A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
Twilight of the Gods: Page 791
Go back a page
791
Go forward a page

{{ This entire passage may, I believe, be modeled on Mime’s greeting of false friendship to Siegfried in S.2.3, whose characteristic motif was #131, which has been labeled for convenience #Mime’s Wheedling Song. There seem to be hints in that passage of several elements of the Gibichung motif family which includes #151, #155, #156, and #171.}} Whether or not there is a musical foreshadowing of Gunther’s welcome to Siegfried in that earlier passage, there certainly is a dramatic parallel, since in both instances people with ulterior motives, kept hidden from the hero Siegfried, intend to exploit him for their own self-aggrandizement. And in both instances, they intend that Siegfried will drink a potion that will bring their goals within reach. The primary difference is that, previously, the Woodbird told Siegfried that thanks to tasting the dead Fafner’s blood Siegfried would be able to hear, as Mime speaks, what Mime is thinking in his heart, and this would forewarn Siegfried of Mime’s treachery. Siegfried, though he was previously the beneficiary of the Woodbird’s subliminal advice, is not forewarned of danger now, even though Bruennhilde did impart to him the foreknowledge her mother Erda provided to Wotan during their union within the bowels of the earth. Siegfried, thanks to that ignorance of the truth, Bruennhilde’s gift to him, which protects him from its wounds, is wholly oblivious to the reality of his situation, and of the threats that lurk. And then we remember Siegfried’s premonition in T.P.2 that he would not be a good guardian of Bruennhilde’s teaching (i.e., Wotan’s unspoken secret, his hoard of runes), which had left him untaught. We are reminded also that Tristan and Isolde, in the throes of their loving union (likewise a metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration), were oblivious to the threat that the secret their love keeps in silence was going to be exposed to the light of day.

Gunther effectively grants Siegfried the keys to his kingdom, placing himself, his home, his property, his legacy, in Siegfried’s hands. It is implicit that Gunther, as a representative of society still under the spell of the old religion and the old morality predicated on belief in a divine order, and even sentimentally attached to what Siegfried has to offer, a noble art which has preserved the sublimest, most ageless part of the old religion as feeling, is more liable to make Siegfried his heir than Hagen, even though Gunther the hypocrite is entirely motivated by an egoism identical to that which compels all of Hagen’s actions. But, like Wotan, Gunther lacks the courage of his convictions, for he has a more exalted sense of his dignity than is warranted by his own authentic impulses. Alberich and his son Hagen, of course, differ, in that they have the courage of their convictions, are prepared to live in an openly egoistic world without divided loyalty, where man’s mind strives to proclaim objective truth and to that end despises consoling illusions predicated on heartfelt feeling. Therefore, just as previously Wotan tested Fafner to see if man was yet prepared to overthrow religious faith for the sake of the practical advantages of atheistic materialism, and Fafner (representing religious faith’s fear of change, fear of the truth) requested to remain as he was without change, so now Gunther, representing modern man, grants his favor to the idealistic artist-hero Siegfried rather than the man of objective, practical wisdom, Hagen, whose intellect Gunther openly acknowledges as greater than his own. Hagen’s birthright is still being denied him, because collective humanity still wishes to smuggle religious sentiment into man’s ever more secular life.

While Gunther offers Siegfried everything, even his birthright, Siegfried, in a passage surely dear to Wagner’s heart, tells Gunther he has no birthright, no inheritance to offer in exchange, merely his own body which wastes away (at this point we hear #71, one of two motifs representing the tragic and heroic destiny of the Waelsungs Siegmund, Sieglinde, and Siegfried, and also #141, the motif associated in S.3.3 with Bruennhilde’s assertion that she is Siegfried’s self, in that he loses

Go back a page
791
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.