An Introduction and Notes to

Richard Wagner's

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG

Part 4: Siegfried




By Larry Brown

Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Please email comments: larry.brown@lipscomb.edu



Mythological background:

In the Volsunga Saga, Siegmund (who is not Odin's son in the original) obtains his sword from the tree, mates with Signy his sister unknowingly (she's in disguise), and kills her cruel husband but she dies with her husband in a fire. By another wife, Siegmund has Sigurd (Siegfried). Siegmund is killed in battle when Odin smashes his sword (but not as punishment for incest). Sigurd is brought up at the court of Denmark, with Regin (Fafner's brother) as ward (story of the dragon slayer).

At this point Norse and Germanic versions diverge: Wagner follows Volsunga Saga more closely, concerning Sigurd's discovery of Brünnhilde in the ring of fire, his falling in love with Kriemhild (Gutrune) by the magic potion, and his death except Sigurd is killed in bed by Hogni (Hagen), not during the forest hunt.

In the Nibelungenlied, Siegfried (called Sivrit) is a prince, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde, king and queen of Netherland, who grows up in a palace, marries Gutrune before meeting Brünnhilde (Prunhilt), an Icelandic queen whom he wins in an athletic contest for Gunther (Wagner rejected the medieval chivalry of this account and only borrowed details of Siegfried's death during the hunt from this version.)



Overview of the major themes of the four music-dramas:



SIEGFRIED

Act One

Act Two

Act Three




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Copyright 1999 by Larry A. Brown