LOTR a retelling of another story??

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Postby PStewart » Sun Feb 29, 2004 12:35 pm

Of course Tolkien wrote LOTR. But where did his ideas come from? Im amazed that Ive never heard "Der Ring des Nibelungen" by Richard Wagner discussed before. <BR><BR>I did a search for this term in all areas and couldnt find it..and its hard to believe this hasnt been discussed here before...apologies if it has...but I couldnt find it so here goes.<BR><BR><BR> This 4-part opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883) has so, so many nearly identical elements as found Tolkiens Lord of teh RIngs. Only its 50-75 years earlier!! <BR><BR>Der Ring des Nibelungen <BR><BR>1) It has an Absolute Ring of POwer,<BR>2) much of the plot centers around people truying to possess the ring<BR>3) the ring corrupts (well, brings death) to those who possess it,<BR>4) one friend kills another to possess it.<BR>5)there are Dwarves beneath the earth,<BR>6) and also a scene about shattering a famous weapon (which carries great meaning)<BR>7), and the REFORGING of a shattered sword (!). <BR>8)There is also the coming downfall of a great race (Gods in this case) <BR>9) there is the coming ascension of man(!). <BR><BR>Here is the link I also cut and pasted it below. Surely Tolkien was influecned by this. I have to confess I am absolutely flabbergasted! Link at the end. <BR><BR><BR><BR>Der Ring des Nibelungen <BR><BR><BR>Introduction<BR><BR>Der Ring des Nibelungen is a collection of four operas entitled Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung composed by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). They are intended to be performed as a group throughout the course of three nights and a "preliminary evening" (for the shorter Das Rheingold). Collectively the operas of the Ring represent some 15 hours of music, making the Ring by far the largest musical work ever written. The story of the Ring is loosely based on the Nibelungenlied of Germanic lore, which itself derives from the old German and Norse mythologies. The premise is that the Gods, led by Wotan, are on the verge of destruction, an event which will usher in a new era in the world. Wagner was heavily influenced in this work by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche ("God is dead"<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>.<BR><BR>Synopsis<BR><BR>The disaster facing the gods is driven by Wotan's selfishness beginning in Das Rheingold, where he has agreed to barter away Freia, the goddess of love, to the Giants as payment for constructing his hall of Valhalla. When the giants arrive to receive their prize, Wotan refuses to give up Freia and helplessly relies on Loge's wit to think of a suitable ransom in exchange. The only acceptable substitute is the gold of the Nibelungs, a dwarf-race of smiths that live deep within the earth. Their leader, Alberich, has stolen gold from the Rhine and has acquired a spell for transforming it into a Ring of absolute power, which he has used to force his fellow Nibelungs to slave away for him in extracting even more riches from the earth. Wotan and Loge descend into Nibelheim and steal this gold through trickery and acquire the Ring, which Wotan hopes to keep for himself, but instead he is convinced by the earth goddess Erda to forfeit it to the Giants. The Ring however has been cursed by Alberich and will bring death to all those who possess it, a truth first manifested at the end of Rheingold when the giant Fafner slays his companion Fasolt over ownership of the Ring.<BR><BR>In an attempt to regain what he has lost, Wotan fathers a race of mortal heroes known as the Volsungs, which he hopes will eventually grow up to slay Fafner, now in the form of a dragon, and acquire the Ring. Die Walkure tells the story of Siegmund and his sister Sieglinde, the first of this race. Sieglinde, trapped in a loveless marriage to a tribal leader named Hunding, is reaquainted with her long-lost brother when by chance he seeks refuge in her house in the forest, but the two end up falling in love and fleeing from Hunding. This comes much to the horror of Wotan's wife Fricka, whose honor demands that Siegmund pay for his incestuous sin by dying in a ritual fight-to-the-death with Hunding. Wotan instructs his favorite daughter, the Valkyrie Brunnhilde, to ensure that Siegmund loses the fight and be brought to Valhalla, but Brunnhilde realizes how much this decision pains her father and disobeys his orders. In the midst of the fight between Siegmund and Hunding, Wotan intervenes and shatters Siegmund's sword, allowing him to die, and punishes Brunnhilde by banishing her from the realm of the Gods. Encircled by a ring of magic fire, she will remain asleep until "the man who knows no fear" comes to awaken her. This hero is is understood to be the son of Siegmund carried by Sieglinde who will grow up to be the hero Siegfried.<BR><BR>The opening of Siegfried reveals that the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde has been raised by the Nibelung Mime, a master forger whose skills were once used by Alberich when the Ring was under his command. Mime however has his own plans for possession of the Ring, and is raising the young Siegfried in hopes that he will slay Fafner and regain it for him. Siegfried however has an overwhelming hatred for Mime, who has kept secret from him the history of Siegmund, Alberich, and the Ring. Siegfried, who has never known fear, learns of the dragon and eagerly forges anew the shattered fragments of his father's sword Notung ("need"<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif"border=0>. He defeats Fafner and wins the Ring, and after tasting the blood of his foe he is able to understand the song of a bird in the forest, who warns him that Mime is planning to kill him. In rage he kills the treacherous dwarf and learns from the bird that a sleeping bride awaits him surrounded by fire, and Siegfried eagerly follows the bird to the site. There he finds Wotan, disguised as the Wanderer, who bars his way with his spear. Siegfried responds by shattering the spear with his sword, thus destroying the symbol of Wotan's authority. Wotan, bereft of power, retreats and is never seen again. Siegfried is then allowed to awaken Brunnhilde and take her as his wife.<BR><BR>In Gotterdammerung, Wotan has realized the futility of regaining the Ring. Accepting the coming downfall of the gods, he wishes only that the Gold be returned to the Rhinemaidens from where it came and that the race of men grow and prosper on earth. Alberich meanwhile has fathered a son, Hagen, who is destined to continue the struggle over the Ring. Siegfried and Brunnhilde, ecstatic in their love, part ways temporarily as Siegfried departs for heroic adventures. He encounters the hall of the Gibichungs, whose family includes Hagen on his mother's side. The family conspires to give Siegfried a love potion which will allow him to fall in love with Gutrune, half-sister to Hagen, while her brother Gunther will be allowed win Brunnhilde. Siegfried, under the influence of the drug, swears an oath of brotherhood with Gunther and returns disguised as Gunther to his beloved Brunnhilde. Brunnhilde is forced against her will to return with Siegfried/Gunther to the Gibichung Hall. Hagen meanwhile has summoned his vassals to delight them with the news of Gunther's coming marriage, but also suspiciously advises them to take up arms. Siegfried, who does not remember his life with Brunnhilde, proudly wears the Ring he had once given to her as a gift, which Brunnhilde immediately recognizes. She publicly accuses him of betrayal, but he denies the charge. She vows revenge and places upon Hagen's spear the task of executing Siegfried. Hagen, now having an excuse for murdering his foe, carries out the task. In the closing scenes, the treachery of the potion is revealed and Brunnhilde is devastated. She instruct's Wotan's ravens to return to Valhalla with the news that the end is near, releases Loge from the rock he is encircling, and, with Ring in hand, rides her horse into Siegfried's blazing funeral pyre. Fire engulfs the scene as the hall collapses, the Rhine overflows its banks, and the Rhinemaidens appear again and regain their gold. Hagen, in a last futile effort, dives down into the water but is taken to the bottom by the Rhinemaidens. Finally, in the background, Valhalla can be seen burning as "the men and women stare in intense wonder at the fire spreading across the heavens."<BR><BR>More Information <BR>The Ring is an incredibly complex musical work - even Wagner himself did not fully comprehend his creation! I refer the interested reader to Deryck Cooke's book I Saw the World End, which contains excellent commentary on Das Rheingold and Die Walkure (Unfortunately, Cooke died before he could complete his work for the entire tetralogy). Cooke has also recorded an excellent commentary on the leitmotifs found in the Ring, a 2-CD set available on the Decca label.<BR><BR>Recommended Recording<BR><BR>Wilhelm Furtwangler, La Scala (Live) 1950<BR>or<BR>Georg Solti, Vienna Philharmonic, 1959-1965<BR><BR><BR><BR>--------------------------------------------------------------------------------<BR><BR>Tom Goodman, 2003<BR>tgoodman@bucknell.edu<BR><BR><BR>http://www.students.bucknell.edu/tgoodman/ring.html
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Postby robo » Sun Feb 29, 2004 12:53 pm

This thread probably belongs in Books. The short of it is that both Ring stories are evolutions from similar myths.
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Postby portia » Sun Feb 29, 2004 12:58 pm

Yes, it belongs in Books. But I am surprised that you are surprised at this source. Tolkien was very influenced by myths that were already "out there," and this one is not the only one.<BR><BR>He was intentionally writing myth, and there are more similarities among myths than we can easily count.
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Postby Braganil » Sun Feb 29, 2004 12:59 pm

The Ring Saga is much olkder than the opera by Richard Wagner. It is a Norse mystology centering about Sigurd/Siegfriend and one Ring which brings power and doom to its wearer.<BR><BR>And yes, you have dwarves and elves in Norse mythology. Many similarities to Tolkien's description of Middle Earth, which easily has its equivalent in the Norse Midgard<img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby Jnyusa » Sun Feb 29, 2004 1:03 pm

PStew - If you run a search in the books forum, you'll find several threads on this topic. Check the Big List of Best Threads in that forum, too. Also many analysis of Tolkien vis a vis myths from cultures in addition to Norse.<BR><BR>Jn
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Postby PStewart » Sun Feb 29, 2004 1:13 pm

Thank you all. I thought as much. I did a search using the term Der Ring des Nibelungen and found nothing on the whole website. But if I just put in Nibelungen then I found something. Go figure. Apparently, Tolkien didnt like the comparison. <BR><BR><BR> I am not surprised that there would be thematic material from other myths. Im not a english or literary scholar. But what does surprise me is closeness and specificity with which they mirror each other. If you read the synopsis I pasted some of the stuff is almost the same story. Reforging of shattered swords, the fading of a higher race, the ascension of man. The Ring similarity was quite enough, these other elements are awfully specific. <BR><BR>I read one Tolkien writer who said their two stories were "impossible to compare." Hardly.<BR><BR>Sorry I dont know how to move this thread but I will stop posting here.
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Postby Kestrel » Sun Feb 29, 2004 1:37 pm

I agree that this thread is more appropriate for the Books forum than for Movies, and am moving it there.<BR><BR>Book mods - I do not know if there has been a recent thread on this topic. If so, please link and lock.
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Postby Queen_Beruthiel » Sun Feb 29, 2004 3:20 pm

<em>But what does surprise me is closeness and specificity with which they mirror each other. </em><BR><BR>There are some parallels, sure. Quest sagas are a dime a dozen in mythology as are emblems of power, famous swords etc. The dissimilarites are note-worthy though. Here's one - Tolkien's hero is not a fearless superman <em>a la</em> Siegfried, but a humble hobbit.<BR>
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Postby truehobbit » Sun Feb 29, 2004 3:31 pm

While I'm not so very astonished that the theme hasn't come up in movies before (geez, I'll never understand why some people never bother to click on some other forums? <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-rolleyes.gif"border=0> ), the reason there hasn't been a thread with exactly that subject here in books is probably Tolkien's own statement that his Ring-story had nothing whatsoever to do with the Nibelungen-story.<BR><BR>From letter 229 to Allen&Unwin, 1961, where he comments on the introduction to LOTR by the Swedish translator, who had made that comparison:<BR><UL> <em>The Ring is in a certain way 'der Nibelungen Ring'....</em><BR>Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.<BR><em>.... which was originally forged by Volund the master-smith, and then by way of Vittka-Andvare passed through the hands of the mighty asar [Æsir] into the possession of Hreidmar and the dragon, after the dragon's fall coming to Sigurd the dragonslayer, after his murder by treacherous conspirators coming to the Burgundians, after their death in Atle's snake-pit coming to the Huns, then to the sons of Jonaker, to the Gothic tyrant Ermanrik, etc.</em><BR>Thank heaven for the etc. I began to fear that it would turn up in my pocket. Evidently Dr. 0 thinks that it is in his. But what is the point of all this? Those who know something about the Old Norse side of the 'Nibelung' traditions (mainly referred to since the name-forms used are Norse) will think this a farrago of nonsense; those who do not, will hardly be interested. ... </UL><BR><BR>(I know this bit has been quoted here very often, but I like it, so I wanted to quote it myself! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif"border=0> )<BR><BR>But I understand PStewart's points. When I first read LOTR I was surprised by the use of a Ring to represent Evil and looking for similar usage came across the Nibelungen-story, too. It does seem to contain a lot of parallels.<BR>But then, mythological stories are connected by coming from similar sources, and to have certain motifs in common doesn't mean a deliberate connection was was meant to be made.<BR><BR>Edited to say: excellent point QB about a main difference! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>Still, thanks for a good synopsis of Wagner's Ring, PStewart! <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0><BR><BR>Some threads on mythology and its influence on LOTR can be found by checking under "myth" in scirocco's <a href='http://www.tolkienonline.com/thewhitecouncil/messageview.cfm?catid=27&threadid=69510&ann=1' target=_blank> Big List of Best Books Threads</a>
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Postby Gamli » Mon Mar 01, 2004 12:38 am

Tolkien was heavly influenced by Finnish, Norse and Icelandic myths as well. You can pick up many of the Icelandic sagas (Njaal's Saga, the Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, the saga of Grettir the Strong, etc) in translation, and they are a fun read, as many of them are based on historical events and places.<BR><BR>Specifically, there was a historical 9th-century king in Norway named Gandalf who was slain by either Halfdan the Black or his son Harald Fair-hair (I believe it's the latter; however I didn't look it up).<BR><BR>Incidentally, in the Anglo-Saxon epic "Beowulf," there is a story involving a dragon who sleeps on an enormous pile of treasure within a mountain. The dragon is enraged and ravages the land nearby when he is awakened by a burglar who comes into his lair through a secret door and steals a single golden cup.<BR><BR>Sound familiar to "Hobbit" readers?
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Postby MithLuin » Mon Mar 01, 2004 3:32 pm

<BR>Well, yes, and George MacDonald wrote stories about goblins that lived under a mountain, and broke through into the mines. These goblins had no toes, but very sensitive feet.<BR><BR>You could point out that Tolkien's goblins live under mountains, that the Balrog broke through into the dwarf mines, and that the cave troll was toeless and retreated when Frodo stabbed its foot.<BR><BR>This does not mean that <u>The Lord of the Rings</u> is the <em>same story</em> as <u>The Princess and the Goblins</u>, nor does it mean that Moria was based on this story. It merely means that there are similar elements used in both stories. You could argue that the appearance of an element in one story inspired the appearance of that element in another story, but it would be absurd to call them the "same story". Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are both princesses under a magical enchantment of sleep that is broken by a prince kissing them. But they aren't the same story. Sleeping Beauty was cursed as a baby, because her parents offended a local fairy. Snow White was snared by her jealous stepmother after she reached adulthood. Do you think they were the same people? Do you think they had similar childhoods? Do you think the princes were the same, or sought the girls for the same reason? I realize that in most tellings, the princes are minor characters - but at least in one version of Sleeping Beauty, he comes 100 years later, and so could not possibly have known the girl, while Snow White's prince at least theoretically could have been courting her before the ordeal. Cinderella and Snow White both suffer from evil stepmothers - but Cinderella meets a prince who rescues her from the stepmother, while Snow White has to escape the stepmother before she can meet the prince. That, and Snow White is a true princess while Cinderella is a commoner. <BR><BR>Identifying common elements can be rewarding, but to confuse the elements of a story with the story itself would be rather foolish. Does the <em>Nibelungen</em> have hobbits, or anything remotely like hobbits?<BR><BR>Tolkien used the Ring as the ultimate evil power in LotR because Bilbo found a magic ring in the Hobbit, and it seemed a good link for the story. When the Hobbit was written, however, Bilbo's ring was not remotely evil. It was just a trinket that made him invisible - very useful! But once Tolkien tied the Ring to the Necromancer (Sauron), it took on a new personality. Oh, and why was the Necromancer in the Hobbit? He was a good excuse to get rid of Gandalf - the "pressing business away south."<BR><BR>I think this demonstrates why Tolkien was so upset with people trying to tie his "Ring" to the "Nibelungen." Magic rings are not all that uncommon in fairy tales, and that is all Bilbo's ring started as. It is true that powerfully evil rings are more rare, but that development came from <em>inside</em> the story, not outside of it.
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Postby PStewart » Mon Mar 01, 2004 10:26 pm

<BR> It's quite clear I never said it was the same story. But there are several specific concepts and events that are very close.
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Postby jallan » Sat Mar 06, 2004 12:23 pm

There are closer resemblances between Wagner's opera and Tolkien's writing than Tolkien's comments would indicate.<BR><BR>But Tolkien was not commenting on Wagner's opera, but on a very nonsensical history of the Nibelungen Ring which the Swedish translator Åke Ohlmarks provided as part of an identification of the Ring of the Nibelungs with Tolkien's ring.<BR><BR>Ohlmarks' summary mixes material from various legends, some which mention no ring and one which concerns a totally different ring. Olhmarks does not discuss Wagner at all (and his history of the Ring does not fit with Wagner's story). In the <em>Nibelungenlied</em>, the only work in which the term Ring of the Nibelungs might make sense (before Wagner's modern operas), the ring is just a golden ring with no special powers whatsever, only important to the plot because because it provides proof that it was Seigfried not Gunther who subdued Brunhild.<BR><BR>Icelandic tradition created a prehistory of the ring that it a cursed ring destined to bring disaster on its owners. And in that account the ring is in some way magical to the point that Andvari the Dwarf, its first known possessor, wishes to retain it as to use its power to gather a new hoard of gold.<BR><BR>Tolkien knew Wagner well. It would have been interesting if someone had asked him to comment on similarities and differences between what he had done and what Wagner had done and on what influence Wagner's work had on him. Unfortuantely, no-one did so. Yet there is certainly a close connection and Tolkien's justified rejection of Ohlmark's inaccurate and simplistic statements doesn't deny a connection with Wagner's work.<BR><BR>Tolkien as a child was very attracted to the stories of Sigurð/Siegfried and the Icelandic Volsunga saga in which they are embedded and which includes the broken sword motif and his tale of Túrin was in part derived from this material as Tolkien himself asserted.
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