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Twilight of the Gods: Page 842
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giving them the gods’ prerogative of foresight (“Prometheus” means foresight, or foreknowledge) and fire. Zeus punished Prometheus, as Wotan punished Bruennhilde for standing up for the mortal Waelsungs’ rights against the gods’ prerogatives, by binding him to a rocky height and letting vultures (or eagles, if you will) eat his liver perpetually. The Greek Prometheus Myth is surely the origin of Wagner’s concept of the unhealing wound, the price man pays for consciousness, and particularly for his ability to foresee his inevitable end (which produces existential fear), an ability which produces both religious faith (man’s futile striving to transcend his natural limitations) and philosophy. And of course, Bruennhilde is the repository of Wotan’s confession of the knowledge of the gods’ inevitable end which her mother Erda imparted to Wotan. Likewise, Prometheus was granted foresight of the inevitable end of the gods of Olympus, and his refusal to enlighten Zeus on the Olympians’ fate is one other reason that Zeus punishes Prometheus with an unhealing wound. While in the Prometheus Myth it is Zeus’s mortal son Herakles who eventually releases Prometheus from Zeus’s bonds, so in the Ring it is Siegfried who releases Bruennhilde from her bonds, and from the punishment Wotan subjects her to.

At this point we hear what sounds like a #20a/#19 hybrid motif, {{ perhaps heard previously not only when Wotan refused to redeem Freia from the Giants by giving them his Ring in R.4, but also moments ago when Bruennhilde refused Waltraute’s request to throw the Ring back into the Rhine for the gods’ sake. }} In Wotan’s case, his refusal to give the Ring to the Giants made the Ring’s truth rise to consciousness in him, i.e., it caused Erda (Mother Nature), in whom mankind becomes self-conscious, to rise from the depths to inform Wotan of the gods’ inevitable downfall. In that case, however, by yielding the Ring to the Giants Wotan was able to gain a temporary lease on life. This, however, will not be the case with Bruennhilde, since she refused to yield the Ring at Waltraute’s behest. Similarly, Siegfried will refuse the Rhinedaughters’ plea that he yield the Ring to them, in order to end its curse, in T.3.1.

Bruennhilde asks Siegfried who he is, wondering whether he is human, or perhaps from Hella’s night-dwelling host. In the Ring, Hella’s night-dwelling host is Alberich’s Nibelung host of night, along with whom Alberich said he would eventually storm Valhalla. But Siegfried’s new status as an unwitting servant of Hagen, and therefore an involuntary and unconscious agent of Alberich’s intent to avenge himself upon the gods, makes Siegfried effectively a member of Alberich’s night-dwelling host, fulfilling Alberich’s prophecy in R.3 that Wotan’s heroes would eventually serve Alberich himself. And Siegfried has in fact stormed the gods’ refuge from Alberich’s host of night, Valhalla, by storming the new Valhalla, the seat of the new religion of inspired secular art, the muse Bruennhilde.

Siegfried’s answer to Bruennhilde’s request to identify himself is that he is Gunther, a Gibichung. This provokes Bruennhilde to scream in despair: “(#81B Variants) Wotan, grim-hearted, pitiless god! (#164) Now I see the sense of my sentence: (#161) To scorn and sorrow you hound me hence!” Bruennhilde has had a revelation. It turns out, to her shock and dismay, that Wotan’s punishment – which once seemed like a blessing in disguise because Wotan granted Bruennhilde’s wish to be wed only to a fearless hero, Siegfried – has turned out to be more horrible than even she ever guessed it might be, if its end result was that her original fear would be realized, that she would be forced into marriage with a man wholly unworthy of her (the authentic muse of art). And yet, she is still unaware of that greatest of horrors, that Siegfried himself is perpetrating this figurative rape and outright abduction, recalling the Neidings (The Envious Ones) who abducted

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