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Siegfried: Page 672
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(#87?:) Thrice-hallowed woman (:#87?)! (#87: he gazes at her.) She cannot hear me. (#87) (slowly, with urgent and insistent expression: #?: [perhaps a musical reference to V.1.1-3, especially music associated with Sieglinde’s offering of a drink to Siegmund?]; #66 or #139?:) So I suck life from the sweetest of lips (:#? [V.1.1 back reference?]; :#66 or #139?) – (relenting) (#37 vari:) though I should perish and die (:#37 vari)!

Why is Siegfried afraid of Bruennhilde? There seems to be a near universal assumption that the fear Siegfried suffers during his first confrontation with Bruennhilde’s womanly form is a teenager’s fear and awe at his first sexual experience. Generally, commentators add that since Siegfried has never seen a woman before, never experienced sexual desire before, the experience overwhelms him. There are many problems with this interpretation, not the least of which is that Wagner clearly equates the fear Siegfried learns from the sleeping Bruennhilde, with the existential fear which besets Mime, the fear Fafner failed to teach Siegfried, and, most importantly, Wotan’s fear of the end of the gods which Erda foretold, and which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde – who upon waking will become Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration - in his confession. If we seek the reason for Siegfried’s fear of Bruennhilde in a wider context, we find a much more enlightening explanation which links Siegfried’s fear of Bruennhilde with all these other expressions of fear which I just itemized.

All we need do is recall that Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde an unspoken secret which was so traumatic that he told her he dare not speak it aloud in words. This self-knowledge inspired so much consternation, terror, and revulsion in Wotan that he could not sustain conscious thought of it, and repressed it into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, during his confession. Siegfried was, until this moment, fearless, for - unlike Wotan – Siegfried does not know who he is, nor his tragic historical context, and, as an artist-hero who, unlike men of religious faith, will not openly stake a claim on the power of truthful knowledge (granted by Alberich’s Ring), Siegfried seems to be freed from the envy and fear which would make him vulnerable to Alberich’s curse on the Ring. But we must remember that Wotan told Erda that Alberich’s curse is powerless over Siegfried because fear remains unknown to Siegfried, and Siegfried has now, for the first time, experienced fear in the presence of Bruennhilde.

Since Bruennhilde - having heard Wotan’s confession of his self-loathing and shameful history, and of her mother Erda’s prophecy of the inevitable end of the gods, which paralyzed Wotan with fear - protects Siegfried from having to suffer Wotan’s consciousness of his sins and shameful end, Siegfried, Wotan’s reincarnation, not only is unconscious of his true identity and history, but feels no fear of that end which Erda taught Wotan. Bruennhilde, the repository for the knowledge Erda taught Wotan, protects Siegfried from Wotan’s foresight of the end granted him by Erda. Siegfried’s innocence of guilt and fear stems merely from his ignorance, a privilege he enjoys by virtue of Bruennhilde holding this bitter knowledge for him. Bruennhilde, the repository for Wotan’s knowledge of his own guilt, bears the burden of holding Wotan’s hoard of forbidden self-knowledge and self-loathing for Siegfried. Siegfried therefore fears the consequences of waking Bruennhilde, because he has a subliminal premonition that upon waking her he will confront the knowledge which Wotan confessed to her, knowledge which so horrified Wotan that he did not dare speak it aloud. Wotan could not bear to consciously contemplate this hoard of knowledge, and

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