Wagner's Sources - 2
Written by Jane Ennis

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 15:06:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources (cont)

First of all, thank for all the lovely notes expressing continued interest! I've tried to respond personally to everyone - if you haven't received a reply from me yet, be patient!

I will continue now with discussion of the childhood and youth of Sigurd/Siegfried - again, I started this section from the perspective of Morris's poem, so please disentangle the bits you don't find relevant!

Book II of SIGURD THE VOLSUNG deals with the childhood and youth of Sigurd. It remains close in outline to VS, and is subtitled REGIN. This is the name of Sigurd's foster-father in all the Norse sources, except THIDREKS SAGA (hereinafter known as TS), in which he is called MIMIR or MIME - this is the source from which Wagner adapted much of his Siegfried figure. TS is the only source in which Sigurd is an orphan, and he is brought up by the Smith Mime. Sigurd's parents in this saga are SIGMUMD and SISIBE (i.e. not incestuous siblings). SISIBE is falsely accused of adultery by Sigmund's evil consellors, and he tells them to take her into the forest, cut out her tongue and leave her there. While they are quarreling about what to do with her, Sisibe gives birth to a baby boy, whom she places for safety in a glass casket. The men fight, and the glass casket with the child inside is kicked into the river; Sisibe dies. The child is found and suckled by a deer.

Wagner takes from TS the foster-father Mime, who is a skilled smith; the fact that Siegfried is an orphan, whose mother died giving birth to him; Siegfried's unwillingness (or inability) to apply himself to the smith's craft, plus the fact that he breaks the anvil. |In no other source is Siegfried/Sigurd an orphan, and in none is his foster- father called Mime- he is always REGIN. (That is, in the Norse lit- erature: in NL, he doesn't have a foster-father, and both his parents are living.)

I will quote elsewhere verbatim from TS (my translation!)

This is Paul Crook in the role of Mime, from the Arizona Opera production.

Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 18:09:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources

You will no doubt have noticed that in TS it is the DRAGON who is called Regin! He is Mime's brother, and their relationship appears to be one of fraternal affection. In Wagner, as you know, Mime is the brother of Alberich, and not of the dragon Fafner. It is probably from TS that Wagner obtained the name Fasolt; it isn't recorded anywhere else as far as I know. However, in TS he isn't the brother of Fafnir, but of Ecke, whom Thidrek has defeated in battle and killed. Nor is he a giant.

In VS and Reginsmal ( a poem in The Poetic Edda, hereinafter known as PE) , Sigurd's foster-father, Regin, is the brother of Fafnir, who has turned himself into a dragon in order to guard the gold that has been obtained from the gods (Odin, Loki and Hoenir) in order to pay a ransom for the third brother, Otter. In VS and Morris's poem, (which, as usual, closely follows VS, this episode occurs in the chapter dealing with Sigurd's childhood, in the form of a flashback; Regin tells Sigurd about his own background, as a preamble to egging Sigurd on to killing the dragon.

We shall discover that, in DAS RHEINGOLD, Wagner has conflated two legends: the theft of the gold and the building of Valhalla (involving a deceitful bargain with a giant) were originally unconnected.

In VS, Regin tells Sigurd that there is great wealth to be obtained by killing the giant Fafnir, who guards his hoard on Gnitaheid (the Gliitering Heath). Regin had two brothers, Otr and Fafnir. Otr could change his shape into that of an otter, and would go fishing in this guise. He used to fish near a waterfall, under which lived a dwarf called ANDVARI. (Remember this name!) One day the gods Odin, Loki and Hoenir passed by Andvari's falls, where Otr was fishing. Loki killed the otter by throwing a stone. In the evening they arrived at Hreidmar's house and showed him the otter- skin; Hreidmar identified the dead beast as his own son. As compensation he demanded that the gods fill the otter-skin with gold, and cover it with gold. Loki then captured Andvari, who was swimming in the waterfall, and demanded all the gold that Andvari possessed. Andvari tried to keep back one ring, but Loki took that as well, whereupon the dwarf said that the ring would mean the death of anyone who possessed it. The gods paid the compensation for the death of Otr with this gold - Hreidmar made them give up the ring to cover a whisker. They seemed, if anything, glad to get rid of it.

The ring which Andvari is made to surrender is obviously the basis for Alberich's Ring, but doesn't have the same significance.

 I think you are beginning to see the outline of the legend, nicht wahr?!

 Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Sorry about the typos - I have deleted as many as I could !)

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 18:25:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources (cont)

 II'll just continue from where I left off in the last posting.

Fafnir killed Hreidmarr to get his hands on the treasure - he became a fearsome dragon (VS doesn't explain how) and Regin got none of it. And - after this rather lengthy preamble - he wants Sigurd to kill Fafnir so that he can have the treasure - to which, it may be argued, he has at least some right (i.e part of his inheritance/ransom for his brother). He hasn't brought Sigurd up for altruistic reasons, but for his own ends, and he plans to get tid of the boy once Fafnir has been killed - so in this instance Wagner has remained fairly close to his source material.

Short digression here, to discuss Morris's poem.) Morris, as usual, remains close to the source in this episode. Sigurd is brought up as a cherished son in the house of his mother Hjordis and her second husband. Morris, unlike Wagner, makes Sigurd into an intelligent child;

Now hath the child grown greater, and is keen and eager of wit,
And full of understanding and oft hath he joy to sit
And talk of weighty matters, when the wise men meet for speech.
(Sigurd the Volsung)

 Yes - well, a greater contrast to Wagner's Siegfried can hardly be imagined! In a later chapter I developed this point at some length, but I will briefly summarise it here. My hypothsesis is that SIGURD THE VOLSUNG is Morris's answer to Wagner - an anti-RING, if you like. He takes pains to make his Sigurd as different a character as possible from Wagner's loutish hero. (Flame-retardant suit on!)

 TThese lines are also
(a) a reference to the "puer senex" topos of medieval literature
(b) a Biblical reference - to Christ in debate with the wise men - s'thing that happens before his bar-mitzvah, I THINK is the point! (i.e. he astonishes the Elders with his intelligence).

Morris has several much more explicit and specific Biblical references in the poem, all clustered round the figure of Sigurd, who is once referred to as The Redeemer.

Not that Morris himself was a practising Christian, far from it, he was more or less a militant atheist! However, I don't want to digress too far into the realms of literary criticism and the place of Biblical refs. in 19th. century lit: I can discuss that on VICTORIA!) The point is that Sigurd is , in the context of the poem, seen as a type of Christ.

(Yes, I KNOW Bruennhilde is the Redeemer in the RING- I suspect this may have been Morris's point.)

 That's probably enough to be going on with.

 I am so glad you are enjoying this! I suppose if you read this you don't actually have to read the poem......! :)

Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

"Fortunately, she has not suffered the fate of the many, whom Wagner's productions have driven into lunatic asylums....."

Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 15:40:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources (Thidreks Saga)

63. There was a smith called Mimir, unequalled in fame and skill. He had many apprentices in his service. He was married, but in nine years of marriage he and his wife had had no children, and he was greatly distressed by this. He had a brother called Regin; he was a very strong, evil man. The evil was repaid, because he dabbled so much in sorcery and magic that he turned into a dragon. He was the greatest and most wicked of all dragons, and hoped to kill everyone except his brother. Only Mimir knew where his lair was.

64. One day, Mimir decided to go to the forest to burn charcoal... He built a big fire....and....a beautiful boy came running towards him. Mimir asked the boy who he was, but the child couldn't speak. But Mimir took the child and set him on his knee and dressed him, because he was naked. Then a deer came running out of the forest to stand by Mimir's knees, and she licked the child's face and head. Mimir concluded from this that the deer must have raised the child, so he decided not to kill it. He took the child....home to be brought up as his son; he called him Sigurd. The boy grew up there until he was twelve years old.By then he was so tall and strong that there was no-one to equal him. He was very difficult to get on with , and would torment the apprentices and beat them, so that hardly anyone could bear to stay with him.

65. {Mime decides that it's time Sigurd learns something useful}

 Then Mime ..... led him to the smithy. He sat down in front of the hearth, took an iron bar and placed it in front of the fire. He gave Sigurd the heaviest hammer. When the iron was hot, Mime took it out of the fire and placed it on the anvil, and told Sigurd to hammer it - Sigurd's first blow was so strong that it split the base of the anvil in half; the anvil sank some way through the floor, the peices of iron flew aside, and the tools were broken. Mime cried; "Never before have I seen anyone strike so heavily and so incompetently! Whatever else becomes of you, you're obviously not cut out to be a craftsman!" Then Sigurd ran back to the house, sat down next to his foster- mother and told no-one whether he was happy or miserable.

 [Mimir decides to get rid of Sigurd, as he is so troublesome]

66. So Mimir went to the dragon in the forest, and told him that he was going to bring him a boy whom he could kill. [Mime sends Sigurd into the forest to burn charcoal. he gives him enough food and wine for nine days.]

..he ate all the food and wine which Mime had intended to last for nine days. then he said to himself, "I can hardly imagine anyone with whom I wouldn't like to fight right now, if he crossed my path! I don't imagine it would be beyond my ability to kill ssomeone!"

 AAs soon as he'd said this, a big dragon came towards him, and he said, "Perhaps I will be able to put it to the test at once, just as I wished." He ran to the fire, grabbed the biggest of the branches and ran towards the dragon; he hit it over the head so that it was unable to spew out poison, and its head sank to the ground. He kept hitting it until it was dead.

 He then....cut off the dragon's head....he didn't know what he should do about food, and he thought the best thing would be to cook the dragon's head for his evening meal. So he took his kettle, filled it with water and hung it over the fire. Then he took his axe and hacked great chunks of the dragon, until his kettle was full. When he thought the meat should be ready, he put his hand into the kettle; the water was boiling. He burnt his finger, and put it into his mouth to cool it. As the broth ran over his tongue and into his throat, he heard two birds sitting on a branch and talking, and he understood what one of them was saying; "It would be better for this man, if he knew what we know. Then he'd go home and Kill Mime his foster-father, who was ploting his death, if things had gone according to plan. That dragon was Mime's brother, and if Sigurd doesn't kill Mime, then Mime will avenge his brother and kill Sigurd.

 TThen Sigurd took the dragon's blood and rubbed it on his skin and hands and everywhere it touched became like horn. Then he undressed and rubbed the blood everywhere he could reach - but he couldn't reach between the shoulders. Then he got dressed again and set off for home carrying the dragon's head in his hands.

 [The apprentices warn Mime that Sigurd is coming home]

?67. Mime went on his own to greet Sigurd, and bade him welcome. Sigurd relied, "Neither of us is welcome to the other, and you'll gnaw at this head like a dog." Mime replied, "You won't do what you've threatened, and I'll make amends for having angered you. I'll give you a helmet and shield and breastplate - weapons that I made for Hartnit of Holmgard. They're the best of all weapons. And I'll give you a steed called Grani, from Brynhild's stud, and a sword called Gram, the best of all swords."

 Sigurd said, "I'll agree to this if you keep your promise."

 Then they went home together.

 Mime took some iron armour and gave it to Sigurd. He put on the armour; them Mime gave him the helmet, which he put on his head. Then he gave him the shield. These weapons were so good that their equal could not be found. Then Mime gave Sigurd a sword. He took it, and has he swung it, it seemed to him a very good weapon. Then he swung the sword as hard as he could and dealt Mime his death-blow.

?************************************************************* ****

 Tto be continued. (Not the extracts from TS; that's almost the lot, you will probably be glad to hear! It's not a work of great literary merit, to say the least!)

 Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 28 Apr 1995 14:23:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources

 Today I will continue with the outline of how the childhood and youth of Sigurd are depicted in the sources, and in Morris's poem.

 Morris follows the episode in VS in which Sigurd obtains his horse - called GRANI in VS, GREYFELL in "Sigurd". Regin encourages Sigurd to ask his family to give him a horse - he tries to convince Sigurd that he is not being well-treated, and that his father's wealth is being withheld. Sigurd is helped by Odin to obtain the horse. The episode in VS is as follows:

So the next day went Sigurd to the wood, and met on the way an old man, long-bearded, that he knew not, who asked him wither away.

 Sigurd said, "I am minded to choose me a horse; come thou, and counsel me thereon.

Well then", said he, "go we and drive them to the river which is called Busil-tarn."

 They did so, and drave the horses down into the depths of the river, and all swam back to land save one horse; and that horse chose Sigurd for himself; grey he was of hue, and young of years, great of growth, and fair to look on, nor had any man yet crossed his back.

 Then spake the grey-beard, "From Sleipnir's kin is this horse come, and he must be nourished heedfully, for it will be the best of all horses". And therewith he vanished away.

 SSo Sigurd called the horse Grani, the best of all the horses of the world; nor was the man he met other than Odin himself.

 TThis is not the only time that Odin steps in to help Sigurd - later he helps him to counteract Regin's treacherous advie about digging a pit to catch Fafnir's blood. Regin has told him to dig only one pit, in the hope that he will drown in the blood, but Odin appears and tells him to diog several, so that he will be able to avoid the flow of blood.

 In "Sigurd", Morris places more emphasis on Regin's attempts to make Sigurd believe that his family are treacherous; Sigurd obtains the horse with Odin's help, as in VS. In the RING, he obtains the horse from Bruennhild - it is the horse that she rode as a Valkyrie.

 Fuer den Ring nimm nun auch mein Ross!
Ging sein Lauf mit mir
einst kuehn durch die Luefte,
mit mir verlor es die maecht'ge Art.
Ueber Wolken hin, auf blitzenden Wettern
nicht mehr schwingt es sich mutig des Wegs.
(Goetterdaemmerung, act I)

 In TS, he also obtains the horse from Brunhild - it is his first contact with her. She appears to run some kind of stud-farm, and he visits her for the specific purpose of obtaining the horse Grani - Mime has briefly mentioned this to him in the previous chapter.

 Regin now tells Sigurd about the treasure, including the Helm of Aweing, which doesn't precisely correspond to the Tarnhelm. In NL, Siegfried has a TARNKAPPE (a *cloak* of invisibility)

 Regin explains that he is of the dwarf-kindered. (It isn't explicitly stated in VS that he is a dwarf, but this is mentioned in the prose introduction to REGINSMAL). He implies that the dwarves were at odds with the gods from the beginning -

So as we dwelt came tidings that the Gods amongst us were,
And the people came from Asgard; then rose up hope and fear,
And strange shapes of things went flitting between the night and the eve,
And our sons waxed wild and wrathful, and our daughters learned to grieve.
Then we fell to the working of metal, and the deeps of the earth would know,
And we dealt with venom and leech-craft, and we fashioned spear and bow.
And we set the ribs to the oak=keel, and we fashioned spear and bow.

 And we set the ribs to the oak=keel, and looked on the landless sea;
And the world began to be such-like as the Gods would have it to be.
In the womb of the woeful earth they quickened the grief and the gold.

 This last line is especially important, implying as it does that the Gods by their very existence created the possibility of greed for gold.

 Regin became an expert smith, but his soul was forever unsatisfied. He relates how Loki killed Otter - implying that Loki did it out of spite, which is not explicitly stated in VS, but this was perhaps unneccessary, as Loki was in any case familiar as a spirit of trickery and ill-will;

Then passed by Odin and Hoenir, nor cumbered their souls with doubt,
But Loki lingered a little, and guile in his heart arose,
And he saw through the shape of the Otter, and beheld a chief of his foes.
A king of the free and the careless; so he called up his baleful might,
And gathered his god-head together, and tore a shard outright
>From the rock-wall of the river, and across its green wells cast;
And roaring over the waters that bolt of evil passed,
And smote my brother Otter that his heart's life fled away,
And bore his man's shape with it, and beast-like there he lay,
Stark dead on the sun-lit blossoms; but the Evil God rejoiced,
And because of the sound of his singing the wild grew many-voiced.

There is perhaps some resemblance between what Reidmar says to the gods about the ransom in this episode, about the keeping of bargains, and what Fasolt says to Wotan in DAS RHEINGOLD;

It was better in times past over, when we prayed for naught at all,
When no love taught us beseeching, and we had no troth to recall.
Ye have changed the world, and it bindeth with the right and the wrong ye have made -
Nor may ye be gods henceforward save the rightful ransom be paid.

 Lichtsohn du, leicht gefuegter,
hoer' und huete dich; Vertraegen halte treu!
Was du bist, bist du nur durch Vertraege;
bedungen ist, wohl bedacht deine Macht.
Bist weiser du, als witzig wir sind,
bandest uns Freie zum Frieden du;
all deinem Wissen fluch' ich,
fliehe weit deinem Frieden,
wiesst du nicht offen, ehrlich und frei,
Vertraegen zu wahren die Treu' !
(Das Rheingold)

Hreidmar demands Andvari's gold as a ransom. It is implied that this gold is already cursed, by its very nature, or by the nature of Andvari;

Then Odin spake; "It is well; the Curser shall seek for the curse;
And the Greedy shall cherish the evil - and the seed of the great they shall nurse.

And that force is the force of Andvari, and an Elf of the Dark is he.

 We are reminded of the references to Alberich as SCHWARZ- ALBERICH (and the fact that Wotan calls himself LICHT-ALBERICH, thereby admitting his affinity with Alberich).

Loki demands the Ring - in the thesis, I quoted quite a lot of Morris's poem, because I *like* it! But it is now available in print, so I will try to restrict the quotes to a minimum.

 Andvari curses the Ring - but the implication is that the gold is in some way already cursed:

.....There farest thou Loki, and might I load thee worse
Than with what thine ill-heart beareth, then shouldst thou bear my curse;
But for men a curse thou bearest; entangled in my gold,
Amid my woe abideth another woe untold,
Two brethren and a father, eight kings my grief shall slay;
And the hearts of queens shall be broken, and their eyes shall loathe the day.

 AAs in VS, the gods seem quite glad to be rid of the gold;

Then Loki drew off the gold ring and cast it down on the heap,
And forth as the gold met gold did the light of its glory leap;
But he spake; It rejoiceth my heart that no whit of all shall ye lack,
Lest the curse of the Elf-King cleave not, and ye 'scape the utter wrack!

That's enough for today, I think!

 II shall probably be away over the weekend, i.e. until Monday - so I shall start again on Tuesday by quoting the parallel episode in REGINSMAL (a poem from the Poetic Edda - it means "The Lay of Regin".)

 Jane j.ennisgold.ac.uk

Date: Mon, 1 May 1995 12:22:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources (cont.)

The scene in REGINSMAL is as follows:

Loki saw all the gold that Andvari had. When he had given up all the gold, he had a ring left, and Loki took that too. The dwarf went into the rock and said;

The gold that Gustr possessed
Shall be the death of two brothers,
and cause the destruction of princes,
if I am to be deprived of my wealth.

The gods gave Hreidmar the gold and brought up the otter-skin and set it on its feet. They had to fill it with gold and cover it. When this was done, Hreidmar noticed a whisker, and told them to voer that. Then Odin took off the ring ANDVARANAUT and covered the whisker.

You now have the gold (said Loki)
and you have received a large ransom for my head;
your sons will fight you for it
and it will mean your death.

Translated from the Old Norse by me!)


Morris doesn't mention using the ring to cover the whisker; as we shall see, Wagner uses this motif in a different form, for a different purpose.

Remember that, in Morris's poem and in VS, this was all narrated by Regin? He has now made it clear what his purpose was in becoming Sigurd's foster-father; he didn't rear him for altruistic reasons, but in order to have someone who would obtain Fafnir's treasure for him.

 The flashback has actually taken the reader rather a long way from Sigurd's childhood and upbringing; we shall now return to discussion of this, before turning to comparison of the theft of the gold in with the parallel episode of DAS RHEINGOLD.

 In VS, Sigurd asks Regin to make a sword for him; Regin makes two swords, both of which Sigurd breaks. He then asks his mother for the pieces of his father's sword; these are reforged by Regin, and with this sword Sigurd breaks the anvil.

 The relevant extract from the Saga (as usual, in Morris's trans. :)

 So Regin makes a sword, and gives it into Sigurd's hands. He took the sword, and said -

?Behold thy smithying, Regin!" and therewith smote it into the anvil, and the sword brake; so he cast down the brand, and bade him forge a better.

 Then Regin forged another sword, and brought it to Sigurd, who looked thereon.

 Then said Regin: "Belike thou art well content therewith, hard master though thou be in smithying."

So Sigurd proved the sword, and brake it even as the first; then he said to Regin -

Ah, art thou, mayhappen, a traitor and a liar like to those former kin of thine?"

 Therewith he went to his mother, and she welcomed him in seemly wise, and they talked and drank together. Then spake Sigurd: "Have I heard aright, that King Sigmund gave thee the good sword Gram in two pieces?"

True enough," she said

 So Sigurd said, "Deliver them into my hands, for I would have them."

She said he looked like to win great fame, and gave him the sword. Therewith went Regin to Sigurd, and bade him make a good sword thereof as he best might; Regin grew wroth thereat, but went into the smithy with the pieces of the sword, thinking well meanwhile that Sigurd pushed his head far enow into the matter of smithying. So he made a sword, and as he bore it forth from the forge, it seemed to the smiths as though fire burned along the edges of it. Now he bade Sigurd take the sword, and said he knew not how to make a sword if this one failed. Then Sigurd smote it into the anvil, and cleft it down to the stock thereof, and neither burst the sword nor brake it.

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

 Here we have the kernel of the forging scene in Wagner's SIEGFRIED, with the vital difference that, in Wagner, Siegfried makes the sword himself. We find here the failed attempts by the smith to make swords for Sigurd, and the fact that the only sword which is suitable is his father's sword, which was broken in his last battle, and has been kept by his mother, who is still living, and gives him the pieces of the sword herself. The scene of the breaking of the anvil occurs in VS and REGINSMAL, and also in TS, where, however, it demonstrates Sigurd's clumsiness and incompetence, not the excellence of the sword.

 To be continued.

 Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 5 May 1995 15:01:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources (Cont.)

 Starting from where I left off the other day!

 We were discussing Siegfried's sword. In the Norse Lit. it is called GRAM, in the RING it is called NOTHUNG, in NL Balmung. In "Sigurd the Volsung", Regin urges Sigurd to kill Fafnir:

....wilt thou help a man that is old,
To avenge him for his father? Wilt thou win the treasure of Gold
And be more than the Kings of the earth? Wilt thou rid the earth of a wrong
And heal the woe and the sorrow my heart hath endured o'erlong?

 HHe appeals, in other words, to Sigurd's goodwill, and offers to make him a sword to enable him to accomplish the deed. Regin, like Wagner's Mime, plans to get the treasure and achieve power with it; but his plans for world domination seem more generous and less limited in scope than those of Mime:

And some day I shall have it all, his gold and his craft and his heart
And the gathered and garnered wisdom he guards in the mountains apart
And then when my hand is upon it, my hand shall be as the spring
To thaw his winter away and the fruitful tide to bring.
It shall grow, it shall grow into summer, and I shall be he that wrought,
And my deeds shall be remembered, and my name that once was nought;
Yea, I shall be Frey, and Thor, and Freyja and Bragi in one;
Yea, the God of all that is - and no deed in the wide world done
But the deed that my heart would fashion; and the songs of the freed from the yoke
Shall bear to my house in the heavens the love and the longing of folk.
And there shall be no more dying, and the sea shall be as the land
And the world for ever and ever shall be young beneath my hand.

 It seems here that Regin desires, not merely to get his hands on the treaure, but to accomplish worthwhile things with it. Compare this with Mime, who is motivated merely by greed and a desire to make others work for him, instead of working himself - at the end of Act I of SIEGFRIED he fantasises about what he will do with the Ring:

Alberich selbst, der einst mich band,
zur Zwergenfrone zwing' ich ihn nun;
als Niblungenfuerst fahr' ich darnieder;
gehorchen soll mir alles Heer!
Der verachtete Zwerg, wie wird er geehrt!
Zu dem Horte hin draengt sich Gott und Held;
vor meinem Nicken neigt sich die Welt,
vor meinem Zorne zittert sie hin!
Dann wahrlich mueht sich Mime nicht mehr;
ihm schaffen andre den ewigen Schatz.
Mime, der kuehne, Mime is Koenig,
Fuerst der Alben Walter des Alls!
(Siegfried Act 1).

Musically, this scene is constructed in such a way that Mime's plots and fantasising are conveyed as a vague twittering in the back- ground while Siegfried forges his sword; the efict is that Mime's plans are irrelevant, as indeed they turn out to be.)

 In "Sigurd", as in VS, Sigurd breaks both the swords that Regin makes for him. He obtains the pieces of his father's sword from his mother. Acc. to Morris, Regin made this sword himself - this is not in VS or PE,but in TS Mime does give Sigurd a sword - it isn't explicitly stated that he made the sword, but he has made other weapons and armour that he gives to Sigurd.

No word on his lips were gathered the Volsung child to greet,
Till he took the sword from Sigurd and the shards of the days of old;
Then he spake; Will nothing serve thee save this blue steel and cold,
The bane of thy father's father, the fate of all his kin,
The baleful bane I fashioned, the Wrath that the Gods would win?"

 Regin repeats his presentiment that he is fated to die at Sigurd's hand; not that he says it in so many words, but the implication of his repeated references to his appointed doom is clear;

.........Think thou how strange it is
That the sword in the hand of a stripling shall one day end all this!
Great waxed the gloom of Regin, and he said; "Thou sayest sooth,
For none may turn him backward; the sword of a very youth
Shall one day end my cunning, as the Gods my joyance slew,
When nought thereof they were dreaming, and another thing would do.
But this sword shall slay the serpent, and do another deed,
And many a one thereafter, till it fail thee in thy need.

 Regin refashions the sword, and Sigurd splits the anvil with it.


Wagner's SIEGFRIED follows the outline of these events, but with a shift in emphasis. We have observed that Wagner makes his Siegfried an orphan. He introduces him in a fit of what we may choose to interpret as youthful high spirits, or as an attempt to terrorise the harmless old dwarf who has brought him up - namely, by bringing a live bar into the cave, which, not unnaturally, frightens Mime.

 TThere is a tendency in some Wagner criticism to make excuses for Mime, but this is not justified by the way he is portrayed by Wagner, or by the character of Regin in the Norse literature, who has plotted all along to use Sigurd to kill Fafnir, and then to kill Sigurd.

 It is true, however, that Wagner's Siegfried is not a particularly sympathetic character, although he is by no means as dislikeable as the Siegfried of NL. The episode of the bear is probably based on an incident in NL which occurs shortly before Siegfried is killed. [I did quote this in the thesis - but will omit it here since I quoted it in the original Middle High German, and you will probably prefer to look it up in a translation!]

 Such an episode is probably nothing out of the ordinary in a society which regarded bear-baiting and cock-fighting as agreeable ways of passing an afternoon, but one wonders whether Wagner the animal-lover really expected his audience to warm to a character who erupts onto the stage bringing a live bear with him.

?To be continued.....interminably!)

 JJane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 15:06:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"?/FONT>
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources (cont.)

 We'll continue with the Forging Scene in SIEGFRIED.

 Before Siegfried's entry, Mime has been alone, brooding upon the fact that he lacks the ability to forge the sword Nothung, with which Siegfried can be prevailed upon to kill Fafner, so that Mime can gain the hoard for himself;

 Koennt' ich's dem Kuehnen schmieden,
meiner Schmach erlangt' ich da Lohn!
Fafner, der wide Wurm,
lagert im finstren Wald;
mit des furchtbaren Leibes Wucht
der Nibelungen Hort huetet der dort.
Siegfrieds kindischer Kraft
erlaege wohl Fafners Leib:
(Siegfried, Act 1)

 So Mime's problem is that he knows that only Nothung can be used to kill Fafner, but he is unable to forge the sword himself. The solution is pointed out to him by the Wanderer;

 Nur wer das Fuerchten nie erfuhr
schmiedet Nothung neu!

 Mime now has to work out a way of getting Siegfried to reforge the sword and kill Fafnir - and then getting Siegfried out of the way. before he can use the sword to kill Mime himself, as the Wanderer has warned him will happen. While Siegfried is forging the sword - he alone can do this - Mime decides to brew a poisonous draught, which he can make Siegfried drink after Fafnir has been killed - that way, he can get rid of Siegfried and get the hoard for himself.

 Mime then, like Regin in the Norse literature, has brought Siegfried up for his own purpose, not for altruistic reasons. The only sources in which the boy's foster-father starts by adopting him for altruistic reasons is TS - he finds the orphan in the forest, and decides to adopt him because he and his wife are childless. Sigurd, however, is a great disappointment to him, and he decides to have him killed.

 Siegfried finally forces Mime to tell him what he knows about his parents - that his mother died giving birth to him, and left the pieces of his father's sword for the boy. As Mime puts it - that's not much of a reward for looking after you from infancy.

 Das gab mir deine Mutter;
fuer Muehe, Kost und Pflege
liess sie's als schwachen Lohn.
Sieh hier - ein zerbrochnes Schwert.
Dein Vater, sagte sie, fuehrt' es
als im letzten Kampf er erlag.

 In VS and in Morris's poem, Sigmund is able to speak to his wife - Sigurd's mother [and NOT Sigmund's sister! We are clear about that, aren't we?!] - before he dies, and to entrust the broken pieces of sword to her, to keep for their son. In the RING, it is Bruennhilde who rescues Sieglinde, and also Bruennhilde who foretells that Sieglinde's son will be a great hero:

Denn eines wiss'
und wahr' es immer;
den hehrsten Helden der Welt
hegst du, o Weib,
im schirmenden Schoss!
Verwahr ihm die starken Schwertesstuecke;
seine Vaters Walstatt
entfuehrt' ich sie gluecklich:
(Die Walkuere, act II)

In the Norse literature, Brynhild has nothing to do with Sigmund's last battle, though his sword is shattered by Odin's spear.

In NL, Siegfried obtains his sword and the treasure in an entirely different manner. In my thesis, I quoted the relevant Lo-o-o-ng extract from NL, but perhaps you won't want to wade through all that Middle High German heroic verse? I will attempt to summarise it here, and it's Aventiure 3 - Wie Sivrit ze Wormes kam (How Siegfried came to Worms), strophes 87-100, for those of you who have access to a text and/or translation.

Siegfried arrived in Worms, and Hagen (I'll explain about that later!) tells the others (i.e the reader!) about Siegfried. Siegfried has killed the brothers Schilbuc and Nibelunc [sic] - (I'll explain *that* in due course, too!), who had originally asked him to divide their treasure between them. The gave him a sword called Balmung, but when they and their followers began to fight among themselves, Siegfried (one supposes!) lost his temper and killed them both.

The treasure was guarded by one ALBERICH, a dwarf; i.e. he didn't own the treasure himself, but guarded it for the brothers. He wrestled with Siegfried, but was defeated - he then became SIEGFRIED'S vassal (Nota Bene!) .

Hagen narrates also how Siegfried had once killed a dragon, and bathed in its blood to make himself invulnerable.

?If you are beginning to wonder how does Hagen know all this - er - don't ask! It's a common feature of medieval narrative practice, that there is someone who knows everything.)

So - the treasure in NL is not connected with a ransom or a curse, nor has it been fraudulently obtained by the gods, who do not figure in NL.

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

This is the point at which Chapter 2, Pt. 3 ends, so I will break off here.

In part 4, I discuss the theft of the gold in "Sigurd the Volsung" and the parallel episode in "Das Rheingold".

Hope you are all still enjoying it.

Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Sun, 7 May 1995 14:29:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"?/FONT>
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"?/FONT>
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources (cont.)

This seems to be a suitable juncture at which to discuss in greater detail the nature of the treasure and Siegfried's connection with it. The episode of the theft of the gold in SIGURD THE VOLSUNG contains some paralleds with DAS RHEINGOLD.

?) The gods obtain the gold from a dwarf,not precisely fraudulently, but certainly by force and without any right to it.
2)They have to hand it over to a third party in order to pay a ransom.
3)Fafnir kills his father (not his brother) to obtain the gold, and becomes a dragon in order to guard it.
4) Part of the treasure is a ring, which the dwarf curses.

But the dwarf is not a Nibelung (Niflung). He is called ANDVARI, not Alberich, and does not appear to have stolen the gold, but to possess it legitimately.


The building of Valhalla and the offer of Freia as payment are taken from two different legends.

This was footnote 21 in the thesis, but the e-mail facility doesn't allow you to do footnotes!]

The gods contract with a giant that he will build Asgard for them- in Norse mythology, Asgard is the home of the gods and Valhalla the destination of those slain in battle. This is found in the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, not in VS, and is used by Snorri to explain how Odin obtained his horse Sleipnir, but much of it is relevant to DAS RHEINGOLD.


A smith - later identified as a mountain-giant - offers to build the gods a fortress - he asks as a reward Freia, the sun and the moon. Loki maliciously advises the gods to agree to this. They stipulate that the giant is to do the work alone, but agree that he may use his horse to carry materials. The gods have no intention of fulfilling their side of the bargain - when it becomes apparent that the work is going to be completed on time, they compel Loki to find a way of preventing this. Loki turns himself into a mare, and distracts the giant's horse; Odin's horse, Sleipnir, is the product of this union. The giant is thus prevented from completing the work and is killed by Thor.

The goddess who possesses the golden apples of youth is not Freyja but IDUN. She is the wife of Bragi, said to be the wisest of the gods. According to *Skaldskaparmal*, part of the Prose Edda, she is abducted by a giant - this is part of a ransom demand. Loki is captured by the giant Thiazi, who says he will only release him on condition that he brings Idun and her apples to him. Loki persuades Idun to go out into the forest to look at some apples whch she will think are of great value, and to bring her casket of apples with her., She is then captures by Thiazi - the gods begin to grow old and grey, and make Loki go and recapture her.


In the Prose Edda, the theft of the gold and the curse on the ring have nothing to do with the building of a fortress for the gods; it was Wagner's innovation to connect these two legends, for his own dramatic purposes. In Snorri's version, the giant is tricked into not fulfilling his contract, and is immediately killed by Thor; it seems that his purpose was in any case a hostile one. In DAS RHEINGOLD, the problem arises because the giants have fulfilled their part of the bargain, and Wotan has no intention of keeping his. Fasolt is concerned with the honourable keeping of bargains, but Fafner reminds him that there is also considerable advantage to the giants - and disadvantage to the gods - in getting Freia away from them, not for herself, but for the golden apples;

Goldne Aepfel wachsen in ihrem Garten;
sie allein weiss die Aepfel zu pflegen;
der Frucht Genuss frommt ihren Sippen
zu ewig nie alternder Jugend;
siech und bleich doch sinkt ihre Bluete,
alt und schwach schwinden sie hin,
muessen Freia sie missen -
ihrer Mitte d'rum sei sie entfernt!

The condition under which the gold can be obtained - the forswearing of love - is original to Wagner. It is also original to Wagner that the gold comes from the Rhine in the first place. In NL it ends up there - Hagen has it sunk in the Rhine so that Kriemhild (Siegfried's widow - bear with me! I will explain this in due course!) cannot use it to gain adherents to her cause - but it is not suggested that the gold originally came from the Rhine. In PE, Sigurd is killed in a location vaguely connected with the Rhine, and there is a reference in ATLAKVITHA to the gold in the Rhine - but only in Wagner does the gold originally come from the Rhine. Andvari's gold does come from a river, but the river isn't identified. In the Norse lit. and in Morris's poem, the gold that Sigurd gains is the gold that once belonged to the dwarf Andvari. But only in Wagner do the gods obtain it from the dwarf (Alberich) in order to hand it over to the giants, with whom they have made a fraudulent bargain.

In the next mailing, I will indicate that recent research by Elizabeth Magee and Stewart Spencer (the latter is a colleague of mine in London!) has demonstrated that the connection between Siegfried's death and the fall of the gods, which had previously thought to have originated with Wagner, had in fact already been made by Karl Lachmann (who produced an edition and translation of DAS NIBELUNGENLIED in the mid-19. century, which Wagner knew) and Ettmueller (who translated the Poetic Edda, and with whom Wagner was personally acquainted.)

Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk

Date: Sun, 7 May 1995 15:09:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"?/FONT>
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"?/FONT>
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources: Footnote 22!

That's what it was in the original thesis!

It contains rather a long quote in German - if this is a problem for anyone, plase say, and I'll see what I can do. (I don't think there *is* an English translation!)

As I said, recent research has demonstrated that the connection between the death of Sigurd and the Fall of the Gods was made by Lachmann and Ettmueller. Lachmann's KRITIK DER SAGE VON DEN NIBELUNGEN contains (according to Stewart Spencer, writing in *Richard Wagner und sein Mittelalter) " a summary so strikingly similar in outline to the scenario of the RING that it is inconceivable that Wagner was not familiar with it, either in Lachmann's original or Ettmueller's transcription."

This is Lachmann's summary;

Sigufrid, Sigmuntes Sohn, ein Waelsung mit leuchtenden Augen und von unglaublicher Kraft, wird erzogen von einem weisen und kunstreichen Alb, der Regin, d.i. Rathgeber, heisst, und zwar Menschengestalt, aber die eines Zwerges hat. Er verschafft ihm ein Ross und schmiedet ihm ein Schwert, mit dem Sigufrid einen eisernen Amboss spalten kann; so reizt er ihn der Nibelungo Hort un unermessliches Geld zu erwerben. Zuerst hatten drei Goetter das Gold geraubt und aus der Tiefe des Wassers heraufgefuehrt. Auch ihnen haette gewiss seine geheimnisvolle verderbliche Kraft den Tod gebracht, wenn sie es nicht als Wer-geld fuer den erschlagenen Otter gegeben haetten; nicht nur das Gold, womit der Otterbalg ausgefuellt wird, sondern auch den Ring, welchen sie anfangs behalten wollten. So waren die Goetter dem Verderben entgangen; aber das Mittelgeschlecht zwischen Goettern und Menschen, das nun im Besitze des verderblichen Schatzes war, rieb sich untereinander auf. Ottares Brueder toeteten den Vater; Regin ward von den Anderen verdraengt, der in Gestalt eines Wurmes sein Gold bewachtete. Um es ihm zu entreissen, hat Regino den jungen Sigufrid aufgreizt, den Wurm zu toedten. Sigufrid aber erschlaegt beide. Durch das Drachenblut, wovon er trinkt, wird noch seine Kraft gemehrt und sein Leib geschuetzt von Wunden. Durch das Gold und zumal durch den Ring ist er unermesslich reich. [NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT!] Die Tranchappa giebt ihm die Faehigkeit, seine Gestalt in die eines Anderen zu verwandeln. Denn bei all dieser Herrlichkeit ist er durch den Besitz des Goldes in die Knechstschaft der Nibelungo gekommen und dem Verderben geweiht. Umsonst verlobt er sich mit der kriegerischen Koenigstocher Brunhild; sein Herr, Gundahari, der Nibelungo Koenig, will sie selbst haben. In der Tarnchappa unter Gundahari's Gestalt reitet Sigufrid durch die Flamme, die um ihre Wohnung lodert; er giebt ihr den Ring aus dem Schatze und bringt sie dadurch in die Gewalt Gundaharis; sie erkennt Sigufriden nicht; er selbst bekommt ein anderes Weib, Grimhild (Gudrun), die Schwester Gundahares. Brunhild ruehmt sich des tapfersten und wuerdigsten Gemahls, dem Sigufrid weichen muesse; da entdeckt ihr Grimhild gereizt den Betrug; den [sic] Ring, der sie am Finger trage, sei aus dem Nibelungenhort; der sie genommen, sei Sigufrid und nicht Gundahari. Brunhild, die sich nun selbst erinnert, dass sie an dem vermeinten Gundahari die leuchtenden Waelsungenaugen erkannt habe, wuethig auf alle, laesst Sigufrid, der fuer offenen Angriff unbesiegbar ist, meuchlerisch ermordern (Hagano scheint des Moerders rechter Name zu sein) und toedtet sich selbst. Der Schatz, nachdem alle, die an ihm Theil hatten vernichtet sind, faellt an seine urspruenglichen Herren zurueck, und sie versenken ihn in den Rhein.


Phew! I should think that will about do for one day! I will just conclude this section by pointing out that, in her *Richard Wagner and the Nibelungs* , Elizabeth Magee observes that "The real connection between Siegfried's death and the twilight of the gods is not logical but poetic, and had already been established by the Romantic scholars." (p.193)

Does anyone have any questions at this juncture? Jane j.ennis@gold.ac.uk



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