Wagner's Sources - 4
Written by Jane Ennis

Date: Thu, 29 Jun 1995 17:43:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources: Gudrun's dream.

Now, having devoted considerable space to identifying the Niblungs - or failing to identify them - we can return to Book III of SIGURD. Not all of this finds exact, or even tenuous parallels in the RING, but of course the central episode - the deception of Brynhild - will need to be examined in considerable detail.

The Gudrun of the Norse literature and of Morris's poem is a far more positive, forceful character than Wagner's Gutrune, who hardly seems to exist as a person in her own right. We will recall that Wagner discarded the episode of the quarrel between the women (although he uses it in LOHENGRIN, as som eof you have noticed), and at least one reason may have been that his Gutrune is far too ineffectual to quarrel with anyone. At the end of GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, she simply collapses.

In SIGURD, Gudrun is introduced when she tells of the dreams she had the previous night. In VS, Gudrun first relates only the positive aspects of her dreams, and they are interpreted favourably - but she is worried, and decides to ask Brynhild to interpret them. She dreams that she has a beautiful hawk that she prized above all else; her companion interprets this as meaning that she will soon win a husband whom she will love very much, but Gudrun decides that she needs further information, which she can get from Brynhild., She tekks Brynhild another dream, in greater detail, including its unfavourable outcome. (Morris's trans, as usual.)

"This I dreamed", said Gudrun, "that we went, a many of us in company, from the bower, and we saw an exceeding great hart, that far excelled all other deer ever seen, and the hair of him was golden; and this deer we were all fain to take, but I alone got him; and he seemed to me better than all things else; but sithence thou, Brynhild, didst shoot and slay my deer even at my very knees, and such grief was to me that scarce might \I bear it; and then afterwards thou gavest me a wolf-cub, which besprinkled me with the blood oof my brethren."

Brynhild interprets the dream by prophesying exactly what will happen betweeen herself, Sigurd and Gudrun, and what Gudrun's future will be. There is a correspoding episode in NL, in which Kriemhild's mother Uote interprets her daughter's dream as a prophesy that the man she will fall in love with and marry is destined to come to an untimely end. Kriemhild at this stage doesn't want to know about love and marriage.

This is all omitted by Wagner, but Morris elabortates upon iy it in considerable detail. Gudrun dreams of a falcon (a fairly common symbol in medieval literature). As in VS, Morris's Gudrun only tells the unhappy outcome of her dream to Brynhild, while to her old nurse she only tells the good part, and the old woman, not unnaturally, interprets the dream favourably;

Meseems I sat by the door of the hall of the Niblungs' bliss;
And from out of the north came a falcon, and a marvellous bird it was;
For his feathers were all of gold, and his eyes as the sunlit glass,
And hither and thither he flew about the kingdoms of Kings,
And the fear of men went with him, and the war-blast under his wings;
But I feared him never a dealm nay, hope came into my heart
And meseemed it his war-bold ways I also had a part;
And my eyes still followed his wings as hither and thither he swept
O'er the doors and the dwellings of King-folk; till the heart within me leapt,
For over the hall of the Niblungs he hung a little space,
Then stooped to my very knees, and cried out kind in my face;
And fain and full was my heart, and I took him to my breast.

Unlike Keimhild in NL, who tells her mother the whole dream, including its unhappy outcome, Gudrun is reluctant to tell the dream to her mother, for this reason:

Wise too is my mother Grimhild, but I fear her guileful mood,
Lest she love me overmuch, and fashion all dreams to ill,

Grimhild has already been introduced as

......the woman overwise,
Grimhild the kin of the gold-folk, the wife of the glittering eyes.

Morris develops the theme of Grimhild as ambitious and scheming - she intends the best for her family, but, as we shall see, she brings about their downfall. Signficantly, at this early stage in the proceedings, Gudrun is unwilling to discuss her dreams with Grimhild, lest her ambition for her family should overreach itself - which it does, later in the poem. Gudrun decides to visit Brynhild, who will interpret her dream correctly. Although the language of SIGURD is much more elaborate than VS, Brynhild is actually somewhat evasive about her interpretation of the dream in the poem, whereas in VS she is blunt and to the point. Gudrun first of all relates her falcon dream, and Brynhild interprets it favourable, until Gudrun adds,

.....nor yet hast thou hearkened all;
For meseemed my breat was reddened, as oft by the purple and pall,
But my heart was heavy within it, and I laid my hand thereon,
And the purple of blood enwrapped me, and the falcon I loved was gone.

Although it isn't possible to interpret this part of the dream favourably, Bryhild nevertheless exhorts Gudrun to be happy, as therre are worse fates that could have been hers. Gudrun then says that she found peace for a while with a hart from the forest, until;

The darkened all the heavens and dreary grew the tide,
And medreamed that a queen I knew not was sitting by my side,
And from out the din and the darkness a hand and an arm there came,
And a golden sleeve was upon it and red rings of the Queeen-folks' fame,
And the hand was the hand of a woman: and there came a sword and a thrust,
And the blood of the lovely wood-deer went wide about the dust.

Brynhild interprests the dream cyrptically; she knows that the woman of whom Gudrun has dreamed is herself, but she isn't about to tell Gudrun that.

JAne ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Wed, 5 Jul 1995 15:51:00 BST
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From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagners's sources: Sigurd and Brynhild in Lymdale

In the next section of Morris's poem: "How the folk of Lymdale met Sigurd the Volsung in the woodland" - Sigurd goes to spend some time with Brynhild and herr family. Morris makes this into a time of peace and rest for Sigurd and Brynhild. There are indications of Morris's vision of an ideal society [not of Socialism - this comes later, in "News from Nowhere", for instance.]

And all these lived in joyance through the good days and the ill,
Nor would shun the war's awakening; but now that the war was still,
They looked to the wethers' fleeces and what the ewes would yield,
And led their bulls from the straw-stall, and drave their kine afield.

When their land is at peace, the people of Lymdale go hunting. Morris appears to have based his description of hunting on scenes in the medieval romance rahter than the medieval epic, and just possibly on depicitons in medieval and Renaissance textile art rather than in literature. [N.B. i didn't follow this up, as it wasn't relevant to the main argument of my thesis; but there are some tapestries in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which Morris may have seen, and which may have given him the idea of some of the images in this part of SIGURD].

The episode also contains elements of pastoral [not something that figures very prominently in Germanic heroic verse! But you will have to consult my edition of SIGURD THE VOLSUNG for a more detailed discusion.]

Till at last in the noon they tarry in a daisied wood-lawn green,
And good and gayt is their raiment, and their spears are sharp and sheen:
And they crown themselves with the oak-leaves, and sit, both most and least,
And there on the forst venison and the ancient wine they feast;
There they wattle the twigs of the thicket to bear their spoil away;
And the toughness of the beech-boughs with the woodbine overlay;
with the voice of their merry labour the hall of the oakwood rongs,
For fair they are and joyous as the first God-fashioned kings.

This idyllic episode has no direct parallel in Wagner, and in comparison with Morris's version, the chapters in VS on which it is bnased seem somewhat perfunctory. The episode is a time of peace and tranquility for Sigurd and Brynhild before they are again caught up in the web of Fate - and the web of destruction which Grimihld weaves for them, The reunion of Sigurd and Brynhild is an occasion of peace and happiness for them both; they have no foreboding of doom,and do not feel that they are destined to part, whereas in Vs, Brynhild actually foretells that Sifurd will marry Gudrun.

Brynhild and Sigurd swear oaths of loyalty to each other, and the Saga says that Sigurd gave Brynhild a gold ring. it is not specified at this stage which ring he have her: it is only later, when he returns disguised as Gunnar, that it transpires that it was the ring he had taken from Fafnir's hoard. We have already devoted some space to discussing the identity of the Ring - it should be added that Morris's Sigurd had already given Brynhild Andvari'S Ring at their first meeting [i.e. when he woke her on Hindfell];

From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari's ancient Gold,
There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold,
The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end,
No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend.

The ring is this context seems not to be cursed, or not any more, but is a symbol of eternity, continuity and love. Sigurd does know of the curse, since Regin has told him of it, but he treats it as irrelevant, and it is possible that it lost its power when Sigurd gained possession of the treasure. But in Wagner's RING the curse turns out to have lost none of its power when Siegfried obtains the Ring, although Wotan hopes for this. When Siegfried gives it to Bruennhilde, he intends it as a wedding ring, but when he later seizes it from her, it precipitates his downfall; the curse cannot be undone merely by good intentions.

For our purposes, it is important to note that Morris is somewhat clearer about the identity of Brynhild's ring than is his source. VS merely states that Sigurd gave Brynhild a ring, and only later specifies which ring it was. It is , of course, vital for the development of the plot that a ring should have been taken, in order for it to be flaunted later during the quarrel between the women.

-------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 16:03:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources. Sigurd's visit to the Niblungs/Grimhild's potion

(This section will also discuss the parallel scene in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG.

After the pastoral interlude, Sigurd takes his leave of the people of Lymdale and rides to the land of the Niblungs. It is not clear- either in VS or Morris - whether this is purpose or chance, but we should note that it has been foretold by Gripir.

The contrast between Lymdale and the home of the Niblungs is apparent in the way Sigurd is welcomed, first by Heimir (Brynhild's foster-father), then by Giuki. Both offer hospitality, saying that they hope Sigurd comes in peace rather than with hostile intent. They stress that they don't fear him if his intent is hostile, but Himir lays more emphasis on the peaceful nature of his land and his people, and his own preference for peace now that he is old;

......Now soon shall the deeds befall,
And tonight shalt thou ride to Lymdale and tonight shalt thou bide in my hall;
For I an the ancient Heimir, and my cunning is of the harp,
Though erst have I dealt in the sword-play while the edge of war was sharp.

Giuki's offer of hospitality, on the other hand, stresses the war-like nature of his people;

...For unto the Niblungs' home
And the heart of a war-fain people from the weary road are ye come;
And |I am Giuki the King: so now if thou nam'st thee a God
Look not to see me tremble; for I know of such that have trod
Unfeared in the Burg of the Niblungs.....

The narrator indicates that Sigurd fights to right wrongs and punish injustice;

The song of the fair-speech-masters goes up in the Niblung hall,
And they sing of the golden Sigurd and the face without a foe,
And the lowly man exalted and the mighty brought alow;
And they say, when the sun of summer shall come aback to the land,
It shall shine on the fields of the tiller that fears no heavy hand,
Then the sheaf shall be for the plougher, and the loaf for him that sowed,
Through every furrowed acre where the son of Sigmund rode.

In SIGURD, Gudrun falls in love with Sigurd long before Grimhild's intervention. This is perhaps more psychologically convincing than the corresponding episode in VS, and certainly more in accord with 19thl. century views on love and marraige. (Though it is as well to recall that, in NL, Siegfried falls in love with Kriemhild before he has even seen her - he falls in love with her reputation.)

Sigurd treats Gudrun with courtesy, but his thoughts are all of Brynhild; indeed, when he first arrives at the home of the Niblungs, he is reminded of her;

And he looked to the cloudy hall-roof; and anigh seemed Odin the Goth,
And the Valkyrs holding the garland, and the crown of love and of troth;
And his soul swells up exalted, and he deems that high above
In the glorious house of the heavens, are the outstretched hands of his love;
And she stoops to the cloudy feast-hall, and the wavering wind is her voice,
And her odorous breath floats round him, as she bids her king rejoice.

Sigurd sees this time with the Niblungs as an interlude of action and adventure before he returns to Brynhild in Lymdale;

...and he thinks the time is long
Till the dawning of love's summer from the cloudy days of wrong:

Gudrun realises that her love for Sigurd is hopeless - the narrator's expression of grief for her perhaps also foreshadows the grief that will follow when Sigurd is tricked into marrying her;

Woe worth the while for her sorrow, and her hope of life forlorn!
Woe worth the while for her loveing, and the day that she was born!

(This may also be a reference to Krimhild in NL, of whom it is said "Dar umbe muosen degene vil verliesen den lip" - for her sake, many heroes were destined to lose their lives. The lines don't just refer to Gudrun's own sorrow, but to the sorrow she will cause.

Grimhild decides to detach Sigurd from Brynhild and marry him to her daughter as a way of gaining glory for her family. In the episode of VS on which this is based, Grimhild notices how Sigurd loves Brynhild, though no-one eelse seems to. Her action does not stem from malice, but to some extent even from goodwill, or at least a desire to gain advantage for her family.

"But Grimhild saw how heartily Sigurd loved Brynhild, and how oft he talks of her, and she falls to thinking how well it were, if he might abide there and wed the daughter of King Giuki, for she saw that none might come anigh to his goodliness, and what faith and goodhelp there was in him, and how that he had more wealth withal than folk might tell of any man; and the king did to him even as unto his own sons, and they for their parts held him of more worth than themselves."

There is a problem at the end of this chapter, namely, that there seems to be no reason why Grimhild should suggest that Gunnar marry Brynhild; she could suggest any woman, it doesn#t necessarily have to be |Brynhild. The reader is left with the impression that the compiler of VS knew that this was the next stage of the plot, and therefore had to put it in somewhere, but the motivation is lacking.

The whole episode is made by Morris into a traumatic crisis in Sigurd's life, and the poem concentrates on the change in Sigurd's personality. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Sigurd doesn't undergo a personality change to anything In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Siegfried doesn't undergo a personality change to anything like the same extent, because it is rather the point that he remains the same brash youth that he always was, never experiencing any noticeable inner development.

In SIGURD, after drinking the potion, Sigurd rides blindly to "the burg of Brynhild". It is not clear from the context whether this is Lymdale or Hindfell, but it turns out later, when Sigurd woos Brynhild on behalf og of Gunnar, that it is Lymdale - significantly, it is now the Waste of Lymdale, where previously Lymdale was an idyllic pastoral landscape; the same evil that blighted Sigurd's life also blighted |Brynhild's, and even blighted the countryside in which she lives;

Men say that a little after the evil of that night
All waste is the burg of Brynhild, and there springeth a marvellous light
On the desert hard by Lymdale, and few men know for why;
But there are, who say that a wildfire thence roareth up to the sky
Round a glorious golden dwelling, wherein ther sitteth a Queen
In remembrance of the wakening, and the slumber that hath been;
Wherein a Maid ther sitteth, who knows not hope nor rest
For remembrance of the Mighty, and the Best come forth from the Best.

Sigurd realises that something is wrong, and that the happiness and security he once expreienced have somehow been blighted;

But he looked to the right and the left, and he knew there was ruin andlack,
And the death of yestereven, and the days that should never come back;
And he strove, but naught he remembered of the matters that he would,
Save that great was the flood of sorrow that had drowned his days of good.

Morris relates the seasons of the year to what happens in people's minds, or to their actions - Sigurd drinks the potion and marries Gudrun in the autumn;

Now therein, mid the yellowing leafage,, and the golden blossoms spent,
Alone and lovely and eager the white-armed Gudrun went.

Gudrun shows the same lack of confidence in herslef as Wagner's Gutrune;

And now in the morn she trembleth; for her love is blent with fear,
And wonder is all around her, for she deemed till yestereve
When she saw the earls astonied, and the joyful Sigurd grieve,
That on some most mightly woman his joyful love was set.

This resembles Gutrune's expression of self-deprecation in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG;

Du Spoetter, boeser Hagen!
Wie sollt' ich Siegfried binden?
Ist er der herrlichste Held der Welt,
der Erde holdested Frauen
friedeten laengst ihn schon.

(Sorry - in the penultimate line of the above - should be *holdesten*)

Morris's poem emphasises the fact that Sigurd never smiles again after partaking of Grimhild's potion;

Yet no smile there came to Sigurd, and his lips no laughter had;
But he seemed a king o'er mighty, who hath won the earthly crown,
In whose hand the world is lying, who no more heedeth renown.

In the parallel episode in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, there is less emphasis on the psychological effect on Siegfried - and the motivation is, of course, different, as it all part of Hagen's plan to obtain the Ring. Hagen starts by awakening Gunther's interest in Bruennhilde, considerately reminding him at the same time that he will not be able to brave the flames; this is only for Siegfried;

GUNTHER
Vermag das mein Mut zu besteh'n?
HAGEN
Einem staerk'ren noch ist's nur bestimmt.
GUNTHER
Wer ist der streitlichste Mann?
HAGEN
Siegfried, der Waelsungen Spross -
der ist's, der staerkste Held!
Ein Zwillingspaar, von Liebe bezwungen,
Siegmund und Sieglinde,
zeugten den echtsesten Sohn.
Der im Walde maechting erwuchs -
den wuensch' ich Gutrun' zum Mann.

Gutrune is even more self-deprecating than Gunther, which makes it all the easier for Hagen to involve them both in the deception of Siegfried and Bruennhilde. They are rather helpless, weak characters - how far this excuses their perfect readiness to enter upon a scheme of deception and betrayal must remain open to question. They are ready to fall in with Hagen's plans for them, rather than trusting to their own merits, which they in any case haven't got; at least, though, neither if them is deceived about this, - Gunther about the extent of his courage, nor Gutrune about the extent of her charms.

Siegfried is a guileless innocent (having of course forgotten all the wisdom Bruennhilde taught him), and so is easily caught in the web of deception woven by Hagen - and by Gunther and Gutrune, who are by no means innocent , though undoubtedly weak-willed. Everything in this scene occurs with the utmost brevity and despatch, in spite of Wagner's reputation for being long-winded. There is a fairly empty exchange of courtesies between Siegfried and Gunther, while Gutrune disappears to prepare the potion, and hagen tells Siegfried what the Tarnhelm is for ( he can use it to deceive people). Siegfried also guilelessly lets slip the fact hat he took a Ring from Fafner's horad, which is held by a noble woman- whom Hagen immediately, and correctly, guesses to be Bruennhilde. Haghen works cleverly on Gutrune;s emotions, so that she fancies herself in love with Siegfried before even seeing him. He says to her;

Gedenk' des Trankes im Schrein -
vertraue mir, der ihn gewann!
Den Helden, dess; du verlangst,
bindet er liebend an dich!

There hasn't been any suggestion, up to this point, that Gutrune longs for Siegfried, only that Hagen wants her to, which she obligingly does.

Siegfried doesn't suspect anything wrong - why should he? - when he accepts the drink from Gutrune. It is an unbearably poignant moment when he first addresses the abseny Bruennhilde;

den ersten Trunk zu treuer Minne,
Bruennhilde, bring' ich dir!

Then the twist in the music demonstrates what is happening in Siegfried's mind. But it isn't as traumatic for Wagner's Siegfried as it is for Morris's Sigurd: it really is rather a simple case of "off with the old, on with the new". Although when Gutnther describes Bruennhilde's fire-girst rock Siegfried does have the vague feeling that he ought to remember *something*, even this vague memory soon fades, and he is planning the details of the deception with Gunther, with whom he swears blood-brotherhood. The potion, of course, has obliterated the memory of the oaths of loyalty he swore to Bruennhilde, which are now superseded in his mind by the oath of blood-brotherhood he has just sworn to Gunther.

So off they go on their treacherous wooing expedition - in fact, they are just pawns in Hagen's schemes, as he makes clear in his soliloquy at the end of this scene.

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

"And Gutrune is the only woman Siegfried has ever met who hasn't been his aunt". (Anna Russell, of course.)

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Sat, 15 Jul 1995 19:45:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources. Siegfried/Sigurd woos Brynhild in disguise

Wagner's chief source for this episode is NL, at least to the extent that he found in NL the idea that it is necessary AT THE OUTSET to deceive Bruennhilde. Gunther's first question to Siegfried is "Wie willst du sie tauschen?" (How will you deceive her?) As Siegfried is now, thanks to hagen, acquainted with the properties of the Tarnhelm, he is able to reply that he will use it to carry out the deception that they all agree to be necessary. Wagner follows NL in making Gunther's wooing of Bruennhilde from the start a matter of treachery and betrayal, though the motivation, of course, is different - no-one is acting independently, of his own volition, both Gunther and Siegfried are acting in accordance with Hagen's plans for them. Wagner also draws from NL the idea that Gunther is not capable of subduing Bruennhilde himself (and their attitude is indeed that it is necessary to subdue her; as we shall see, the wooing is striking lacking in the most elementary forms of courtesy.) But at least in NL Gunther has the merit of deciding by himself to gain Brunhild's hand - Siegfried at first counsels against it, and Hagen then suggets, with a certain air of sarcasm, that Siegfried should help Gunther. Siegfried agrees, on condition that he be rewarded by being allowed to marry Kriemhild. (Strophes 329-332, if anyone wants to look it up.)

This is the most unpleasant episode in the first helf of the poem - (first HALF, sorry) - Brunhild is wantonly deeived, and the deception practised on her is going to have drastic repercussions later.

Wagner obviously drew the idea of an actual struggle to defeat Bruennhilde from NL - it is not present in the Norse literature - but in NL, Brunhild sets the conditions for the combat herself,and her defeat is not socrushing a humiliation as it is in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG. She also abides by the conditions she sets - except to the extent that she is reluctant to permit Gunther to consummate the marriage, as she still has doubts about him. (The reader/audience knows, of course, that these doubts are entirely justified.)

In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, before Siegfried's return disguised as Gunther, Bruennhilde is visited by her sister Waltraute; an episode unique to Wagner. We learn from this that Bruennhiolde is no longer able to identify in any way with the world of Valhalla, which has rejected her - or which she has rejected;

Der Goetter heiligen Himmelsnebel
bin ich Toerin enttaucht -
nicht fass' ich, was ich erfahre.

The appeal to discard the Ring fall on deaf ears, not surprisingly, since neither woman is capable of understanding the other now. Waltraute is so sure that she only needs to remind Bruennhilde of the past, and she will understand and discard the Ring. But to Bruennhilde, it is her wedding ring, and she naturally thinks Waltraute is mad to make such a demand - she is no longer interested in the wider implications of the existence of the Ring -

Bruennhilde
Den Rheintoechtern - ich - den Ring?
Siegfrieds Liebespfand?
Bist du von Sinnen?

Waltraute
Hoer' mich, hoer' meine Angst!
Der Welt Unheil haften sicher an ihm.
Werf' ihn von dir, fort in die Welle!
Walhalls Elend zu enden,
den Verfluchten wirf in die Flut!

Bruennhilde is unable to understand this appeal; after all, she sacrificed Valhall for the sake of human love, and she's not about to let them destroy it for her now;

Geh' hin zu der Goetter heiligem Rat;
von meinem Ringe raune ihnen zu;
die Liebe liesse ich nie,
nie naehmen mir sie die Liebe,
stuerzt' auch in Truemmern
Walhalls strahlende Pracht!

In fact what we discover about Bruennhilde here is that he conception of love hahas narrowed; she now equates it with marriage, more specifically with marital fidelity, and is going to exact a terrible revenge for its betrayal - whereas in DIE WALKUERE the basis of her conflict with Wotan is that she saw love as compassion and love for humanity in general - something that Wotan was incapable of comprehending.Bruennhilde's refusal to surrender the Ring, however, is going to mean that everything it symbolises for her - love and loyalty - is shortly going to be destroyed, and she is going to avenge herself by instigating the murder of Siegfried.

The scene between Siegfried (in disguise) and Bruennhilde which now follows is exceptionally brutal, and is not paralleled by anything in the sources, except to some extent in VL - certainly in VS Sigurd and Brynhild are rather distantly polite to one another. The closest parallel to the scene in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG in the episode in NL in which Siegfried subdues Brunhild to the extent of weakening her so that Gunther is able to consummate the marriage. In TS, it is stated quite frankly that Sigurd rapes Brynhild - in NL, Gunther makes the point that he would prefer Siegfried not to go quite that far - kill her if you like, he says, but don't rape her. In the ensuing struggle, Brunhild nearly manages to defeat Siegfried - and for him, it seems to have become a matter, not merely of enabling Gunther to consummate his marriage, but of reinforcing the principle of male supremacy in society - if he lets Brunhild defeat him, then it might occur to other women to defy their husbands. [ Yes, well, I said it was nasty.] This illustration of sexual politics in medieval society was not something which Wagner was conerned to pursue, his interest is in the individual relationship between Siegfried and Bruennhilde, which Siegfried is in the process of destroying.

Some Wagner criticism tries to excuse Siegfied's excessive brutality in this scene by claiming that he has not only taken on Gunther's appearance but also his personality. (e.g. Robert Donington in "Wagner's Ring and its Symbols"). I wonder if this is really necessary? The problem of Siegfried's brutality is not going to be solved by making excuses and claiming that he was under the influence of Hagen's potion at the time. He was, but he was not noticed for the gentleness of his personality before this, witness his delings with Mime. We must just acknowledge that there is an element of brutality in Siegfried's nature, which emerges at its worst in this scene.

(To be continued.)


Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 15:50:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources: Cont.

You will recall that we were discussing Sigurd's/Siegfried's disguise as Gunther/Gunnar.

In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Siegfried tears the Ring from Bruennhilde's finger during the struggle. It will not occur to him to pass it on to Gunther, so as to make the deception complete, and Bruennhilde will then discover that she has been deceived and betrayed. What is highly significant here is that Bruennhilde half-recognises Siegfried. The stage directions at this point are as follows;

He grabs her hand and takes the Ring from her finger. She screams. As she collapses into his arms, her glance unconsciously meets Siegfried's eyes.

Later, Bruennhilde will remember this, when she says to Hagen:

Ein einz'ger Blick
seines blitzenden Auges,
das selbst durch die Luegengestalt
leuchtend strahlte zu mir,
deinen besten Mut
machte er bangen.

Wagner may here have followed a hint given in VS; when Sigurd and Brynhild meet for the last time, Brynhild says that she felt she recognised him when he came disguised as Gunnar. (Morris's trans.)

"Ah nay", she said, "never did Gunnar ride through the fire to me, nor did he give me to dower the hosts of the slain; I wondered at the man who came into my hall; for I deemed indeed that I knew thine eyes; but I might not see clearly, or divide the good from the evil, because of the veil that lay heavy on my fortune."

From the Norse literature Wagner takes the fact that Siegfried lays his sword between them- this motif does not occur in NL or TS, because there is no need for it. The quarrel will arise from the fact that (a) Siegfried takes the Ring and (b) Bruennhilde will deny that he placed his sword between them. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Siegfried retains the Ring himself, and Bruennhilde recognises it - in the sources, Sigurd passes it on to his wife, who flaunts it in the course of the quarrel between the women. (The quarrel is more about rank than about sexual jealousy, especially in NL.)

We have noted elsewhere that the Ring Siegfried takes from Brunhild in NL is her own, not one which he had previously given her - the poet comments upon Siegfried's foolishness in handing over Brunhild's ring and girdle to Kriemhild.

In the Norse literature, and in Morris's poem, they don't decide at the outset to deceive Brynhils - Gunnar is pefectly prepared to attempt to brave the flames himself, and the deception is only decided upon when he is unable to do this - not through lack of courage, but because neither his own horse nor Sigurd's will carry him. (One might think that this would tell them something, but it transpires that Grimhild has foreseeen just such an eventuality.) The parallel episode in Morris's poem is not as brutally humuliating for Brynhild; indeed, the motivation of the characters involved is different. The impetus for Gunnar's wooing of Brynhild comes from Grimhild, and everything she does is part of a plan to increase the renown of her family. In fact, she brings about their destruction through her overweening pride, (PRIDE, that is supposed to be!) but she imagines that it is for her to defy the decrees of fate:

For she thought; I will heal the smitten, I will raise up the smitten and slain, And take heed where the Gods were heedless, and build on where they began. And frame hope for the unborn children and the coming days of man.

Attempts to defy the decrees of fate - and unawareness of impending doom - increase the sense of foreboding for the reader. Note how it is emphasised that Sigurd and Gudrun are oblivious of the disaster that is in store for them;

Then dight is the fateful bride-bed, and the Norns will hinder nought
That the feet of the Niblung maiden to the chamber of Kings be brought.
And the troth is plighted and wedded, and the Norns cast naught before
The ffet of Sigurd the Volsung and the bridal chamber-door.

After the wedding, Sigurd, Gunnar and Hogni swear oaths of blood- brotherhood. (Yes, that's correct - Hogni DOES participate in this version.) In VS, not much is made of the oath of blood-brotherhood - is is mentioned in passing, as it were. It is also not mentioned that THE YOUNGER BROTHER, GUTTHORM, DOES NOT PARTICIPATE IN THE OATH - this only becomes important later, when Sigurd's murder is decided upon, and Gunnar says that GUTTHORM CAN BE PERSUADED TO KILL HIM, AS HE HAS NOT SWORN ANY OATH. (It's worth emphasising, as it is different from GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, where Hagen makes a point of not joining in the oath.) In SIGURD THE VOLSUNG, oaths ar are also sworn at the wedding-feast of Sigurd and Gudrun, and the point is specifically made that Guttorm is not present, and his non-participation in the oath will be remembered when the time comes to plot the murder of Sigurd.

To be continued

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 16:48:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources continued.

Grimhild imagines that her plan for Gunnar to marry Brynhild will see the culmination of her striving for the advancement of her family, and she convinces Gunnar that he must be the man destined for Brynhild;

But for this cause sitteth she thus in the ring of the Wavering Flame
That no son of the Kings will she wed save the mightiest master of fame,
And the man who knoweth not fear, and the man foredoomed of fate
To ride through her Wavering Fire to the door of her golden gate
.....

Speak thou, O mighty Gunnar! - nay rather, Sigurd my son,
Say who but the lord of the Niblungs should wed with this mighty one?

Grimhild doesn't act out of malice - rather the reverse, in fact, from her point of view - but the vocabulary associated with her is invariably negative. She is most frequently referred to as GUILEFUL, OVERWISE, and the potion of forgetfulness that she mixes for Sigurd, while possibly devoid of evil intent, is in itself evil, and we have already seen that its effect is to bring about what Grimihld ants, but at theprice of the diminution of Sigurd's glory. Similarly, her plan for Gunnar to win Brynhild - "A deed all lands shall tell of, and the hope of the Niblungs' bliss" - can only be accomplished by means of "sore guile".

Sigurd, Gunnar and Hogni don't set off on their wooing expedition with any intention of deceiving Brynhild; Gunnar does not lack the courage to attempt to win her himself, neither he nor Hogni are aware that any deception is necessary (though Hogni probably suspects - he is closer to his mother than is Gunnar), and Sigurd has forgotten. Grimhild, of course, knows that there will be a need for deception, and consequently she initiates Sigurd and Gunnar into the mysteries of shape-changing. (Which I have discussed elsewhere - in Chapter 8 of the thesis, and in an article entitled "The role of grimhild in SIGURD THE VOLSUNG", Journal of the William Morris Society, Autumn 1989. So I am afraid anyone who is interested in this will have to obtain it on Inter-Library-Loan!)

The brutality that is so distressing in the scene between Bruennhilde and the disguised Siegfried in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG is absent here. Brynhild is distressed, but she accepts "Gunnar" with very little hesitation - not enthusiastically, but more or less willingly. She does indeed express bitter regret when she first speaks to the man she believes to be Gunnar:

Yea, verilt, I am Brynhild; what other is like unto me?
O men of the earth, behold me! hast thou seen, O labouring Earth,
Such sorrow as my sorrow, or such evil as my birth?

Brynhild makes a rather less than enthusiastic promise to marry Gunnar; Sigurd promiss on behalf of Gunnar to love her, but she can only promise to be true to him;

But over his knees and the mail-rings the high King laid his sword,
And looked in the face of Brynhild and swore King Gunnar's word;
He swore on the hand of Brynhild to be true to his wedded wife,
And before alll things to love her till all folk should praise her life.
Unmoved did Brynhild hearken, and in steady voice she swore
To be true to Gunnar the Niblung while her life-days should endure.

In the wedding-bed, Sigurd lays his sword between them. In VS, Brynhild asks why he does this, but in Morris's poem she says nothing, about this or anything else; her attitude seems to be one of weary indifference. The images associated with her now are of pallor and death:

Then they went in one bed together; but the foster-brother laid
'Twixt him and the body of Brynhild his bright-blue battle-blade,
and she looked and heeded it nothing; but e'en as the dead folk lie,
With folded hands she lay there, and let the night go by.

Now occurs the crucial point at which they exchange rings. Morris's tran. of VS reads as follows;

Then she took from off her the ring Andvari's loom, which he had given her,
aforetime, and gave it to him, but he gave her another ring out of Fafnir's hoard.

A small point; the Old Norse text read "Hann tok af henni", which strictly speaking means "he took from her", not "She gave him". It is not, however, intended to imply that Sigurd took the ring from Brynhild against her will - but expressing the transaction as "she gave him" rather than "he took from her" denotes a certain shift in emphasis.

In SIGURD THE VOLSUNG, Brynhild does voluntarily give Andvari's ring to Sigurd, (i.e. to the man she believes to be Gunnar), stressing that it is the most precious gift she has to give;

Lo, here, my gift of the morning! 'twas my dearest treasure of all;
But thou art become its master, and for thee was it fore-ordained;
Since thou art the man of mine oath and the best that the earth hath gained.

The Ring does not serve to jog Sigurd's memory, although he contemplates it for a long time.When he leaves to rejoin Gunnar and Hogni, Sigurd does not feel that he has achieved something wonderful, instead he feels wretched and defeated;

So forth from the hall goes the Wooer, and slow and slow he goes,
as a conquered king from his city goes forth to meet his foes.

This is in contrast to the brash, self-confident Siegfried of GOETTERDAEMMERUNBGwho is quite happy to boast to Hagen and Gutrune about how he subdues Bruennhilde, and is not in the least ashamed of himself - self-doubt is not a characteristic one associates with Siegfried. There is always sadness associated with Sigurd now.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Thu, 20 Jul 1995 14:37:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources continued.

Sigurd gives Gudrun Andvari's Ring (which, you will recall, Brynhild had given him, thinking him to be Gunnar), thereby laying the foundations for his own destruction;

Nor his life nor his death he heeded, but told her last night's tale;
Yea, he drew forth the sword for his slaying, and whetted the edges of bale;
For he took that Gold of Andvari, that Curse of the Uttermost land,
And he spake as a King that loveth, and set it on her hand.

The poem implies that Sigurd actually told Gudrun the truth about his proxy wooing of Brynhild, and that she distorts the truth late during the quarrel.

Comparison of this scene with the parallel scene in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG reveal a sharp contrast. The first thing that strikes us is the strained courtesy with which Sigurd and Brynhild speak to each other, in contrast to the brutal scene in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG. And Brynhild voluntariy offers him the Ring, because it is her most treasured possession, and she wants to give it to the man she has promised to marry, and whom she is going to make a determined effort to love - or, if not to love, at least to regard as the man destined for her - "For thou art the man of my oath and the best that the earth hath gained".

The motif of Brynhild's determination to see Gunnar as the man destined for her persists in the next section of the poem, HOW BRYNHILD WAS WEDDED TO GUNNAR THE NIBLUNG. She seems determined to make the best of a bad situation; she barely mentions love to Gunnar, but refers instead to her promise to marry him, and repeats her resolve to think highly of him:

And she siad: "I behold thee, Gunnar, the King of War that rode
Through the waves of the Flickering Fire to the door of mine abode.
To lie by my side in the even, and waken in the morn;
And for this I needs must deem thee the best of all men born;
The highest-hearted, the greatest, the staunchest of thy love."

Like Sigurd after he has drunk Grimhild's potion, Brynhild never smiles again - she does not smile at the wedding-feast, and later Gunnar notices and is troubled by "The fair face never smiling and the eyes that know no change."

Grimhild, of course, is not far away, and again her presence casts a shadow of foreboding:

...............................but e'en as the rainless cloud
Ere the first of the tempest ariseth the latter sun doth shroud,
And men look round and shudder, so Grimhild came between
The silent golden Sigurd and the eyes of the mighty Queen.

The imagery of clouds and impending storms is reminiscent of the imagery used to describe the effect on Sigurd of Grimhild's potion -

Why are the long leaves drooping, and the fair wind hushed o'erhead?
Look out from the sunless boughs to the yellow-murky east,
How the clouds are woven together o'er that afternoon of feast;
There are heavier clouds above them, and the sun is a hidden wonder,
It rains in the nether heaven, and the world is afraid with the thunder -
E'en so in the hall of the Niblungs, and the holy joyous place,
Sat the earls on the marvel gazing, and the sorrow of Sigurd's face.

Sigurd now recognises Brynhild,but gives no sign of his anguish - he is of course able to understand the bitterness beneath her seeemingly courteous greeting -

If aught the soul shall desire while yet thou livest on earth,
I pray that thou mayst win it nor forget its might and worth.

To anyone not acquainted with the true situation, this would sound as though Brynhild wishes Sigurd well, but Sigurd understands (and so, presumably, does Grimhild) that Brynhild is referring to herself - it is her might and worth that he has forgotten. Brynhild makes a point of not greeting Gudrun, who is immediately filled with foreboding. We see again in this section the discrepancy between the courteous exterior and the seething emotion underneath. Brynhild appears to wish everyone well - but she never smiles, and of course a jarring note is struck by the fact that she pointedly ignores Gudrun.

The wedding-feast takes place in May - the spring was formerly a time of hope and happiness [I discuss this at greater length in my intro, to SIGURD], but now the rejoicing is holloq. Sigurd also is unhappy, but does not openly show his grief:

And forth to the freshness of May went the joyance of the feast;
And Sigurd sat with the Niblungs and gave ear to most and to least;
And shoed no sign to the people of the grief that on him lay,
Nor seemed he worser to any than he was on the yesterday.

Jane (Wagner maven ? :)
ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Thu, 20 Jul 1995 15:21:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's Sources: The Quarrel between the Women

In all the sources - and to some extent in Morris's poem - the quarrel is basically a quarrel about rank between the women, although Morris does introduce the motif of sexual jealousy. Only in Wagner is it a quarrel between Bruennhilde and Siegfried about the betrayal of marraige sorry MARRIAGE vows.And only in Wagner does the quarrel take place actually at the wedding; he follows NL in making it a double wedding. In NL, Brunhild cries at the wedding, but explains her tears by explaining that she does not like to see Kriemhild marry beneath her station - we will recall (I hope! ) that Siegfried had insisted that he was Gunther's vassal.

In his intro. to VS, R.G. Finch argues that this explanation is valid in medieval society:

"Brunhilt's tears at the wedding banquet (Strophe 618) have been ascribed to her disappointment at not marrying Sivrit. Even if this is so, her feeling for Sivrit need not antedate Gunther's expeditin. Brunhilt's own words imply that she had seen neither Gunther nor Sivrit previously, and her explanation (str.260) that she is grieved because Kriemhilt, now her sister-in-law, in marrying Sivrit is marrying beneath her station ( in Iceland Sivrit had pretended that Gunther was his lord) is entirely reasonable in a medeival context."

When the quarrel later erupts, it is about rank. Brunhild is concerned about the discrepancy between the vassal status that Siegfried had claimed was hhis, and the fact that, once married to Kriemhild, he does not actually behave as vassals were expected to behave in feudal society; she complains to Gunther that he doesn't pay any homage or render any services.

[A short digresion here, for those of you who are interested in Wagner's interpretation of medieval literature ; he had problems with the Nibelungenlied, because he either couldn't or wouldn't see that it wasn't a "debased myth" from which he had to clear away all the "extraneous, irrelevant literary matter"; it is in fact about people's rights and responsibilities towards each other in feudal society. This is why Siegfried isn't precisely "the hero" and Hagen isn't precisely "the villian" - it's much more subtle than that. As far as Hagen is concerned, if he doesn't oppose Siegfried he wouldn't be doing his job properly - Siegfried is an outsider as he doesn't obry the rules of the society in which they all live.]

Back to the quarrel now!

There is no inidcation that sexual jealousy is involved in the quarrel. Kriemhild doesn't seem to mind that Siegfried allegedly slept with Brunhild; on the contrary, she is rather proud of him for having done so, as it raises him in her esteem and humiliates Brunhild. Kriemhild is able to insult Brunhild in public by calling her a vassal's concubine. The basis of the quarrel is not rivalry over sexual partners - this plays a very secondary role; what is important is that Siegfried has specifically told Brunhild that he is a vassal, and she is angry that he has failed to render the services expected of a vassal. It shoulf further be borne in mind that marrying beneath one's station in feudal society wasn't merely a social gaffe- it could actually involve loss of rights and even legal penalties. It is instructive in this cotext to refer to Hartmann von Aue's DER ARME HEINRICH - and to critical discussion of the legal status of the marriage; Heinrich has to insist that the girl may not be a noblewoman, but at least she is of free birth. It is significant that he feels it necessary to discuss the matter with his council and the noblity; he doesn't feel that he can just marry the girl without the approval of those closest to him.

Discussion of the nature of marriage in feudal society may appear to be a digression, as neither Wagner nor Morris was at all interested, but the fact that they were not interested is in itself significant, as the way they treat this episode represents a shift of consciousness - the 19th. century had a different view of marriage from that current in medieval society. It would not have been possible for Wagner to make the quarrel into a dispute about rank between Bruennhilde and Gutrune, for many reasons, not least because his Gutrune is a weak, ineffectual character, whose one contribution to the quarrel is a request that Siegfried testify to his innocence:

Treulos, Siegfried, sannest du Trug?
Bezeuge, dass jene falsch dich zeiht!

In the 19th. century, marriage was [primarily] a matter for the two individuals concrned, and the way Morris and Wagner treat the quarrel reflects this shift in attitude. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, the quarrel had sorry HAS become a personal matter between Bruennhilde and Siegfried; in SIGURD THE VOLSUNG although the question of rank is not absent - since Morris remains as close to his source as possible - the personal jealousy between the woman is considerably more important than the question of precedence. In NL, it is precedence that is of overriding importance - the question of who has the right to enter the church first. {Which, as most have you have already realised, Wagner uses in LOHENGRIN, not in the RING. It's too good a scene to discard altogether. And a memo to any Germanists on the list - aren't there traces of this scene in the confrontation between Maria and Elisabeth in Schiller's MARIA STUART? Or is that the sort of question I should refer to a literature list? Or is it just a daft idea anyway?} Anyway - Brunhild plays into Kriemhild's hands by claiming the higher rank, as it enables Kriemhild to humiliate her by accusing her of having been a vassal's concubine. To substantiate her alegation, Kriemhild produces Brunhild's ring and girdle.

The result of the quarrel is that Siegfried is asked to swear - not that he didn't do it, but that HE DIDN'T NOAST ABOUT IT. But when Siegfried raises his hand to swaer the oath, Gunther hurriedly says that there is no need for it, as he is fully convinced of Siegfried's innocence. In fact he is glossing over the situation, as he and Siegfried share a guilty secret - and it is Hagen who takes the responsibility of avenging Brunhild's humiliation.

Jane ubz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Fri, 21 Jul 1995 14:47:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources: the quarrel. (Cont)

A brief glance at TS reveals a similar situation to that which obtains in NL; in this version, too, the emphasis in on rank, and on public humiliation. Brynhild is angered that Grimihld (Sigurd's wife, here) has the arrogance to remain seated in her presence, as she claims the higher rank; Grimhild reacts by flaunting Brynhild's ring, which Sigurd had given her after he had raped Brynhild. The worst thing for Brynhild is the public humiliation: "She regretted bitterly that they should have discussed this matter in the hearing of so many, and that the affair should have become common knowledge." (My trans.)

As it NL, it is not so much that it happened that Brynhild minds; it is that Sigurd has not only raped her, he has gossiped about it with his wife, who has made the matter public - indeed regards it as a matter of pride. When she complains to Gunnar, that is part of the complaint; "Sigurd has broken the oath of loyalty betwen you, and has told his wiife Grimhild everything - how you trusted him, when you couldn't subdue me yourself, and let Sigurd take my virginity. Grimhild taunted me with this today in front of everyone."

In NL and TS, then, the main focus of the quarrel is the question of rank, allied to public discussion of a humiliating secret.

Wagner adapts some of this in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, but the question of rank and precedene is entirely absent. No-one flaunts the Ring; Bruennhilde recognises it on Siegfried's hand. She recognises him, and the audience supposes that he recognises her, but his memories of their time as lovers is not restored. In ths, Wagner differs from Morris. In SIGURD, he did not recognise Brynhild when she gave him the Ring, but his memories are restored at her wedding to Gunnar:

For the will of the Norns is accomplished, and outworn is Grimhild's spell,
And nought now shall blind or help him, and the tale shall be to tell;
He hath seen the face of Brynhild, and he knows why she has come,
And that his is the hand that hath drawn her to the Cloudy Peoples' home.

But in GOETTERDAEMERUNG, nothing prompts any memories in Siegfried, and it is as he supports Bruennhilde while she recovers from her near-collapse that she notices the Ring - on HIS finger and not on Gunther's. Hagen is quick to notice her bewilderment and draw the attention of the bystanders to it: "Jetzt merket klug, was die Frau euch klagt!" This situation is precisely what Hagen had planned. It is Hagen who offers to avenge Bruennhilde, just as in NL, but here he has manipulates the situation in order to bring about Siegfried's death.

The quarrel is about treachery and the betrayal of marriage vows; Siegfried denies that he has betrayed anybody, and it seems as though he has forgotten the details of what happened when he went back to Bruennhilde disguised as Gunther, as he claims that he did not receive the Ring from any woman:

Von keinem Weib kam mir der Reif,
noch war's ein Weib, dem ich ihn abgewann;
genau erkenn' ich des Kampfes Lohn,
den vor Neidhoehl' einst ich bestand,
als den starken Wurm ich erschlug.

It is of course true that he obtained the Ring from Fafner's hoard in the first place, but are we to assume that he has now forgotten what happened with Bruennhilde the previous night? He seems to remember prefectly well that he placed his sword between them, although Bruennhilde denies that he did so. On the other hand, he could hardly admit to having seized the Ring from Bruennhilde and forgetting to hand it over to Gunther, without revealing the whole deception. His only recourse, in fact, is to appear not to take the matter all that seriously; he's sorry the deception wasn't entirely successful, but "she'll get over it";

Glaub', mehr zuernt es mich als dich,
dass schlecht ich sie getaeuscht;
der Tarnhelm duenkt mich fast,
hat halb mich nur gehehlt.
Doch Frauengroll friedet sich bald;
dass ich dir es gewann,
dankt dir gewiss noch das Weib.

It is Gunther's embarrarres silence that leads \Bruenhhilde to suspect the truth - though this is a situation of half-truths, lies and evasions.

Bruennhilde claims tht she and Siegfried have been lovers, which is true, but her claim that they were lovers the previous evening is untrue - Siegfried did place his sword between them, and accuses her of besmirching her own honour for no good reason;

Achtest du so der eig'nen Ehre?
Die Zunge, die sie laestert,
muss ich der Luege sie zeihen?
Hoert, ob ich Treue brach!
Blutbruederschaft hab' ich Gunther geschworen!
Nothung, das werte Schwert,
wahrte der Treue Eid;
mich trennte seine Schaerfe
von diesem traur'igen Weib.

This is true, and what Bruennhilde says in refutation is not true; they have been lovers, but they were not lovers that night. So the oath that Siegfried swears in not perjury, as Bruennhilde claims, because what he swears is that he didn't break the oath of blood-brotherhood to Gunther. Hagen is now able to manipulate Bruennhilde and Gunther into plotting Siegfried's death.

Wagner has considerably shifted the emphasis here, as he has entirely dsipensed with the episode of Kriemhild's revenge - not that one could imagine Wagner's Gutrune surviving in order to take revenge, but the emphasis is in any case on Bruennhilde. In VS she commits suicide because she does not wish to outlive Sigurd, whereas in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG her suicide is intended as a world-redeeming act of self-sacrifice. [And we could discuss whether this interpretation is valid - I mean, I have my doubts as to whether the world is really redeemed at the end of GOETTERDAEMMERUNG - any takers?!) Wagner takes what he needs from both the Norse and the German sources. A quarrel about rank between the women would have been foreign to his dramatic purposees, and also foreign to nineteenth-century concepts of marriage - so the quarrel becomes instead a dispute between Bruennhilde and Siegfried about whether they have, or have not, been lovers.

To be continued

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Sun, 23 Jul 1995 12:23:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources: The Quarrel (cont)

As in NL, the quarrel in VS starts off by being abour rank - the women are bathing in the river, and Brynhild wades further out. Gudrun asks why, and when Brynhild claims the higher rank, Gudrun then reveals the whole deception, flourishing Andvari's Ring to prove her point. The saga doesn't explain explain how Gudrun obtained the Ring, so we must just assume that Sigurd gave it to her at some point.

Brynhild said, "Yea, and why then should I be equal to thee in this matter more than in others? I am minded to think that my father is mightier than thine, and my true-love hath wrought many wondrous works of fame, and hath ridden the flaming fire withal, while thy husband was but the thrall of King Hjalprek." Gudrun answered full of wrath: "Thou wouldst be wise if thou shouldst hold thy peace rather tahn revile my husband; lo now, the talk of all men is, that none has ever abode in the world like unto him in all matters soever; and little it besseems thee of all folk to mock him who was thy first beloved; and Fafnir he slew, yea, and he rode thy flaming fire, whereas thou didst deem that he was Gunnar the King, and by thy side he lay, and took from thy hand the ring Andvari's loom; here mayst thou well behold it!"

The situation differs from NL top the extent that there was a prior betrothal between Sigurd and Brynhild, so Sigurd was in fact Brynhild's first lover - but not at the time Gudrun claims. This is more nearly parallel to the situation in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG; Bruennhilde is lying when she says that Siegfried was her lover when he wooed her on Gunther's behalf, but her more general point - that she and Siegfried have been lovers - is true. Siegfried is not intentionally lying when he denies Bruennhilde's claims.

Sexual jealously is present during the quarrel in VS, whereas it was absent from NL - since there was no prior betrothal in NL, there was no need for this motif. In VS, although the quarrel starts off by being about rank, it soon turns out that Brynhild is jealous of Gudrun, as Sigurd observes in the course of discussion with Gudrun. Later, when the quarrel is resumed between them, Brynhild admits her jealousy.

There seems to be some confusion in VS as to which ring is beoing sorry being quarrelled about. Gudrun flaunts Andvari's ring - this is the ring that Sigurd had obtained from Fafnir's hoard and had given to Brynhild - which she had then given him, thinking him to be Gunnar - and it is now in Gudrun's possession. But surely it is a different ring Brynhild asks Gunnar about? Her words are;

"What didst thou with that ring that I gave thee, even the one which King Budli gave me at our last parting, when thou and King Giuki came to him and threatened fire and sword, unless ye had me to wife?

This is most likely a mistake on the part of the compiler, which is then forgotten about.

Brynhild demands Sigurd's death, implying, though not stating openly, tht Sigurd was her lover when he visited her disguised as Gunnar - a lie, as he placed his sword between them. As in NL and TS, Brynhild resents the fact that Sigurd has not only been her lover, he has gossiped about it with his wife - at least, this is how she interprets the situation. There is no need for Gudrun (or Kriemhild) to be jealous if Brynhild, because in deserting Brynhild for her, Sigurd has shown that he considers Gudrun to be the bettr better woman. The jealously is on Brynhild's side. Brynhild demands revenge for the shameful way in which she has been tricked into marrying the less worthy man.

[A glance at Hebbel's DIE NIBELUNGEN may be instructive here. When Brunhild realises how she has been deceived, she bursts out in rage and grief;

............Ich ward nich bloss verschmaet,
Ich ward verschenkt, ich ward wohl gar verhandelt!
......
.................Ihm selbst zum Weib zu schlecht,
War ich der Pfennig, der ihm eins verschaffte!

(I wasn't just humiliated, I was given away, traded!.....I wasn't good enough to be his wife - I was just the bargaining counter to get him one!)

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Date: Mon, 24 Jul 1995 15:19:00 BST
Reply-To: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
Sender: "OPERA-L: Discussion of opera and related issues"
From: Jane Ennis
Subject: Wagner's sources: the Quarrel (cont.)

In SIGURD THE VOLSUNG, Brynhild at first hides her sorrow, and tries hard to be a friend to Gudrun:

Close now is her converse with Gudrun, and sore therein she strives,
Lest the barren stark contention should mingle in their lives.

But Gudrun knows the truth - it was not Gunnar who braved Brynhild's fire, but Sigurd disguised as Gunnar.

It is indicated that Hogni is learning some of Grimhild's wisdom. It was already suggested that of all her children he is the closest to her, and understands more of her deep-seated plans than the others; for instance, in the episode of the wooing of Brynhild, he seems to be the only one who realises why Grimhild taught them the art of shape-changing. But perhaps he is even wiser than Grimhild, in that he does not believe it is possible to defy the decrees of fate:

He knows of the craft of Grimhild, and how she looketh to sway
The very council of God-home and the Norns' unchanging mind;
And he saith that well-learned is his mother, but that e'en her feet are blind
Down the path she cannot escape from; nay, of is she nothing, he saith,
Save a path for the foredoomed staying, and a sword for the ordered death.

Hogni will not attempt to defy the decrees of Fate, or bend then to his will, as Grimhild does; he decides that, whatever the decrees of Fate are, he will meet them unflinching.

Before the quarrel breaks out, Grimhild drops hints to Gunnar about Sigurd's wealth and power, and sows the seeds of suspicion in Gunnar's mind by causing him to wonder whether Sigurd did in fact become Brynhild's lover. Morris here introduces another motive for the eventual murder of Sigurd - envy of his wealth. In VS, this motive is not introduced before the quarrel, but it gradually assumes importance, and it is one of the arguements that Gunnar uses to persude Hogni to agree to the murder. (Yes, it IS that way round - Hogni is AGAINST the murder at first, not its instigator.)

"Gunnar grew sick at heart thereat, and might nowise see what fearful thing lay behind it all; he was bound to Sigurd by oath, and this way and that swung the heart within him; but at the last he bethought him of the measureless shame if his wife went from him, and he said within himself, @Brynhild is better to me than all things else, and the fairest of all women, and I will lay down my life rather than lose the love of her.' And herewith he called his brother to him and spake; 'Trouble is heavy on me,' and he tells him that he must needs slay Sigurd, for that he has failed him wherein he trusted him, ' so let us be lords of the gold and the realm withal.' "

In SIGURTHRKVITHA IN SKAMMA (The Short Lay of Sigurd), the greed motif is more explicit - Brynhild threatens to leave Gunnar, who doesn't want to lose her OR HER WEALTH, and also sees an opportunity to seize Sigurd's wealth.

"Brynhild to me
is better than all,
the child of Budli
is the best of women.
Yea, and my life
Will I lay down,
Ere I am teinned
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Ere I am twinned
From that woman's treasure."

He bade call Hogni
To the place where he bided;
With all the trust that might be
Trowed he in him.

"Wilt thou bewray Sigurd
for his wealth's sake?
Good it is to rulew
Over the Rhine's metal;
And well content
Great wealth to wield,
Biding in peace
And blissful days."

The greed motif is also introduced in NL and GOETTERDAEMMERUNG. In the latter, Hagen promises Gunther that he will gain wealth and power through Siegfried's death:

Er falle - dir zum Heil!
Ungeheure Macht wird dir,
gewinnst von ihm du den Ring,
den der Tod ihm wohl nur entreisst!

This is not true, but it is an argument which serves to convince Gunther. In NL, Hagen advances a similar argument, and it is this, as much as the insult to Brunhild, that persuades Gunther to agree to the murder; but in fact the greed motif is secondary. The primary motivation does seem to be the insult to Brunhiod, although hagen has always been antagonistic to Siegfried, and it is possible that he is using the insult to Bruhnild as a pretext, and might have found another reason for getting rid of him had the quarrel not occurrred.

In SIGURD the greed motif is introduced before the quarrel, whereas in all the sources is it not introduced until after the quarrel, and is of secondary importance. The reader is not surprised to note that it is Grimhild who introduces the idea of envy of Sigurd's wealth. As in VS, the quarrel erupts when the women are bathing together in the river, and this is an explicit declaration of war:

And her laugh went down the waters, as the war-horn on th wind,
When the kings of war are seeking, and their foes are fain to find.

Brynhild's claim that her husband is "the best of the earth" is a continuation of her determination to think well of Gunnar, but in her insistence upon Gunnar;s worth she sems to be protesting too much - she has never shaken off her doubts about him.

Gudrun attempts to put matters right between herself and Brynhild, but the simile used shows that it is already too late;

Then she thought of that word in the river, and of how it were better unsaid,
And she looked with kind words to hide it, as men bury their battle-dead
With the spice and the sweet-smelling raiment....

Now that the deception has been reveealed, Brynhild feels that she has been destroyed, and curses those who have brought her to this pass. She also prophecies that Grimhild will one day poison Gudrun, as she poisoned Sigurd.

Brynhild now demands Sigurd's death as the only fitting vengeance for the way she has been wronged. She talks with Gunnar, and begs him to tell her that it was he who gave the ring to Gudrun:

The she raised herself on her elbow and turned her eyes on the king:
"O tell me, Gunnar," she said, "that thou gavest Andvari's ring
To thy sister the white-armed Gudrun! - thou, not thy captain of war,
The son of the God-born Volsungs, the Lord of the Treasure of yore!
O swear it, that I may live! ........

The dispute about original ownership of the Ring acquires greater significance in SIGURD and GOETTERDAEMMERUNG than in any of the sources. It is because Gunnar knows nothing of the Ring that Brynhild becomes aware of the full extent of the deception that has been practiced on her. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Bruennhilde believes that Gunther took her ring, and his embarrassment and puzzlement lead her to suspect the truth:

Bruenhilde (zu Gunther)
Nahmst du von mir den Ring,
durch den ich dir vermaehlt,
so melde ihm nun dein Recht,
fordre zurueck das Pfand!

Gunther (in grosser Verwirrung)
Den Ring? Ich gab ihm keinen;
Doch - kennst du ihn auch gut?

Bruennhilde
Wo bergest du den Ring,
den du von mire erbeutet?

(Gunther schweigt in hoechster Betroffenheit)

Bruennhilde (wuetend auffahrend)
Ha! - dieser war es, der mir den Ring entriss;
Siegfried, der trugvolle Dieb!

Bruennhilde's rage and grief will lead her to make the false claim that Siegfried has been her lover on the occasion when he laid his sword between them. In SIGURD, she does not claim this, although she does in VS, but Gunnar thinks that this is what she means, when she begs him to say that he gave the Ring to Gudrun:

O swear it, King of the Niblungs, lest thine honour die of the dearth!
O swear it, lord I have wedded, lest mine honour come to naught,
And I be but a wretch and a bondmaid for a year's embracing bought!

Till his heart hath heard her meaning at the golden bed he stares,
And the last of the words she speaketh flit empty past his ears:
For he knows that the tale of the night-tide hath been told and understood,
And now of her shame is he deeming e'en worse than brynhild would.

All versions culminate in Brynhild's demand for Sigurd's death to avenge her shame.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


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