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Twilight of the Gods: Page 863
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that man as a whole, historical man, could bring about his own extinction, and perhaps even the destruction of his earth, or even the whole cosmos, through the scientific and technological exploration of the bonds and forces and laws of nature. One recalls the fears of those who first experimented with nuclear fission, that there was no way to be absolutely sure that once they started a chain reaction of fission, that it could be contained. It was theoretically possible that once the process got started it could never be stopped, and the bonds holding all the atoms in the universe together into larger forms would be broken. This is pure speculation but it is one of several alternative theses (and one which, by the way, Wagner himself encouraged, as we will see in my discussion of the finale of Twilight of the Gods in T.3.3) which we must bring to bear if we wish to grasp what Wagner intended to express in the culminating moments of the Ring.

I will return to this problem in our assessment of the final moments of the Ring in T.3.3, where I will present a variety of equally plausible hypotheses, which are each based upon Wagner’s own ruminations on the subject of world-end and its relationship to redemption.

{{ There are a few musical and motival questions raised by this passage which require further research. As Alberich is singing that a wise woman (Bruennhilde) lives for the Waelsung’s (Siegfried’s) love, and expresses his fear that she might persuade Siegfried to return Alberich’s Ring to the Rhinedaughters, we hear #167 transform into what sounds like a musical reference to the Norns’ account of how Loge flared up in the olden days, from T.P.1. We also hear a #21 (Wotan’s Spear) fragment, and #88 in the urgent variant which recalls how Siegmund resisted Bruennhilde’s annunciation of his fated death, and won his appeal to her, convincing her to breach Wotan’s instructions to grant Hunding victory over Siegmund, by deciding instead to live for the Waelsungs and love alone. The possible reference to Loge may well recall how Loge reminded Wotan five times in the course of The Rhinegold to return Alberich’s Ring to the Rhinedaughters, and is also perhaps a premonition that Loge will burn Valhalla in the Ring’s finale. #21 could be an oblique reference to Wotan’s request, made through Waltraute, that Bruennhilde restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. The possible reference to #88 would tally with Alberich’s remark that Bruennhilde lives for the Waelsung alone, a very poignant though remote reference to her prior love for Siegfried’s father Siegmund. Furthermore, as Alberich continues, saying that if Bruennhilde convinced Siegfried to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, the gold would be lost to him then, and no cunning could ever gain it back, we hear what sounds like a musical reference to Alberich’s remark to Wotan in S.2.1: “Were I, as you wish, still as stupid as then [when Wotan and Loge first fooled Alberich into transforming himself into a toad, so they could capture him and take his Ring], when you bound the foolish dwarf, how easy, indeed, would it prove (furiously) to deprive me once more of the Ring.” If this reference can be confirmed it would, again, be a dead-on reminder of Alberich’s fear of being dispossessed of his Ring through Wotan’s machinations, which of course are at work even now in Wotan’s transmission to Bruennhilde, through his agent Waltraute, of his desperate wish that Bruennhilde restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. }}

[T.2.1: E]

Alberich now offers Hagen a pep talk, reminding him that Alberich brought him up with no other purpose than the destruction of the gods and heroes of Valhalla, and the restoration to Alberich of his Ring and its power:

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