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Twilight of the Gods: Page 847
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“ … if you shudder at the thought that this woman [Bruennhilde] should cling to this accursed ring as a symbol of love, you will feel exactly as I intended you to feel, and herein you will recognize the power of the Nibelung curse raised to its most terrible and most tragic heights: only then will you recognize the need for the whole of the final drama, ‘Siegfried’s Death.’ This is something we must experience for ourselves if we are to be made fully conscious of the evil of gold. Why does Bruennhilde yield so quickly to Siegfried when he comes to her in disguise? Precisely because the latter has torn the ring from her finger, since it was here alone that her whole strength lay.” [622W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 310]

The Ring is the source of Bruennhilde’s strength because her sole purpose is to hold it for the hero (just as she said that what he doesn’t know, #87, she knows for him), both to protect him from the wounds consciousness of it can inflict, and also to employ it to inspire the hero’s art subliminally. Her whole strength lies in the Ring because Alberich's Ring (#19) gave birth to Valhalla and its gods (#20a), that is, man’s abhorrence of the truth gave birth to religion, and the secular art which expresses religious feeling is in turn a sublimation of man’s religious impulse, the longing for transcendent value. Alberich’s Ring and his hoard of knowledge are the true source of all religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration, the reason for which Bruennhilde lives. Therefore, once Bruennhilde loses her Ring to Siegfried, disguised as Gunther, she inwardly collapses, wholly deflated, into Siegfried’s arms.

The sadistic brutality with which Siegfried has treated Bruennhilde, particularly in forcing the Ring off her finger, makes Siegfried seem indistinguishable from Alberich or Hagen, or more likely, reveals that the artist-hero Siegfried is much more like them than we had expected up until now. Wagner himself made the comparison, pointing out that no matter how big the gap seems to be between a noble and an ignoble person, they are ultimately motivated by the same egoistic Will which lies behind all human thought and action:

“R. says, ‘When the ring was snatched from her [Bruennhilde] I thought of Alberich; the noblest character suffers the same as the ignoble, in every creature the will is identical.” [759W-{6/5/70} CD Vol. I, p. 228]

Siegfried’s aggressiveness and arrogance expresses the loathsome egoism which motivated both Alberich and Wotan, an egoism Alberich owned without shame, but which Wotan was ashamed to acknowledge in himself, so much so that he repressed knowledge of it into his unconscious mind and wish-womb Bruennhilde. In this way the seed of Wotan’s discontent gave birth to the seemingly innocent hero Siegfried, in whom Wotan hoped to be purged of his loathsome nature (represented moments ago by #84, heard when Bruennhilde told the disguised Siegfried, while threatening him with Alberich’s Ring, that he’d never force her into shame). Mime of course reflected all that Wotan had to purge from his own nature in order to give birth to the noble hero Siegfried. But Siegfried is every bit as implicated in Wotan’s guilt, his sin against Mother Nature’s truth, as Wotan, and therefore like Wotan must be punished by Alberich’s curse on the Ring.

Bruennhilde collapses in Siegfried’s arms but, while looking deeply into his eyes, motif #149 suggests Bruennhilde has had a moment of recognition, #149 being the motif expressing Bruennhilde’s status as the muse for Siegfried’s art (the inspirer of new adventures). And who would have thought that in Siegfried’s quest for new adventures, inspired by Bruennhilde, his last

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