Thursday, September 15, 2011

Theme of Backstabbing in Wagner's Ring

The theme of backstabbing comes up in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelungen. During Wagner's second opera in the ring, Die Walkure, Siegmund and Sieglinde bare a son named Siegfried. Siegmund and Sieglinde are twins. They decide to have a kid anyway. That kid is going to need therapy. Holy shit. In the prologue of the ring, Das Rheingold, the villain Alberich steals the ring from the Rheinmaidens. Well, they shouldn't have teased him. The Rheinmaidens tell Alberich that the Rheingold can be turned into a ring, and the person who posseses that ring can rule the world. However, in order to accomplish this a person must renounce love. The Rheinmaidens think that no one will ever renounce love. Afterall, love is such an important thing. Not to Alberich, who renounces love without hesitation. Wotan, the chief God steals the ring from Alberich. Then the two giants Fasolt and Fafner fight over the ring and all the riches that Alberich had to surrender. As a matter of fact, Fafner kills his brother Fasolt. What kind of a way is that to treat your brother? This happens right after Alberich puts a curse on the ring. Alberich looks like Gollum in most productions, but he is a bass-baritone. Fafner then turns himself into a dragon by the magic of the tarnhelm, and sleeps in a cave and guards it. Tough life there, right? This curse messes things up royally, and the characters in the ring become really greedy and even stab other characters in the back. So, where does Siegfried come into all this? Siegfried is not a likable hero, but that is not his fault. Siegfried is like rebellious teenager, and he gets angry pretty easily. He is so strong that he can shatter a sword. Interestingly, he is near impossible to kill, accept that he is vulnerable in his back. This is because Brunnhilde has protected every area of his body except his back. Alberich has a brother named Mime, who ends up raising Siegfried for the sole purpose of getting the ring from Fafner. It is not Siegfried's fault that he is insensitive. He was raised by an evil dwarf for crying out loud. Eventually Siegfried realizes that Mime is not his father. He has no idea who his parents are until Mime tells him. Mime is trying to stab Siegfried in the back. After Siegfried kills Fafner, Mime tries to give him a drugged drink. Siegfried kills Mime by chopping his head off. So, now Siegfried has the ring. Little does he know that the ring has a curse on it. He is doomed. Now listen to this. Alberich bares a son by Erda the goddess of the earth. Wotan had Siegmund by Erde. She gets around a lot in this story. Alberich's son is the villain Hagen in Gotterdammerung. His job is to get the ring back from Siegfried and to give it back to Alberich. Brunnhilde and Siegfried are married at his point. As a token of his love Siegfried gives Brunnhilde the ring. Siegfried is going to go hunt for dinner, or do whatever it is he does and he ends up in the castle where Hagen and his half brother and sister Gunter and Gurtrune live. Hagen has a plan to trick Siegfried by giving him a potion to make him forget Brunnhilde and marry Gurtrune. Gunter wants to marry Brunnhilde for the sake of fame. Siegfried agrees to help him accomplish this after Hagen gives him the potion. Hagen essentially offers a toast to Siegfried, so therefore, he acts very friendly towards him. However, he is stabbing Siegfried in the back. While under this spell, which can only be broken by a reverse potion,he uses the tarnhelm to transform into Gunther's form and gets the ring from her. Also, he declares her as Gunther's bride. Brunnhilde accuses Siegfried of betraying her, but he has no idea he has done anything wrong. The potion is still working. She wants to get even, so she tells Hagen that a stab in the back will kill Siegfried. She thinks that Siegfried is stabbing her in the back, so now she stabs him in the back. Later in the story, Siegfried goes out hunting with Hagen and his buddies. While on this hunting expedition he gets lost and ends up running into the Rheinmaidens. They tell him to give the ring back to them, and that he is going to be killed if he does not. Siegfried refuses. Eventually, Siegfried does end up back with his hunting party. Hagen acts nice to him and wants to know all about his life. He gives him a potion to restore his memory. While Siegfried is telling the story, Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. There sure is a lot of backstabbing literally and symbolically in the ring. I feel bad for Siegfried in this whole story. His parents are dead, he was raised by a freaking wacko who pretended to be his friend. He unfortunately has a big bullseye on his back from when he is conceived to when he dies. Hagen pretended to be his friend, and then stabbed him in the back. Hagen is also a victim of circumstance, because Alberich raises him for the sake of getting the ring back for himself. Alberich is the villain of the story without a doubt. The Rheinmaidens do get the ring back in the end. Hagen ends up chasing them trying to get the ring back for himself. So, his backstabbing comes back to haunt him in the end, and Alberich comes up empty handed.

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