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The Ring Cycle's characters

Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle: The Rhinemaidens and the Norns

Discover the characters

By Coline Delreux 23 November 2020

Serie

© Pablo Grand Mourcel

Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle: The Rhinemaidens and the Norns

The characters in the Ring Cycle are primarily inspired from Medieval transcriptions of Norse and Germanic mythology, and more particularly from the 13th century German saga The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs). As he developed the librettos of the four operas which make up The Ring of the Nibelung, Richard Wagner brought those legends and their variations closer to his other sources of inspiration—namely Greek tragedy and Shakespearian drama—and added his own interpretations.


The Rhinemaidens

© Pablo Grand Mourcel

In the Ring cycle, the Rhinemaidens, Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde, are a trio of elemental creatures from the depths of the river who are also the guardians of the gold. If at the beginning of the narrative, they divulge the secret of the gold to Alberich, it is because it is unthinkable for them to renounce love. They cannot imagine that a creature can be so hungry for power. Their insouciance is the expression of a naïve harmony that unites them to the mythical world. In Götterdämmerung, they try to convince Siegfried to give them back the ring. When the latter refuses, they inform him of the ring’s curse and predict his imminent demise.

The Norns

© Pablo Grand Mourcel

In Scandinavian mythology, the Norns are characterised by their capacity to determine the course of events or at least to predict them. In Germanic mythology, these three unreal creatures are the counterpart of the three Parcae of Greece. Daughters of Erda, they spin the thread of fate and are the collective memory of the world. The three Norns in the Ring cycle have a distinct role. The first personifies the past, the second the present and the third, the future. Like their mother Erda, they are associated with darkness and the night, namely, a form of intuitive and visionary awareness.

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