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The Magical Pantheon Of Wagner's Ring
©1995-2000 J. C. Kaelin

Part XI:

IV Gotterdammerung ("Twilight of the Gods")


The Nornen are spinning the wheel of fate. The well they spin at has dried up. The World Ash Tree, to which their rope was attached, mortally stricken from Wotan's having made his Spear from one of its branches, has been felled at his command for a pyre to set Walhall afire. They now attach the rope to a Pine. The first reads the rope's past, the second its present, and the third its future - a future where Wotan thrusts his Spear halves into Loge's breast, setting off a fire consuming Gods and Heros alike in Walhall. The rope is weakened in its weave by the jagged rocks, and when the third Norn pulls it tighter, it breaks - the end of the days of the Gods. They go off to their mother, Erda.

Siegfried and Brunnhilde prepare to part, as he prepares to go off at her urging with Grane to more Heroic adventures. They affirm their love to one another, Brunnhilde saying "You are both of us". He gives Brunnhilde the Ring as a wedding ring, in token of his love. He takes her Spear (I) and Shield (H2), along with Nothung (V) and Tarnhelm (H1), and heads off with Grane.

Act I

In a rock castle on the Rhine, Gibichung Hall, Hagen advises his half-brother Gunther in his half-sister Gutrune's presence how to expand Gibichung fame. He speaks of Brunnhilde, whom he plans to marry to Gunther, and of Siegfried, who can bring Brunnhilde to them, and who he plans to wed to Gutrune by giving him a love potion. They all agree to the conspiracy, and at that moment, Siegfried's horn is heard, and he heads to the castle.

They welcome Siegfried, and Gutrune gives him the love potion in a drinking horn. He toasts Brunnhilde's unforgettable memory, drinks, completely forgets her, and falls passionately for Gutrune. Gunther tells Siegfried he wants Brunnhilde as wife, and Siegfried agrees to obtain Brunnhilde for him for Gutrune's hand in marriage. They affirm the bond between them by letting their blood mingle together in a drinking horn Hagen holds between them. Siegfried eagerly sets off to bring his own wife back to Gunther for an unloving marriage. All leave the hall except Hagen, who broods upon the deeds to be done that will serve to bring him the Ring.

At Brunnhilde's Fell, Waltraute comes to beg Brunnhilde to return the Ring to the Rhinesisters. She explains that Brunnhilde's banishment, Wotan stopped sending Walkuren to the battlefield, left the company of his heroes at Walhall, took to his horse and restlessly traveled the world as Wanderer. When at last he returned, his Spear was broken, and he assembled all the Gods and Heroes to Walhall, surrounded it with a pyre made from the World Ash Tree, and there still sits in silence, waiting for his ravens to return with news harbinging Gotterdammerung. She managed to prompt Wotan with her and her sister's tears to say that all of this could end if Brunnhilde returned the Ring to the Rhinesisters. Brunnhilde refuses, it having been given in love, swearing not to forswear love as have others. Brunnhilde sends her away, telling her never to return.

Just then, the fire surrounding the Fell flares up, in anticipation of Seigfried, who blows his horn on the way. Brunnhilde, expecting Siegfried, sees another man instead, dressed as Gunther was. Brunnhilde tries to force him away with the Ring's power, but he successfully siezes it. He sends her to her cave, and then dishelms, revealing Siegfried underneath, disguised by Tarnhelm. He resolves to put Nothung between them as they sleep, to witness his fidelity.

Act II

At Gibichung Hall, the ever-wakeful Alberich speaks to Hagen as he sleeps. He encourages Hagen to continue in quest of the Ring, and not to betray his father. Hagen hates Alberich, but tells him to calm his fears, for he vows to take it from Siegfried, and not allow it to return to the Rhinesisters. Hagen asks who shall inherit the power of the Gods, and Alberich says "I and you".

The Rhine gradually glows red with dawn. Siegfried wakes Hagen with his return, and tells him and Gutrune of his chaste winning of Brunnhilde. Then the ship carrying Brunnhilde and Gunther arrives, and Hagen with his cow horn sounds a call to arms, summoning the men to Gibichung Hall. They arrive fully armed, in wonder of the cause of the alarm. He tells them Gunther returns with a Walkure wife, and orders sacrifices for the Gods - a Steer for Wotan, a Boar for Froh, a Goat for Donner, and a Sheep for Fricka. He then orders they take drinking horns of mead and wine their fair women have filled with delight, and carouse until overcome with drink, that the Gods may bless the marriage. He further charges them to avenge any wrong done her. The men, noisly clashing their weapons together, are arranged on the heights and banks of the Rhine to greet the couple.

As Brunnhilde is greeted, she sees Siegfried, wearing the Ring, and is overcome with scorn. She accuses Siegfried of being her husband, disguising himself as Gunther, claiming her for Gunther's wife, and taking back her wedding ring. Siegfried, still under the spell of forgetfullness caused by the Love potion, claims he won the Ring at Neidhohle. Hagen insists that if Gunther seized the Ring, then Siegfried must have stolen it from him. Brunnhilde invokes the Gods to kill Siegfried for betrayal. Siegfried swears upon Hagen's Spear Tip that her accusations are false, and submits himself to it for vengeance if he lies. Brunnhilde then swears an oath of vengeance upon the same Spear Tip, charging it to deliver a mortal blow to Siegfried.

Siegfried leads the assembled host to the feast, leaving Brunnhilde, Gunther and Hagen. Hagen offers to avenge Brunnhilde's betrayal, and asks how this might be done. She says her magic protects him from harm, but she left his back unprotected. Gunther is overwhelmed with shame for betraying and being betrayed. All agree Siegfried's death is the only solution - "Siegfried's fall will atone for us all!". They go to the wedding feast.


Before a fell in a rocky wood, the Rhinesisters swim circles in the Rhine. The hail the sunlight, decry the dark of the waters since the theft of the Rhingold, and swim in joy of its memory. They wait for Siegfried, to ask for the Ring's return. He arrives with his horn-blast, lost in his hunt after a bear. They ask for his Ring in return for finding his game. They tease him for it, and he repels them, and when they are serious, he believes them manouvering for the Ring. Though about to give it, their grim appeals change his mind. They foretell his death that day on behalf of Brunnhilde's betrayal, and leave in swimming circles.

Horns are heard in the distance, and Siegfried answers, a hunting party with Hagen, Gunther and his vassals. They climb over the fell and join him on the Rhine below to eat. Siegfried is thirsty, and Hagen gives him a drinking horn. All lie down as Siegfried sits upright. He recounts his adventures at Neidhohle, repeating the three things the Woodbird told him. First he tells of winning the Tarnhelm and Ring, then of Mime's plot to give him a sleeping potion and afterwards kill him with Nothung, whereupon Hagen gives Siegfried a potion to awaken his memory and afterwards kill him with his Spear. Then he tells how he won Brunnhilde for a wife, whereupon Wotan's ravens fly a circle over his head and depart, and invoking this testimony of Siegfried and ravens, Hagen stabs him in the back with his Spear, and departs in evening twilight over the fell. Siegfried, dying, remembers Brunnhilde aloud, and dies with nightfall. The assembly carries him off in procession over the fell.

At Gibichung Hall, Gutrune waits for Siegfried. She awoke from evil dreams to hear Grane wildly winny and Brunnhilde laughing, after which she Brunnhilde go down to the Rhine. Hagen arrives, calling for everyone to wake and bring torches. The procession follows, and Siegfried is placed on a raised mound in the hall's middle. Hagen claims Siegfried died by a boar, but Gutrune accuses her siblings of murder. Gunther accuses and curses Hagen as the murderer. Hagen takes the credit, as his Spear had been decreed to deal his death. He claims, as Wotan had cursed him, that he has thereby inherited their heritage, and has the right to claim the Ring. Gunther denies him the Ring on pretext that it is Gutrune's dower, and draws his sword. Hagen claims it a Niblung's dower, the two battle, and Gunther falls to his spear. He grasps at the Ring, but Siegfried's dead hand raises up to Brunnhilde, coming from the background above, and Hagen is driven back by the power of the Ring commanded by the Power of Love.

Brunnhilde comes in vengeance for all having betrayed her. Gutrune accuses Brunhilde of inciting the deed, but Brunnhilde assures her she was his true bride. Gutrune curses Hagen for having stolen her husband, and is overwhelmed with sorrow for having taken him from the one the drink made him forget, and goes to Gunther on the right. Hagen stands opposite, defiantly holding his Spear in gloomy brooding. In the center, Brunnhilde calls the vassals to build a pyre by the Rhine, and calls Grane to her that both may join in the pyre. It is built before Gibichung Hall, and women strew plants and flowers upon it.

She extolls Siegfried as the Sunshine, the purest betrayer, the truest traitor, the most honest and loving soul ever, who broke his oaths and bonds, yet his truest love he never betrayed. She calls to the heavenly guardian of vows to see her and their disgrace, and to God; that through his Siegfried's great deed, which he had so desired, did he condemn him to the same doom as his - that the truest of all must betray her, so that a wise woman might grow. She recognizes she now understands all.

She tells God of his ravens around her, and charges these messengers to go home, and bids rest upon God. She takes the Ring and has Seigfried put on the pyre. She invokes the Rhinesisters, telling them the Ring is about to be theirs, stating the Ring shall be cleansed of its curse by the Fire of the Funeral Pyre and the water of the Rhine. She puts on the Ring, waves a firebrand to the background, and once again charges the Ravens to go to their Lord and tell him what they have heard; to go first to Brunnhilde's Fell and tell Loge to go to Walhall, for Gotterdammerung has arrived, and that as she casts the firebrand on the pyre, so she casts the firebrand onto Walhall. The two Ravens then fly from the fell and disappear in the background.

Two men lead in Grane, she greets him, and tells him their Lord and Hero lies in the fire. Grane wishes to go to Seigfried, and she notes it, her bosom and heart being aflame with desire to join him. She mounts him, hails Siegfried that "Selig greets you your wife, and they leap into the pyre.

The flames blaze up to fill the front of the hall, and appear to set fire to the building itself, and the people press to the front in terror. The stage now appears to be filled with fire, then subside, a cloud of smoke drawing into the background. On the horizon, a dark bank of cloud.

The Rhine overflows its banks, rolling over the fire, and the Rhinesisters emerge to seize the Ring. Hagen makes a mad rush towards them, throwing Spear, Helmet and Shield aside. Woglinde and Wellgunde embrace his neck, and draw him into the depths of the Rhine. Flosshilde, ahead of the others, joyously holds up the Ring.

The the dark clouds on the horizon, a red glow breaks forth, and with increasing light illuminate the Rhinesisters, who playfully swim in circles as the Rhine subsides. As Gibichung Hall falls in fiery ruins, Walhall above is seen in flames, it interior revealed to show the Gods and Heroes sitting assembled. The flames reach Walhall's interior, and as the Gods become hidden in flame, the curtain falls.

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© 1996-2014, J. C. Kaelin, Jr.. All Rights Reserved.