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The Rhinegold: Page 226
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Having witnessed Alberich’s turn as a fearful serpent, i.e., the form most consonant with Alberich’s understanding of his own nature (since Alberich chose this form), Loge now suggests that Alberich could best prove his ability to elude the efforts of his enemies to co-opt his Ring power by making himself small, a la ‘Puss & Boots.’ Loge suggests a toad and Alberich, accordingly, transforms himself into one, introducing the new Toad Motif #49, which is kin to #48, This motif has no importance other than descriptive, as it is not heard after its inception here.

Though Wagner had several sources in Norse and Teutonic myth and legend for Wotan’s and Loge’s capture of Alberich and forcing him to pay a ransom of Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard to free himself, I believe his primary conceptual source was Feuerbach. For Feuerbach said that Christianity (keeping in mind that many aspects of the supposedly pagan gods of Valhalla as presented by Wagner in the Ring are drawn straight from Christian theology) overpowers human reason, taking the mind prisoner (as Wotan and Loge take Alberich prisoner), by making the articles of religious faith undoubted facts:

[Footnote:] “The denial of a fact is not a matter of indifference; it is something morally evil, - a disowning of what is known to be true. Christianity made its articles of faith objective, i.e., undeniable, unassailable facts, thus overpowering the reason, and taking the mind prisoner by the force of external reality … .” [120F-EOC: p. 205]

In other words, Wotan and Loge co-opt Alberich’s power by taking him prisoner and taking possession of his Ring, in order to insure the survival of the gods in Valhalla, i.e., the survival of man’s faith in them.

And Wagner provides the following striking paraphrase of Feuerbach, suggesting like Feuerbach that Judeo-Christian miracle (which Wagner calls “Wonder”) is predicated on faith which denies understanding, its dogma tyrannously subjugating the understanding despite its instinctive quest for explanation:

[P. 213] “The Judaeo-Christian Wonder tore the connexion of natural phenomena asunder, to allow the Divine Will to appear as standing over Nature. (…) A fundamental denial of the Understanding was therefore the thing hypothecated in advance … . [P. 214] (…)

… the characteristic of the Dogmatic Wonder consists just in this, that, through the obvious impossibility of explaining it, it tyrannously subjugates the Understanding despite the latter’s instinctive search for explanation … .” [522W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 213-214]

And it is the Tarnhelm, as manipulated by the artistic cunning of Loge, redeemer of the gods from truth, that is the source of this “Wonder.”

Having bound Alberich, Wotan and Loge now retrace their steps up from the depths of the hellish Nibelheim, Erda’s Umbilical Nest, to the same meadow before Valhalla where they left Froh, Donner, and Fricka waiting anxiously for their return. Their progress is depicted in another of Wagner’s remarkable orchestral interludes between scenes.

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