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Der Ring des Nibelungen

The Ring of the Nibelung, 6

The condemnation of Siegmund

Meanwhile, in Valhalla, Wotan was anxious about the fate of his favourite Siegmund. He called his daughter, the Valkyrie Brunhild, and said to her:

“A deadly duel will take place tomorrow in the region of the Neidings. Siegmund has fled from Hunding’s hut, taking Sieglinde with him. When he wakes up, the fierce hunter will pursue the youths. The fight will be fierce. Siegmund is armed with the sword he plucked from the ash tree. Try to protect him and let the vultures take Hunding’s body.”

The Valkyrie was hastening down to earth to do Wotan’s bidding, when from afar was heard the cry of Wotan’s wife, Fricka, the goddess of the hearth, and therefore the jealous guardian of the laws of hospitality. It was up to her to see that they were observed. She approached her husband and said in an angry tone:

“A hunter named Hunding has brought his complaint to me. A man stayed in his hut and, abusing the hospitality he had received, fled during the night, taking the mistress of the house with him.”

Fricka, the goddess of marriage
and wife of the main god, Wotan.

“Yes,” answered Wotan with a sad accent. “It is true that the young Siegmund had been taken in at Hunding’s hut.”

“Taken in and cured of his wounds.”

“But it was Sieglinde who took him in and cured him.”

“Is not Sieglinde Hunding’s wife? Did she not act on behalf of the master of the house in taking in and healing the wounded man?”

“You must bear in mind, dear Fricka, that Sieglinde belongs to the Völsungs.”

“What does that matter?”

“Remember that she was brought to that Neiding home by force. Hunding killed all the members of her family and dragged her to the forest when she was still a child, forcing her to be his wife.”

“That does not justify or mitigate Siegmund’s fault. Sieglinde had a right to escape if she was forcibly held in that home which was an enemy of her race, but Siegmund should not go away from the hut by stealing the owner’s wife. It is an unpardonable act.”

“Your zealous application of the laws of hospitality comes to thwart my plans, dear Fricka.”

“I don’t know what plans you speak of, Wotan; I have never understood your continual entanglements.”

“It is not a question of entanglements, my wife; listen: I am very much afraid that the cunning Alberich will succeed in taking the ring from the giant Fafner, in which case we would again be exposed to the fatal power of that Nibelung dwarf. I cannot take the ring from Fafner. I gave it to him myself as a reward for his work. It would be a breach of contract. And so: Siegmund is the hero that I have bred so that one day he may seize the ring that Fafner keeps together with the magic helmet and the treasure of the Nibelung. For that, I will provide him with an invincible sword. But if you stand in the way, Siegmund, lacking my protection, will die at the hands of the spiteful Hunding.”

“When it is a question of circumventing a law or a covenant that you yourself have established, you string words and more words into a long speech. I am not here to listen to speeches. I have come to demand that the law of hospitality be observed. Here it is a very simple matter: a man was taken into a home, and he, in return for the hospitality he received, fled, taking the wife of the owner of the house with him.”

Wotan looked at Brunhild, who was waiting for his decision.

“Did you hear Fricka, my child?”

“Yes, father. I heard her. Stiff and implacable, as always.”

“It is her duty. The law of hospitality protects Hunding. For him not to succumb, my sword must break in Siegmund’s fist.”

“And you forsake your hero?” cried the Valkyrie.

“It is the law, my daughter. Siegmund has failed. He must die.”

2 replies on “The Ring of the Nibelung, 6”

Even in Valhalla (the Germanic equivalent of Greco-Roman Mount Olympus), goddesses meddle with the gods’ designs… This all reminds me of a couple of Hollywood movies where Zeus and Hera debate Jason’s fate in one film and, in the other film, Perseus’ fate.

“goddesses meddle with the gods’ designs”

Some things seem eternal.

BTW, I believe the other flick is Clash of the Titans (Perseus)

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