But because Siegfried is unconsciously holding Wotan’s dangerous hoard of knowledge in trust (dangerous if it rises from the silent depths to the light of consciousness as Alberich said of his hoard), Siegfried must instinctively respect Bruennhilde’s role as his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration since it is only through her magical inspiration that Siegfried can safely obtain the necessary inspiration from Wotan’s dangerous knowledge necessary to create redemptive art, which sublimates that repressed knowledge into something of beauty, a redemptive form of Wahn (self-deception).
P. 162: K&S: “But his [Siegfried’s] doubts about her love for him, building to the anxious uncertainty of ‘… [if Bruennhilde were now mine?],’ first unsettle her deeply (‘… [If I were yours?]’ - with its implied ‘How can you doubt it?’), and then her recognition of his doubts releases a flood of erotic passion in her that sweeps all before it. Now she responds to him in kind, ecstatically dismissing the world she has previously served, and proclaiming the end of the gods and of their order in the frenzy of this new love. Erotic love in all of its exclusiveness and danger is at last joyously embraced. Nothing else except the beloved matters, come what may: for all she cares, in her rapture, the world can end, darkness can triumph, the gods can perish.
K&S: Bruennhilde’s last two words (and Siegfried’s as well) ‘… [laughing death!],’ recall the direct association of intense sexual love with death that "Tristan" has made famous. - (…) Death would not matter as it does without love; but love would not matter as it does without death - and life would not matter as it does without both.
K&S: Bruennhilde does not have this worked out with any clarity; but she does grasp it intuitively. (In this she greatly surpasses Siegfried, who, while equally impassioned, is constitutionally incapable of comprehending very much at all, and whose closing counterpart to her repudiation of the importance of anything except love consists of Happy Lover Boilerplate.)”
PH: What is entirely missing from K&S’s account of "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love duet, which they construe essentially as merely dramatizing Bruennhilde’s transition from an empathetic lover to an exclusive romantic/sexual lover, is any notion, any hint, that their loving union can be construed as Wotan’s means to forget the fear which Wotan’s lover and Bruennhilde’s mother Erda taught him, or any knowledge whatsoever that this is grounded in Wagner’s Feuerbach-inspired notion that when religious faith and its fear of truth is on the wane, and modern science is striving to take its place, the only refuge for man’s religious feeling is in inspired secular art, particularly Wagner’s revolutionary music-drama, the product of Siegfried’s loving union with Bruennhilde. Accordingly, because they stand back too far from the music and libretto text to gather what really is at stake, they can offer only a vapid, generalized account of how one of the two lovers, Bruennhilde, differing greatly in experience from her naive lover Siegfried, ultimately throws off her former allegiance to empathic love for the sake of an exclusive and dangerous romantic-sexual love. The proof of my critique can be found in all the key passages in the text and music which they omit to discuss, as well as their overlooking the deeper resonances of the passages they choose to discuss.
PH: In my interpretation Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s so-called exclusive sexual love is actually unconscious artistic inspiration ,which is exclusive in the sense that authentically inspired artist-heroes are extremely rare, while romantic love is far less so. Wagner isn’t dealing with a conventional couple here: they have immense allegorical weight and significance. Thus K&S’s facile description of Siegfried’s closing, ecstatic lines as “Happy Lover Boilerplate” misses the point entirely, because Bruennhilde, as she herself says, knows for Siegfried what he doesn’t know, which is why she sings of those “faraway” things of which Siegfried says he has no knowledge. Siegfried and Bruennhilde are one, single person, the artist-hero and his unconscious mind. These “faraway” things, by the way, are the historical things (which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde) widely disbursed in time and space which are made present, here and now, by the “Wonder” of Wagner’s musical motifs, and since, as I have explained, Bruennhilde represents the language of the unconscious mind, music, and since Wotan dipped his corrupt history and knowledge of self into the transfiguring, oceanic element of music by confessing this knowledge to his daughter Bruennhilde, and furthermore, since what Wotan thought, Bruennhilde felt, and imparts this to Siegfried through her loving union with him, this is how Siegfried comes to be the hero who, as Wagner said himself, lives only in the present, because Siegfried is the finest gift of the will, i.e., the finest gift of Bruennhilde. And this is represented by Motif #134, which Wagner called a redemption motif, and which he said, when we first hear it in the orchestra as Wotan is announcing that he is making Siegfried and Bruennhilde his heirs, and that he no longer fears his end because of this, should sound like a new religion. It is the new religion of art, in which man’s dying religious faith (the old Valhalla) can live on as feeing (the new Valhalla) rather than as thought.
P. 163: PH: Now K&S argue that Bruennhilde, in order to achieve wholeness, must find a way to balance erotic and empathic love:
K&S: “She must now judge both that love should be erotically intense and exclusive, divorced from the world and consummated in the denial of the world, with life purified of anything other than its essentials of love and death, and also that love should do its work in the world, that it should be open-endedly empathic in its encouraging and sustaining whatever is noble and worthy … .
K&S: (…) To be true to what she is discovering to be the whole of herself, she must find a way to embrace them both, their seeming irreconcilability as ultimate concerns notwithstanding. That is her dilemma, and her great challenge.”
PH: This may well be K&S’s personal agenda, but it bears no relation to what Bruennhilde holds at stake in her loving union with Siegfried and expectation, later, that she will inspire him to undertake adventures in the wider world. Wagner here is depicting his very unique and original conception of love as unconscious artistic inspiration, whose product, redemptive works of art, can make human beings feel as if they have regained lost innocence. Take note, therefore, of some key passages they entirely neglected. Bruennhilde, for instance, tells Siegfried she was, and will be, his own, but Siegfried corrects her with the following remarkable statement:
“Bruennhilde: (#140 Variation) O Siegfried, Yours was I aye [ever]!
Siegfried: If you were once, then be so now!
Bruennhilde: Yours shall I be for ever!
Siegfried: What you will be, be today! As my arm enfolds you, I hold you fast; as my heart beats wildly against your own; as our glances ignite and breath feeds on breath, eye to eye (#140) and mouth on mouth, (#134) then, to me, you must be what, fearful, you were and will be!”
PH: Wagner here is offering us a dramatic metaphor for his concept of the Wagnerian “Wonder,” the fact that his musical motifs of reminiscence (Bruennhilde: “Yours was I ever”) and foreboding (Bruennhilde: “Yours shall I be for ever!) are experienced as feeling only in the present (Siegfried: “… then, to me, you must be what, fearful, you were and will be!”), so that the motifs make all that is distributed widely in time and space, with which they have been associated, present, in the here and now. So, when Wagner has Wotan tell Erda that Erda’s knowledge, which the Norns weave into their rope of fate, of past, present, and future, wanes before his will, and we recall that Bruennhilde at the beginning of Wotan’s confession to her called herself Wotan’s will, and he endorsed this, we realize that by confessing the knowledge that Wotan gained from Erda of past, present, and future, including his fated end, to Bruennhilde, Wotan was able to repress Erda’s knowledge and forget it, since Bruennhilde now holds it for Wotan’s reincarnate spirit Siegfried, who is Wotan minus consciousness of his true identity, history, and fearful fate. This is why Wagner told Cosima that Siegfried lives entirely in the present, as the finest gift of the will, i.e., the finest gift of Bruennhilde.
PH: K&S also neglect the following passage:
“Bruennhilde: (#87 - Fate Motif) Am I now yours? - Siegfried! Siegfried! Can you not see me? (#48 - the Dragon/Serpent Motif, or Fear Motif, which Alberich introduced when he turned himself into a Dragon to demonstrate how he could insure his continued possession of his Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, and Fafner inherits when he likewise turns himself into a Dragon to guard Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, and keeps it out of Alberich’s hands) As my gaze consumes you, are you not blinded? (#140 Variation; #48) As my arm holds you tight, don’t you burn for me? As my blood streams in torrents towards you, (#77 Valkyrie Motif) do you not feel its furious fire? (#77/#78b) Do you fear, Siegfried, do you not fear the wildly raging woman?
Siegfried: (in joyful terror) (#92 - Siegfried’s motif) Ha! - As the blood in our veins ignites, as our flashing glances consume one another, as our (#74b hint) arms clasp each other in ardor (#92) my courage returns and the fear, ah! the fear I never learned - the fear that you scarcely taught me: that fear (#129b - A Woodbird Motif) I think - fool that I am, I have (#128b?) quite forgotten it now.”
PH: K&S entirely miss the recurrence here, in the context of Bruennhilde’s question to Siegfried whether he now feels her passion, and most importantly, whether he fears her, of Motif #48, the Dragon/Serpent Motif first heard in "Rhinegold" Scene Two when Alberich, in order to demonstrate for Loge and Wotan how Alberich can insure his continued possession of the Ring, transforms himself into a Dragon/Serpent through the magic of the Tarnhelm, and later associated with Fafner’s transformation of himself, using the Tarnhelm, into the Dragon/Serpent, to whom Mime guides Siegfried to learn fear. You will recall that Siegfried was not able to learn fear from Fafner, but declared he wished rather to learn fear from Bruennhilde, which he did, though his fear of waking the sleeping Bruennhilde was first associated with Motif #137, a motif derived from Motif #81, which embodied Wotan’s acknowledgment that his son Siegmund was not the free hero he had longed for. The key point here is that the origin of this fear is Wotan’s fear of the threat which Alberich’s possession of the Ring represents to the gods. This fear was also embodied in Erda’s prophecy, both in "Rhinegold" Scene Four, and again as described by Wotan during his confession to Bruennhilde in "Valkyrie" Act Two Scene Two, that Alberich’s curse would eventually lead to the twilight of the gods. Fafner could not teach Siegfried fear because Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, had figuratively given birth to Siegfried as the hero freed from fear, since Bruennhilde had become the safe repository for Wotan’s confession of his fearful hoard of knowledge (which Erda taught him) of the inevitable end of the gods, and of the futility of Wotan’s quest to create a hero, freed from the gods’ laws and protection, who could redeem the gods from this fate by taking Alberich’s Ring from Fafner to insure Alberich could never regain possession of it. In this way Wotan was able to repress his unbearable knowledge into his unconscious mind and, in effect, be born again as Siegfried, the hero who knows neither who he is nor fear, because Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for him and protects him from its paralyzing effect. But Bruennhilde could teach Siegfried fear because she is the repository of the hoard of knowledge which Wotan found so unbearable to contemplate that he repressed it into his own unconscious mind Bruennhilde, so, if Siegfried wins Bruennhilde’s love, he inherits Wotan’s hoard of knowledge. Siegfried therefore has a fearful, but subliminal, premonition of waking this knowledge when he is about to wake Bruennhilde. Siegfried has a premonition, in other words, that he is Wotan, reincarnate, a premonition of becoming conscious of thoughts so unbearable that Wotan told Bruennhilde he dare not speak them aloud for fear of losing the grip on his will.
PH: However, since Bruennhilde is Siegfried the artist-hero’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, only by virtue of having loving union with his muse can Siegfried create that art in which he can be redeemed from fear of this knowledge. For this reason we find Siegfried telling her, in one of the final, ecstatic passages of their love duet, that the fear she scarcely taught him he has now forgotten. Siegfried, by learning fear from Bruennhilde, and also forgetting the fear she taught through her love, has thus followed Wotan’s own trajectory with respect to Erda, from whom Wotan sought objective knowledge of why he must live in care and fear, and then, upon learning from Erda that the gods’ were inevitably fated to go to ground in a gods’ twilight, also learned from her how to end his care and fear. Bruennhilde was the product of both of Wotan’s desires of Erda, since Erda gave birth to Wotan’s daughter Bruennhilde as a result of Wotan’s acquisition of knowledge from her. Siegfried and Bruennhilde, on the other hand, will give birth to a redemptive work of art.
PH: Note also that we hear the Woodbird’s song #129b as Siegfried declares that thanks to Bruennhilde he has now forgotten the fear Bruennhilde taught him. Recall that in S.2.3, right after the Woodbird taught Siegfried the use he could make of Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring in S.2.2 (that the Tarnhelm, for instance, could perform wondrous deeds, and that the Ring would make Siegfried lord of the world), Siegfried upon emerging from Fafner’s cave with Alberich’s Tarnhelm and Ring asked aloud what use these could possibly be. This means that the Woodbird had taught Siegfried their use subliminally. In other words, Siegfried possesses knowledge of their use, but only unconsciously. Similarly, Bruennhilde in "Twilight of the Gods" will tell Siegfried that “(#150) what gods have taught me, I gave to you, a bountiful hoard of hallowed runes … ,” but Siegfried will respond that: “You gave me more, o wondrous woman, (#150) than I know how to cherish [keep; guard]: (#149) chide me not if your (#150) teaching left me untaught!” In other words, like the Woodbird, Bruennhilde teaches Siegfried things subliminally; because Bruennhilde holds knowledge for Siegfried of what he doesn’t know, Siegfried can possess this knowledge yet remain unconscious of it, and be influenced by it subliminally, or musically, if you will, as by the Woodbird’s song. For this reason Hagen will say to Siegfried in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Three Scene Two, when Hagen is trying to persuade Siegfried to sing to Gunther and the other Gibichungs how he learned the meaning of the Woodbird’s song, that: “If only he [Gunther] understood her [Bruennhilde] the way you do the singing of birds.”
P. 164-176 CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - BRUENNHILDE’S TRANSFORMATION
P. 164: K&S: “… 'Goetterdaemmerung' itself may be thought of as expressing judgments - both dramatically and musically - from a standpoint transcending that of any of the participants in the drama, and in doing so, as laying claim to higher and greater authority than that of any character. (…) We suggest that the ultimate task of 'Goetterdaemmerung' (and the many-sided judgment of the entire work) is to reveal how a solution to Wotan’s apparently insuperable problem is achieved in Bruennhilde’s resolution of her own dilemma within this larger context that enables its meaning and significance to be grasped, after eliminating Siegfried and the rule of the heroic as competition.”
PH: It is true that as Wagner began to put the "Ring" behind him and begin work on his swan song "Parsifal" that he conceived of a higher form of man than the hero, and this was the Schopenhauerian Saint, in whom the will is stilled entirely. But Wagner had originally critiqued Schopenhauer on the basis that, where Schopenhauer saw redemption as coming solely through a quieting of the egoistic will, and compassion for all those who remained trapped in service to the will, Wagner offered his own version of redemption, in which, through the special love of man for woman, man tapped into the will in general through this unique passion and became conscious of himself as will, so that in this way he could still it. But a close reading of Wagner’s several passages in which he addresses this indicate that Wagner was really speaking metaphorically of that unconscious artistic inspiration, that loving union of conscious word/drama and unconscious music which gave birth to his revolutionary music-drama, because he said, among other things, that this highest form of passion reached its apogee in the ecstasy of the genius. So, by the time Wagner came to reconsider his earlier championing of the Wagnerian artist-hero like Walther, Siegfried, and Tristan, in favor of the special form of Wagnerian saint he may have brought to life in the character of Parsifal, made wise through compassion, Wagner wasn’t critiquing heroism per se (as K&S have been arguing) but the special kind of Wagnerian romantic love which Wagner conceived as a metaphor for the artist-hero’s unconscious artistic inspiration. Wagner, in other words, in critiquing Siegfried’s heroism as a lower form of consciousness, was actually critiquing Wagner’s own notion that secular art, his own art, could redeem us. In "Parsifal," therefore, when Parsifal rejects Kundry’s offer that he obtain at least temporary redemption through union with her, Parsifal is actually rejecting the muse’s offer of redemption through art, not merely redemption through sexual love. However, K&S are right to suggest, as seems to be implicit in their opening gambit in this chapter, that Bruennhilde’s final revelations about the meaning of the "Ring" and of her love for Siegfried have something very much to do with Wagner’s final artwork "Parsifal."
PH: Not only did Wagner say, in effect, that Bruennhilde and Isolde are virtually one and the same character, by saying in "Epilogue to ‘The Nibelung’s Ring’ " that the plots of "Twilight of the Gods" and "Tristan and Isolde" are virtually identical, but he also told Cosima that when members of Wagner’s audience have praised "Tristan" at the expense of "Parsifal," they don’t know what they’re talking about, because Kundry, in her former lives, has already lived through Isolde’s final transfiguration many times. When we also consider that Wagner equated Kundry with Eve, who offered Adam (Parsifal) the temptation which led to the Fall, this also equates Kundry with Eva in "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," the muse of unconscious inspiration for Walther's redemptive mastersong. Following this allegorical logic, we can also easily see how Elsa can be included in this list of cognate heroines, because Elsa is a figurative Eve who seeks knowledge forbidden by an allegedly divine figure, Lohengrin, who banishes her from his presence (as Wotan banishes Bruennhilde) for her act of disobedience, her breach of faith in him. Lastly, Venus in her Venusberg can be equated with Eve. So it is perfectly correct for Wagner to suggest that in Kundry all or most of Wagner’s former heroines are reincarnated, and, since in the end the artist-hero Parsifal rejects his potential muse’s offer of a form of redemption which is an alternative to that offered by the Holy Grail (which no longer seems to effective), if my argument is correct that the loving union of hero with heroine in Wagner’s (at least post-Dutchman) operas and music-dramas represents unconscious artistic inspiration, Parsifal is renouncing, not heroism per se, but the Wagnerian music-drama as a means to redemption. Wagner himself said in his last years that he was coming to see art, per se, as a cowardly evasion of the earnest nature of the real world. You can read a seven part essay (about 70 pages long, but still woefully incomplete) on my interpretation of "Parsifal" in a series of posts in the http://www.wagnerheim.com discussion forum archive (by scrolling through it to earlier dates), as well as a four part essay on my interpretation of "Lohengrin."
P. 164-165: K&S: “On the face of it, the mechanics of the plot in this fourth and final part of the "Ring" are of little interest, introducing us to a different - and diminished - dramatic world. The central parts of the drama appear to have a contrived complexity more readily associated with Verdi than with Wagner (think of "Simon Boccanegra"), and we seem to have lost the powerful mythological narrative that dominated the earlier segments of the "Ring." Action is not necessarily uninteresting, but by this stage we have such an extraordinary sense of the depth of characters, intricacy of thoughts, emotions and intentions, problem and menace that the intrigues of the social-climbing Gibichungs look trivial. Yet to find "Goetterdaemmerung" wanting on these grounds would be to sell it very short. We can achieve a more adequate perspective on it by focussing on Bruennhilde, the progression of her judgment, and the growth of her authority.”
PH: K&S don’t say so but they are clearly alluding to the fact that of the four libretto texts of the four music-dramas which together comprise the "Ring," "Twilight of the Gods" was written first and therefore most resembles the less sophisticated plots of Wagner’s earlier romantic operas like "Lohengrin." Therefore, as everyone knows, there are various traditional operatic elements retained here which Wagner eliminated from his subsequent music-drama libretto texts. Nonetheless K&S are ignoring something very important, upon which Wagner himself placed considerable emphasis, for in "Epilogue to ‘The Nibelung’s Ring’ " Wagner stated that the plots of "Twilight of the Gods" and "Tristan" (the libretto of which Wagner completed only after he’d completed his final revisions of the entire "Ring" libretto) are virtually identical, for in both a hero, as if under some involuntary compulsion, gives his own true love away to another man, with tragic consequences. Therefore there is something terribly significant behind the alleged “contrived complexity” of the plot of "Twilight of the Gods" which was so important to Wagner in his development of his revolutionary music-dramas that, after having completed the libretto of the "Ring," and two-thirds of its music (Wagner stopped composing the score of "Siegfried" in 1857 after he completed Act Two, and spent several years writing the libretto of, and completing the score to, "Tristan." After that, as everyone knows, he also wrote the libretto for, and composed the score to, "Mastersingers," before returning to the "Ring" in 1869 to complete composing its score), Wagner created an entirely new and stylistically quite original and distinct music-drama, "Tristan," which revisited the plot of "Twilight of the Gods," with which Wagner had inaugurated his "Ring" project, with which he made the transition from romantic opera to revolutionary music-drama.
PH: The initial purpose of Wagner’s "Ring" was to explain why Siegfried had to die ("Twilight of the Gods" was originally entitled "Siegfried’s Death"), and since Wagner replicated this plot in his "Tristan," we might well suggest that the purpose of "Tristan" is to explain why Tristan was predestined to destruction. My interpretations of both works explains this. In both, I construe the hero (Siegfried/Tristan) as the artist-hero who has the burden in modern, secular, scientific, skeptical times, of trying to preserve man’s religious longing, his (Kantian) ineradicable urge to seek meaning in metaphysics, in transcendent value, in the face of an advancement in scientific knowledge which more and more exposes the old religious belief as self-delusion, and replaces this with objective knowledge of man and nature. In this view of history, the secular, unconsciously inspired artist-hero is predestined to go down to destruction because he must inevitably become so conscious of processes which heretofore were unconscious, that he can no longer seek redemption in unconscious artistic inspiration. Since Wagner’s metaphor for this unconscious artistic inspiration is the loving union of hero (the music-dramatist) with the heroine (his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, his music), in becoming too conscious of who he really is, the artist-hero figuratively no longer can have sexual union with his muse (both Siegfried and Tristan maintain honorable distance from the abducted wife they are giving away to another man), but instead preserves her chastity, and therefore, losing his capacity for redemption in the unconscious, becomes too conscious of himself, and betrays his muse (his unconscious mind) and the secrets she kept, to the light of day. Wagner’s first opera in which he dramatized this concept was "Tannhaeuser," in which the artist-hero Tannhaeuser, while singing in the Wartburg song competition to win the hand of his waking muse Elizabeth in marriage, unwittingly and involuntarily (as Wagner said, as if under a spell), reveals the formerly hidden, unconscious source of his artistic inspiration, Venus, and her realm, the Venusberg, to his audience, with devastating consequences. Similarly, the artist-heroes Siegfried and Tristan, in giving their muse-lover (Bruennhilde and Isolde, respectively) away to another man (Gunther and Marke respectively, both of whom are Wagner's metaphor for his own audience), unwittingly reveal the forbidden knowledge which it was formerly the purpose of religious faith and unconscious artistic inspiration to conceal, in their work of art, thereby betraying the love they share with their muse, which is the same as saying they betray the redemption that art offered.
P. 165: K&S: “Bruennhilde emerges to bid Siegfried farewell. As befits a hero, he is to set forth in search of new adventures, and in her love for him, she desires that he be true to his own heroic self. It is far from her mind to keep him to herself on the mountaintop (as Fricka would have liked to confine Wotan). Yet for all her radiant trust in him, she has some concerns. Knowing that innocence is part of his heroic constitution, she wonders whether she has taught him enough. As in the case of her mother before her, sexual love has apparently diminished her wisdom; and although she has passed on what she can, there are hints of concern that the traveling hero may need more. (…)
P. 165-166: K&S: Yet Bruennhilde plainly continues to acquiesce in the transition in her manner of loving that occurs at the end of "Siegfried." Her love is now erotically exclusive, and she rejoices in it. So, for her, nothing matters except what is good for Siegfried - and that is seen by both of them in terms of his returning to his career as hero. But what of his dedication to her? Should that not equally be expressed in his giving supreme importance to her realization of her own self, her own destiny? Perhaps it is. In following his own ends, he does what she in her love for him would have him do. To share a love with another may be in part to understand and accept this from the other with loving gratitude and to feel liberated thereby, so that an action that may seem selfish and heedless of the other can actually be undertaken in the confidence that it accords with the other’s deepest desire. It is doubtful that Siegfried would be able to articulate this thought, but he may have an intuitive sense or confidence that their desires are in harmony in this way.”
PH: We need to take a closer look at Bruennhilde’s suggestion that Siegfried leave her to undertake new adventures, to grasp what K&S have omitted, and why they have only the vaguest idea, at best, of what is at stake:
“Bruennhilde: (#149) To new adventures, beloved hero, (#149) what would my love be worth if I did not let you go forth? A single worry makes me falter - that my merit (#150) has brought you too little gain! (#150) What gods have taught me I gave to you: a bountiful store [‘Hort’, i.e., Hoard] of hallowed runes; but the maidenly source of all (#150) my strength (#140) was taken away by the hero to whom I now bow my head. Bereft of wisdom (#149) but filled with desire; (#149) rich in love yet void of strength, I beg you not to despise the poor woman (#150) who grudges you naught but can give you (#150) no more!
(#148) Siegfried: You gave me more, o wondrous woman, (#150) than I know how to cherish [‘wahren’, i.e., keep, or guard]: (#150; #149) chide me not if your teaching (#150) has left me untaught!”
PH: Bruennhilde is effectively telling Siegfried that the whole meaning of her love for him is to inspire him to undertake new adventures. In my interpretation Siegfried’s new adventures are his creation, in the outer world (i.e., outside of his unconscious artistic inspiration in union with his muse), of redemptive works of art for an audience. In truth, we may regard this current scene as an archetypal representative of each distinct instance of unconscious artistic inspiration which has sent an artist-hero from his innermost world of unconscious imagination into the outer world to present his art to an audience, so that we may conceive that this has happened many times before. Furthermore, we can equally take Siegfried’s Rhine Journey as an interval which represents many such adventures which culminates in Siegfried’s final adventure, his visit to the Gibichungs, which ends in his death. Siegfried will leave Alberich’s Ring with Bruennhilde, as a symbol of their marriage troth, but also in exchange for the wisdom she granted him which, as he says, leaves him untaught. The point of this is that by leaving Alberich’s Ring with Bruennhilde (which by this point in the drama can stand in for Alberich’s and Wotan's entire Hoard of Knowledge), Siegfried is replicating Wotan’s original confession to Bruennhilde in which he repressed his unbearable, fearful hoard of knowledge and sublimated it into redemptive feeling. Therefore the wisdom Bruennhilde imparts to Siegfried, the hoard of runes which the gods (she means Wotan, in his confession) gave to her (and which is embodied by Motif #150, while her inspiration of his adventures, his works of art, is embodied by Motif #149), is a subliminal source of inspiration for him which doesn’t rise to the level of consciousness. Presumably each time man’s existential dilemma threatens to rise to consciousness in the artist-hero Siegfried, as it threatened to in Wotan in "Valkyrie" Act Two Scene Two just before he made his confession to Bruennhilde and repressed this knowledge, he replicates this act of repression of knowledge and sublimation of its horror into redemptive art, by giving Bruennhilde Alberich’s Ring in exchange for her subliminal inspiration of him by the knowledge which it represents. Siegfried, in other words, returns to his muse Bruennhilde for further inspiration after each one of his adventures (i.e., after creating a work of art she inspired). This explains his two visits to Bruennhilde on her rock during the "Ring."
PH: There is another one of those dozens of passages in the "Ring" which virtually every other interpretation ignores, but which my interpretation makes much of, which is of great relevance here. In "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Two, when Wotan is telling Bruennhilde how he means to punish her for her disobedience in supporting the Waelsungs against his most recent directive, Bruennhilde asks: “Will you take away all that you ever gave me?” and Wotan answers: “He who subdues you will take it away!” Now, the daughter and father might be alluding to Bruennhilde’s Valkyrie virginity (since this, according to both Feuerbach and Wagner, is one of several metaphors for religious man’s futile quest to sever himself from Nature, and his own body, by positing an alternative realm of transcendent spirit), or even to her godhead. Siegfried certainly takes her virginity away, and in a sense, as Wotan’s heir, he inherits Wotan’s godhead (i.e., the Feuerbachian assumption that man must own, as himself, what he has falsely projected from his own nature onto a god of his imagination). But Bruennhilde and Wotan are alluding to something else here, specifically Wotan’s hoard of runes which Erda taught him, which he imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession to her, and which she has now imparted, subliminally, to Siegfried, who can only feel what Wotan thought. And Wotan’s hoard of runes, his thought, which Bruennhilde felt and imparted subliminally to Siegfried, is clearly embodied by Motif #150. That this hoard of knowledge, the legacy of Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde, is what is really at stake here, is clear later when Siegfried has betrayed Bruennhilde by giving her in a loveless marriage to Gunther, and, in "Twilight of the Gods" Act Two Scene Five, Bruennhilde complains that she has given all her wisdom to the hero who lightly gives her away. When she says this we will hear #150 again. The point is, Siegfried is now the unwitting trustee of Wotan’s unspoken secret, which was never meant to be revealed to the conscious mind of man, or even consciously to himself. Also, Deryck Cooke believed #150 is related to #143, the "Hoard of the World" Motif.
PH: Here is further evidence that Bruennhilde sees her love for Siegfried as serving the sole purpose of inspiring his adventures (adventures which in my interpretation are presenting inspired works of art to the public).
“Siegfried: (#149) One lore I cherish yet: (#150) that Bruennhilde lives for me; (#149) one lesson I learned with ease: (#150) to be ever mindful [‘gedenken’] of Bruennhilde! (#150)
Bruennhilde: (#148 variation - This is the mature, thickly harmonized version of Siegfried’s Horn Motif #103) If you’d bestow your love on me, be mindful [‘gedenke’] only of yourself, be mindful [‘gedenke’] only of your exploits!”
PH: Here, in "Twilight of the Gods," Act One, Scene One, Hagen offers Gunther a very illuminating description of the nature of Siegfried’s adventures, which tallies with my interpretation of them as the creation of inspired works of redemptive art:
“Gunther: (#153) How could we find where he [Siegfried] is?
Hagen: When he rides out gaily in search of adventures, the world becomes a narrow pinewood: in restless chase he’ll surely ride to Gibich’s shores along the Rhine.”
PH: This may merely seem to illustrate the near-miraculous nature of the greatest hero’s feats, but actually it is a wonderful metaphor for Wagner’s concept of the “Wonder,” whereby his musical motifs of reminiscence and foreboding collapse all that is far away (fernen) in time and space, making everything present, everything here and now, in the feeling of the sounding motif which has been, or will be, associated with a great variety of things and events in the drama. It is also no accident that Wagner created a motif family which relates Loge’s Motif #35, which stands for mankind’s gift of artistic self-deception, with the two Tarnhelm Motifs #42 and #43, which stand for man’s imagination, and with Hagen’s Potion Motif #154, the motif which embodies Hagen's potion of love, forgetfulness, and remembrance, since all of these motifs are closely linked in this drama with the concept of Wagner’s artistic “Wonder.” Hagen had just finished telling Gunther and Gutrune about how they might employ his potion to ensnare Siegfried for Gutrune.
PH: K&S have noted that unlike Fricka, who desired to keep Wotan at home in Valhalla (Motif #23 is associated with this notion that Fricka could maintain Wotan’s fidelity to her by offering him the domestic tranquility of Valhalla), Bruennhilde is glad to employ her love to inspire Siegfried to undertake new adventures in the outer world. We recall Wotan’s remark to Fricka that in spite of her wish, as a god he still needed to conquer the outside world. And as we know, Bruennhilde’s worst fears will be realized when Siegfried not only betrays his love-oath to her by falling for Gutrune, but worse, returns to her mountain peak to force her into an unloving marriage with Gutrune’s brother Gunther. Therefore it is most significant that Siegfried’s aesthetic arrest after he had penetrated Loge’s Ring of fire to find Bruennhilde asleep in her armor on her mountain peak in the rosy dawn, in S.3.3, is accompanied by the most definitive version of #23, as a sort of meditation. His love for Bruennhilde, on this mountain peak, will be the new Valhalla of unconsciously inspired art. However, in Siegfried’s need to present the product of that insemination of Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, with Alberich’s Ring, a work of art which he will present to an audience in the outer world, Siegfried will ultimately have a tragic fall. Therefore it is especially noteworthy that the special motif which embodies Bruennhilde’s loving inspiration of Siegfried’s new adventures is #149, for Deryck Cooke noted this is closely related musically to #23.
PH: K&S are somewhat troubled by the seemingly selfish regard Siegfried has for himself and his adventures in this love he shares with Bruennhilde, but this too is explained by my interpretation, in which Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s unconscious mind and muse of his art, and therefore her sole purpose is to inspire his adventures, of art.
P. 166: PH: Here, K&S stoop to the ridiculous:
K&S: “(It may be worth noting … that they [Siegfried and Bruennhilde] do not hail each other on identical terms. He hails her as ‘… [glorious star]’ and ‘… [radiant love],’ while she hails him as ‘… [victorious light]’ and ‘… [radiant life].’ These are no mean differences, even if they are readily comprehensible stereotypically; and they do reveal something fundamental about the difference between values each of them incarnates, concerning which we will have much to say below.)”
PH: What could K&S possibly mean?
P. 166-167: PH: K&S now offer us their facile reading of the events of "Twilight of the Gods" Act One:
K&S: “But their ardent vows are of little avail; and their love is all too quickly and easily undone. Before Siegfried has arrived at the home of the Gibichungs, Hagen has persuaded Gunther and Gutrune that they can gain the honor they crave (or, to put it more cynically, that they can make a splash in Rhineside society) by marrying Bruennhilde and Siegfried, respectively. Everything turns on giving the hero a magic potion that will blot out Siegfried’s memories of previous women and so lead him to fall for Gutrune. And that is exactly what occurs. Siegfried shows up; has his drink, and in short order is planning to disguise himself as Gunther, climb the rock, win Bruennhilde for his new blood-brother, and obtain Gutrune as his reward.”
PH: In my allegorical interpretation Hagen’s influence on the Gibichung siblings to try and attain the height of their glory through marriage to Siegfried and Bruennhilde is the scientific, secular world’s temptation: that man achieves the height of his glory by possessing concrete, objective power instead of the illusory power of religion, the ethic of self-sacrifice, and art. In other words, he suggests that they objectively possess what only could have value for them, and increase their feeling of honor, of transcendent value, if they do not possess it, do not possess objective knowledge of it.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
1 post • Page 1 of 1