A question from R. Brummitt about Loge's Ring of Fire

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A question from R. Brummitt about Loge's Ring of Fire

Post by alberich00 » Sun Nov 15, 2020 2:27 pm

"Greetings Paul. Do you have an explanation for this?
Goetterdammerung Act 2 Scene 2
When Gutrune inquires whether the ring of fire protecting Brünnhilde singed her brother Gunther, Siegfried responds that though the fire wouldn’t have harmed Gunther either RB"

My (Paul Heise's) response to R. Brummitt's question:

From the Stewart Spencer translation (motifs added by me):

"Gutrune: (#42 - Tarnhelm/#5) So Bruennhilde's following my brother?
Siegfried: The woman was easily wooed.
Gutrune: Didn't the fire singe him?
Siegfried: (#26a? or #48?) It wouldn't have harmed him either;
(#162 fragment) but I myself passed through it for him,
(#110 variant) because I wanted to win you."

From the John Deathridge translation (motifs added by me):

"Gutrune: (#42 - Tarnhelm/#5) So Bruennhilde's with my brother?
Siegfried: It was easy to win her for him.
Gutrune: Didn't the fire scorch him?
Siegfried: (#162 fragment) He'd not have been hurt by it;
I went through it for him anyway, -
(#110 variant) as it was you I wanted to win."

Loge's Ring of fire which Wotan called up to protect the sleeping Bruennhilde from every suitor except the authentically unconsciously inspired artist-hero Siegfried represents secular man's substitute (in art) for dying religious faith, which according to Feuerbach is actually religious man's fear of truth, of self-knowledge. This fear was previously represented by Fafner (#48) guarding access to Alberich's Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard. Alberich's hoard of treasure obtained in the bowels of the earth (Erda) and Wotan's (Light-Alberich's) hoard of knowledge he obtained by wandering over and into the earth (Erda) both represent collective, historical man's gradual accumulation of that hoard of knowledge which eventually undermined religious faith, and of course Siegfried the artist-hero and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde are Wagner's metaphors for secular art, particularly the art of music, as heir to dying religious faith (Wotan and the gods of Valhalla). The reason Siegfried felt fear prior to waking Bruennhilde, and Bruennhilde felt fear prior to consummating her union with Siegfried, is that by confessing his hoard of unbearable knowledge (Erda's prophecy of the inevitable doom of the gods, i.e., of the end of religious faith) to Bruennhilde, Wotan made her the repository for his unspoken secret, his hoard of forbidden knowledge. For this reason the motifs which express their fear are identical to or derived from those which expressed Wotan's explosion of despair which led Bruennhilde to beg that Wotan share with her his unspoken secret (his divine "Noth"), which will never be spoken in words (but will be expressed only in music, motifs).

It's also noteworthy that it's one of Loge's motifs, #35, which gives birth not only to the Magic Fire Motif #100, but also to the Tarnhelm Motifs #42 and #43, which in turn give birth to Hagen's Potion Motif #154. These collectively represent the Wonder of Wagner's art. As you can see we hear #42, the first Tarnhelm motif, at the beginning of this part of Siegfried's dialogue with Gutrune. In "Siegfried" Wagner combined variations of the Magic Fire Motif #100 with Fafner's Motif #48 to express Mime's fear, but also to illustrate that Siegfried hopes to learn fear not from Fafner, but from Bruennhilde. This is just another way of saying that inspired secular art has fallen heir to dying religious faith's former roll of substituting a consoling illusion for the knowledge which we fear will overthrow our consoling illusions. It's also for this reason that near the end of Siegfried's love duet with Bruennhilde in S.3.3 we hear Fafner's Dragon or Serpent motif #48 (borrowed from Alberich's Dragon or Serpent Motif) in the orchestra as Bruennhilde asks Siegfried if he's blinded by her, and just before she asks him if he fears her. She has taken over the former roll of religious faith as a means to redeem man from the objective knowledge of himself and the world that he fears.

Now here's the last piece of the puzzle. Wagner stated that his musical motifs hold (or keep) the profoundest secret of his artistic aim, an aim which remains a mystery for the authentic artist himself. Wagner described his musical motifs as the source of artistic "Wonder" which is modern, secular man's substitute for dying religious faith. But he also said that through his musical motifs of reminiscence and foreboding he made his audience fellow-knowers of the profoundest secret of his artistic aim, an aim that remained a mystery to him. Of course Loge's fire wouldn't literally burn anyone because it's a figure for man's fear of the truth, a bitter truth which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession, a truth which it became Siegfried's roll to keep, even though, thanks to Bruennhilde (Siegfried's unconscious mind) knowing it for Siegfried, Siegfried knows it only unconsciously, or subliminally. Loge's fire is in a sense that veil of Maya or self-deception through which we lie to ourselves. But when Siegfried involuntarily and unwittingly gives his own true love and muse Bruennhilde away to another man (to Gunther, Wagner's metaphor for his own, the music-dramatist's, audience) under Hagen's (his potion's) influence, and also interprets the Woodbird's Song (Wagner's symbol for his musical motifs) in words at Hagen's behest, Siegfried is speaking in words what Wotan had told Bruennhilde must remain unspoken in words. Siegfried's unwitting betrayal of the secret of his formerly unconscious artistic inspiration by giving his muse (unconscious mind) and her secrets (Alberich's Ring, which Siegfried takes from her, stands in for the entire Nibelung Hoard and for Wotan's confession) away to his audience of Gibichungs (Gunther in particular) to whom he sings the narrative of his heroic life and how he learned the meaning of birdsong, is Wagner's metaphor for a performance of his own "Ring."

I'm sorry my explanation of this was so involved but this quite literally is what's behind Siegfried winning Bruennhilde for Gunther and behind his seemingly offhand remark that neither he nor Gunther would literally be singed by Loge's ring of protective fire around Bruennhilde.

By the way, do I have your permission to post both your question and my answer to it in the www.wagnerheim.com discussion forum, with your name, as if you'd posted it there. I always like to add new, interesting material to the forum.

Last but not least, I've attached below several pdf files which might interest you. One is my 16 page Introduction and Reader's Guide to my Critical Review of Alexander H. Shapiro's recently published book (Routledge; 10/2019) "The Consolations of History: Themes of Progress and Potential in Richard Wagner's 'Goetterdaemmerung'," which in spite of his having cited my "Ring" study at www.wagnerheim.com in footnote #10 of Chapter One about Siegfried, borrowed dozens of insights from www.wagnerheim.com without giving me due credit. I posted my Critique of Shapiro's book in the discussion forum in 21 numbered parts recently. The Guide I've attached below itemizes the main ideas he borrowed without proper citation and tells you where in my online Critique you can find my comparisons of passages from his newer book with corresponding passages from my older book which prove the priority of my claim to various arguments and insights. I'm also attaching an 11 page transcript of a lecture I presented on April 27, 2000, which is the best summary of my "Ring" interpretation I possess. Last but not least I've attached my first published article, "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," published in WAGNER in the May issue, 1995.

Your friend from www.wagnerheim.com

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