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Die Götterdämmerung

New Page -- 15 April 2007

 

Die Götterdämmerung is part of Richard Wagner’s operatic Ring Cycle. This brief treatise is based upon numerous observations and interpretations of this tale of gods, dwarfs, heroes, and magical objects. On the one hand, the operas of the Ring Cycle (The Ring of the Nibelungs) have an authoritative explanation by George Bernard Shaw [1] in terms of capitalism and the ruling class. On the other hand, the myths and legends upon which the operas are based may provide us with a better understanding of the realities of our world, including the current status of the Sumerian Anunnaki and the gods and goddesses (extraterrestrials) who might still be here on the planet Earth... and who may constitue the somewhat more elevated ruling class.

Die Götterdämmerung follows the action of Siegfried. [The narrative is shown in blue.]

Die Götterdämmerung

Die Götterdämmerung, though the last of the Ring dramas in order of performance, was the first in order of conception, and was indeed the root from which all the others sprang.”

This is an important point in that it is allegedly based on the old Nibelung Sagas, and yet its emphasis concerns first and foremost the "Twilight of the Gods." Wagner may have found this topic of even greater intrigue than the mythologies of the background and foundation for what would eventually transpire.

"Die Götterdämmerung begins with the Three Norns (Fates) sitting on Brunhilde’s mountain top spinning their thread of destiny. They tell the story of Wotan’s sacrifice of his eye, his breaking off a bough from the world-ash to make a shaft for his spear, and how the tree withered after suffering the violence. Then they tell of how Wotan, on having Siegfried break his spear, has called all his heroes to cut down the withered world-ash and stack its faggots in a mighty pyre about Valhalla. Then, with his broken spear in his hand, he has seated himself in state of the great hall, with the Gods and Heroes assembled about him as if in council, solemnly waiting for the end.”

“The tale is broken by the thread snapping in the hands of the third Norn; for the hour has arrived when man has taken his destiny in his own hands to shape it for himself, and no longer bows to circumstance, environment, necessity (which he now freely wills), and all the rest of the inevitable. So the Norns recognize that the world has no further use of them, and sink into the earth to return to the First Mother.” [1]

There are many stories of how man's ascendency into his own power is at the expense of the powers that were. It's a comforting thought that perhaps the destiny of humankind is not at the whim of some dysfunctional superior being. The concept is also a possible ruse, wherein the superior being has decided for its own purposes (nefarious or otherwise) to create the impression in mankind that humans have indeed been left on their own, and in fact are now in control of their destiny. It would not be the first time for such fabrications. The truth or reality is not yet entirely clear.

The Overture

Siegfried gives Brunhilde his ring, and she gives him her horse. Whereupon he’s off for more adventures, while Brunhilde sees her man off in the traditional way -- watching from her crag until he disappears.

The First Act

The fourth saga of the Ring Cycle opens in the Rhineside hall of the Gibichungs, in the presence of King Gunther, his sister Gutrune, and Gunther’s grim half brother, Hagen. Gunther is the fool, Hagen the villain. It is the ideal combination of the fool respecting the intelligence of the villain without ever suspecting he’s truly a scoundrel. Hagen’s game is to suggest a wife glorious enough for the vain Gunther, and thus he tells him the story of Siegfried and Brunhilde. The plan is to give Siegfried a love potion to bind him to Gutrune (and forget every other woman he has ever known), and thereafter have Siegfried bring Brunhilde to Gunther.

The plan quickly takes shape with operatic opportuneness, and the besmitten Siegfried is off the bring Brunhilde to Gunther. Hagen also adds the touch of using the magic helmet (the Tarnhelm) to make Siegfried appear as Gunther, but with the proviso that Siegfried will get Gutrune. The game of Hagen, of course, is to possess the Ring of Power and thereby become master of the world. As it turns out, Hagen is the son of Alberic and Gunther’s mother!

One can only wonder why the evil villain did not provide a love potion to bind Brunhilde to Gunther. It would probably have been devastating to the plot, but there is often an assumption in such heroic tales that the bad guys are brought to justice by virtue of their own inadequacies -- in addition to the brilliance of the good guys.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... uh... the mountain Brunhilde learns from her sister of Wotan’s preparation for burning Valhalla. In the process, the sister drops the clue that were the ring returned to the daughters of the deep Rhine, both the gods and the world would be redeemed from the curse of Alberic (from The Rhine Gold). Brunhilde has the ring, but asking her to give it up is like asking Woman to give up love for the sake of Church and State. It ain’t gonna happen!

Siegfried then arrives, disguised as Gunther, and if his actions are any clue, apparently possessing the same personality characteristics of greed, thievery, and villainy. He tears the Ring from Brunhilde’s finger, claims her as wife, drives her into a cave without pity, and sets Nothung between them in token of his loyalty to the friend he is impersonating.

The Second Act

Back in the hall of Gibich, Alberic has appeared as an apparition to urge his son Hagen to win back the ring for him. Hagen, being ever so slightly gullible, agrees. Siegfried then arrives to share the story of his adventures. Hagen sounds the Fatted Calf Party Call to welcome the chief and his bride. Gunther leads his captive bride into the room, only to have Brunhilde claim Siegfried as her husband by the Ring on his finger. Confusion reigns as to who had which ring and who took it from whom. Siegfried can only recall obtaining the Ring from Fafnir. Soon everyone is calling everyone else a liar.

When the gods fail to arrive and clear up the matter, Siegfried and Gutrune go off to prepare for their wedding feast, leaving Hagen, Gunther and Brunhilde to plot vengeance. Because Brunhilde had enchanted Siegfried such that no weapon could harm him -- but had left his back unprotected in that is was inconceivable that he would ever turn his back to a foe -- a great hunt is planed whereby Hagen can spear the hero in the back. Brunhilde is clearly not the Brunhilde of old, but just a jealous woman with the classic view that tis better to deny other women the spoils of romance if she herself must do without.

A key factor in this turn of events is the failure of the gods to appear and sort things out for the common folk. The gods may not yet be Valhalla toast... yet. But their nonappearance in the midst of important events is something of a first. Wotan, for example, had been positively a gadfly, showing up at every turn of significant events (even if in disguise). Now suddenly, he and the others have other engagements.

This might be likened to the turn of events, circa 600 BCE, in which the ruling elite of alleged gods and goddesses stepped back from the overt day-to-day management of humankind, and thereafter apparently left the underlings to their own various and nefarious devices. The same scenario appearing in the twilight, not the end, of the gods is but one more piece of circumstantial evidence tying together the scattered pieces of the puzzle.

The Third Act

With the hunting party in progress, Siegfried strays from the others and meets the Rhine maidens, who almost persuade him to give up the ring. He pretends marital bliss, demands to keep the ring, and when confronted with the certainty of death in having the Ring, he “discloses to them as unconsciously as Julius Caesar disclosed it long ago, that secret of heroism, never to let your life be shaped by fear of its end.” [1]

“We must learn to die, and to die in the fullest sense of the word. The fear of the end is the source of all lovelessness; and this fear is generated only when love begins to wane. How came it that this love, the highest blessedness to all things living, was so far lost sight of by the human race that at last it came to this: all that mankind did, ordered, and established, was conceived only in fear of the end! My poem sets this forth.” -- Wagner to Roeckel, 25th Jan. 1854.” [1]

Accordingly Siegfried keeps the ring, and the Rhine maidens leave him to his fate -- in the form of the hunting party ready for lunch by the river side. Hagen adds an antidote to the love portion, and Siegfried begins to recall his fiery mountain adventure. Gunther is mortified, while Hagen takes the opportunity to impale Siegfried -- whose death throes include about 30 bars of love music.

Meanwhile back at the Castle, Gutrune is worried by all manner of vague terrors. Then she hears Hagen returning with the hunting party and his announcing the death of Siegfried by the tusk of a wild boar. Gutrune divines the truth however, and the arrogant Hagen does not even bother to deny it. When Siegfried’s body is brought in, both Gunther and Hagen claim it. Hagen simplifies the matter by killing Gunther. Then when Hagen tries to get the ring, Siegfried’s hand closes on it and raises itself threateningly. As in all rings of power, this one has a mind of its own.

Brunhilde arrives to do the funeral pyre gig -- speaking eloquently, flinging a torch onto the pyre, and then riding her war-horse into the flames. The funeral pyre lights the entire castle, an apparent diversionary effect as the Rhine overflows it banks allowing its Maidens to take the ring from Siegfried’s finger. Hagen attempts to snatch the ring from the maidens, who promptly drown him; while in the distant heavens the gods and their castle are seen perishing in the fires of Loki as the curtain falls.

The "fires of Loki", eh. Wasn't that just an illusion, a phantasma to prevent the fearful from looking at the man behind the curtain? Would this be a suggestion to the esoteric crowd that one might need to look just a bit closer at the stagecraft of Loki?

It is a truism that one seldom finds that for which one is not looking. If one assumes the death of an adversary or a villain, then thoughts of justice fade away. But if the villain in the piece has simply done an effective con job -- one all the more easier if one has the means and power at one's disposal to pull it off -- then one is likely to get away with all of the imagined and imaginary crimes of which they are accused. One thinks of Ken Lay, the allegedly late CEO of Enron, as a case in point. Could the Sumerian Anunnaki, the gods and goddesses of antiquity be any less clever than a mere human? Probably not. The walls of fire, the threats of hell, and the like may just be just the stage craft that will dissuade the fearful and the willfully ignorant from penetrating to the truth.

**********************

In the more mundane world of capitalism and mundane affairs, George Bernard Shaw has quite a bit to say about the implications and resulting state of affairs occasioned by the ending of the Ring Cycle.

Near the end of the 19th century, “Alberic had got the ring back again, and was marrying into the best Valhalla families with it. He had thought better of his old threat to dethrone Wotan and Loki. He had found that Nibelheim was a very gloomy place, and that if he wanted to live handsomely and safely, he must not only allow Wotan and Loki to organize society for him, but pay them very handsomely for doing it. He needed splendor, military glory, loyalty, enthusiasm, and patriotism; and his greed and gluttony were wholly unable to create them, whereas Wotan and Loki carried them all to their most triumphant climax...” “The Ring may... be an inspired guess at the historic laws and predestined end of our capitalistic-theocratic epoch.”

Alberic “discovers that to be a dull, greedy, narrow-minded money-grubber is not the way to make money on the modern scale; for though greed may suffice to turn tens into hundreds and even hundreds into thousands, [the ability] to turn thousands into hundreds of thousands requires economic magnanimity and a will to power as well as to pelf. And to turn hundreds of thousands into millions, Alberic must make himself an earthly Providence for masses of workmen, creating towns, and governing markets.

“In the meantime, Fafnir, wallowing in the dividends he has done nothing to earn, may rot, intellectually and morally, from mere disuse of his energies and lack of incentives to excel; but the more impotent he becomes, the more dependent he is upon Alberic for his income, on Loki for his politics, and on Wotan for his respectability and safety from rebellion: Alberic, as the purse-bearer, being, under Destiny, the real master of the situation.” [1]

But “the dominant sort of modern employer is not to be displaced and dismissed so lightly as Alberic in The Ring. Wotan is hardly less dependent on him than Fafnir: the War-Lord visits his works, acclaims them in stirring speeches, and imprisons his enemies; whilst Loki does his political jobs in Parliament, making wars and treaties for him at command. And he owns and controls a new god, called The Press, which manufactures public opinion on his side, and organizes the persecution and suppression of Siegfried.

“The end cannot come until Siegfried learns Alberic’s trade and shoulders Alberic’s burden. Not having as yet done so, he is still completely mastered by Alberic. He does not even rebel against him except when he is too stupid and ignorant, or too romantically impracticable, to see that Alberic’s work, like Wotan’s work and Loki’s work, is necessary work, and that therefore Alberic can never be superseded by a warrior, but only by a capable man of business who is prepared to continue his work without a day’s intermission.”

“Wagner did not live to see this reduction of Alberic to absurdity. What he did see was the reduction of Siegfried to absurdity.”

“When he scored Night Falls on the Gods, he had accepted the failure of Siegfried and the triumph of the Wotan-Loki-Alberic trinity as a fact. He had given up dreaming of heroes, heroines, and final solutions, and had conceived a new protagonist in Parsifal, whom he announced not as a hero, but as a fool, armed, not with a sword which cut irresistibly, but with a spear which he hold only on condition that he did not use it: one who, instead of exulting in the slaughter of a dragon, was ashamed of having shot a swan. The change in the conception of the Deliverer could hardly be more complete.” [1]

“The government is of course established by the few who are capable of government, though, its mechanism once complete, it may be, and generally is, carried on unintelligently by people who are incapable of it, the capable people repairing it from time to time when it gets too far behind the continuous advance or decay of civilization. All these capable people are thus in the position of Wotan, forced to maintain as sacred, and themselves submit to, laws which they privately know to be obsolescent makeshifts, and to affect the deepest veneration for creeds and ideals which they ridicule among themselves with cynical skepticism.

“No individual Siegfried can rescue them from this bondage and hypocrisy; in fact, the individual Siegfried has come often enough, only to find himself confronted with the alternative of governing those who are not Siegfrieds or risking destruction at their hands. And this dilemma will persist until Wotan’s inspiration comes to our governors, and they see that their business is not the devising of laws and institutions that prop up the weaknesses of mobs and secure the survival of the unfittest, but the breeding of men whose wills and intelligences may be depended on to produce spontaneously the social well being our clumsy laws now aim at and miss.” “No serious progress will be made until we address ourselves earnestly and scientifically to the task of producing trustworthy human material for society. In short, it is necessary to breed a race of men in whom the life-giving impulses predominate.”

“The necessity for breeding the governing class from a selected stock has always been recognized by Aristocrats, however erroneous their methods of selection. We have changed our system from Aristocracy to Democracy without considering that we were at the same time changing, as regards our governing class, from Selection to Promiscuity. Those who have taken a practical part in modern politics best know how farcical the result is.” [1]

“We must, like Prometheus, set to work to make new men instead of vainly torturing old ones. On the other hand, if the energy of life is still carrying human nature to higher and higher levels, then the more young people shock their elders and deride and discard their pet institutions, the better for the hopes of the world, since the apparent growth of anarchy is only the measure of the rate of improvement.” “No doubt it is natural to a snail to think of any evolution which threatens to do away with shells will result in general death from exposure. Nevertheless, the most elaborately housed beings today are born not only without houses on their backs but without even fur or feathers to clothe them.” [1]

“A nation without Freethinkers -- that is, without intellectual Anarchists -- will share the fate of China. It is also true that our criminal law, based on a conception of crime and punishment [The Hammurabi Code instead of Sumerian Ethics!] which is nothing but our vindictiveness and cruelty in a virtuous disguise, is an unmitigated and abominable nuisance, bound to be beaten out of us finally by the mere weight of our experience of its evil and uselessness.”

“The truth is we are apt to deify men of genius, exactly as we deify the creative force of the universe, by attributing to logical design what is the result of blind instinct.” “Mozart, asked for an explanation of his works, said frankly, “How do I know?’” [1]

“None of us will reach the promised land: we shall all die in the wilderness. Intellect is, as some one has said, a sort of disease; it is incurable.” [Wagner’s letter to Roeckel]

___________________

References:

[1] George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Niblung’s Ring, Dover Publications, New York, 1967 (an unabridged and unaltered republication of the fourth edition (1923), as published by Constable & Co., London).

 

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The Rhine Gold

The Valkyrie

Siegfried

Night Falls on the Gods

Annals of Earth

Chronicles of Earth

Forward to:

Immanuel Velikovsky

600 B. C. E.

History 009

 

 

               

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