When Bruennhilde in S.3.3 tries to tell Siegfried that what Wotan thought (referring to his confession of his unspoken secret to her), she felt, and that what she felt was just her love for Siegfried, Siegfried will respond that he doesn’t grasp such far-off (“Fernen”) things, but only sees and feels her. But Wotan says Mime failed to ask what concerned him most, as we hear #37, the so-called “Loveless Motif” which is derived from Motif #18, the so-called “Renunciation Motif” first heard when the Rhinedaughters told Alberich in R.1 he’d have to renounce love in order to forge the Ring of power from the Rhinegold. The re-forging of Nothung can only be achieved by a fearless hero instinctively dedicated to restoring lost innocence, whereas Mime is and remains Fallen man. So worldly knowledge, the kind of knowledge Wotan couldn’t bear, which he stored in his unconscious mind Bruennhilde in order to protect himself (Siegfried) from it, is quite distinct from the kind of knowledge (aesthetic intuition) needed to redeem oneself from Alberich’s curse on the Ring, the curse of consciousness, which only Siegfried the Waelsung can tap into (which is why he alone can wake, woo, and win Bruennhilde).
Mime is the virtual embodiment of craven fear (what Wotan loathes in himself), while Siegfried is fearless precisely because Wotan, in repressing knowledge of his true, craven, fearful identity into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, figuratively gives birth to his reincarnation as Siegfried, the fearless hero who instinctively abhors all that Wotan loathes in himself (Mime). Wagner dramatizes Mime as the embodiment of this fear in the passage which follows the Wanderer’s exit during the transition from S.1.2 to S.1.3. Because Wotan’s prosaic, thinking self, Mime, is fearful, for Wotan to be reborn minus conscious knowledge of his true, craven, fearful identity, as the fearless, noble Siegfried, is effectively to cut off Wotan’s head in order to preserve Wotan’s heart. The fearless Siegfried alone can do this, and only with the sword which the fearless, feeling rather than thinking, hero, alone can reforge, a sword whose very motif #57 incorporates the Primal Nature Motif #1, which symbolizes the time before the Fall, the restoration of lost innocence.
Mime: (emerging, deeply disturbed and confused) (#48:) The sword! The sword! How might I forge it? – (half to himself: #118:) ‘Only he who never (:#48) (#57) knew fear (#34:) can forge the sword anew (:#118; :#34).’ I’ve grown too wise for work like that!
Mime here confirms that being wise, i.e., self-consciously beholden to the ways of the waking, conventional, prosaic world, makes him unfit to reforge the sword designed for the restoration of lost innocence. Only a hero who in a sense is Pre-Fallen, innocent, can accomplish this. I will subsequently be quoting various passages from Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks in which he identifies the inspired artist and his art with pre-fallen humanity and a restoration of lost paradise. Wotan, and his lower self Mime, are by definition Fallen Man.
Mime: (gradually regaining control of himself) (#34:) Well might I flee from the man who knows fear (:#34): - (#41 duple vari) but that I have failed to teach the child! (#41?) Like a fool, I forgot what’s uniquely good: (#107b:) he was meant to learn to love me; - alas, that went amiss (:#107b)! (#118:) How shall I teach him what fear is (:#118)?
Mime: (steadily regaining his self-control: #34:) For you, I have learned the meaning of fear, so I might teach it to you, you fool (:#34).
Siegfried: But, Mime, how can you teach me it? (#98/#34) How could a coward be my master?
Mime: Just follow me and I’ll lead you there; I’ve thought up a way of teaching you. (#98) (#48>>:) I know of an evil dragon who’s killed and devoured many: (#118:) Fafner will teach you fear (:#48) if you’ll follow me to his lair (:#118). (#98)
Siegfried: Where does he lie in his lair? (#98)
Mime: Neidhoehle [“Envy-cave”] it is called: to the east, at the edge of the wood. (#98)
Siegfried: And so it’s not far from the world? (#98)
Mime: It lies very close to the cave!
This passage is all about Wotan’s prosaic self’s (his ego’s, i.e., Mime’s) reluctance to renounce itself in favor of his ideal self, Siegfried. Mime represents Wotan’s real motives (craven fear) for wishing for Siegfried to redeem the gods from the shameful end Erda foresaw, whereas Siegfried represents Wotan’s ideal hope for selflessness and fearlessness, i.e., innocence in motives, motives freed from Wotan’s guilt. This is akin to the notion in Christian theology that those who are faithful in Christ will die in the body to be reborn in the spirit. Mime in this sense represents Wotan’s mortal coils, Wotan’s fallen self, and Siegfried his redeemed, new self, purged of guilt and fear. This is closely linked in Wagner’s thinking to the relationship between religious faith in gods (which is predicated on mortal man’s fear of death, Fafner, which is assuaged by Freia’s apples of sorrowless youth eternal, and on the hope for divine bliss or love, Fasolt, which is assuaged by Freia in her role as the goddess of love), and inspired secular art, which according to both Feuerbach and Wagner (as I will show later) is freed from religious faith and its false claim to the power of truth (Alberich’s Ring), its false hope for transcendent, supernatural satisfaction, because it makes us feel as if we are redeemed from the world, without actually redeeming us from the real world.
But though Wotan needs a fearless hero, who alone can reforge Nothung and win back the Ring from Fafner so Alberich can never regain its power and overthrow the gods, Wotan nonetheless can only prompt that hero to undertake this redemptive task if Wotan can somehow communicate his fear of the end Erda foresaw to Siegfried, in order to inspire in him the need to act on Wotan’s original motivation, fear of the gods’ end. Siegfried, in other words, must do what the gods need, do what is necessary to redeem them from fear of their end, without being conscious of being prompted by their fear.
Mime (Wotan’s prosaic self) failed to teach Siegfried fear because, by virtue of Wotan’s repressing his knowledge of his true, craven identity and corrupt history in Bruennhilde by confessing this to her, Wotan was reborn purged of this knowledge, purged of his fear. This is so because Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind, now holds this knowledge for him (i.e., for Siegfried). In this way Siegfried is Wotan minus consciousness of his true identity and history, which Bruennhilde knows for him. Siegfried will in S.2.3 tell Fafner that Siegfried doesn’t yet know who he (Segfried) is, and in S.3.3 Bruennhilde will tell Siegfried that what Siegfried doesn’t know, she knows for him (as we hear the Fate Motif #87, symbolizing Wotan’s knowledge of the gods’ fate which Erda imparted to him and he imparted to Bruennhilde).
That is why, as Mime is telling Siegfried he knows of a dragon who will teach Siegfried fear, we hear Loge’s Motif #34, which calls to mind Loge’s protective ring of fire around Bruennhilde, and Motif #98, which was introduced in V.3.3 when Bruennhilde begged Wotan to protect her sleeping self from being won by any but a true hero (i.e., Siegfried). It is from Bruennhilde that Siegfried will learn the fear which Fafner can’t teach him because, as the repository for that knowledge of the inevitable, shameful end of the gods Erda foresaw, knowledge which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde in V.2.2 (which Wotan said he dare not speak aloud), Bruennhilde holds Wotan’s fearful hoard of knowledge for Siegfried. This is why Siegfried will feel fear of waking Bruennhilde in S.3.3, for she will teach him the fear which Fafner failed to, in the process of consummating their loving union (just as Bruennhilde’s mother Erda taught Wotan the meaning of Wotan’s fear during their loving union, which gave birth to Bruennhilde). This also explains why we will hear Fafner’s (and Alberich’s) Dragon Motif #48 in S.3.3 as Bruennhilde is asking Siegfried if he feels her passion and fears her. The allegorical point is that according to Feuerbach and Wagner (as I will show later), the inspired secular art of the Wagnerian music-drama is freed from what Feuerbach said makes religious faith prose rather than poetry, its dependence on fear of the end (and promise of immortal life in heaven) and fear of truth (religious faith, though self-deception, stakes a claim to be the truth, whereas secular art does not). In this sense the artist-hero Siegfried does not fear the end.
Mime: (aside) No sage can help here, (#103) I see that clearly: here only folly can help the fool! (#103 frag:) How he stirs and mightily strives: the steel’s disappearing and yet he doesn’t grow hot (:#103 frag)!
(Siegfried has fanned the forge fire until it glows brighter than ever: #35/#33/#100 vari over #103 frags [sounding like a laugh]; #34)
Mime: I’ve grown as old as cave and wood but never saw the like! (#103/#103 frags)
Mime: (#103 frag>>:) He’ll succeed with the sword, I can see that clearly: fearless, he’ll furbish it whole, - (#117/#33b:) the Wanderer knew he would (:#33b)! - (#5/#34:) How can I save (:#117) my timid head (:#5/#34)? (#92:) It will fall to the valiant lad (:#92) if Fafner doesn’t teach him fear! (leaping up with mounting disquiet and then stooping down: #103 frags) (#48 >>:) But alas, poor me! For how could he slay the dragon if he’d first learnt fear from the beast (:#48)? How could I win the ring for myself? (#17>>:) Cursed quandary! I’d be firmly stuck if I couldn’t find some clever means by which to defeat the fearless lad (:#17; :#103 frags).
Mime is telling us that it is precisely Siegfried’s spontaneity and naivety, his unconsciousness of those prosaic motives which prompt a wise, worldly, experienced man like Mime/Wotan, which will grant Siegfried success in reforging the sword (the sword which expresses Wotan’s hope for a restoration of lost paradise, the return of the innocence Wotan lost due to his worldly experience and conscious human reflection upon it, which is represented by Mime who, in a sense, learned fear for Siegfried so he could teach it to him). We hear echoes of Mime’s worldly experience in his profound statement that he has grown as old as cave and wood and has never seen the like of Siegfried’s vital, original, creative force. It is precisely over-consciousness of that worldly experience, which Wotan had confessed to Bruennhilde, which paralyzed Wotan into inaction. Freed from this by Bruennhilde, who holds this paralyzing self-knowledge for Siegfried, Siegfried is freed to (seemingly) spontaneously create the new. Mime reminds us of what Wotan learned in his worldly wanderings, the burdensome hoard of knowledge Wotan wishes to forsake in favor of the freedom of heartfelt feeling.
Mime reminds us here that his quandary is precisely Wotan’s quandary: Wotan must renounce his head (Mime), his fear (Fafner), in order to obtain redemption through his heart (Siegfried’s loving relations with Bruennhilde). Mime’s egoistic motives in seeking power through acquisition of Alberich’s Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, which Mime can only obtain by exploiting Siegfried’s fearlessness, are the bitter truth behind Wotan’s ostensibly noble motives in seeking redemption of the gods from their inevitable end. But Wotan must renounce such craven motives to redeem himself, and therefore Wotan must acquiesce in “going under” in order to make way for his heir, the hero in whom he lives on, freed from all that is prosaic (Nibelung) in his nature, freed from the #19 (Ring) in #20a (Valhalla), if you like. Mime, knowing that Siegfried can only win for him Alberich’s Ring if Siegfried is fearless, and having learned from Wotan/Wanderer that the fearless lad will take Mime’s head, hopes to preserve his head and yet win Alberich’s Ring somehow, by teaching Siegfried fear, but in such a way that nonetheless Mime can both win possession of Alberich’s Ring, and preserve himself. In truth, Wotan in a sense accomplishes this by giving up his head, Mime, to be reborn in his heart, Siegfried. Wotan is only able to accomplish this seeming miracle by virtue of Siegfried’s consummation of a loving union with Bruennhilde, who, figuratively holding for Siegfried Wotan’s head (i.e. Wotan’s secret confession of fatal knowledge to Bruennhilde), will teach Siegfried fear, but in such a way (subliminally, musically) that Siegfried nonetheless is freed from its paralyzing effect. Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind, in other words, must become Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, so that Siegfried can subliminally act upon Wotan’s motive of fear, without becoming conscious of it and thus being paralyzed by it, as Wotan was.
Mime: (downstage aside: #46 frag:) When he’s fought himself weary with the dragon, a drink may refresh him from his efforts (:#46 frag). (#30b vari; #97 vari [music which sounds like that which accompanies Siegfried as he reaches the peak of the mountain, where Wotan left Bruennhilde asleep, after breaking Wotan’s spear and penetrating Loge’s ring of fire, in S.3.3]) From herbal juices I’ve gathered, I’ll brew a drink for him; (#97: [strongly emphasized!!!]) he’ll need to drink only very few drops (:#97 strongly emphasized!!!) before sinking, senseless, into sleep (:#30b vari; :#97 [music depicting Siegfried reaching the peak of Bruennhilde’s mountain in S.3.3]): (#109 vari [very slow]) with the selfsame weapon he won for himself (more and more animatedly: #109:) I’ll easily clear him out of the way and attain to both ring and hoard (:#109).
Only in this way can we understand the otherwise mysterious and incomprehensible motival accompaniment to Mime’s remarks above. Mime plans to have the fearless Siegfried win Alberich’s Ring for him, yet preserve himself from being the victim of the Wanderer’s prophecy that the fearless hero will take Mime’s head, by drugging Siegfried with a potion so that, while Siegfried sleeps, Mime can kill Siegfried and take possession of Alberich’s Ring. As Mime plots this scheme we hear not only the Nibelung Hoard Motif #46 (keeping in mind that Wotan’s hoard of fateful knowledge, which he learned from Erda and imparted to Bruennhilde, Wagner conflates with Alberich’s hoard of treasure, which Alberich’s minions mined in Erda’s Umbilical Nest, Nibelheim). We also hear Motif #30b (dubbed by Dr. Allen Dunning “Godhead Lost”), first heard when Fafner in R.2 described how if the gods lost Freia’s golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal they would wither away, followed immediately by its derivative or variant, Motif #97, the motif of Bruennhilde’s magic sleep, the sleep into which Wotan plunges Bruennhilde in V.3.3 to punish her for having supported the Waelsungs Siegmund and Sieglinde against his command, after taking away her godhead.
This may seem very arcane and obscure, but Wagner’s web of motival allusion is far-reaching, and if we trace it we can understand it. Wagner continuously draws parallels between Mime and Wotan whenever Mime appears within, or is mentioned within, the "Ring," because Mime represents Wotan’s prosaic self, his craven motives which he loathed so much he couldn’t bear to speak them aloud to himself. For this reason Wotan confessed them to Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, instead, and thus repressed them. Wotan is condemning Siegfried to suffer the same fate, the curse of Alberich’s Ring, which has brought Wotan low, in making Siegfried heir to his hoard of forbidden knowledge which he imparted to Bruennhilde, and, what is the same thing, by desiring that Siegfried kill Fafner and take possession of Alberich’s Ring (and thus of Alberich’s curse on it), his Tarnhelm, and his Nibelung Hoard of treasure, so that Alberich can’t regain possession of them to bring about the twilight of the gods Erda foresaw. Wotan’s motives in doing this seemed to him to be noble and divine, but in his confession to Bruennhilde Wotan essentially admitted to her, by saying he finds with loathing only himself in all that he tries to undertake, that his motives are as craven as those of Alberich and Mime. It is for this reason that Wotan in despair and hopelessness said he would make Alberich’s son Hagen heir to all that he now despises, his legacy of divine authority. So, both Mime and Wotan, in order to take possession of Alberich’s Ring to keep Alberich from regaining it and bringing them down, are willing to consign Siegfried to destruction, in Mime’s case literally (through his potion), and in Wotan’s case by letting Siegfried unwittingly do for the gods what they can’t do, take possession of Alberich’s Ring and its curse (and Alberich’s Tarnhelm and Hoard of treasure), and fall heir to Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge of Alberich’s inevitable victory over the gods, which Bruennhilde holds for Siegfried. It is necessary to keep in mind in this consideration that Wagner conflates Alberich’s Nibelung Hoard which he mined from the earth (Erda) with Wotan’s Hoard of bitter knowledge which he obtains in his wanderings over the earth (Erda) and through his special visit to Erda herself to obtain knowledge, in S.3.1. Both Mime and Wotan, therefore, are prepared to consign Siegfried to death in order to pursue their ambition. This is proved in the finale of the "Ring," in T.3.3, when Bruennhilde blames Wotan for having condemned Siegfried to suffer the curse which also brought Wotan low.
It’s important to add here that through Wagner’s musical motifs he has been prepping us, his audience, to conflate the Bruennhilde who will teach Siegfried the meaning of fear (just as her mother Erda taught Wotan the meaning of his fear), and Fafner’s guardianship over Alberich’s Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, since Wagner mixes musical (the Dragon Motif #48) and textual references to Fafner’s lair, and Mime’s promise that Fafner will teach Siegfried fear (the fear Mime claims he learned for Siegfried), with musical (#33, #34, #35, #98, and #100) and textual references to Siegfried’s eventual penetration of Loge’s protective ring of fire around Bruennhilde, and a reference to the motif #98 which was introduced when Bruennhilde begged Wotan to protect her sleep from all but a great hero. The point is that Alberich’s Ring and Hoard are philosophically identical with the Hoard of fateful knowledge of the gods’ inevitable twilight which Erda foresaw, which Wotan obtained through his experience of the earth (Erda) in his wanderings.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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