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Twilight of the Gods: Page 941
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from the curse of consciousness, the curse of full awareness of the bitter truth. All have, figuratively speaking, fled to the Rhine with their Ring of consciousness (or, what is the same thing, fled to their unconscious mind, represented in the Ring by Bruennhilde) to escape the truth and substitute for it a consoling illusion or, where this was not possible, the feeling of transcendence (as found in music). So Hagen is announcing that in man’s historical accumulation of his hoard of knowledge, scientific inquiry has finally solved the religious mystery itself, making conscious what for all the past was unconscious. Siegfried himself, the last of the heroes who sought refuge in the Rhine of human feeling, has unwittingly played his part in betraying Wotan’s unspoken secret to the light of day, revealing it within the very work of art whose original purpose was to hide it. And how much portentous musico-dramatic meaning there is in Siegfried’s offer that they “come below” to where it’s cool and refreshing, as we hear part of the Rhinedaughters’ new lament for the lost Rhinegold, #174a, i.e., that they come down into the depths of the self, the Rhine! Siegfried the music-dramatist is inviting his audience to descend into his own depths.

After Siegfried asks the hunting party to join him, the music describing their fateful gathering around Siegfried, on the banks of the Rhine where the Ring cycle began, has the air of tragic destiny and finality, making us feel as though a great epic has reached its dramatic high-point: something momentous and irreversible is about to happen! {{ There seems to be here, as in several other strategically crucial moments in the Ring, music associated in R.4 either with Loge’s remark to Alberich that he should not consider revenge until ransoming his freedom with his Hoard, or with Loge’s release of Alberich from his bonds at Wotan’s request. }} This feeling is dramatically enhanced by the presence of an inversion of #126, very strongly marked. This was of course the motif associated with the serpent Fafner as the teacher of fear, based originally on the Giants’ Motif #26. It is as if Fafner, or even both Giants, have come back to stake their egoistic claim upon Freia again, only this time to make their claim good by taking her away forever, thus bringing about the twilight of the gods Erda long ago predicted.

As the assembled hunters settle down around Siegfried and open their wineskins for refreshment, Hagen provocatively announces that, having scared away their game, Siegfried will now tell of all the wondrous things he’s hunted down. The wondrous things Siegfried has hunted down in his life include Fafner, The Nibelung Hoard, the Tarnhelm, Alberich’s Ring, Mime, and Bruennhilde. Ultimately, what Siegfried will tell, with the aid of Hagen’s antidote to the love-forgetfulness potion Hagen had Gutrune give Siegfried earlier, is how Siegfried woke - and won the hand of - the wondrous Bruennhilde (the source of the Wagnerian “Wonder”), thereby revealing what formerly had been hidden. Siegfried had lost the Woodbird’s (music’s) path to his unconscious mind and muse Bruennhilde, but now he will find his path to her again, only this time by exposing to the light of day what formerly had remained in the silent depths, protected by Bruennhilde’s magic.

Siegfried complains that in fact, he’s empty handed. However, he notes that if he’d been better equipped, he might have caught three waterbirds (interesting that he thus equates the Rhinedaughters with the Woodbird who warned him of Mime’s treachery) who sang to him on the Rhine that he would be slain today, accompanied by #170/#164. Gunther is startled and looks with alarm at Hagen, but Siegfried lays down between them, suspecting nothing. Hagen can’t resist observing that it would be an ill-fated hunt indeed if the hunter himself were brought down by a lurking head of game. But in point of fact Siegfried has hunted himself down: it was inevitable that the hoard of knowledge he has unwittingly guarded would eventually rise from the silent depths of

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