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The Rhinegold: Page 162
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something entirely real that may be consciously enjoyed. This may not be a problem for philistines – especially for the English variety: the reason they get on so splendidly with their God is because they enter into a contract with Him, according to whose terms they have to fulfil a certain number of contractual points, so that, finally, as a reward for various shortcomings in this world, they may enjoy eternal bliss in the world to come. But what do we have in common with such vulgar ideas?” [633W-{6/7/55}Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 344]

Freia, the gift Wotan offered the Giants in exchange for building Valhalla, is the goddess who, among other benefits like belief in the illusion of transcendent love, grants man sorrowless youth eternal (immortality) as part of this social contract.

[R.2: H]

Now Fafner shows his true colors, displaying what distinguishes him from his more tender and sentimental brother Fasolt. Fafner – the incarnation of man’s fear of death (the self-preservation instinct) - tells Fasolt he knows where the gods are vulnerable. Fafner, man’s fear of death, the true, egoistic foundation of all his religious beliefs, is of course, of himself, the place where the gods are vulnerable, as instanced in Fafner’s following threat to take Freia (the product of man’s self-preservation instinct) away from the gods, exposing them as nothing more than mortal, living, finite beings. For Freia, Fafner says, grows golden apples in her garden which grant the gods their endless, never-aging youth, i.e., which grants the gods their status as gods:

Fafner: Stop your idle chatter! We’ll gain not good like this: holding Freia helps us little; much, however, will be gained if we wrest her away from the gods. ([[ #29: ]] softly:) Golden apples grow in her garden; she alone knows how to tend them; the taste of the fruit confers on her kinsfolk endlessly never ageing youth (:#29); [[ #30a: ]] but, sick and wan, their bloom will wither (:#30a), [[ #30b: ]] old and weak they’ll waste away, if Freia they have to forego (:#30b): (roughly) (#29:; #26a:) so let her be plucked from their midst (:#29; :#26a)! (#29; #26a)

 

Wotan: Loge delays too long!

#29 is introduced here as the Motif of Freia’s Golden Apples of Sorrowless Youth Eternal. This motif is the basis for the closely related motif representing her optimistic brother Froh, #31. Fafner seems initially to be more interested in depriving the gods of that which makes them gods, their immortality, than in enjoying the immortality which Freia would presumably grant the giants if they acquired her as the gods’ payment for building Valhalla. This seeming contradiction with what I had previously described as Fafner’s primary motive in seeking to obtain Freia, i.e., to obtain the immortality which would satisfy man’s self-preservation instinct, is resolved when we consider that if the gods actually acknowledged the egoistic Giants’ valid claim to Freia, their very essence, the ideal of transcendent love and immortality, would be exposed as having an egoistic, earthly rather

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