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Twilight of the Gods: Page 773
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inclined to self-reflection. It is a sort of earthbound Valhalla, a society which pays tribute to the gods and which abides by the authority of divine law:

[P. 119] “We now enter a new world, pass from the boundless realms of nature into a settled, ordered society governed by strict laws of [P. 120] custom.” [887W-{6-8/76} WRR, p. 119-120]

Metaphorically, the gods here can be taken to mean man’s religious heritage, and adherence to law and custom bespeaks a society ruled by the old norms of establishing quiet and order at the cost of human individuality and the free evolution of thought. In other words, Gibichung society is typical of most societies up until, and including, modern times. As Wagner put it, those totally sold on such a value-system are already among the dead, while vibrant life is the sole property of a few enlightened and/or gifted individuals capable of free expression:

“… R. and I have breakfast in the conservatory, and he says, ‘It has occurred to me that we now seem to concern ourselves only with dead things; everything around us seems lifeless, whereas previously our existence was concerned with living things, with plants, animals; Wotan carved his spear from the growing ash tree.’ When I say that it is perhaps this life within life that has given later generations a feeling for divinity, and that Siegfried and Bruennhilde give the appearance of sacred, living Nature, whereas the Gibichungs are already among the dead, he agrees with me.” [1114W-{1/8/82} CD Vol. II, p. 786]

Gunther’s preoccupation, like that of virtually all those who subscribe to the values of such a society, is to establish his cache and honor and glory among his fellow men, as the first among equals (equals in the sense that he has to value their opinion of him, in order to obtain glory from it). His motive is egoistic self-aggrandizement. Hagen cunningly encourages this aspect of Gunther’s character in his answer to Gunther’s question whether Gunther is worthy of his father Gibich’s fame on the Rhine. With subtle cruelty he notes Gunther is indeed worthy of envy, a fact the lady Grimhilde, their common mother, could well explain, as we hear #19, Alberich’s Ring Motif. We are reminded both by Hagen, and motivally, of what Wotan told Bruennhilde during his confession, that Alberich had won the favors of a woman with gold and given birth to the agent of Alberich’s own envy, the desire for revenge against the gods, incarnate in his curse on the Ring, in the form of his son Hagen. Gunther’s mother Grimhilde, in other words, prostituted love for power or money. This makes the extraordinarily noble variant of Gunther’s motif #152 feel all the more ironic as this dialogue proceeds. As always, Wagner is granting us an insight into the mundane preconditions for the world’s great show and ideals, and even our most sublime emotions.

As the first-born and true-born (Hagen is in effect a half-breed, son of a Nibelung father, Alberich, and Gunther’s and Gutrune’s mother), Gunther rules, but Gunther acknowledges Hagen is the wiser of the two. Hagen is the intellect among the Gibichungs, just as his father Alberich was among the Nibelung dwarfs, and what is more, an objective intellect unswayed by the consolations of illusions about the world which motivate Gunther and his sister Gutrune. Hagen now contradicts what he has just told Gunther: in fact there is something he does not yet possess, lacking which his fame is still poor, as we hear #24, the rising portion of Freia’s Motif, which is generally linked with its second half #25, the definitive Love Motif, but not in this case. Cooke suggested that #24 is associated exclusively with the sensual aspect of love: this is arguable, but there may be exceptions. In its current context, in which Hagen is spurring Gunther on to seek a woman of whom he is wholly

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