Wanderer: (#133:) You are not what you think you are (:#133)! The wisdom of primeval mothers draws towards its end: your knowledge [“Wissen”] wanes before my will. Do you know what Wotan wills? (long silence.)
This passage, so far as I know, never seems to have gotten much attention from the academic community, and yet it is one of the most definitive pieces of evidence for my argument that Bruennhilde is Wotan’s unconscious mind, in which he has repressed thoughts which were too unbearable to think to himself aloud, i.e., consciously, for Wotan here triumphantly proclaims to Erda, who taught Wotan fear, and who gave birth to Wotan’s daughter Bruennhilde, through whom Wotan hopes to cease to fear the end of the gods Erda foretold, that “The wisdom of primeval mothers draws towards its end: your knowledge wanes before my will.” Since Bruennhilde in V.2.2 described herself to Wotan as his will, in order to persuade him to confide his godly “Noth” (anguish) to her, and Wotan acquiesced by confessing to her the unspoken secret of all that Erda had taught to him about the inevitability of Alberich’s victory over the gods, Wotan is evidently here proclaiming that by virtue of this confession to his will, Bruennhilde, Erda’s fearful knowledge (of all that was, is, and will be) wanes before Bruennhilde. In this way Erda has taught Wotan how to end the fear her prophecy instilled in him, even if he can’t escape its cause, the inevitable end of the gods.
Wotan: (#53:) O unwise woman, I call on you now (:#53) (#54:) to sleep forever, free from care (:#54)! (#133 chord) Fear of the end of the gods no longer consumes me (#133) now that my wish so wills it! (#133:) What I once resolved in despair, in the searing smart of inner turmoil, (#133 vari:; #92c?:) I now perform freely in gladness and joy (:#133 vari; :#92c?): [[ #134: ]] though once, in furious loathing [“Ekel”], (#37) I bequeathed the world to the Nibelung’s spite [“Neid”], (#92:) to the (#133) lordliest Waelsung I leave my heritage now. (#20a) He whom I chose but who never knew me, the bravest of boys, though deprived of my counsel, has won for himself (#57) the Nibelung’s ring: (#17 varis:) rejoicing in love, while free from greed [“Neides”], Alberich’s curse is powerless over the noble youth; for fear remains unknown to him.
Wotan now embraces his own end and the end of the gods, which Erda prophesied Alberich’s curse on his Ring (embodied by Alberich’s son Hagen) would bring to pass, only because all that he values in himself will live on now in the heir to his legacy (#20a, Valhalla), the artist-hero Siegfried, purged of all that Wotan loathed in himself (his head, Mime, his fear, Fafner). Just as he implied when he rejected the Norns’ knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, because it is in thrall to the real world (embodied by Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 and the Loveless Motif #37, derived from Motif #18, associated with Alberich’s renunciation of love for power), Wotan had previously made Alberich and his son Hagen heir to the world which Wotan despises, but has now made Siegfried heir specifically to Wotan’s religious heritage, embodied here by #20a which, if you will recall, was embodied by another segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20c, in V.3.3 when we heard it as Bruennhilde was trying to persuade Wotan to leave her sleep protected from all but a fearless hero, so that Wotan would not bring dishonor on himself by dishonoring her. Wotan’s leaving Siegfried heir to the heritage of Valhalla, the refuge from the care and dismay caused by the threat of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, is the reason why Wotan doesn’t fear his own end: thanks to Wotan’s confession of his hoard of fearful knowledge which Erda had imparted to him, to their daughter Bruennhilde (Wotan’s unconscious mind), Wotan now lives on in his heir Siegfried, minus consciousness of his true identity, knowledge which, as Bruennhilde will soon tell us, she holds for Siegfried. In this way Erda’s daughter Bruennhilde offers the answer to the second question Wotan asked Erda, how he can end his fear, for Siegfried is fearless by virtue of the fact that Erda’s knowledge wanes before Wotan’s will Bruennhilde. This is the meaning of the newly introduced Motif #134, heard as Wotan announces that though he once made the Nibelung’s spite heir to the all that Wotan loathes, the world, Siegfried will be the heir to all that Wotan values in Valhalla’s (religion’s) legacy. This is all thanks to Bruennhilde.
Wotan says, by the way, that Siegfried, freed from greed while rejoicing in love, is freed from Alberich’s curse, because fear remains unknown to Siegfried. True, Siegfried did not learn fear from Fafner, but Siegfried will learn fear from Bruennhilde in S.3.3. Does that mean that Siegfried inherits Alberich’s curse by virtue of learning fear from Bruennhilde? Siegfried has already won Alberich’s Ring, and Alberich said anyone besides himself who possessed his Ring would suffer its curse. However, as we will see, Bruennhilde, before whom Erda’s fearful knowledge wanes, because she is both Wotan’s and Siegfried’s unconscious mind, can temporarily spare her figurative son, and lover, Siegfried, from suffering from Alberich’s curse, the wounds of consciousness, which so beset Wotan that he couldn’t bear conscious knowledge and repressed it into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde. In fact it was this reason alone which granted Siegfried the fearlessness necessary to reforge his father Siegmund’s sword Nothung, kill Fafner and Mime, take possession of Alberich’s Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, without suffering (so far) any consequences, and to ultimately penetrate Loge’s protective ring of fire around Bruennhilde (the veil of Maya, artistic self-deception, to access the terrible truth hidden behind the veil), to wake and win her (i.e., win unconscious artistic inspiration from his muse).
Wotan: (#40b>>:) Bruennhilde, whom you bore to me, (#64>>:) the hero will lovingly waken (:#40; :#64): (#134:) waking, your all-wise child (#134 modulation?:) will work the deed that redeems the world. (somewhat broadly) And so, sleep on; (#97) close your eyes and, dreaming, behold my end (:#19?)! whatever they do [“Was jene auch wirken”: Spencer’s English translation must be vetted! Shouldn't it be "Whatever happens ... "?] – (#134:) to the one who’s eternally young the god now yields in gladness (:#134). (#133:): descend then, Erda! Primeval mothers’ fear! Primeval care! (:#133)! (#133:) Descend! Descend! (#97:) To ageless sleep!
The deed that Bruennhilde will work which will redeem the world, at least the deed to which Wotan alludes, is not her eventual restoration of Alberich’s Ring to the
Rhinedaughters. No Rhinedaughter or Rhine music is heard here as Wotan describes the redemption Bruennhilde will bring to the world upon waking for
Siegfried. What we hear instead is the new motif #134, which is often called the World-Inheritance Motif. Wotan does not yet look to the restoration of the stolen
Rhinegold (in its incarnation as Alberich’s Ring of power) to the Rhinedaughters, since Wotan assumes that the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde share will redeem the
world. That love, as we will see, is Wagner’s metaphor for his own unconscious artistic inspiration of his redemptive art, the revolutionary music-drama. It is
hugely significant that #134 is the only motif Wagner ever called a motif of redemption, and yet the motif to which Wagner draws the most attention in the
finale of the Ring in T.3.3 is #93, the motif first heard in V.3.1 as Sieglinde praised the wonder of Bruennhilde’s self-sacrificial intervention to save the Waelsungs and
the as-yet-unborn hero Siegfried in particular. It is also striking that Wagner said that Motif #134, at the moment of its introduction in S.3.1, should sound like the
herald of a new religion. The “new religion” to which Feuerbach alluded in several of his books which influenced Wagner in creating his "Ring" was man’s winning his
freedom from the self-deception of religious belief, in order to create a new humanist religion in which mortal man looked to himself alone, and celebrated his
independence from the old religious faith, from superstition, in secular art and science and enlightened social reform. I had determined not to introduce any references from outside the libretto and music of the "Ring" until after I complete the portion of my argument which is based solely on the "Ring," but I couldn’t resist mentioning this here since it explains so much what is at stake as Wotan (Wagner’s symbol both for godhead and for that collective, historical humanity who unconsciously and unwittingly invented the gods in the collective dreaming called myth-making), passes the torch to his heirs Siegfried (Wotan’s conscious mind now freed from the knowledge which paralyzed Wotan into inaction) and Bruennhilde (Wotan’s unconscious mind, into whom Wotan repressed his unbearable self-knowledge, who holds it for Siegfried).
It is also noteworthy that, as we hear Motif #134 again, Wotan tells Erda that “… to the one who’s eternally young the gods now yields in gladness.” This is
noteworthy because in her last talk with her father Wotan in V.3.3, when she was pleading with him not to dishonor himself by dishonoring her,
Bruennhilde told Wotan that “you cannot want to dishonour that part of you which is ageless nor suffer a shame that brings you disgrace … .” Later, I will
reference several quotations from Wagner’s writings in which he expressed the view that the only true immortality is to be found in secular art (especially
the art of music), and that when religions die out and scientific ways of understanding the world change, great art lives on eternally unchanged.
Wanderer: (#135:) Who made the sword so sharp and hard that his fiercest enemy fell before him (:#135)?
Siegfried: (#103 forging vari:) I forged it myself since the smith was unable: (#41:) I’d otherwise still be swordless (:#41).
Wanderer: (#135 on horns:) But who made the mighty fragments from which you forged the sword ?
Siegfried: What do I know of that? (#124 varis:) I know only that the bits were no use unless I re-made the sword (:#124 varis).
Wotan/Wanderer has asked Siegfried this long series of questions, which trace Siegfried’s significant actions back to a past he doesn’t remember, to insure that Siegfried is not conscious of being Wotan’s agent in redeeming the world from Alberich’s curse on his Ring. In other words, Wotan is insuring that Siegfried is Wotan’s unconscious agent, who subliminally is motivated by Wotan’s will (Bruennhilde), yet remains unconscious of Wotan’s influence. Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for Siegfried.
Siegfried: (#voc: [back reference to Siegfried’s remarks: “My woodbird’s flown away; with fluttering flight and sweet-sounding song it showed me the way,” and “Are you laughing at me? No more of your questions, old man … .”]) Let me see what you look like! Why are you wearing so huge a hat (:#voc [back reference])? (#66:) Why does it hang down over your face (:#66)?
Wanderer: (still in the same position: #112 vari >>:) That is the Wanderer’s way when he walks against the wind (:#112 vari).
Siegfried: (observing him more closely: #20ab:) But under it one of your eyes is missing (:#20ab)! No doubt someone struck it out when you stubbornly stood in his way? Be off with you now! Or else you could easily lose the other one, too.
Wanderer: (very calmly: #20a:) I see (:#20a), (#20b >>:) my son, that where you know nothing, you know how to get your own way (:#20b). (#20ab:) With the eye which, as my second self [“das als and’res”], is missing, you yourself can glimpse (#20c:) the one (:#20c) (#20d:) that’s left for me to see with (:#20d).
Wotan is describing Siegfried as the eye which Wotan had to sacrifice in order to win wisdom from the waters of the sacred well which poured out from the roots of the World-Ash Tree, and in order to break off its most sacred branch to make Wotan’s spear of divine authority and law, represented by Motif #21, one of Wagner’s two symbols for The Fall in the Ring (the other being Alberich’s Ring). Siegfried, the eye Wotan had to sacrifice in order to attain the power of conscious thought, which brought about The Fall, is therefore a pre-Fallen hero. Obviously the sacrifice of one of Wotan’s two eyes is a metaphor for what Wotan described as the love that waned as Wotan began to seek and obtain worldly power, predicated upon the power of Alberich’s Ring, whose motif #19 gave birth to the first segment of Wotan’s Valhalla Motif, #20a. What Wotan had to give up was preconscious feeling, in order for the power of reflective, symbolic human thought, Alberich’s Ring, to supercede it. So, as Robert Donington suggested, Siegfried is Wotan’s missing eye which looks inward. Wotan’s missing eye is the subjective, the unconscious, Wotan’s feeling as opposed to his power of thought, which is embodied in his Spear of divine authority and law. We find here another example of Wotan’s figurative matricide, religion’s figurative murder of Mother Nature (Erda), because in T.P Erda’s three daughters, the Norns who weave the rope of fate, all that was, is, and will be (objective knowledge of the world’s truth which Wotan, religious man, sinned against in positing a supernatural realm of immortality in opposition to Erda’s natural law that all that is, ends), tell us that the wound Wotan made in the World-Ash in order to break off its most sacred branch ultimately killed the tree, which is a figure or metaphor for Mother Nature (Erda). In fact, the World-Ash Motif is closely akin to Erda’s Motif #53, which in turn is based on Motif #1, the Primal Nature Motif out of which the entire cosmos of Wagner’s "Ring" was brought into being in the Prelude to R.1. Siegfried and Bruennhilde are at one with the earth (Erda), Mother Nature, in a way that Wotan is not because, according to Wagner, religious faith denies Nature, whereas inspired secular art offers us a religious feeling of transcendence while remaining entirely within the real world.
What Wotan says to Siegfried here is fascinating in another respect. He says that where Siegfried knows nothing, Siegfried knows how to get his own way, echoing Mime who stated that Siegfried would succeed in re-forging Nothung because no sage can help in this, that only folly can help the fool. And that was the whole point of Wotan repressing his conscious knowledge of all those things in his own self which impeded his desired freedom to break his own law and retrieve Alberich’s Ring from Fafner so that Alberich could not regain its power and bring the gods’ power to an end. Siegfried can get his own way without Wotan’s insuperable hurdles because Siegfried is unconscious of who he is, by virtue of Wotan having made Bruennhilde the safe repository of Wotan’s loathsome self-knowledge and fear, embodied now by Mime. This is the sole authentic basis of Siegfried’s naivete, his ignorance of self, his fearlessness, and his ability to take possession of the sources of Alberich’s power and Alberich’s Ring curse, without suffering the consequences. Bruennhilde (as we will learn from her in T.2.5) magically protects Siegfried at the front from wounds, i.e., Siegfried’s unconscious mind protects Siegfried, at his front, from Wotan’s paralyzing foresight or foreknowledge of the gods’ predestined and shameful end. What Siegfried doesn’t know (but Wotan’s knowledge, repressed into Bruennhilde, does) is that he is Wotan’s unwitting and unconscious agent, a fact dramatized here by the fact that we hear four of the five segments of Wotan’s Valhalla Motif, #20abcd, as Wotan tells Siegfried that his ignorance is his virtue, and that he is the very eye Wotan is missing.
Siegfried: (#135 vari:) But listen, I’ll gossip no longer; quickly, show me the way (:#135) and be on your way, too! For nothing else do I deem you of use! So speak or I’ll send you packing!
Wanderer: (gently: #81:) If you but knew me, brave-hearted youth, you’d spare me this affront! (:#81)
Wotan already has shown Siegfried the way to Bruennhilde not only by virtue of the fact that Siegfried was born of the divine seed Wotan planted in Bruennhilde, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, through his confession to her, but also through the Woodbird, who has revealed to Siegfried all that Wotan wished for Siegfried to do in order to take possession of Alberich’s Ring to keep Alberich from regaining its power, and to redeem the world from Alberich’s curse (of consciousness). Thus the Woodbird’s final instruction was to wake and win Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s unconscious mind (repository of Wotan’s unspoken, secret confession) and future muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, to whom Siegfried will deliver Alberich’s Ring for safekeeping (in T.P). Also, by virtue of making Loge ring the sleeping Bruennhilde with protective fire (the fire of man’s self-deceit, or Wahn, the veil of Maya), Siegfried alone, the hero who is fearless because he doesn’t know who he is, is privileged to penetrate this veil of illusion to access Wotan’s daughter Bruennhilde, the keeper and guardian of Wotan’s religious mysteries. Note that Siegfried’s glib dismissal of Wotan is decried by Wotan here in conjunction with Motif #81, the motif which in V.2.1 expressed Wotan’s growing awareness that Siegfried’s father Siegmund was not in fact the free hero Wotan wished for (in spite of Siegmund’s sympathetic and self-sacrificial, loving and heroic nature), as if Wagner’s orchestra is motivally chastising Siegfried’s unwitting crime of hubris.
Siegfried: (quietly) Blissful wasteland on wondrous heights!
(#15; #129b; #23: He climbs right up and, standing on a rock by the precipice at the back, observes the scene in wonderment. He gazes into the pinewood at the side and moves further downstage.)
As Siegfried passes Loge’s fiery barrier and reaches Bruennhilde’s mountain peak Siegfried is overcome with aesthetic arrest, which is embodied musically here both with the Rhinedaughters’ Motif #15 “Rhinegold! Rhinegold!,” and specifically by Motif #23, which was introduced by Fricka in R.2 when she expressed her hope that the heavenly home to which Wotan and she awoke (not yet named Valhalla by Wotan) would satisfy Wotan and keep him from straying and being disloyal to her (i.e. disloyal to the religious and domestic and family values she represents). Through Motif #15 Wagner is suggesting an analogy between the loving union with Bruennhilde Siegfried will soon enjoy, and the Rhinegold in its pure, pre-Fallen state, as if to say that the art the muse Bruennhilde will inspire Siegfried to create will be a restoration of lost paradise, lost innocence, and through Motif #23 Wagner is suggesting that Valhalla, the god’s heavenly home and hope for immortality of mortal heroes, is equivalent in some way with the bliss of Siegfried’s loving union with Bruennhilde, which we will come to recognize as Wagner’s idea of the “new religion,” inspired secular art, specifically Wagner’s revolutionary art, the music-drama. This secular art is the New Valhalla.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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