Wagner's Sources - 3
Written by Jane Ennis

Date: Mon, 8 May 1995 17:04:00 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.)

We now turn to the question of the Ring itself. (Did I hear someone say "About time too?)

In Wagner, the Ring which Wotan takes from Alberich, and which Alberich curses, eventually becomes the ring which enables Bruennhilde to recognise Siegfried, and realise how she has been tricked into marrying Gunther - in fact, it is this ring which leads to Siegfried's death.

VS does not at first make it clear that it is this ring that Sigurd gives to Brynhild; it merely says that he gave her "a gold ring". Only when he woos her in the guise of Gunnar does the saga make clear which ring it is;

"Then he took from her the ring Andvaranaut which he had given her, and gave her another ring from Fafner's inheritance."

It only become entirely clear to her in the quarrel with Gudrun what has happened. Sigurd as obviously given the ring to Gudrun at some point, just as Siegfried gives Brunhild's ring to Kriemhild in NL:

"and little it beseems thee of all folk to mock him who was thy first beloved; and Fafnir he slew, yea, and rode thy flaming fire, whereas thou didst deem that it 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!"
(Volsunga Saga, Morris's trans)

In NL, the ring which Siegfried takes from Brunhild and gives to Kriemhild is her own, not one that he had previously given her, as the poet of NL does not make use of the prior betrothal motif of Siegfried and Brunhild. He takes it from her when, in the guise of Gunther (after she is married to Gunther) he had defeated her in a "wrestling match" - he takes her ring and her girdle, which he then gives to Kriemhild. As the poet says, this is going to cause a lot of trouble for them all later. (The relevant strophes of the poem are 679-680).

Perhaps we have got slightly ahead of ourselves here; we need to discuss the origins of this ring, and how Siegfried came t possess it.

In DAS RHEINGOLD, the idea that the gold can be obtained and made into a ring by one who forswears love is Wagner's own, and it did not figure in the earlier drafts. The idea of the Rheinmaidens is probably taken from an episode in NL , although Wagner would also have been familiar with the figure of the Lorelei. [And another possible source is the Oceanides (daughters of Oceanus) is the "Prometheus Unbound" of Aeschylus]. In NL, it is Hagen who encounters "merewip" - mermaids - and askes them whether anyone will come home safely from their journey to Etzel's court. He takes their clothes - in order the get them back, they tell him that everyone will come back ssafely, but when he has returned their clothes, they tell him that no-one except the chaplain will ever return.

In a similar incident in TS, the mermiads tell Hogni that he and all his companions will cross the river unharmed, but none of them will return. He then kills the two women. There are no similar incidents in the Norse literature. In both NL and TS, Hagen encounters two women, not three.

Though Wagner may have derived the idea of the Rhinemaidens from NL, his conception of their role is entirely original. It is only in DAS RHEINGOLD that there is gold in the river, which has the power to bestow infinite wealth on its possessor - if he is prepared to renounce love. The idea that it is the ring which conveys power is central in Wagner; in Morris's poem, it isn't so important. The ring Andvaranaut is the ring that Sigurd gives Brynhild, and lataer takes from her, but it doesn#t have the vital connection with the gods, and the forswaering of love, that Alberich's ring has.

In DAS RHEINGOLD , as soon as Wotan hears about Alberich's ring, he decides that he must have it for himself - he, like Alberich, is greedy for power, and he is relieved to hear that he can obtain it by stealing the gold - he doesn't need to forswear love to get it. Fasolt and Fafner also lust after the gold, especially the Ring, when Loge tells of his power. Fafner tells Fasolt that it would be just as good as having Freia;

Gluab' mir, mehr als Freia
(Sorry - typo again"!)
Glaub' mir, mehr als Freia
frommt das gleissende Gold;
auch ew'ge Jugend erjagt
wer durch Goldes Zauber sie zwingt.

As we have seen, the idea that this is the ring which will confer on its posessor incredible power is absent from the Norse literature and from "Sigurd" - and the ring that Siegfried takes from Brunhild in NL is herown.

Alberich curse the ring when Wotan wrest it from him. To some extent this is a parallel to Andvari's curse in REGINSMAL, but it is much more wide-ranging in scope;

Wie durch Fluch er mire gerit,
verflucht sei dieser Ring!
Gab sein Gold mir Macht ohne Mass,
nun zeug' sein Zauber Tod dem, der ihn traegt!
Kein Froher soll seiner sich freu'n;
keinem Gluecklichen lache sein lichter Glanz!
Wer ihn besitzt, den sehre die Sorge,
und wer ihn nicht hat, den nage die Neid!
Jeder giere nach seinem Gut,
doch keiner geniesse mit Nuetzen sein!
Ohne Wucher halt' ihn sein Herr,
doch den Wuerger zieh' er ihm zu!
Dem Tode verfallen, sterb' er lechzen dahin,
des Ringes Herr als des Ringes Knecht -
bis in meiner Hand den geraubten wieder ich halte!

In REGINSMAL, Andvari merely warns that his ring will be the downfall of its immediate possessors - which indeed it is. Alberich's curse is aimed at Wotan, but is also intended to fall upon anyone, other than himself, who gains the Ring. In "Sigurd", Morris indicates in several passages that the gods, especailly Loki, act through greed, whereas in the RING, Loge is the only one who is not affected by greed - he just cynically comments upon the greed of the others. [I think this should be regarded as another indication that "Sigurd the Volsung" should be read as an anti-RING]. We have noted before that all the gold seems to be cursed and to be destined to bring about grief, before Andvari specifically curses the Ring:

Then the Elf drew off the gold ring and stood with empty hand
E'en where the flood fell over 'twixt the water and the land,
And he gazed on the great Guile-master, and huge and grim he grew,
And his anguish swelled within him, and the word of the Norns he knew;
How that gold was the seed of gold to the wise and the shapers of things,
The hoarders of hidden treasure, and the unseen glory of rings;
But the seed of woe to the world and the foolish wasters of men,
And grief to the generations that die and srping up again.

We have observed that, in "Sigurd", the gods seem almost glad to get rid of the ring, although they had held on to it when they gave the rest of the gold to Reidmar. This is not, of course, the case in DAS RHEINGOLD. The demand of the giants that the gold be piled up so as to hide Freia is taken from Reidmar's demand that the otter's skin be filled with gold, and covered with gold on the outside. The effect is one of deep humiliation for Freia. fasolt is reluctant to let her go, and says he will not give her up while he can still see her lovely eyes. We needn't interpret this as a manoeuvre to get the Ring, as it is \Fafner who demands it, and later, when the brothers quarrel over the hoard, Fafner points out that Fasolt was more interested in Freia than in the gold.

In "Sigurd", Morris makes no use of the demand to cover the otter;s skin with gold, and also stuff it with gold - in REGINSMAL, the gods are made to surrender the ring to cover a whisker. In Morris's poem, the gold is placed before Reidmar; he examines it, then sees the Ring on Loki's finger:

And lo from Loki's right hand came the flash of the fruitful ring.
And at last spake Reidmar scowling; "Ye wait for my yea-saying
That your feet may go gree on the earth, and the fear of my toils may be done;
That then ye may say in your laughter; the fools of the time agone!
The purblind eyes of the dwarf-kind! they have gotten the garnered sheaf
And have let their Masters depart with the Seed of Gold and of Grief;
O Loki, friend of Allfather, cast down Andvari's ring,
Or the world shall yet turn backward and the high heavens lack a king.

Loki surrenders the Ring without argument. Not so Wotan! He is even prepared to go as far as letting the giants take Freia after all - perhaps he assumes that it will gives the gods eternal youth just as well as her apples, as Fafner had previously said - and he is only persuaded to surrender it by the intervention of Freia.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 19:29:00 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.)

We now return to Siegfried's acquisition of the treasure. we have already observed that in NL he acquires it in an entirely different manner from the other sources, and this version of events is used neither by Morris nor by Wagner. What Wagner did take from NL is the name of the dwarf Alberich, and the fact that he is the guardian of the treasure belonging to the Nibelungs. [N.B. The whole topic of precisely who the Nibelungs are is rather a vexed question, which will be discussed in greater detail in another posting]. The treasure, known as Fafner's hoard or the Nibelung's hoard, is now guarded by Fafner, who has turned himself into a dragon and lies in front of his cave - deep in the forest, according to wagner; on the Glittering Heath according to Morris (taken from VS). In wagner, Fafner kills Fasolt to obtain the gold, including the Ring and the Tarnhelm, then he turns himself into a dragon with the aid of the Tarnhelm.

Mime had made the Tarnhelm for Alberich, and it had the power of enaling its wearer to change shape and become invisible, and also to cover great distances instantaneously, as we shall discover in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG. In NL Siegfried has a TARNKAPPE - *cloak* of invisibility - which he has won from Alberich as part of the Niblungs' hoard. It enables him to help Gunther to defeat Brunhils. In VS, Regin tells Sigurd that Fafnir has turned himself into a dragon, but doesn't explain how - In REGINSMAL, Fafnir has a Helm of Terror, which enables him to frighten every living creature.

In "Sigurd", Regin accompanies Sigurd when he sets out to slay the serpent - as Mime accompanies Siegfried. Mime continues to inspire Siegfried with a semse of fear, and continues to be unsuccessful.

Act II of Siegfried opens with Wotan and Alberich encountering each other outside Fafner's cave. This confrontation between the two arch-rivals is unique to Wagner - there is nothing resembling it in any of the sources, or in Morris's poem. In VS and PE, Andvari fades out of the sdtroy as soon as his gold has been obtained. Although he curses it, he makes no further attempt to recover it, nor do the gods show any further interest in it. VS, in fact, shows very little further interest in the gods, except that Odin intervenes one last time to help Sigurd - that is, he counteracts Regin's trreacherous advice about the best way to kill the dragon. Wotan is, of course, unable to intervene to help Siegfried.

Morris's Sigurd has little interest in obtaining the gold for himself - he repeatedly assures Regin that he will be able to do what he likes with it. The following passages is particularly illustrative of Sigurd's attitude;

The deeds shall be done tomorrow; thou shalt have that measureless gold
And devour the garnered wisdom that blessed thy realm of old,
That hath lain unspent and begrudged in the very heart of hate;
With the blood and the might of thy brother thine hunger shalt thou sate;
And this deed shall be mine and thine; but take heed for what follows then!
Let each do after his kind! I shall do the deeds of men;
I shall harvest the fields of their sowing, in the bed of their strewing shall sleep;
To them shall I give my life-days, to the Gods my glory to keep.

The attitude of wagner's Siegfried is rather similar; he only takes the Ring and the Tarnhelm because the Woodbird tells him to, and shows no particular interest in the hoard.

In VS, Sigurd asks regin what is the best way of dealing with Fafnir - he really shows considerable foresight when he asks, what if he should get in the way of the dragon's blood, but Regin taunts him once more with cowardice. Odin then appears, and advises Sigurd to dig several pits so that he won't be in danger of being drwoned bty the flow of blood.

Then Sigurd spake; "How sayedst thou, Regin, that this drake was no greater than other lingworms; methinks the track of him is marvellous great?"

The said Regin, "Make thee a hole, and sit down therein, and whenas the worm comes to the water, smite him into the heart, and so do him to death, and win for thee great fame thereby."

But Sigurd said, "What will betide me if I be before the blod blood of the worm?"

Says Regin, "Of what avail to counsel thee if thou art still afeard of everything? Little art thou like thy kin in stoutness of heart."

Then Sigurd rides right over the heath; but Regin gets him gone, sore afeard.

But Sigurd fell to digging a pit, and whiles he was at that work, there came to him an old man with a long beard, and asked him what he wrought there, and he told him.

Then answered the old man and said, "Thou doest after sorry counsel; rather dig thee many pits, and let the blood run therein; but sit thee down in one thereof, and so thrust the worm's heart through."

And therewithal he vanished away; but Sigurd made the pits even as it was shown to him.

In Morris's poem, Sigurd encounters Odin, who, as in VS, gives him advice about killing the dragon. This is in complete contrast to Siegfried's only face-to-face encounter with Wotan, in which Siegfried manifests hostility from the beginning. In "Sigurd", the young hero treats the old man with respect.

That's all for today - will try to send some more tomorrow.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 12 May 1995 19:39:00 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

We are still dealing with Siegfried's fight with the dragon - O.K.?

In SIEGFRIED, before Fafner emerges from his cave, Siegfried has a long reflective passage - who were his parents, what did they look like? He tries unsuccessfully to imitate the birdsong he hears on a makeshift pipe, then decides to blow his horn instead - and this entices Fafner out of his cave. It doesn't take long for Siegfried to deal Fafner the death-blow. Fafner is able to ask Siegfried who he is - Siegfried replies that he doesn't know - and to warn him against Mime:

Blicke nun hell, bluehender Knabe;
der dich Blinden reizte zur Tat,
beraet jetzt des Bluehenden Tod!
Merk, wie's endet! Acht' auf mich!

Siegfried asks Fafner, who seems to have gained wisdom in death, to tell him more -

Woher ich stamme, rate mir noch;
weise ja scheinst du, Wilder, im Sterben;
rat' es nach meinem Namen -
Siegfried bin ich genannt!

but as Fafner repeats the name Siegfried, he dies. This bears some resemblance to the episode in FAFNISMAL (in the Poetic Edda) - Sigurd first conceals his name, because of an ancient belief that revealing one's name to an enemy could give the enemy power, but later he tells Fafnir who he is. Fafnir warns him that the gold will eventually lead to his death; after an exchange of gnomic verses, Fafnir warns Sigurd to beware of Regin. [Remember that, in this redaction, Regin - Sigurd's foster- father - is Fafnir's brother.] The dialogue is reproduced in prose in VS, including the gnomic utterances, which Wagner omits.

So whenas Fafnir had his death-wound, he asked, "Who art thou? and who is thy father? and what thy kin, that thou wert so hardy as to bear weapons against me?

Sigurd answered, "Unknown to men is my kin, I am called a Noble Beast ; neither father nor mother have I, and all alone have I fared hither."

Said Fafnir, "Whenas thou hast neither father nor mother, of what wonder wert thou born then? But now, though thou tellest me not thy name on this my death-day, yet thou knowest verily that thou liest unto me."

He answered, "Sigurd am I called, and my father was Sigmund."

Says Fafnir, "Who egged thee on to this deed, and why wouldst thou be driven to it? Hadst thou never heard how that all folk were adrad [sic; == "frightened"] of me, and of the awe of my countenance? But an eager father thou hadst, O bright-eyed swain!"

Sigurd answered; "A hardy heart urged me on hereto; and a strong hand and this sharp sword, which well thou knowest now, stood me in stead of the doing of the deed.....

....Fafnir answered; "In angry wise dost thou take my speech; but hearken, for that same gold which I have owned shall be thy bane too."

Quoth Sigurd; "Fain would e keep all our wealth till that day of days; yet shall each man die once for all."

In "Sigurd, Fafnir's appearance is not described, except that he has a human face - instead, the narrator conveys the atmosphere of gloom and dread that emanates this presence. I love this passage, and I find that Morris had a distincrt advantage over Wagner in choosing the medium of poetry rather than the stage - putting a believable Fafnir on stage has been an insuperable difficulty ever since the RING was first produced. Rossetti apparently didn't think too highly of it, but this was probably a minority verdict. Judge for yourselves...

But now, how the rattling waxeth till he may not heed nor hark! And the day and the heavens are hidden, and o'er Sigurd rolls the dark, As the flood of a pitchy river,and heavy-think is the air With the venom of hate long-hoarded, and lies one fashioned fair; Then a wan face comes from the darkness, and is wrought in man-like wise, And the lips are writhed with laughter and bleared are the blinded eyes; And it wandereth hither and thither, and searcheth through the grave And departeth, leaving nothing , save the dark, rolled wave on wave O'er the golden head of Sigurd and the edges of the sword, And the world weighs heavy on Sigurd, and the weary curse of the Hoard; Him-seemed the grave grew straiter, and his hope of life grew chill, And his heart by the Worm was enfolded, and the bonds of the Ancient Ill.


Do you agree that this is splendid poetry? If any of you have managed to have a look at my edition of "Sigurd", you'll see that I discuss Morris's poetic/narrative style in the intro .

That's all for today! (Probably quite enough to be going on with!)

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk


Oh for the wings, for the wings of a dove; the cat ate the chicken wings yesterday.

Date: Sun, 21 May 1995 16:27:00 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.

(THanks for all your good wishes! I am on the way to recovery now, and probably won't be permanetly scarred.)

We got to the death of the dragon last time, if my memory serves me well.

Siegfried now learns to understand the speech of the birds. Some of the dragon's blood spills onto his finger, and when he puts the finger into his mouth to cool it, he understands what the Woodbird is saying to him. It first advises him to take the Ring and the Tarnhelm from the hoard;

Hei! Siegfried gehoert nun der Niblungen Hort!
Oh, faend' in der Hoehle den Hort er jetzt!
Wollt' er den Tarnhelm gewinnen,
der taugt' ihm zu wonniger Tat;
doch wollt' er den Ring sich erraten,
der macht' ihm zum Walther der Welt!

When Siegfried goes into the cave to find the Ring and the Tarnhelm, there follows a scene of rather less than fraternal affection between Alberich and Mime. Each is determined to win the Ring and Tarnhelm for himself, and not to share anything with the other. Much to their chagrin, Siegfried has obtained both items for himself, because the Woodbird told him to, not because he knows what use they are;

Was ihr mir nuetzt, weiss ich nicht;
doch nahm ich euch
aus des Horts gehaeuftem Gold,
weil guter Rat es mir riet.
So taug' eure Zier als des Tages Zeuge,
es mahne der Tand,
dass ich kaempfend Fafner erlegt,
doch das Fuerchten noch nicht gelernt.

Perhaps there is some dramatic irony in the Woodbird's advice - "Wollt' er den Tarnhelm gewinnen,/ der taugt' ihm zu wonniger Tat" (If he could obtain the Tarnhelm, it would help him accomplish a glorious deed), because when he does use it, it is to accomplish a deed of treachery and betrayal. Similarly in NL he uses his Tarnkappe (cloak of invisibility) twice to deceive Brunhild. So this is device is actaully only used by Siegfried to deceive. And one does wonder whether it could ever be used for a worthy purpose, considering who made it and why.

The Woodbird's next piece of advice is to warn Siegfried about Mime:

Hei! Siegfried gehoert nun
der Helm und der Ring!
O, traute er Mime, dem treulosen nicht!
Hoerte Siegfried nun scharf
auf des Schelmen Heuchelgered'!
Wie sein Herz es meint
kann er Mime verstehen;
so nuetzt' ihm des Blutes Genuss.

There now follows the scene in which Mime cannot help revealing his plans to kill Siegfried and take the Ring for himself. In this scene, Wagner adopt the dramatic device of having Mime tell Siegfried that he wants to kill him, and furthermore that he has always hated him and hisd family and has just been waiting for this opportunity to get him out of the way.

In VS and FAFNISMAL, Regin instructs Sigur to roast the dragon's heart. When Sigurd touches the heart to see if it is cooked, he burns his finger; when he puts his finger to his mouth, he can understand what the birds are saying to him. They first of all warn him to beware of regin, who is plotting the death of Fafnir. (The translations which follow are bby Henry Adams Bellows: Princeton University Press, 1936).

32. There sits Sigurd sprinkled with blood,
And Fafnir's heart by the fire he cooks;
Wise were the breaker of rings I ween
To eat the life-muscles all so bright.

[Explanation by me - "breaker of rings" is an heroic epithet meaning "king", "warrior" . In Old Norse it is *spillir bauga* , and there is a similar expression in Anglo-Saxon]

33There Regin lies and plans he lays
The youth to betray who trusts him sel;
Lying words with wiles will he speak
Till his brother the maker of mischief avenges.

34.Less by a head let the chatterer hoary
Go from here to hell;
Then all of the wealth he alone can wield,
the gold that Fafnir guarded.

[The birds go on for several verses, until finally -]

Sigurd hewed off Regin's head, and then he ate Fafnir's heart, and drank the blood of both regin and Fafnir.


Examination of the dragon-killing episode in TS reveals that the saga summarises all the versions of the episode. After he has killed the dragon - which he does by beating it to death, not by stabbing it - Sigurd is hungry, having eaten all the food that Mime provided, which was supposed to last for nine days. There is no mention at this stage of any treasure, but it is mentioned in passing much later by Grimhild, the saga's equivalent of Gudrun/Kriemhild,when she is married to Attila ; she talks of Sigurd's wealth, which her brothers are withholding from her, and says that this wealth includes the gold he took from the dragon that he killed. TS also introduces the theme of Siegfried's invulnerability, which does not occur in the Norse sources.In NL the dragon-slaying is first mentioned by Hagen, who does not appear to know of this vulnerable spot; the secret is only revealed to him later by Kriemhild - something which, as the poet says, she would have done better to conceal. Wagner also makes uses of the motif of Siegfried's invulnerability - in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, it is Bruennhilde who has made him invulnerable, but, as she knows that he would never turn his back on an enemy, he is not invulnerable there.

In VS, Regin reminds Sigurd that, although Sigurd actually killed Fafnir, it was at Regin's instigation; in fact it is clearer in VS than in REGINSMAL and FAFNISMAL that Regin actually encourages Sigurd to kill Fafnir for him, so that he can obtain what he considers to be his ingeritance. But by the time the birds warn Sigurd about Regin, he is actually plotting revenge for his brother, though he originally wanted him killed.

Regin never really implied that Sigurd should have the gold for himself - this is clearer in Morris's poem than in the sources, as Regin repeats his demands in such a way as to make it clear that Sigurd is expected to tuen the gold over to him. This Sigurd is quite happy to do, as his main motivation is the love of adventure.

As in VS, Regin in SIGURD accuses Sigurd of killing his brother. Sigurd's response is that Regin can have the gold, and they have come to a parting of the ways:

Bur Regin darkened before him, and exceeding grim was he grwon,
And he spake; "Thou hast slain my brother, and wherewith wilt thou atone?"
"Stand up, O Master," said Sigurd, "O Singer of ancient days,
And take the wealth I have won thee, ere we wend on the sundering ways.
I have toiled and thou hast desired, and the Treasure is surely anear,
And thou hast wisdom to find it, and I have slain thy fear."
But Regin crouched and drakened; "Thou hast slain my brother", he said,
"Take thou the gold", quoth Sigurd, "for the ransom of my head".

Then Regin demands that Sigurd roast the dragon's heart for him, The poem conveys the atmosphere of desolation that reigns on the Glittering Heath:

But Sigurd took the Heart, and wood on the waste he found,
The wood that grew and died, as it crept on th niggard ground,
And grew and died again, and lay like whitened bones -

Morris makes the birds into seven eagles; in his translation of VS, he calls them woodpeckers. The word in Old Norse is *igdur* - variously translated as "tits" or "nuthatches".In fact, it probably doesn't matter all that much what type of birds they were, and Wagner was thinking along the right dramatic lines when he reduced the number of birds to one, and called it just a Woodbird. But it is a neat illustration of Morris's attention to detail that in his poem he makes the birds into eagles; since he has already conveyed that the Glittering Heath is a place of desolation, where wood is very sparse, he couldn't then make the birds into woodpeckers, and eagles fit very well into the desolate atmosphere - "and the ernes cried over his head"....

The eagles warn Sigurd, somewhat cryptically, that Regin is plotting his death, and Sigurd understands what is going on in Regin's mind - "But lo, how the eyes of Sigurd the heart of the guileful behold"

When he realises what Regin has been plotting, he strikes him dead. There is now no reason why Sigurd should not gain the treasure for himself, although that was not his original intention. The sequence of events is the reverse of that in Wagner's SIEGFRIED. There, the Woodbird's first instruction to Siegfried is to obtain the Ring and the Tarnhelm - because he knows nothing about the Hoard, Mime having deliberately kept him in ignorance. In SIGURD, the first necessity is to warn Sigurd about Regin, since he already knows about the treasure.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Tue, 23 May 1995 20:13:00 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: Brynhild

VS summarises the advice of the birds into one passage, including the advice that, if Sigurd kills Regin, he can have the treasure for himself. This advice is also contained in the continuation of the verses from FAFNISMAL, which I quoted in the last section, but it is omitted by Morris, who is more concerned with the warning against Regin's treachery. What is more interesting is that he also omits any direct reference to Sigurd's next adventure, namely the meeting with Brynhild. In VS, the instructions from the birds are prefectly clear - they tell him to take all of Fafnir's gold, and then ride to Hindarfjall [Hindfell] where he will find Brynhild lying asleep.

In FAFNISMAL, the instructions are not quite so direct - first the birds tell him about GUDRUN, then they beacktrack and tell him about the Valkyrie sleeping on Hindarfjall, and it is by no means certain that the Valkyrie is the same woman as Brynhild. Or rather, in PE she is not necessarily the same woman. By the time VS was compiled, Sigrdrifa the Valkyrie is identical with Brynhild. It is possible that *Sigrdrifa* is not a woman's name, but an epithet meaning "giver of victory". The way FAFNISMAL tells the story implies that Sigurd is going to Giuki's hall, where he will meet the woman he will marry, but that on the way he will meet the sleeping Valkyrie- who may or may not be Brynhild.

Bind thou, Sigurd the bright red rings!
Not meet it is many things to fear.
A fair may know I fair of all the fairest,
Girt about with gold, good for thy getting.

Green go the ways toward the hall of Giuki
That the fates show forth to those who fare thither;
There the rich king reareth a daughter;
Thou shalt deal, Sigurd, with gold for thy sweetling.

A high hall there is reared upon Hindfell,
Without all about it sweeps the red flame aloft.
Wise men wrought that wonder of halls
With the unhidden gleam of the glory of gold.

Soft on the fell a shield-may sleepeth,
The linme-trees red plague playing about her;
The sleep-thorn set Odin into that maiden
For choosing in war the one he willed not.

Go son, behold that may under helm
Who from battle Vinskornir bore,
From her may not turn the torment of sleep
Dear offspring of kings in the dread Norns' despite.
(FAFNISMAL. Morri's trans.)

The poem quite clearly states that Sigurd is going to marry Giuki's daughter, but that on the way he will meet this Valkyre - the poem need not necessarily be taken to imply that he is going to have a broken romance with her, or rather, it doesn't imply that she is the woman with whom the broken romance occurs.

Close examination of SIGRDRIFUMAL reveals that at no time does she say that she is Brynhild, or that she is Sigurd's destined bride. She does say that she has sworn never to marry anyone who knew what fear was.

"But there-against I vowed a vow, that never would I wed one who knew the name of fear".

Later redactions have identified this woman with Brynhild, and Sigurd with the fearless man she has sworn to marry. But if we just had SIGRDRIFUMAL as it stands, we would not necessarily be justified in assuming that Sigrdrifa and Brynhild are one and the same woman. FAFNISMAL definitely indicates that Giuki's daughter is the woman that Sigurd is going to marry, and the Valkyrie is just someone he meets on the way. In SIGRDRIFUMAL, there is no exchange of vows between the pair; she gives Sigurd some advice in gnomic verses, and then he goes on his way. In VS, where the Valkyrie is identified with Brynhild, the couple do exchange vows.

Sigurd spake; "None among the sons of men can be found wiser than thou; and thereby swear I, that thee will I have as my own, for near to my heart thou liest."

She answers, "Thee would I fainest choose, thou I had all men's sons to choose from."


In SIGURD, the eagles hardly refer to Brynhild at all; the only reference is this rather obscure prophecy;

Bind the red rings, O Sigurd! and gladden all thy heart!
For the world shall make thee merry ere thou and she depart.

One episode in the poem that may throw some light on this] is *Of Gripir's Foretelling*. It is based on GRIPISPA in PE, which may have been compiled as a way of drawing all the strands of the various legends together. According to PE, Gripir is Sigurd's uncle, whom Sigurd visits to ask him to foretell the future. At first Gripir prophecies a wonderful future for Sigurd - he says that he will kill both Fafnir and Regin, and win the hoard for himself. He also prophecies that Sigurd will meet the Valkyrie, still unnamed at this juncture.

"A lovely king's daughter sleeps on the mountainside; you will cut her armour with the bright sword, Fafnir's bane."

"I pierce the armour, the girl wakes from her sleep. What will the maiden say to Sigurd?"

"She will teach you powerful runes, all you need to conduct your life, and also runes of healing."

Gripir says that Sigurd will arrive at Heimir's court, not saying at this stage who Heimir is [Brynhild's uncle and foster-father] - and then he claims that he can't foretell anything else. Sigurd insists, and then Gripir warns him that he will wish to marry Brynhild and will betray her. He also foretells that the whole thing will end in Sigurd's death.

A maid in Heimir's hall there dwells,
Brynhild her name to men is known,
Daughter of Buthli, the doughty king,
And Heimir fosters the fearless maid.

What is it to me though the maiden be
So fair, and of Heimir the fosterling is?
Gripir, truth to me shalt thou tell,
For all of fate before me thou seest.

Of many a joy the maiden robs thee
Fair to see, whom Heimir fosters;
Sleep thou shalt find not, feuds thou shalt end not,
Nor seek out men, if the maid thou seest not.

What may be had for Sigurd's healing?
Say now, Gripir, if see thou canst;
May I buy the maid with the marriage price,
The daughter fair of the chieftain famed?

Ye twain shall all the oaths then swear
That bind full fast; few shall ye keep;
One night when Giuki's guest thou hast been,
Will Heimir's fosterling fade from thy mind.
(Trans. by |Henry Adams Bellows)

In SIGURD, Gripir's prophecies are somewhat more cryptic. The reader understands that he is referring to Fafnir, when he says;

There the child in the noon-tide smitheth, the young king rendeth apart,
The old guile by the guile encompassed, the heart made wise by the heart.

(I.e. eating the dragon's heart will help Sigurd to gain wisdom.)

Gripir also foretells Gudrun:

How green are the garths of King-folk, how fair is the lily and rose
In the House of the Cloudy People, 'neath the towers of kings and foes!

And he foretells, again rather cryptically, that Sigurd will be killed by his brother-in-law;

Dawn now; but the house is silent, and dark is the purple blood
On the breast of the Queen fair-fashioned; and it riseth up as a flood
Round the posts of the door beloved; and a deed there lieth therein,
The last of the deeds of Sigurd; the worst of the Cloudy Kin -
The slayer slain by the slain within the door and without.

This tells Sigurd nothing about Brynhild. The only passage that might be foretelling her existence is this;

Cry out, O waste before him! O rocks of the wilderness, cry!
For tomorn shalt thou see the glory, and the mane not made to die!
Cry out, O upper heavens! O clouds beneath the lift!
For the golden King shall be riding high-headed midst the drift;
The mountain waits and the fire; there waiteth the heart of the wise
Till the earthly toil is accomplished, and again shall the fire arise...

But, as Gripir has just referrred to the return of Baldur after the destruction of the gods, he may not be referring to Brynhild's mountain and the fire surrounding it, but to the impending destruction of the world.

We may therefore arrive at the provisional conclusion that Morris structured his poem in such a way as to convey the idea that Sigurd meets Brynhild more or less by chance; the few references that might refer to her are too cryptic for us to assume that she is definitely intended, In SIGURD, there is no prophecy that he is intended to meet her, or that they are destined to marry; the eagles foretell that Sigurd will marry GUDRUN, although she is not named at this stage.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Wed, 24 May 1995 12:15:00 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: Brynhild(cont.)

Brynhild has specified that she will not marry a coward, but it does not appear in VS that she has specified that the man who will breach her barrier of flame and awaken her is to be Sigurd; that identification seems to come at a later stage of the development of the legend, as does the identification of Brynhild with the sleeping Valkyrie.

Morris follows the Norse sources VS and HEIREITH BRYHILDAR (Brynhild's ride to Hel) from PE - in making Brynhild a mortal woman whom Odin has chosen to be a Valkyrie. In VS, Sigurd tells Brynhild that he has heard she is the daughter of a powerful king, and she tells him how she came to be asleep on the mountain: she asks him if he is Sigurd son of Sigmund, to which he replies in the affirmative. She goes on to explain that she gave the preference in battle to one whom Odin had marked out for death, and Odin in revenge cast her into the enchanted sleep from which Sigurd woke her. In VS, she doesn't give a reason why she defied Odin's order; in SIGRDRIFUMAL she implies that it may have been out of a feeling of sympathy with King Agnarr, because Odin did not look upon him with favour.

"She said that her name was Sigrdrifa, and that she had been a Valkyrie. She said that two kings had been fighting, one was called Helm-Gunnar, an old man and a mighty chieftain, to whom Odin had promised the victory; and "the other was Agnarr, Audi's brother, and there was no-one to help him."
Sigrdrifa killed Helm-Gunnar in the battle."

Other poems in PE refer to Brynhild's past as a warrior- maiden; the most explicit of these is HELREID BRYNHILDAR. On her ride to the Netherworld, she is accosted by a giantess, who accuses her of having been an evil woman.

Nay, blame me naught, bride of the rockhall,
Though I roved a-warring in the days that were;
The higher of us twain shall I ever be holden
When of our kind men make account.

The Giant-woman
Thou, O Brynhild, Budli's daughter,
Wert the worst ever born into the world;
For Giuki's children death hast thou gotten,
And turned to destruction their goodly dwelling.

I shall tell thee true tale from my chariot,
O thou who naught wottest, if thou listest to wot;
How for me they have gotten, those heirs of Giuki,
A loveless life, a life of lies.

The changeful shapes of us eight sisters,
The wise king bade under oak-tree to bear;
Of twelve winters was I, if thou listest to wot,
When I sware to the young lord oaths of love.
(HELREITH BRYNHILDAR, Morris's trans.)


The reference to a warrior past in SIGURDTHARKVITHA IN SKAMMA (Short Lay of Sigurd) refers to her considering whether it is worthwhile resisting the pressure exerted by her brother, Atli, who has threatened to withhold her inheritance if she does not marry.

If to fight I should fall and to the felling of folk,
Bold in byrny because of my brother,
A deed of fame had that been to all folk
But to many a man sorrow of mind.

In other words, this poem doesn't imply that she was once a Valkyrie who defied Odin by granting victory to the wrong warrior.

In SIGURD, there is only the vaguest of hints that Brynhild might be Sigurd's destined bride, and it seems that when he sees the fire-wreathed mountain, he is first inspired to climb it by the love of adventure already mentioned;

Long Sigurd rideth the waste, when lo, on a morning of day,
>From out of the tangled crag-walls, amidst the cloud-land grey
Comes up a mighty mountain, and it is as though there burns
A torch amidst of its cloud-wreath; so thither Sigurd turns,
For he deemed indeed from its topmost to look on the best of the earth;
And Greyfell neigheth beneath him, and his heart is full of mirth.

Sigurd doesn't know what - or whom - he can expect to find once he has penetrated the flame. In the event, he finds what he takes to be a man asleep behind a protective ring of shields. It is customary to laugh at the scene in Wagner's SIEGFRIED in which Siegfried discovers that Bruennhilde is a woman after all, but, taken in context, his reaction is not so surprising. True, he was expecting to find a woman, but (a) he had never seen a woman before, and we will recall that he has spent some time speculating about what a human woman - his mother - might have looked like; (b) women are not usually found in full armour. [This was a part of the RING about which Morris was very dismissive, acc. to May Morris: "But he raged most at the representation of the great scene of the Awakening on the Mountain, when the most enthusiastic of his musical friends could not hide the inadequacy of that difficult moment when the tenor, laying his hand on the breast of the stalwart Brunhilde, reclining decently composed in her unimaginative 'princess- robe' of gold mail, warbles, with all the surprise he can manage to force into his voice, "Das ist kein Mann!"]

It is true that Sigurd does know what women look like - his mother, after all, played a significant part in his upbringing - but point (b) still applies. In SIGURTHARKVITHA IN SKAMMA , he doesn't realise that the person in armour is a woman until he removes the helmet; this is in spite of the fact that he is expecting to meet a woman. Perhaps, therefore, we should not be too hard on Wagner's Siegfried.

......and when he came thereto, lo, a shield-hung castle before him, and a banner on the topmost thereof; into the castle went Sigurd, and saw one lying there asleep, an all-armed. Therewith he takes the helm from off the head of him, and sees that it is no man, but a woman.

We have seen that Brynhild has been cast into an enchanted sleep by Odin for defying him and giving the victory to a warror whom Odin did not favour - AND THAT THIS WARRIOR IS NOT SIGMUND, SIGURD'S FATHER, WITH WHOM SHE HAS NOTHING TO DO. (Remember this!)

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 15:18:00 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: Brynhild (Cont)

In SIGURD, the pair fall in love as soon as Brynhild wakes; in fact Sigurd has fallen in love with her as soon as he sees her - and she asks him to identify himself;

And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise,
For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved
As she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved;
"O what is the thing so mighty that my weary sleep hath torn,
And rent the fallow bondage, and the wan woe over-worn?"

He said, "The hand of Sigurd and the Sword of Sigmund's son,
And the heart that the Volsungs have fashioned this deed for thee have done."

She then identifies herself, and explains how she came to be there - she doesn't give her name at this stage, nor does she name the two kings over whom she came into conflict with Odin;

She said; "I am she that loveth; I was born of the earthly folk,
But of old Allfat her took me from the Kings and their wedding-yoke,
And he called me the Victory-Wafter, and I went and came as he would,
And I chose the slain for his war-host, and the days were glorious and good.

In the course of he narration, she implies that she came into conflict with Odin more than once before he wearied of her defiance - she doesn't refer to a specific battle, but speaks instead of being at variance with Odin in more general terms, and perhaps implies that she is distressed at the indifference of the gods to the fates of men.

The Bruennhilde of Wagner's RING is obviously based on the ex-Valkyrie of SIGRDRIFUMAL, but there are some inportant differences. In the Norse literature,she is a mortal woman (unless we accept the identification of Brynhild with Sigrdrifa, and there is in fact no indication that Sigrdrifa isn't a mortal woman) whereas Wagner makes his Bruennhilde into Wotan's daughter by Erda. (This also makes her into Siegfried's aunt, but perhaps we had better not let that concern us too deeply.)

Wotan had originally ordered Bruennhilde to protect Siegmund in the battle with Hunding, but was forced to rescind his order after the intervention of Fricka, who forced him to acknowledge that Siegmund was not the free hero he had been seeking. She reminds him, with devastating accuracy, that he created the circumstances in which Siegmund suffered unhappiness, and that it was Wotan who placed the sword in the tree for Siegmund to find.

So schuetz' auch heut' ihn nicht!
Nimm ihm das Schwert, das du ihm geschenkt!

Das Schwert?

Ja, das Schwert;
das zauberstarkzuckende Schwert,
das du Gott dem Sohne gabst!
(Die Walkuere, Act II)

Wotan is left with no option but to rescind his order to Bruennhilde, and instruct her to protect Hunding instead. The reason behind all this is that the gods need a free hero to do that which he is forbidden to do - i.e. obtain the Ring. Wotan has been forced to realise that Siegmund isn't this hero, and commands Bruennhilde to fight for Hunding instead. Bruennhilde defies him, because she sees Siegmund and Sieglinde and is moved with pity for their plight, and by Siegmund's love for Sieglinde. She chooses, in fact to ally herself with humanity in defiance of the cold, loveless worls of the gods. Wotan deprives her of her godhead and casts her into an enchanted sleep - he sees this as a punishment, but Wagner sees it as a moral gain. (Though her moral character has deteriorated in GOEETERDAEMMERUNG).

Wagner has given the Wotan-Siegmund-Bruennhilde relationship a motivation it lacked in the Norse literature. Once the gods have handed over Andvari's gold (including the Ring, which he curses)]as ransom for Otter, they have no further interest in it - indeed, as we have seen, they seem almost glad to get rid of it. Sigmund has no connection with it - and, although Odin does take a close personal interest in the fate of the Volsungs, it is not because he needs them to retrieve the gold and the Ring. Nor is Brynhild Odin's daughter, but a mortal woman who has spent some time as a Valkyrie. It is Bruennhilde who plans that the man who wwakes her shall be Siegfried and no other; indeed, it] is she who has given the unborn child his name, and given his mother the pieces of Siegmund's sword for her son, who, Bruennhilde predicts, will be the greatest of heroes.

The scene of Bruennhilde's awakening is one in which Wagner remains close to his sources, even adapting the vocabulary of some stanzas of SIGFDRIFUMAL. In bother versions, she first greets the sun, the gods and the earth, and rejoices in her return to life.

Hail to the day come back!
Hail, sons of the daylight!
Hail to thee, dark night, and thy daughter!
Look with kind eyes adown,
On us sitting here lonely,
And give us the gain that we long for.

Hail to the Aesir,
and the sweet Asyniur!
Hail to the fair earth fulfilled of plenty!
air words, wise hearts,
(sorry - typo!)
Fair words, wise hearts,
Would we win from you,
And healing hands while life we hold.
(Morris's trans.)

Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir Licht!
Heil dir, leuchtender Tag! ich bin erwacht:
We ist der Held, der mich erweckt?
Heil euch, Goetter!
Heil dir, Welt!
Heil dir, prangende Erde!
Zu End' ist nun mein Schlaf;
erwacht, seh' ich -
Siegfried ist es, der mich erweckt!


In SIGURD, the awakening of the Valkyrie takes place as the sun rises - the reader is reminded how the sun shone again on the Glittering Heath after Sigurd had killed Fafnir. Brynhild then greets the world, in terns similar to Sigrdrifa and Wagner's Bruennhilde:

All Hail, O Day and thy Sons, and thy kin of the coloured things!
Hail, following Night, and thy daughter that leadeth thy wavering wings!
Look down with unangry eyes on us today alive,
And give us the hearts victorious, and the gain for which we strive!
All hail, ye Lords of God-home, and ye Queens of the House of Gold!
HAil, thou dear Earth that bearest, and thou wisdom of field and fold!
Give us, you noble children, the glory of wisdom and speech,
And the hearts and the hands of healing, and the mouths and the hands that teach.

A note to the above-

It is curious that contemporary critics of SIGURD did not always realise that these lines are a reasonably faithful paraphrase of the corresponding scene in SIGRDRIFUMAL, as is shown by the following unsigned review of 1877:

"To reproduce the antique, not as the ancients felt it, but as we feel it - to transfuse it with modern thought and emotin - this is the method that is now "in the air", as the French say, among Mr. Morris's fellow-artists, and it is the main source of interest which Mr. Morris has given to his own work, as well as the source of its waekness. Now we need hardly remark that this method is essentially falsifying, nor shall we have to seek far in the present poem for illustrative instances. Take, for instance, this passage in the second book, an apostrophe put into Brynhild's mouth...

This represents no possible sentiment of the medieval North.

Evidently this anonymous reviewer is not familiar with Morris's sources.


Enough for one mailing, I think!

Does anyone have any opinions about Morris's poem, by the way?

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Sun, 28 May 1995 16:38:00 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: Brynhild (cont)

There is a significant difference between Morris's Brynhild and Wagner's Bruennhilde - the former shows no reluctance whatsoever to accept Sigurd's embraces, whereas for Bruennhilde it takes rather a long time for her to realise precisely what being a mortal woman entails. But then she shows no hesitation, and claims, in fact, to be the more passionate of the two. Bruennhilde promises to teach Siegfried wisdom - Wagner doesn't reproduce the gnomic verses of SIGRDRIFUMAL, but from what is said in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, we may conclude that this teaching has taken place - although Siegfried, being Siegfried, has promptly forgotten it all. She tells him that she is only wise for his sake:

Was du nicht weiss,
weiss ich fuer dich;
doch wissend bin ich nur,
weil ich dich liebe.

Later, she is afraid that her wisom may vanish, but Siegfried reminds her that she previously said that her wisdom was a product of her love;

Mir schwirren die Sinne;
mein Wissen schweigt;
soll mir die Weisheit schwinden?

Sangst du ir nicht,
dein Wissen sei
das leuchten der Liebe zu mir?

In SIGURD, Brynhild expresses a similar idea;

I have spoken the words, beloved, to thy matchless glory and worth,
But thy heart to my heart hath been speaking, though my tongue hath ser set it forth;
For I am she that loveth, and I know what thou wouldst teach
>From the heart of thine unlearned wisdom, and I needs must speak thy speech.

She then tells him of her antecedents and her family home, and invites him to visit her there; this is the first time she actually tells him what her name is;

Yet I bid thee look on the land 'twixt the wood and the silver sea
To the bight of the swirling river, and the house that cherished me!
There dwelleth my earthly sister and the king that she hath wed;
There morn by morn aforetime I woke on the golden bed;
There eve by eve I tarried mid the speech and the lays of kings,
There noon by noon I wandered and picked the blossoming things;
The little land of Lymdale by the swirling river's side,
Where Brynhild once I was called in the days ere my father died.



Brynhild acquires a family in the course of the development of the legend (in the Norse source). In NL she appears to have kinsmen - she leaves her country to her uncle when she leaves to marry Gunther. Only in Wagner is she Wotan's daughter;this isn't in any of the sources, but it is consistent with Wagner's dramatic purpose. It also makes the conflict between her and Wotan more poignant, as she is the person who is closest to him and means most to him. Also, as she says, it is the fact that she is so close to him that enables her to defy him.

In VS, Sigurd goes to visit Brynhild's relatives.

"Forth Sigurd rides till he comes to a great and goodly dwelling, the lord wherof was a mighty chief called Heimir; he had to wife the sister of Brynhild, who was hight Bekhild, because she had bidden at home, and learned handicraft, whereas Brynhild fared with helm and byrny to the wars, wherefore was she called Brynhild."

This chapter introduces Heimir as Brynhild's brother-in-law, but the next chapter has him as her foster-faher; in fact the two roles are not necessarily incompatible in Norse society. It transpires that Brynhild is the daughter of Budli.

In Chapter 25 of VS the Giukings are introduces, and then more is said about Brynhild, including the fact that Atli is her brother;

"Now Budli was the name of a king mightier than Giuki, mighty though they both were; and Atli was the brother of Brynhild; Atli was a fierce man and a grim, great and black to look on, yet noble of mien withal, and the greatest of warriors."

The compiler of VS may have overlooked this when he has Brynhild foretell their future to Gudrun, although one would have thought that such a family relationship would be very important.

"Brynhild answers; 'I will arede thy dream, even as things shall come to pass hereafter; for Sigurd shall come to thee, even he whom I have chosen for my well-beloved; and Grimhild shall give him mead mingled with hurtful things, which shall cast us all into mighty strife. Him shalt thou have, and him shalt thou quickly miss; and Atli the king shalt thou wed; and thy brethren shalt thou lose, and slay Atli withal in the end.' "

For his marriage to Brynhild, Gunnar obtains the consent both of her father, Budli, and her foster-father Heimir, although both say that the final decision rests with Brynhild alone. Her father and brother are present at her wedding to Gunnar. After the quarrel with Gudrun, Brynhild tells Gunnar that her father, Budli, pressurised her into marriage:

"Yea, at that time he led me apart, and asked me which I had chosen of those who were come; but I prayed him that I might be able to ward the land and be chief over the third pat of his men; then were there two choices to deal betwixt, either that I should be wedded to him who he would, or lose al my weal and friendship at his hands; and he said withal that his friendship would be better to me than his wrath."

In SIGURTHARKVITHA IN SKAMMA, however, as we have seen, it is Brynhild's brother, Atli, who pressurises her into marriage. In SIGURD, Brynhild's father, Budli, is already dead, but in VS he is still alive, to give his consent to his daughter's marriage to Gunnar. But he seems to fade out of the story after this.

In VS, it transpires that Sigurd and Brynhild have a daughter, Aslaug, who is fostered by Heimir. The story of Aslaug forms an appendix to VS; she later marries Ragnar Lodbrok. We don't hear anything more about her after Brynhild is married to Gunnar, however, and she is not mentioned in SIGURD (although on of the poems in Morris's THE EARTHLY PARADISE is THE FOSTERING OF ASLAUG). After the murder of Sigurd (in VS), we are reminded again that Atli is Brynhild's brother; and before Brynhild dies she foretells the future to Gunnar; that Gudrun will reluctantly marry Atli, and also that Gunnar will wish to marry Oddrun, another sister whom Atli has acquired in the development of the legend. {Which I find a bit strange - you'd think Gunnar's experience with Brynhild would have taught him to stay well clear of Atli's sisters! However......}

This episode is not used by Morris, who adapts the second half of NL for the conclusion of SIGURD.

All branches of the legend establish Brynhild as a mortal woman; in VS she is chosen by Odin to be a Valyrie, but defies him and is sent back to the world of mortals. In NL there is no connection with the gods - Brunhild is an amazon, her background is rather mysterious, and there are some indications that the poet may have known of the prior betrothal motif and decided not to use it. For instance, in the episode of the wooing expedition, Brunhild first assumes that Siegfried, not Gunther, is the wooer; but Brunhild and Siegfried appear to dislike each other from the start. This may indicate that there is a background of a prior betrothal, giving Brunhild a reason to dislike Siegfried for having betrayed her, or it may indicate that they just dislike each other.

VS gives Brynhild a family background. It is not clear whether this was an integral part of the work from the beginning, or whether it was tacked on as the legend developed. Kinship is in any case vital in VS - more important than marriage, it will transpire in the second half of the work. In NL, the situation is reversed - the tie of marriage turns out to be more important than that of kinship. It is probably that Morris and Wagner decided to adapt NL rather than VS because they lived in a society which regarded the tie of marriage as more important than that of kinship - the avenging of a husband's death more important than vengeance for a brother.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

Date: Thu, 15 Jun 1995 12:17:00 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: Identification of the Niblungs.

(Sorry about the gap between this and the previous mailing! There seem to be some gremlins in the Mailing System at present, so I hope this gets delivered!)

Book III of SIGURD THE VOLSUNG - "Brynhild" - is subtitled "In this book is told of the death of Sigurd, and of his sojourn with the Niblungs, and in the end of how he died."

This does, of course, raise the question of identifying precisely who the Niblungs are, and this is by no means straightforward. For Morris, it is not too much of a problem, as he identifies them throughout with the Giukings (Wagner's Gibichungs, more or less) - Gunnar, Hogni, Gudrun, the younger brother Gutthorm, their scheming mother Grimhild and their father Giuki:

And now of the Niblung people the tale beginneth to tell,
How they deal with the wind and the weather, in the cloudy drift they dwell...
Now the king of this folk is Giuki, and he sits in the Niblung hall
When the song of men goes roofward and the shields shine out from the wall;
And his queen in the high-seat sitteth, the woman overwise,
Grimhild the kin of the god-folk, the wife of the glittering eyes;
And his sons on each hand are sitting; there is Gunnar the great and fair,
With the lovely face of a king 'twixt the night of his wavy hair;
and there is the ise-heart Hogni; and his lips are close and thin,
and grey and awful his eyen, and a many sights they win;
And there is Gotthorm the youngest, of the fierce and wandering glance,
And the heart that never resteth till the swords in the war-wind dance;
And there is Gudrun his daughter, and light she stands by the board,
And fair are her arms in the hall as the beaker's flood is poured;
She comes, and the earls keep silence; she smiles, and men rejoice;
She speaks, and the harps unsmitten thrill faint to her queenly voice.

Here, the Giukings are the same as the Niblungs, and identification i is constant throughout. In VS, however, the family are introduced without any mention of Niblungs(I'm using Morris's trans. as usual).

There was a king hight Giuki, who ruled a realm south of the Rhine; three sons he had, thus named; Gunnar, Hogni and Gutthorm, and Gudrun was the name of his daughter, the fairest of maidens; and all these children were far before other king's children in all prowess, and in goodliness and growth withal; ever were his sons at the wars and wrought many a deed of fame. But Giuki had wedded Grimhild the Wise-Wife.

Now Budli was the name of a king mightier thaat Giuki, mighty though they both were; and Atli was the brother of Brynhild : Atli was a fierce man and a grim, great and black to look on, yet noble of mien withal, and the greatest of warriors. Grimhild was a fierce-hearted woman.

Now the days of the Giukings bloomed fair, and chiefly because of those children, so fair before the sons of men.

They are no-where referred to as Niblungs or Niflungs - but later it will transpire that Hogni does have a son called Niflung, who is instrumental in helping Gudrun to her revenge against Atli.

In BROT AF SIGURTHARKVITHA (Fragment of a Sigurd Lay) Brynhild at one point calls the Giukings "Niflung Kin". She tells Gunnar that she dreamt of his death, and continues

So now all ye o House of the Niflungs
Shall be brought to naught O ye oath-breakers!

There are further references in ATLAKVITHA and ATLAMAL (the psoms sorry POEMS about Atli in the Poetic Edda) to the Nifluns (sorry, typo again) NIFLUNGS. For instance, after Atli has had Hogni killed, Gunnar says

The great Rhine shall rule o'er the hate-rasing treasure,
That gold of the Niblungs, the seed of the gods;
In the weltering water shall that wealth lie a-gleaming,
Ere it shine on the hands of the children of Huns!

In the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions that Niflungs is another name for the children of Giuki. The Prose Edda also refers to Niflheim - world of mist - and at some stage in the development of the different redactions of the legend, the Niflungs and/or Giukings became identified with the inhabitants of this shadowy realm - or vice versa. (Morris calls the Niblungs/Giukings the Cloudy People).

In NL, Gunther, his brothers and Hagen (a vassal, not a brother) do not actually become the Nibelungs until Siegfried is dead. In the first part of the poem, the Nibelungs are SIEGFRIED'S followers, and are not dwarves. Alberich is a dwarf, but he appears to be a vassal of the Nibelungs, rather than a relative, and transfers his allegiance to Siegfried in any case. (see Aventiure 3, Strophes 86-100). Usually Siegfried is referred to as *der held uz Nederlant* (the hero from the Netherlands) but after his death reference is made to *sine recken von Nibelunge lant* - his knights from Nibelungland. It seems to become *Nibelunge lant* after Siegfried's death, and his followers are *die kuenen Nibelungen* (the brave Nibelungs).

Then, in Aventiure 25, the BURGUNDIANS (ie. Gunther and family) are referred to as Nibelungs - the Aventiure is subtitled *Wie die Nibelunge zen Hiunen fuoren* _ how the Nibelungs went to visit the Huns. Confused? You will be! You might like to look up further info. in the Introduction to the translation of NL by A.T. Hatto (Penguin Classics), which I think some of you have got.

After this, is the second half of the poem, it is Gunther, his brothers, Hagen and all their followers, who become the Nibelungs.

The historical background is not strictly relevant to our purposes, but it is interesting to look at it briefly. The main historical sources are examined by Ursula Dronke in her introduction to ATLAKVITHA, for which the following is of most immediate interest:

"Gubdaharius....ruled the Burgundians west of the Rhine for at least twenty-five years....the contemporary historian Olympiodorus mentions 'Guntiarios' as leader of the Burgundians who...supported the Gaulish usurper Jovinus as Emperor in 411. After the defeat (of Jovinus) the Burgundians were accorded by the Romans the right to settle in Gaul, on the Rhine. It was probably at this time that Gundaharius established the kingdom of Worms attributed to him in heroic legend. After the slaughter of Gundaharius and great numbers of his people by the Huns in 437, the remnant of the Burgundians west of the Rhine were given Savoy to settle in by the Romans ... The memory of Gundaharius was kept alive by the Burgundians in their new place of settlement. In the Lex Burgundionum of Gundobad (c.480-516) Gibicha, Gundomaris, Gislaharius and Gundaharius are ciited as the ancestral kings of the Burgundians.... ....NIBLUNG appears to have been a personal or family name among the Burgundians...."

The historical background is not of central relevance, certainly not to Morris, who was not particularly interested in the historical reality out of which the legend grew. It is of some relevance to Wagner, however, who had his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the historical reality, as we shall shortly discover.


To be continued! My next mailing will not be for a few days, as I am going to Leeds for the weekend. But this is probably enough to be going on with!

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

"Ensure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear"

Date: Fri, 23 Jun 1995 18:04:00 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: identifying the Nibelungs (cont.)

The foregoing (i.e. last week's mailing) established that, in all the Norse literature, the Niblungs or Niflungs are identified with the Giukings, and not with a race of dwarves who fraudulently obtain a treasure - this is unique to Wagner, who has interpreted his sources in a different way.

In his essay DIE WIBELUNGEN, Wagner uses a somewhat forced folk- etymology to indentify the Nibelungs with the Ghibellines (descendants of Charlemagne). This idea was not entirely original to Wgner, but had already been mooted in 1816 by K.W. Goettling in his NIBELUNGEN UND GIBELLINEN.

"Ihm [dem Verfasser] sind die Nibelungen nicht ein besonderes Geschlecht, sondern die Koenige, welche ein Streben beseelt, das naemlich fuer den weltlichen Hort." (further info. in "The Study of the Nibelungenlied", by Mary Thorp. Oxford, 1940).

I quote here some examples of Wagner's train of thought. (In German, I'm afraid! If anyone needs/wants a translation, please let me know!)

Unbestritten ist die Sage von den Nibelungen das Erbeigenthum des fraenkischen Stammes. Dem Forscher ist erwiesen, dass der Urgrund auch dieser Sage religioes-mythischer Natur ist; ihre tiefste Bedeutung des Mythos, in wlcher wir Siegfried als Licht- oder Sonnengott zu erkennen haben, wollen wir fuer jetzt absehem; zur vorlaeufigen Hindeutung auf seinen Zusammenhang mit der Geschichte, gedenken wir der Sage hier erst von da an, wo sie das menschlichere Gewand des Urheldenthuns umwirft. Hier erkennen wir Siegfried, wie er den Hort der Nibelungen und durch ihm unermesliche Macht gewinnt. Dieser Hort, und die in ihm liegende Macht, bleibt der Kern, zu dem sich alle weitere Gestaltung der Sage wie zu ihrem unverruekbaren Mittelpunkte verhaelt; alles Streben und alles Ringen geht nach diesem Horte der Nibelungen, als dem Inbegriff aller irdischer Macht, und wer ihn besitzt, wer durch ihm gebietet, ist oder wird Nibelung......

Von den deutschen Voelkern von jeher fuer jenes wunderbare.... fraenkische Koenigsgeschlecht ein Name bekannt war, den wir endlich in italiensicher Entstellung als Ghibelini wiederfinden. Dass dieser Name nicht nur die Hohenstaufen in Italien, sondern in Deutschland schon deren Vorgaenger, die fraenkishen Kaiser, bezeichnete, ist durch Otto von Freisigen historisch bezeugt; die zu seiner Zeit in Oberdeutschland gelaeufige Form dieses Namens war WIBELINGEN oder WIBELUNGEN. Diese Benennung traefe nun vollstaendig mit dem Namen der Haupthelden der urfraenkischen Stammsage, sowie mit dem bei den Franken nachweislich haeufigen Familiennamen NIBELUNG ueberein, wenn die Veraenderung des Anfangsbuchstabens N in W erklaert wuerde. Die linguistische Schwierigkeit dieser Erklaerung loest sich mit Leichtigkeit, sobald wir eben den Ursprung jener Buchstabenverwechslung richtig erwaegen; dieser lag im Volksmunde, welcher sich die Namen der beiden streitenden Parteien der Welfen und Nibelungen nach der, der deutschen Sprache inwohnenden Neigung zum Stabreim gelaeufig machte.....
(These extracts are from DIE WIBELUNGEN).

In DER NIBELUNGEN-MYTHOS ALS ENTWURF ZU EINEM DRAMA the identification of the Nibelungs with the Ghibellines is not sustained - they resemble much] more closely the dwarves of Norse legend, although it is not explicitly stated that they are dwarves.

(Incidentally, "dwarf" doesn't always, or even necessarily, mean a person small of stature. It nearly always implies someone skilled in metalwork, and in Norse legend this seems in fact to be its primary meaning.)


That's all for this week - to be continued! But could I have some more feedback please? are people still interested?

Have you noticed how analyses/discussions of the RING tend to be longer that the work itself? Which is no mean achievement!

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

"Ensure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear"

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 1995 14:44:00 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: identifying the Niblungs (cont).

More on identifying the Niblungs, I'm afraid! (It does get rather complicated, as I think you have realised by now!)

The first paragraph of Wagner's DER NIBELUNGEN-MYTHOS ALS ENTWURF ZU EINEM DRAMA is as follows:

Dem Schoose der Nacht und des Todes entkeimte ein Geschlecht, welches in Nibelheim (Nebelheim), d.i. in unterirdischen duesteren Klueften und Hoehlen wohnt; sie heissen Nibelungen; in unsteter, rastloser Regsmakiet durchwuehlen sie (gleich Wuermen im Todten Koerper) die Eingeweide der Erde; sie gluehen, laeutern und schmieden die harten Metalle.

From the foregoin, therefore, it would seem that we can conclude that Wagner's decision to identify the Niblungs with the dwarves who once owned (or fraudulently obtained) a treasure is his own original concept. It is based on a somewhat strained etymology, but this need not detain us, as the etymology suited his dramatic purpose.

To establish the family relationships of the Gibichungs and the Nibelungs in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Wagner drew on both NL and the Norse sources, including THIDREKS SAGA. Hagen is the half-brother of Gunther and Gutrune, his father being Alberich, who bought the favours of Grimhild. Grimhild never appears in the RING, but references to her in GOETTERDAEMMERUNG establish her as a formidable character, while in VS and PE she has some claim to be considered the villain of the piece. It is she who drugs Sigurd into fogetting (sorry) forgetting Brynhild, and she who forces the reluctant Gudrun into a seconf marriage with Atli. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG we can assume that Grimhild is dead, ny the time we are introduced to Gunther, Gutrune and Hagen; but in SIGURD she is very much alive. (See my article "The Role of Grimhild in SIGURD THE VOLSUNG" - Journal of the William Morris Society, Autumn 1989).

Each source tells a somewhat different story about who is related to whom, and what part they play in the tragedy. Morris, as usual, remains close to VS/PE, whereas Wagner amalgamates the various sources to provide the dramatic scenario he needs. Some information about Wagner's Gibichungs - e.g. Hagen's (Hogni's) parentage - comes from THIDREKS SAGA.

"There was a king called Aldrian, who ruled over Niflungaland... One day it happened, when the king was absent from home, that [the queen] fell asleep in the garden. A man came and lay with her. As she awoke, she thought it was King Aldrian, but before she could be sure, the man vanished. {A likely story! :) }

After a while, the queen realised that she was pregnant. Before the birth, when she was once more on her own, it happened that the same man appeared and told her what had happened at their first meeting. The child she was expecting was his, and he was an elf.

'If the child grows to manhood, tell him who his father is, but conceal my identity from everyone else. I foretell that it will be a boy. Whenever he is in such straits that he can't save himself, let him call on hisd father. He will be there if needed."

Then the elf vanished like a shadow. And after a while the queen gave birth to a baby boy, whom she named Hogni, and he was considered to be the son of King Aldrian."

In NL, Hagen is not a brother, but a kinsman and a vassal. He is continually hostile to Siegfried, and this is something that Wagner takes over into GOETTERDAEMMERUNG - with, however, a shift of emphasiis. In GOTTERDAEMMERUNG, he plans from the outset to separate Siegfried and Bruennhilde, and marry them off respectively to Gutrune and Gunther, in order to get hold of the Ring. This is not Hagen's plan in NL - he becomes interested in Siegfried's treasure after the quarrel between the queens, and more particularly after Siegfried's death, but this is principally to stop Kriemhild from using it, as he has it sunk in the Rhine. In NL and TS, Hagen is to a large extent motivated by a sense of loyalty to Brunhild, as the wife of his feudal overlord; we need not interpret this as insincere, although it is true that he uses the quarrel as anm excuse to get rid of Siegfried, and that he had shown some hostility to Brunhild on the wooing expedition, as had his brother Dankwart, saying that her pride should be humbled. Siegfried expresses himself in a similar vein about Brynhild's pride, but the hostility between Siegfried and Brunhild persists throughout the first half of the poem, and is the main cause of Siegfried's death.

In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Hagen claims to be acting on Bruennhilde's behalf, but he has an ulterior motive; nevertheless, some of the attitudes he strikes are borrowed from NL. He reminds the vassals of their duty to avenge Bruennhilde if she suffers any affront:

Hold seid der Herrin,
helfet ihr treu;
traf sie ein Leid,
rasch sein zur Rache!
rasch sein zur Rache!
(sorry = Typo!)
rasch seid zur Rache!

During the quarrel in act II, Hagen is quick to turn the situation to his advantage, by encouraging Bruennhilde's anger, and again reminding the vassals of their duty to her:

Jetzt merket klug
was die Frau euch klagt!
Bruennhild', kuehne Frau!
Kennst du genau den Ring?
Ist er's, den du Gunthern gabst,
so ist er sein,
und Siegfried gewann ihn durch Trug,
den der Treulose buessen sollt'!

It is not true that Bruennhilde "gave" Gunther the Ring, since Siegfried, in the guise of Gunther, tore it from her finger, but this is the situation as Hagen desire the bystanders to see it.

In NL, it is Hagen rather than Gunther who takes Brynhild's part, as Gunther is unable to do so with any degree of sincerity. It is Hagen who promises to avenge her shame. He uses the argument about gaining wealth and power by Siegfried's death to convince Gunther, but the way the poet narrates the story may imply that this is a scondary consideration, used more because Gunther is likely to be convinced by such an argument than because Hagen himself has any particular interest in Siegfried's wealth. This is not to say that Hagen is not hostile to Siegfried in NL; on the contrary, the indications are that they always disliked each other. But then, Siegfried went out of his way to antagonise people when he forst arrived in Worms, by issuing a completely unmotivated challenge to Gunther. Wagner softens this approach by having Siegfried offer Gunther the choice:

Dich hoert' ich ruehmen
weit am Rhien -
nun ficht mit mir,
oder sei mein Freund!

Just why Gunther should be expected to fught in the first place is not clear. It is just possible that the contemporary audience of NL regarded Siegfried's behaviour as accepatable, but the text seems to indicate that in fact Siegfried's irruption into the ordered society of Worms is not acceptable, and Hagen and his nephew Ortwin von Metz are more offended by it that Gunther and his brothers. In NL, therefore, there is hostility between Hagen and Siegfried from the beginning. In GOETTERDAEMMERUNG, Hagen is hostile to Siegfried, but for a reason which has nothing to do with codes of correct behaviour in feudal society.

In the Norse literature, which Morris follows, the situation is different. Hogni is a full brother, and he is more hostile to Brynhild than to Sigurd - he advises against the murder of Sigurd, though he doesn't actually try to prevent it; whereas in NL and TS, which Wagner followed, Hagen is the perpetrator.

Jane ubzz018@ccs.bbk.ac.uk

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