The Valkyrie

 

Part Two of

 

The Ring of the Nibelung

 

by

 

Richard Wagner

 

(libretto 1852)

 

 

English Adaptation by Larry A. Brown

 

_____________________

 

CHARACTERS

 

Siegmund, son of Wotan

Sieglinde, daughter of Wotan

Hunding, husband of Sieglinde

Wotan, ruler of the gods

Fricka, his wife

Brunnhilde, his favorite valkyrie

Her sister valkyries

 

     

 

ACT ONE

 

         The curtain opens on the main room of a rustic house in the forest, built around a large tree which fills the center of the room and reaches through the ceiling. A sword has been thrust into the trunk of the tree. The room is simply furnished with a table and chairs. The music indicates a violent storm outside. Siegmund opens the front door and enters, breathless, obviously on the run. He falls on the floor near the hearth.

 

SIEGMUND:  I must rest here awhile, whoever’s house this may be.

 

         He stretches out of the floor and falls asleep. Sieglinde enters from a side room and is surprised to find a strange man in the room.

 

SIEGLINDE: A stranger, lying near the hearth. Who can it be? He seems exhausted from his travels. Is he ill? His eyes are closed but his breath stirs gently. He appears healthy and strong, even though weary.

SIEGMUND:  A drink! A drink!

SIEGLINDE: I’ll fetch some water. Here’s comfort for those parched lips.

SIEGMUND:  From the spring comes cool refreshment, easing my burden. And my courage revives at the sight of my lovely hostess. Whose kind hand offers me this drink?

SIEGLINDE: This house and I belong to Hunding. He will welcome you as his guest when he returns home.

SIEGMUND:  I’m sure he won’t turn away a wounded and defenseless man.

SIEGLINDE: Wounded? Let me see.

SIEGMUND:  My injuries are minor, nothing to worry about. I still have my strength. If my shield and spear had been as strong as my arm, I would not have fled my enemies. But they overpowered me and chased me to this part of the forest. Beaten by the storm, I took refuge here. Now the darkness has been lightened by your radiant smile.

SIEGLINDE:  Here, drink this honeyed mead.

SIEGMUND:  Will you not taste it first?

 

She drinks while he watches her intensely, fascinated by this woman

 

SIEGMUND:  You have given aid to an ill-fated man. May Wotan protect you for your kindness. Now I’ll take my leave.

SIEGLINDE:  Must you depart so soon? Are men still hunting for you?

SIEGMUND:  Ill fortune follows me wherever I turn. Lest it fall upon you as well, I must go.

SIEGLINDE:  Then stay. You cannot bring ill fortune to a house where it already lives.

SIEGMUND:  My name is Wehwalt. I’ll wait for your husband.

 

         The front door opens and Hunding enters carrying his spear and shield. He stops when he sees Siegmund and looks at his wife with a stern, questioning glance.

 

SIEGLINDE:  I found this man lying by our hearth. He needed help.

HUNDING:  You tended to him?

SIEGLINDE:  I gave him a drink, as any good host would.

SIEGMUND: She offered me shelter for which I am thankful. She has done nothing wrong.

HUNDING:  Sacred is my home. May you keep it that way. Prepare a meal for us!

 

         Hunding hands her his spear and shield which she hangs on a branch of the tree. Sieglinde begins to prepare a meal for the men.

 

HUNDING:  [aside to himself]  How similar they look, each of them with their glinting serpent’s eyes. [to Siegmund]  You must have traveled far, yet I saw no horse outside. What trouble brings you to my home?

SIEGMUND:  I came through the forest. The storm drove me to find shelter here. I’ve wandered so far from my path, I would like to know where I am.

HUNDING: This roof which protects you belongs to me. Hunding is my name. My kinsmen live to the west. My guest would honor me by telling me his name. – You hesitate. If you won’t trust me, then tell your tale to my wife. Look how eagerly she wants to hear.

SIEGLINDE:  Please tell us your story.

SIEGMUND:  No one would call me Friedmund [“peaceful”] or Frohwalt [“joyful”]. Wehwalt [“woeful”] is my name. My father was Wolfe. I had a twin sister, but she vanished long ago. My father and I returned home from hunting one day to find only smoldering ashes, my mother dead and my sister missing. We fled deep into the dark woods, living there for many years, fending off our enemies. We earned the reputation of fierce warriors, hence my nickname Wolfing.

HUNDING:  A fascinating tale, Wehwalt, or should I say Wolfing? I’ve heard dark stories of this mysterious pair.

SIEGLINDE:  Tell us more. Where is your father now?

SIEGMUND:  Some time ago we were chasing our foes through the forest, leaving many corpses behind, when my father and I became separated. I searched many days but never found him again, only his wolf-skin cloak. After that I sought the company of men and of women, no longer wanting to live alone. But no companions could I find. No one befriended me, no woman smiled at me. I was an outcast from society. Whatever seemed right to me, others thought wrong. The evil I saw, others called good. Wherever I went, trouble met me. Searching for happiness, all I ever found was woe.

HUNDING:  The Norn who wove this fate for you certainly loves you little. No wonder others shunned your company.

SIEGLINDE:  Only a coward would fear a helpless man! Tell us about your latest battle. Who caused your spear to shatter?

SIEGMUND:  I heard a young woman calling for help. Some men were abducting her, brothers who wanted her to marry a man she didn’t love. I ran to her aid and slew them, but her anger soon turned to grief as she mourned their deaths. Other kinsmen arrived, thirsting for vengeance, and the battle was fierce. During the fight the girl lost her life and I my spear and shield. Now you know my story, and why my name is not Friedmund.

HUNDING:  I’ve heard about those who value things unholy. My family has always hated such men. This day my kinsmen sent out a call to avenge the shedding of blood, but I arrived too late. Now I find the traitor taking refuge in my home. Take heed. This roof will shelter you through the night, but when daylight comes, find a weapon to defend yourself. I demand payment for those who have fallen. Woman, why are you standing there? Prepare my drink for the night and wait for me in bed.

 

         Sieglinde begins to mix his drink.  She shares a look with Siegmund and cautiously glances at a spot on the tree. Hunding drives her from the room with a furious gesture, then retrieves his weapons.

 

HUNDING:  In the morning, Wolfing, we shall meet in battle. Prepare yourself. [he exits]

SIEGMUND:  My father promised me a sword which I would discover in my time of greatest need. I find myself unarmed in my enemy’s house. He possesses a woman whose beauty consumes me. Father! Father! Where is your sword, this mighty weapon I am meant to wield in battle? [He notices light gleaming on the hilt of the sword buried in the tree] What is this which shines in the fire’s glow? Its light blinds me, its heavenly glow warms my heart! Is this what the woman indicated with her glance as she departed? The firelight dims; I can barely see it anymore. Yet I remember the brightness of her smile.

SIEGLINDE:  [entering] Are you awake?

SIEGMUND:  Is that you?

SIEGLINDE:  Listen carefully. I drugged my husband’s drink; he lies in deep sleep. Take this opportunity to escape.

SIEGMUND:  Your presence brings me life.

SIEGLINDE:  A weapon lies here, if only you can win it. It was meant for the noblest of heroes. Hear my story. Hunding’s family forced me into a loveless marriage. They were celebrating here at our wedding feast while I was mourning silently. Suddenly a stranger appeared at the door, dressed all in gray with a drooping hat covering one of his eyes, but the other saw clearly enough, transfixing the men with its piercing stare. Gazing at me in pity, he drove his sword deeply into the trunk of this tree, burying it to the hilt. All the men struggled in vain to move it even a bare inch. Over the years others came and went, none leaving with the sword in hand. I knew for whom this sword was destined. May you who stand before me this night be that man. May your arms rescue me from this miserable life and erase the memory of all my sorrows.

SIEGMUND:  That friend holds you now. This sword and this woman are my destiny. You are everything that I sought after, all that I ever wished for. Your tears and my torments will be avenged.

 

         Suddenly the front door flies open and bright moonlight shines on the embracing couple.

 

SIEGLINDE:  Who’s there?

SIEGMUND:  Don’t worry. Spring has entered this house. With her delicate weapons of buds and blooms, warm breezes and fresh fragrances, she has driven cold winter away. Love has beckoned the springtime here. Deep in our hearts, love lay hidden too long. Now spring rejoices in our reunion, O sister-bride!

SIEGLINDE:  You are the spring for which I longed for in frosty winter. When my eyes first beheld you, I recognized you in my heart as my own.

SIEGMUND:  Delightful woman, sweetest of all.

SIEGLINDE:  Let me look at you more closely, and see the noble light of your face, a light which overcomes my senses.

SIEGMUND:  How brightly you shine in the moonlight, your lovely hair like a halo.

SIEGLINDE:  I tremble in wonder. Have I not seen this face before?

SIEGMUND:  In dreams of love I have seen you as well.

SIEGLINDE:  You resemble my image reflected in the pool nearby.

SIEGMUND:  I saw your face in my heart.

SIEGLINDE:  I heard your voice as a child. And your glance reminds me of the compassionate look of the stranger in gray. His child saw through his disguise. – Is your name truly Wehwalt?

SIEGMUND:  No longer; my woe has turned to joy.

SIEGLINDE:  What shall I call you?

SIEGMUND:  Give me a name, and I’ll take it from you.

SIEGLINDE:  You called your father Wolfe?

SIEGMUND:  Yes, but only a wolf to his foes. His name was Walse.

SIEGLINDE:  If Walse was your father, then you are a Walsung, child of the one who left this sword for you. Let me call you the name that I love: Siegmund!

SIEGMUND:  Let this sword bear witness that I am Siegmund. My father promised it to me in my time of need. I proudly seize it now. Highest need of holy love, this consuming desire drives me onward. Nothung! Nothung! Thus I name you, sword of my need. Come forth from your wooden scabbard and reveal your shining blade.

 

         Siegmund effortlessly pulls the sword from the tree and holds it high to shine in the moonlight.

 

SIEGMUND:  Siegmund the Walsung stands here, and claims you as his bride. With gleaming sword as a wedding gift, he rescues this woman from the arms of his enemy, and welcomes her to the land of glorious spring.

SIEGLINDE:  If you are Siegmund, the one I have longed for, then I am Sieglinde, your sister and wife whom you’ve won with your sword.

SIEGMUND:  Let the blood of the Walsung unite in love!

 

They exit into the spring night.

 

 

 

 

ACT TWO

 

         The curtain rises on a high mountain. Wotan with spear in hand is speaking with Brunnhilde, his daughter and favorite of the valkyries.

 

WOTAN: Mount your horse, warrior maid. You must attend the battle. Choose the Walsung as victor. Hunding is no use to me. So ride swiftly to the slaughter.

BRUNNHILDE:  Hoyotoho! Hoyotoho! [shouting her battle cry] A storm is coming, father. Fricka makes her way here, furiously driving her ram-led chariot. From the way she beats those frightened creatures, I would not want to face her today. I long for battle but not that kind. I pray you weather the storm. Hoyotoho!  [she exits]

WOTAN:  The usual storm and strife. But I must be firm.

FRICKA:  I’ve sought you out, hiding in the hills from me. You must promise to help me.

WOTAN:  Speak freely your concerns.

FRICKA:  I have heard Hunding’s complaint, and as guardian of sacred marriage vows, I come to his defense. This grievous wrong must not go unpunished.

WOTAN:  What is wrong with a young couple falling in love in springtime? Love has enchanted them. Who can resist its spell?

FRICKA:  Don’t play ignorant with me. You know my role as protector of holy wedlock.

WOTAN:  Unholy I call the vow which binds unloving hearts. How can I enforce a vow which you yourself could not maintain?

FRICKA:  If you can dismiss adultery so easily, what about incest? My heart shudders – a sister embraces her brother! When has anyone witnessed such things between natural twins?

WOTAN:  You have witnessed it today. Some things may happen which have never happened before. Obviously they love each other. So take my advice. Shower their marriage with your blessings.

FRICKA:  So this is the end of the gods and the values they uphold? All for the sake of these rebellious children of yours! Am I not right? You are willing to cast aside everything you once held honorable, break every bond which you yourself established, so that these siblings may pursue their unholy passion – just as you once did! Why do I talk to you about faithfulness, when they are the fruit of your wandering lust? Why speak of sacred vows when you falsely broke yours and my heart? Silently but sadly I stood by when you rode into battle with those illegitimate daughters of yours, the valkyries, even though you made them swear allegiance to me. But now that you wander the earth as Walse and have fathered a pair of common mortals, must my rights be abandoned for the sake of a she-wolf’s cubs? Why not trample me underfoot and be done with it?

WOTAN:  You have never learned to see things as I do. You worry about traditions of the past, while I make plans for the future. We need a hero who lives on his own, without divine protection, free from the laws which bind even us. Only this man can perform the task which we need, but which we are forbidden to do.

FRICKA:  You attempt to deceive me with riddles. What can mortals achieve which the gods cannot?

WOTAN:  Have you no regard for their independence?

FRICKA:  Who breathed this spirit into them? Who gives them this courage? They are strong only when you stand behind them. Don’t boast to me about this man’s strength. Whatever he accomplishes, he does through you.

WOTAN:  In sorrow I left him to grow up on his own, without my protection.

FRICKA:  Then do not protect him now! Take back the sword which you gave him.

WOTAN:  Siegmund won the sword himself in his time of need.

FRICKA:  Don’t fool yourself. You promised him that sword, left it for him in the tree, and prepared every step of his way to find it. Siegmund has always been your slave, but now he must be mine. He must be punished. Should this slave put the wife of Wotan to shame? Must she submit to his rebellious will, mocking the honor of the gods? Would you allow such disgrace to fall on me?

WOTAN:  What do you want from me?

FRICKA:  Abandon the Walsung to his fate.

WOTAN:  Very well, he will go his own way.

FRICKA:  And do not interfere in this coming battle.

WOTAN:  I’ll not protect him.

FRICKA:  Don’t try to deceive me. Swear that the Valkyrie will not side with him either.

WOTAN:  She must choose for herself.

FRICKA:  No! It’s your will she follows. Forbid her to help Siegmund.

WOTAN:  I cannot kill him. He found my sword!

FRICKA:  Withdraw its magical power. Let it shatter in the fight, leaving him defenseless.

BRUNNHILDE:  Heiaha! Heiaha! Hotojoha!

FRICKA:  I hear the valiant maiden, rejoicing in her flight.

WOTAN:  I summoned her to fight for Siegmund.

FRICKA:  Today she must defend your wife’s honor. If men ignore and ridicule our laws, the reign of the gods will end. Swear to me: today Siegmund must fall.

WOTAN:  You have my oath.

FRICKA:  [speaking to Brunnhilde] The Lord of Battles awaits you. Let him explain what he has in store. [exits]

BRUNNHILDE:  I fear their quarrel ended badly for Wotan. What will you tell me, Father? You look discouraged.

WOTAN:  In chains of my own making have I bound myself – least free of all living beings!

BRUNNHILDE:  Never have I seen you so downcast. What troubles your heart?

WOTAN:  O shame and disgrace! Never-ending sorrow! I the saddest of all living beings!

BRUNNHILDE:  Father! How you frighten me! Unburden your heart and tell me your sorrow.

WOTAN:  If I speak it aloud, I will surrender my will forever.

BRUNNHILDE:  To Wotan’s will you are speaking. Who am I but your will?

WOTAN:  When I speak to you, I reveal no secrets but confide in myself, that’s true. When I grew older and the delights of young love had faded, I longed for power. By my all-mighty will I ruled the world. Unwittingly, following the advice of Loge, I bound myself in treaties which have become my undoing. That dreadful Nibelung Alberich placed a curse on love, winning the gold of the Rhine as his reward. I coveted his power and took the ring from him by force, using it to pay for Valhalla’s walls. She who knows all, the wise Erda told me to surrender the ring and warned of a day of doom for the gods. I had to know more. Descending to her realm below, I overcame her with love’s passion after which she revealed her secrets. She also gave me nine daughters, the dearest of which, Brunnhilde, is you. With my precious valkyries I hoped to avert the doom foretold. I ordered you and your sisters to bring valiant warriors who fell on the battlefield to Valhalla to defend its walls.

BRUNNHILDE:  We haven’t failed you, Father. The halls are filled with brave soldiers, ready for battle. What do you fear?

WOTAN:  Erda warned me of something else. Alberich hates me. If he were to win back the ring, he could raise an army mighty enough to conquer Valhalla itself. With the power of the ring he could turn my warriors’ hearts against me. Troubled by this, I considered how I might retrieve the ring myself, but I had made a bargain with the giants. I cannot take back my word. I, god of treaties, am eternally bound by my agreements, carved on my spear. Only one man may attempt what I cannot, a hero who acts independently of my will, without my bidding, unaware of my plan. But how can I create a free man who will nevertheless accomplish what I secretly desire? O divine despair! I can only create slaves. The free man must create himself.

BRUNNHILDE:  But doesn’t Siegmund act on his own now?

WOTAN:  I raised him in the wild forests and taught him all he knows. Even now he carries my sword. I tried to fool myself, but Fricka recognized the deception. Now – O shame!  I must submit to her will.

BRUNNHILDE:  So Siegmund must die?

WOTAN:  I once held Alberich’s golden ring in my hand and felt its power. I cannot escape its curse. I must relinquish the one I love, murder one that I cherish, and betray the one who trusts me. Farewell, divine glory!  I abandon all that I have accomplished; let it fall into ruins. I desire only one thing: the End. Alberich will see to that, and now I understand the prophetess’ words: “When the enemy of love begets a son, the doom of the gods will be near.” I’ve heard a rumor that the Nibelung bought with his gold a woman’s favors and gained a son. Yet I, king of the gods, cannot father one who is truly free. So take my blessing, son of Alberich. I leave you the world as a legacy; may envy and greed gnaw at your soul!

BRUNNHILDE:  Tell me what I must do.

WOTAN:  You must fight on Fricka’s behalf for the honor of marriage. Her will becomes my will, for what good is my own will if I cannot create a free man? You must fight for Fricka’s slave instead.

BRUNNHILDE:  Be merciful, revoke your command. I know you love Siegmund, and for the sake of that love, I’ll shield him from harm.

WOTAN:  Siegmund must fall. Prepare yourself for deadly combat, for Siegmund wields a mighty sword and will not easily be defeated.

BRUNNHILDE:  How can I fight against one whom you taught me to love, and you love still? I cannot obey these false words.

WOTAN:  Rebellious child, how dare you refuse me! What are you but the blind slave of my will? Must I be scorned by my own child? Do not make me angry; your courage would fail you if it faced my lightning’s force. In my heart dwells a rage which could destroy the world I once loved. Woe to the one who defies my will. I warn you; do as I say. Let your one goal be the death of Siegmund. [Wotan exits]

BRUNNHILDE:  Never have I seen him so angry. My weapons feel heavy; when I fought to my liking they seemed so light. Alas, poor Walsung. To be faithful in my task, I must be faithless to you.

 

         The scene changes to a mountain gorge through which Siegmund and Sieglinde are fleeing.

 

SIEGMUND:  Let us rest here awhile.

SIEGLINDE:  Further!  Further!

SIEGMUND:  You need to rest, sweet wife. You’ve been running so swiftly, I could hardly keep up. It’s safe here now. Siegmund will protect you.

SIEGLINDE:  You must leave me. I’m unworthy of you and have defiled your embrace. When I was wrapped in your arms, lost in the ecstasy of love, at the same time I felt horribly ashamed and depraved, an adulterous whore who has betrayed a man she never loved. Flee from this accursed creature; think of me as dead. I can only bring shame on such a pure man as you.

SIEGMUND:  Whatever shame you feel, vengeance shall erase. Let Hunding find us here. Nothung will pierce his heart.

SIEGLINDE:  Listen! The horns – do you hear them? Hunding has summoned his kinsman and their hunting hounds to track down a traitorous wife. Hold me, Siegmund, and do not refuse the kiss of a fallen woman. O hear! That’s Hunding’s horn call. He drives the hounds this way. I can almost see them, terrible sight! baring their fangs, enraged at the scent of blood, tearing at your flesh, your broken sword useless against them! O Siegmund!

SIEGMUND:  Peace, sister, beloved!

 

         Sieglinde faints from fear and sinks to the ground. Siegmund cradles her in his arms. Brunnhilde enters, dismounting from her horse, and appears before Siegmund.

 

BRUNNHILDE:  Siegmund. Look at me. I have come for you.

SIEGMUND:  Tell me who you are, so lovely yet so serious.

BRUNNHILDE:  Only those about to die may see me. He who beholds me has seen the light of his last day. I appear before heroes on the battlefield, those chosen as one of the slain.

SIEGMUND:  The hero who follows you – where do you lead him?

BRUNNHILDE:  The Lord of the Slain has chosen you. To Valhalla you go to meet him.

SIEGMUND:  Does this lord dwell there alone?

BRUNNHILDE:  A host of fallen heroes will welcome you to your new home.

SIEGMUND:  Will my father, Walse, be there?

BRUNNHILDE:  The Walsung will find his father waiting for him.

SIEGMUND:  Are there women in Valhalla?

BRUNNHILDE:  Fair maidens will wait on you. Even Wotan’s daughter will serve you drink.

SIEGMUND:  You are most impressive, child of a god, wondrous to behold. But tell me, will my sister-bride be by my side in this place?

BRUNNHILDE:  Sieglinde must breathe the air of earth for awhile longer. She cannot join you in Valhalla.

SIEGMUND:  Then greet all those in Valhalla, the gods, my father, and the countless warriors – for I will not follow you there.

BRUNNHILDE:  You have seen a valkyrie. You have no choice; you have been chosen.

SIEGMUND:  I must be where my Sieglinde lives, in happiness or sorrow. I do not fear your gaze. You cannot force me to go.

BRUNNHILDE:  In life nothing could force you, I’m sure. But death is the ultimate force.

SIEGMUND:  What man today will be my death?

BRUNNHILDE:  Hunding must slay you in battle.

SIEGMUND:  It will take more than Hunding’s spear to slay me. If you are waiting for someone to die today, wait for him.

BRUNNHILDE:  No, Walsung, for you the lot was cast.

SIEGMUND:  Know you this sword? The one who gave it to me promised I would be victorious. With Nothung in hand I defy your threats.

BRUNNHILDE:  He who provided it now summons you to his side. The sword cannot prevent it.

SIEGMUND:  Silence! You’ll frighten my bride. Alas, sweet wife. All things in the world conspire against you. And the man whom you trusted and gave your love to cannot shelter you from the coming storm. Shame on him who gave me this sword only to take back his pledge in my hour of greatest need. If I must die, I will not join him in Valhalla. I’d rather go to Hel.

BRUNNHILDE:  You care so little of everlasting bliss? Does this poor woman, lying asleep in your lap, mean that much to you?

SIEGMUND:  You are truly beautiful, heavenly creature, but the heart beating in your breast is cold. If all you can do is mock my love, then off with you, unfeeling maid! You may rejoice in my grief and scorn my happiness, but do not talk to me of Valhalla’s delights. I would find none there without Sieglinde.

BRUNNHILDE:  I feel your sorrow, truly I do. I promise to protect your bride from harm.

SIEGMUND:  No one must care for her but me, as long as she lives. If I must die today, then she will die with me. I’ll kill her now while she sleeps.

BRUNNHILDE:  You are mad! Spare her for the sake of the pledge you gave her.

SIEGMUND:  This sword which a traitor gave to one who is true, if it cannot defeat my foe, then let it fell a friend. Take two lives at once, Nothung, unite us in death!

BRUNNHILDE:  Stop! Listen to me, Walsung. Sieglinde must live, with Siegmund by her side. I’ve made my choice. You will be victorious today. Hear the horn call? Prepare yourself. I’ll join you on the battlefield and fight by your side, most blessed of heroes.

 

         Brunnhilde rides away on her horse, while Siegmund continues to hold Sieglinde. Storm clouds darken the sky.

 

SIEGMUND: Sweet sleep soothes my dear one’s sorrows. Is this the valkyrie’s blessing? She seems lifeless, yet lives in the land of dreams. Sleep, beloved, until the battle is over and I return to you. The horn sounds. Let the hunter appear and pay his due.

 

         Siegmund lays her down gently, rises and disappears over the rocks. Sieglinde stirs in her sleep.

 

SIEGLINDE:  When will father be home? Where is my brother? Who are these strangers, mother? They frighten me. Our house – in flames! Billowing smoke choking me, tongues of fire all around! Oh, help, brother! Siegmund! Siegmund! [she awakes]

 

         Siegmund and Hunding appear on a high ridge behind Sieglinde, silhouetted against the sky.

 

HUNDING:  Wehwalt! Stand firm and fight, or face the fury of the hounds.

SIEGMUND:  Face me, coward, do not hide from me.

HUNDING:  For Fricka I strike, you faithless wooer.

SIEGMUND:  You fearlessly threaten women, but now you must confront a man. Fricka will not help you. This sword which I pulled from the tree, you shall taste its sharp blade.

SIEGLINDE:  Men, stop your fighting! Kill me instead!

 

         In a blaze of light, Brunnhilde hovers overhead, protecting Siegmund with her shield.

 

BRUNNHILDE:  Strike him down, Siegmund. Trust in your sword.

 

         Just as Siegmund prepares to strike a fatal blow, a bright red glow breaks through the clouds. Wotan appears, holding out his spear.

 

WOTAN:  Away from the spear! I shatter the sword!

 

         Terrified, Brunnhilde retreats in the presence of the god. Siegmund’s sword strikes the spear and shatters. Hunding pierces Siegmund through the heart and he falls dead. Sieglinde cries out and faints, while Brunnhilde rushes to her aid.

 

BRUNNHILDE: Come, horse! We must escape.

 

         Brunnhilde places Sieglinde on her horse and rides off. Hunding stands over the body of Siegmund, while Wotan looks on with sorrow.

 

WOTAN:  Go, slave, kneel before your mistress, and tell her that Wotan’s spear has avenged her disgrace. Go!

 

         With a contemptuous wave of his hand, Wotan dismisses Hunding and he falls dead.

 

WOTAN:  But Brunnhilde! Where is my treacherous daughter? Woe to her when she must face my wrath!

 

         Wotan disappears into the cloudy sky, pursuing Brunnhilde.

 

 

 

 

 

ACT THREE

 

         On the summit of a rocky mountain, the eight sisters of Brunnhilde are gathering. Each one flies down from the clouds, carrying a fallen warrior on her horse.

 

GERHILDE: Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha  heiaha! Sisters, fly this way, over here.

ORTLINDE:  Bring your stallion to graze with my mare.

WALTRAUTE:  Who’s that on your saddle?

HELMWIGE:  Sintolt the brave.

SCHWERTLEITE:  Better keep your distance. Ortlinde’s mare carries Wittig.

GERHILDE:  They were mortal enemies in life.

ORTLINDE:  Look how the horses challenge each other, excited by these warriors’ hatred for one another.

ROSSWEISSE:  Are we all here? Let’s proceed to Valhalla and deliver our charges.

HELMWIGE:  There are only eight of us. Brunnhilde must be delayed.

GERHILDE:  She brings Siegmund the Walsung.

WALTRAUTE:  Then we must wait. Wotan would be upset if we appeared without her.

SIEGRUNE:  Here she comes, I see her, riding furiously.

ROSSWEISSE:  I never saw a valkyrie fly so swiftly. Who’s that on her horse?

HELMWIGE:  That’s no hero. She’s bringing a woman!

WALTRAUTE:  Brunnhilde, over here! This way!

ORTLINDE:  Sister! What has happened?

BRUNNHILDE:  Oh help me! I’m in desperate need.

WALTRAUTE:  What’s the matter? Why are you fleeing in such haste?

BRUNNHILDE:  For the first time in my life, I run from a foe. The Father of Battles pursues me.

VALKYRIES:  What? Have you lost your senses? What has happened?

BRUNNHILDE:  Oh sisters. Go to the summit and look to the north. Is Wotan drawing near?

ORTLINDE:  Storm clouds gather in the north. The Father of Battles approaches on his steed.

BRUNNHILDE:  The Wild Huntsman draws near. Oh, shield me from him, sisters. Save this woman!

VALKYRIES:  Who is she? What has happened to her?

BRUNNHILDE:  Her name is Sieglinde, sister and wife to Siegmund, whom Wotan declared must die today. But I defied the god and protected the hero with my shield. Wotan intervened with his spear and Siegmund fell. In desperation I rescued this woman, and now I beg you, hide me from his wrath.

VALKYRIES:  Foolish sister, what have you done? Have you indeed challenged the will of the Battle Lord?

BRUNNHILDE:  Woe to Sieglinde if Wotan finds her here! He threatens all the Walsungs. Sisters, who will provide your fastest horse to carry her to safety?

SIEGRUNE:  You want us to defy the god as well?

BRUNNHILDE:  Rossweisse, lend me your horse.

ROSSWEISSE:  My steed could never outrun Wotan.

BRUNNHILDE:  Helmwige, will you help?

HELMWIGE:  I must obey our father.

BRUNNHILDE:  Grimgerde! Gerhilde! Will no one help me protect this wretched woman?

SIEGLINDE:  Do not worry about me. My only friend is death. Who asked you to carry me from the battlefield? I would rather have died, pierced with the same spear which slew my husband. Oh Siegmund, I long to join you! Maid, either receive my curses for separating us, or grant my wish and unite us again by driving your sword through my heart!

BRUNNHILDE:  Oh desperate woman, live for the sake of love. Save the pledge you received from Siegmund. A Walsung stirs in your womb.

SIEGLINDE:  [startled by the news] Then save me, valiant woman! Protect my child! Brave maidens, I beg you!

WALTRAUTE:  The storm approaches.

ORTLINDE:  Who dares to face his wrath?

VALKYRIES:  Away with this cursed woman! She will bring disaster on us all!

SIEGLINDE:  [to Brunnhilde] O save this poor mother!

BRUNNHILDE:  Then run, but you must go alone. I’ll stay behind and face Wotan’s rage.

SIEGLINDE:  Where can I go?

BRUNNHILDE:  Sisters, what lies to the east?

SIEGRUNE:  A dark forest, where Fafner has taken the Nibelung’s gold.

SCHWERTLEITE: The savage giant has transformed himself into a dragon in order to protect his hoard.

GRIMGERDE:  No place for a helpless woman alone.

BRUNNHILDE:  And yet, the forest will hide her from Wotan. He shuns that place.

WALTRAUTE:  He’s almost here.

BRUNNHILDE:  Then hurry to the east. Be brave in the face of all obstacles: hunger, thirst, thorns, and rocks. Laugh at danger, always remembering that you are carrying the noblest hero the world has ever known. Keep these sword fragments safe for him; I gathered them from his father’s side. To the one who will one day wield the newly forged sword, give the name Siegfried, and let him rejoice in victory.

SIEGLINDE:  O wondrous warrior maiden! For the man we both loved, I’ll save what’s most dear. Farewell. May Sieglinde’s woe become your happiness. [she exits]

WOTAN:  [voice from off-stage] Stay, Brunnhilde!

VALKYRIES:  Horse and rider have reached the mountain. Alas, Brunnhilde, vengeance approaches!

BRUNNHILDE:  Help me, sisters! Surely his wrath will crush me if you do not shield me.

VALKYRIES:  Here, hide amongst us. Let him not see you. Look how he storms ahead with fearful steps.

WOTAN:  Where is my disobedient daughter? How dare you try to hide her from me!

VALKYRIES:  The fury in your voice is frightening. What have we done to rouse your anger?

WOTAN:  Do not mock me. Beware my wrath! I know that you give shelter to that eternal outcast, who has cast away her own virtue.

VALKYRIES:  She came to us for help, pleading for our protection. For our frightened sister, we beg you temper your rage. Be merciful, Father.

WOTAN:  You weak-hearted women! Is this how I raised you? I taught you to fight boldly in my cause, not to cower and beg for the sake of a traitor! Know her crime, you pathetic whimperers, for whom your womanly eyes shed a tear. No one knew my innermost thoughts as she did. No one else understood my will and gave birth to my every wish. And now she has severed that sacred bond by disobeying my sovereign command, turning the weapons I provided her against me. Do you hear me, Brunnhilde? Do you cower in fear at the verdict, hoping to escape your just punishment?

BRUNNHILDE:  Here I am, Father. What must I suffer?

WOTAN:  I do not sentence you. You brought all this on yourself. By my will alone you lived – yet against me you have willed. You carried out my orders – yet you have ordered against me. As Shield-Maid you served me – yet against me you have raised your shield. You chose my lot – yet have chosen against me. You brought heroes to me – yet incited a hero against me. Once I knew you as I had made you – now what you are you have made yourself. You are my valkyrie no more.

BRUNNHILDE:  You would cast me away so suddenly?

WOTAN:  No longer shall I send you forth from Valhalla to gather slain warriors to my halls. Never again shall you offer me the drinking horn at my royal banquets. Nevermore shall I delight in your smile. From all the immortals you are cut off. From this day forth I banish you forever.

VALKYRIES:  Alas, O sister!

BRUNNHILDE:  Will you take away all that you have given me?

WOTAN:  The one who subdues you shall take it away. Here on this mountain you shall sleep under my spell. The man who finds you and awakens you shall be your master.

VALKYRIES:  Stop, O Father, take back this curse. Shall our sister be forced to submit to a man? Hear us, O terrible god. Do not lay on her such shame and disgrace.

WOTAN:  You heard my decree. Your faithless sister shall never ride with you again as a valkyrie. One day she will surrender her maidenhood to a husband. To him will she give her obedience, and sit by the hearth and sew, the laughingstock of all who knew her former glory. Does this frighten you? Then abandon your lost sister to her fate, and do not seek to assist her again, or else the same fate will befall you as well.

 

         The valkyries fly from the mountaintop in terror, leaving Brunnhilde alone with Wotan.

 

BRUNNHILDE:  Was my crime so shameful that you must punish me with endless shame? Was it so disgraceful that I must be brought low to the depths of disgrace? Did my action dishonor you so that I must be stripped of all honor? Look at me, father. Calm your temper and explain to me what secret guilt compels you to disown your child in this way.

WOTAN:  Question yourself. Your actions provide the answer.

BRUNNHILDE:  I followed your orders.

WOTAN:  Did I order you to protect Siegmund?

BRUNNHILDE:  Thus you commanded me.

WOTAN:  But I rescinded that command.

BRUNNHILDE:  Only after Fricka turned your will against itself. By submitting to her wishes, you became your own enemy.

WOTAN:  You understood me well, but foolishly questioned my resolve. I had to punish Siegmund’s fault and now must punish you.

BRUNNHILDE:  I may not be wise, but one thing I know: you loved Siegmund. I recognized the struggle in you, trying to forget that love, trying to think only of what he had done.

WOTAN:  You knew all this and yet protected him?

BRUNNHILDE:  For your sake I kept my eyes on the one thing which you would not acknowledge: that you had turned your back on him. In battle I always guarded your back. I saw what you could not see. Doomed to die, Siegmund stood before me. I saw in his eyes grief and defiance, love and despair. My heart filled with sympathy. I had to save him. Victory or death, I chose to share Siegmund’s fate. I was true to the will of him who had first taught me to love this man. In obedience to that will, I disobeyed your command.

WOTAN:  Thus you did what I longed to do but could not. But how little you understood the torment I was feeling, torn between my love and my need to save the world, I had to sacrifice the only one who could accomplish what I could not. I turned on myself, and in the greatest of sorrow I wished only for the world’s end. How much I suffered –  while you indulged yourself in love. So follow your heart away from me. No more will I share your counsel. We must part forevermore.

BRUNNHILDE:  How little I understood, when stunned by your command, I did the only thing I could: I loved the one whom you loved. But now, if I must leave you, if you must abandon that part of yourself which once was united by the strongest bond, don’t subject that dear part to shame and disgrace. Think how this would also disgrace you. Your honor would be stained if I suffer dishonor.

WOTAN:  You chose to follow love; now you must follow a husband.

BRUNNHILDE:  If I must leave Valhalla forever and submit to a man’s desires, promise not to give me as a prize to a coward. Let the man who possesses me be worthy of me. 

WOTAN:  You chose to leave me; now I cannot choose your destiny.

BRUNNHILDE:  You have fathered a noble race, no cowards among your children. I know the Walsungs will produce a hero. 

WOTAN:  Do not speak to me of them. I have severed those ties.

BRUNNHILDE:  She who disobeyed you has rescued the race. Sieglinde bears the holiest fruit.

WOTAN:  I’ll not protect her or her child.

BRUNNHILDE:  She carries the sword you gave to Siegmund.

WOTAN:  And which I shattered! Do not try to change my mind. The lot has been cast. I’ve delayed too long. The sentence must be carried out.

BRUNNHILDE:  What must become of me?

WOTAN:  With a magic spell I’ll put you to sleep. The man who awakens you will be your lord and master.

BRUNNHILDE:  If I must lie here as helpless prey for the lowliest coward, you must grant me this. Shield this spot with some frightening terror, so that only the bravest of men will find me.

WOTAN:  You ask too much of me.

BRUNNHILDE:  You must do this for me! Trample the child who lies begging at your feet. Plunge your spear into her heart. Destroy her body entirely. Only do not put her to such dreadful shame! At your command, encircle this mountain with fire which no fearful coward dare approach.

WOTAN:  Farewell, you glorious child, pride of my heart! If I must lose you, never to ride alongside you into battle, never to drink from your cup at dinner, never to rejoice in your smile, then a bridal fire shall burn for you such as never blazed for any bride! Flames shall surround this mountain through which only the bravest shall pass, a hero more free than the god. Let me gaze on your radiant eyes one last time. On a happier man they shall one day shine; for the god, they must close in lasting sleep. With this kiss I remove your divine nature, and turn from you forever. – Loge! Hear me. Just as I once bound you, I bind you again today. Arise, flickering flame and ring this spot with fire. – He who fears my spear shall never pass through the fire.

 

         Wotan looks back sorrowfully one last time at the sleeping Brunnhilde, then departs as flames engulf the mountain.

 

End of Part Two