was a Woodbird, Wotan poses as skeptic and asks Siegfried how it is possible Siegfried could have understood the songs of birds, introducing by the way a new motif #135, which is now repeated each time Wotan asks a question. Recalling Thomas Mann’s comment that there is the highest poetry in Siegfried’s confrontation with Wotan in S.3.2, this unusual staccato motif and its continual variation mysteriously conveys that feeling. After Siegfried answers that he could grasp birdsong by virtue of tasting the blood of a serpent he’d slain, Wotan asks who urged Siegfried to kill it. Siegfried’s answer is that the treacherous dwarf Mime led him into the forest to learn fear from it, but that the serpent’s own arrogance incited Siegfried to kill him. To Wotan’s question who made the sharp sword with which Siegfried killed Fafner, Siegfried’s answer is that Siegfried forged it himself. And now Wotan poses his final question, who made the pieces which Siegfried forged. Siegfried answers with an incredulous: how should I know! Siegfried points out that the pieces would - in any case - have been useless without his personal labor to re-forge them. At that Wotan laughs contentedly and we hear #66, reminding us not only of the terrible fate to which Wotan has condemned the Waelsungs by volunteering them involuntarily to redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse, but also reminding us of Sieglinde’s loving sympathy for both her husband and brother Siegmund, and for the unborn Siegfried, a feeling of compassion Wagner said was represented by the Woodbird, the spirit of the dead Sieglinde. I have, however, already discussed in detail why we can’t wholly accept Wagner’s word on this score.

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