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Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Richard Wagner's musical drama Der Ring Des Nibelungen is a tour de force on many levels. Running sixteen hours over the course of four days, this operatic story-cycle retells the Nordic saga of Sigurd the dragon-slayer (here in his Germanic guise as Siegfried) using both densely worded alliterative verse and thematic musical motifs to express on both an emotional and intellectual level the universal mythological significance in this story of human spiritual evolution, as revealed through the psycho-theological archetypes of primeval gods and demigods. In other words, a story of everyman.

  • The Nibelung Myth
  • Armour Translations
  • Das Rheingold
  • Die Walküre
  • Siegfried
  • Götterdämmerung

The Nibelungen-Myth as Sketch for a Drama

Richard Wagner (1848)

Translated by William Ashton Ellis (1898)

[70.4 KB]

Wagner began his work in the summer of 1848 (completing it 28 years later in 1876) with a prose synopsis later published as Der Nibelungen-Mythus. Als Entwurf zu einem Drama, translated into English 50 years later by W.A. Ellis in the version available here.

Over the course of 28 years, Wagner created his mammoth work by drawing out the psychological and spiritual essence of the Old Norse story, deftly crafting it into a work more relevant and poignant to his modern audience, and one which has since become one of the benchmark epics of the operatic stage.

The Rhinegold
& The Valkyrie

tr. Margaret Armour
ill. Arthur Rackham

[4.36 MB]    [8.87 MB]

Siegfried & The
Twilight of the Gods

tr. Margaret Armour
ill. Arthur Rackham

[3.97 MB]    [7.40 MB]

Das Rheingold begins the story as a prelude, telling of the theft and cursing of the Rhinegold by the dwarf Alberich from the three Rhine Maidens, and of Odin's attempts to wrest it from him as payment to two giants who are holding the goddess Freya hostage for wages earned in building the golden hall of Valhalla for the gods of Asgard. As an introductory drama, this sets up a conflict between the forces of love and power which will play out among both gods and men in the subsequent trilogy...

DAS RHEINGOLD - Complete Study Guide

This Comparative Study Guide utilizes a three-column format with line-by-line English translations by Alfred Forman (1877) and Frederick Jameson (1900), along with running commentaries from six sources, including:

  • George Dippold, Richard Wagner's Poem... Explained (1888)
  • Gustav Kobbé, How to Understand Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung (1895)
  • Jessie L. Weston, The Legends of the Wagner Drama (1896)
  • William C. Ward, A Study of the Inner Significance of Richard Wagner's Music-Drama (1889)
  • Richard Aldrich, A Guide to The Ring of the Nibelung (1905)
  • Gertrude Hall, The Wagnerian Romances (1907).

In this way you can not only study the primary texts quite closely, but also refer to the contemporary academic scholarship of the day as you go along, more effectively drawing out the deeper meaning and subtext of complex passages. Additionally, two among the commentators describe the relevant musical phrases used to represent each character and action, so that the Comparative Guide may be used to study Wagner's music as well as the Siegfried story.

Alfred Forman's edition was not only the first translation of Wagner's libretto into English, but the first translation of Wagner's Ring cycle into any language. Forman's is the more literal, but less poetic of the two presented here, so I find these versions complement each other nicely.

Click the cover image to download the file in PDF format.

DIE WALKÜRE - Complete Study Guide


SIEGFRIED - Complete Study Guide


GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG - Complete Study Guide


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