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Night Falls on the Gods

New – 15 April 2007

In Richard Wagner’s great quartet of operas, The Ring of the Nibelung (commonly referred to as the Ring Cycle), the fourth play is entitled Die Götterdämmerung. Loosely translated into English, this title becomes Night Falls on the Gods.

[The literal meaning is actually Gods gloaming (the latter word being typically translated as “dusk” or “twilight”). Opera buffs, nevertheless typically refer to the fourth opera as The Dusk of the Gods, The Twilight of the Gods, or Night Falls on the Gods. Se la... well not vie... maybe opera.]

The complete Ring Cycle is based heavily upon Norse mythology and the symbolism that so often accompanies heroic tales and grandiose schemes to attain power. In this regard, Wagner's tour de force is a treasure trove of hidden and sometimes esoteric understandings. The emphasis on these webpages is an appreciation of just such symbolisms and their meanings. These include two intriguing and highly speculative ideas, both filled with all manner of possibilities (as are most highly speculative ideas -- that is to say, filled with all manner of possibilities).

The first wild and crazy idea is that we have here a classic tale describing the departure of some very real but nevertheless alleged gods and goddesses and/or rulers from the stage called earth. This would be curtains for them, so to speak. Of course, we may also be talking about some other form of curtain, whereby we are subsequently advised to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Either case suggests that we have here, on the one hand, a tale of the SumerianAnunnaki gods and goddesses picking up their marbles and going home -- and on the other hand, simply slipping below the radar net and thereafter operating covertly.

Such an interpretation is unlikely to be attributed to Richard Wagner inasmuch as he may have been inspired more by the dramatic appeal of the classic Nordic myths than by the underpinnings which the myths themselves might symbolize. Wagner, after all, was strongly influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy which placed art above science (an appealing characteristic of any philosophy for an artist/composer), and at the same time a philosophy which had leanings toward Buddhism. The inherent pessimism of will finding itself in a world of desire from which escape is inevitably arduous at best does tend to make one sigh heavily on a routine basis.

This is not to say that Schopenhauer or Wagner were without a sense of humor. For example, Schopenhauer

"wrote many disparaging remarks about Germany and the Germans. A typical example is 'For a German it is even good to have somewhat lengthy words in his mouth, for he thinks slowly, and [the long words] give him time to reflect.' (The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 2, Ch. 12)"

Combining words such as Die Götterdämmerung is a case in point. Another classic is:


Which translated to the English becomes: "Beef  labeling oversight transfer law", [3]

Nevertheless, the pessimistic view of a pretty crazy world (populated by very long words) by both Schopenhauer and Wagner does lend itself to a a second possible interpretation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. This is George Bernard Shaw’s thesis that Richard Wagner was challenging the hideous nature of nineteenth century commercialism (Judenthum) and capitalism (the latter for which George makes an excellent case) [1]. Just as the gods and goddesses of antiquity may have gone underground, the ruling elite, i.e. the capitalists and the aristocracies, may have cloaked their activities as well and thus have attempted to avoid the age old problem of rulers: those horrendous nemeses of revolution, regicide and social justice.

There is, of course, a third possibility, perhaps even more intriguing than the first two. This latter possibility is that both interpretations are valid in some clever, intertwined manner. It's a matter of different levels being present simultaneously or simply coinciding with one another. It may be that the ruling elite and the gods and goddesses of antiquity (not to mention latter day) are both intentionally avoiding the limelight. For purposes of these webpages, we will assume this to be the case and endeavor to consider all manner of symbolic underpinnings involved in Richard Wagner's masterpiece and what such understandings can tell us..

Clearly, the aristocracy of Shaw’s day undoubtedly still exists today, even in the United States (although it may be keeping an ever lower profile and to all extents ruling as the powers behind the throne). The gods and goddesses – or just those beings whose powers and abilities appear to be far superior to mere humans or the common man – may also be continuing to run the affairs of Earth, albeit possibly from an even deeper and far more removed covert level.

At the same time, any and all rulers may be using minions to do their dirty work via the guise of capitalism, democracy, religion, and/or other forms of involuntary slavery. And while these minions may be partially or totally out of control of their masters, they nonetheless remain minions. Shaw’s interpretation of Wagner’s thesis may be thought of as assuming that the minions are indeed out of control, and that the ruling gods have turned to salvation from a wholly original source, that of the hero.

The inherent difficulty is this scenario is that the hero is not without his own problems as Wagner’s hero, Siegfried, demonstrates in grandiose operatic detail. The Hero’s Journey can in fact be a lonely trek and one that does not lend itself to establishing a continuing and stable structure of what might be called the hero’s intented society. Wagner, nevertheless, may have seen the hero as the best hope of mankind. In the spirit of Shaw’s concept that life is an ever-evolving continuum, we -- from our latter day vantage point -- may recognize that the next step beyond the hero may be the arrival of the Indigo Children and/or Homo sapiens sapiens sapiens. Wagner, basing his view on legends and myths may have seen only the beginnings of the gods’ departure, never guessing the next possible stages of the never-ending evolutionary story.

In addition to the thesis that Wagner’s gods and goddesses are real, there is the distinct possibility that they have become similarly perplexed with what to do with an unruly mankind. Minions of the hierarchy do indeed continue to plague the Earth – with or without the consent of the gods – and as a consequence, one can easily appreciate the gods’ dilemma. Their own creation has taken a destiny of its own – a destiny quite possibly directly contrary to the gods’ wishes – and now threatens the gods themselves. It’s the sort of thing that can really ruin a god's day (however long that day might be).

Assuming that there are some hidden, esoteric messages in Wagner’s operas, one might wonder about the implications of a curtain call for the gods. One can, for example, certainly ask whether or not the Extraterrestrials (“gods”) who first came to Earth are still here. One can also ask if the use of mythologies and ancient legends in the great works of the masters are intended to tell us in dramatic terms some of the details of any such world shaking event as the departure of its ruling deities. By recourse to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, we might even be able to answer four fundamental questions:

1) Did the gods (extraterrestrials) depart?

2) If so, why did the gods depart?

3) Where did the gods go?

4) Any chance of their imminent return?

Elsewhere we have suggested that Tolkien’s elves were akin to the Anunnaki, that they left this earth after having grown weary of men and their incessant wars, and that they thereafter journeyed to the “Gray Havens”. The latter location may be simply the far side or interior of the moon (the moon being decidedly gray and in the highest of speculative fashions, just possibly artificial). The first three of our questions might thus be answered, or at least hinted at. Meanwhile, in terms of Wagner’s Night Falls on the Gods, it appears at some point in the historical narrative of the last three thousand years that the gods burned down Valhalla and left for parts unknown

Yes, yes, of course. One is fully aware that The Ring of the Nibelung is based upon the Burgundian folklore of The Nibelungenlied and, to some extent, the Volsunga Saga. [1] In other words, it derives from (gasp!) mythology. Admittedly, dramatics based on mythology are often accorded the same credibility as Washington politicians – i.e., no credibility whatsoever.

But such is not the understanding in this website. On the contrary, there appears to be the justifiable and legitimate position that mythology is simply an oral, terse history of what has gone before. [Politicians, meanwhile, are all too real, verbose (the opposite of terse), and continue to be wholly untrustworthy, non credible, and one of the lower forms of life in the known universe. But I'm not bitter. They do in fact make for great comic relief.]

With the Anunnaki of Sumerian fame having been up to all manner of historical antics, it naturally follows that perhaps the Nibelung legends may be somehow related and carry an equivalent level of historical accuracy. The quest, therefore, is to consider how this might be, and simultaneously, think in terms of the governing mess with which they have left us and which George Bernard Shaw discusses in some detail.

If such an exercise seems a bit much for something as mundane as Grand Opera, one might wish to recall George Bernard Shaw’s words:

“The truth is, a man whose imagination cannot serve him better than the most costly devices of the imitative scene painter, should not go to the theatre, and as a matter of fact does not.” [1]

If the skeptics have now been properly put in their place, we might add some additional fuel to the fire, i.e. that “the Grail and the Ring are closely affiliated and, in some measure, synonymous.” [2] This may add considerable impact to the story and complement an enormous amount of alternative (and probably more accurate) history of the ancient world and its aftermath. It’s also adds a bit of controversy – just for laughs.

To fully appreciate Wagner’s swan song to the Gods, it is necessary to review in detail the four dramas of the Ring Cycle: The Rhine Gold (a prologue to the other three), The Valkyrie, Siegfried, and of course, Die Götterdämmerung. As a precursor to delving into each of the individual operas, however, we might consider an executive summary of the Ring Cycle, in this case, Laurence Gardner’s synopsis, to wit:

“In Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, the warrior Siegfried obtains the golden Ring of the Rhinemaidens, which had been stolen from them by Alberic the Nibelung, Dwarf Lord of the Underworld. He [Alberic] had lost it to the sky-god Wotan (the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Odin), following which Siegfried won it by killing a dragon. The Ring (forged from the enchanted flat-stone of The Rhine Gold) had the power to afford its master the lordship of all the world, but only at the cost of forsaking love and selling his soul to the Ring’s awesome power.

“At the top of a mountain, surrounded by a ring of fire, Siegfried discovers the sleeping Brunhilde and awakens her with a kiss (a familiar scene in the Sleeping Beauty story of Briar Rose). Brunhilde, it transpires, is the daughter of Wotan – [and] a Valkyrie goddess turned mortal for angering her father. Having been released by her earthly hero, Brunhilde dutifully swears her love and allegiance to Siegfried, who gives her the golden Ring as his pledge before continuing his adventures into the Rhineland. At the Court of the Gibichungs he is given a potion which makes him forget Brunhilde and fall in love with Princess Gutrune, but when the Valkyrie discovers this she pursues a course of vengeance and masterminds Siegfried’s death. [Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!] Afterwards, however, she realizes her error and throws herself upon Siegfried’s funeral pyre to be with him in eternity. [Brunhilde was probably a blonde.] The magical Ring that Siegfried gave to Brunhilde is retrieved from the ashes by the Rhinemaiden guardians of the gold and, by virtue of this along with Brunhilde’s self-sacrifice, a hitherto curse placed upon the Ring by Alberic the Nibelung is lifted.

“Upon the final cleansing of the Ring by the Rhinemaidens, Wotan perishes, together with his dream kingdom of Valhalla – and with the Ring now back in its rightful hands, the world is redeemed and the Cycle is complete. And so, once again the traditional Ring lore is apparent – just as in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – for the Ring is finally seen to destroy whoever holds it without the right of affinity.”

Thus armed, one can leap directly to the four operas of the Ring Cycle, and peruse these ideas in more detail.

The Rhine Gold

The Valkyrie


Die Götterdämerung


[It was very tempting to have the last three links take the reader to the first link – just in case one was attempted to read things out of their proper place. Or else at least add a page chastising the reader for skipping the earlier words of wisdom! But the Norns intervened. Bummer!]



[1] George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Niblung’s Ring, Dover Publications, New York, 1967 (an unabridged and unaltered republication of the fourth edition (1923), as published by Constable & Co., London).

[2] Laurence Gardner, Realm of the Ring Lords; Beyond the Portal of the Twilight World, Media Quest, 2000.

[3] http://courses.csusm.edu/grmn201mh/long%20words.htm


Back to:

Laurence Gardner



Annals of Earth

Chronicles of Earth

Forward to:

The Rhine Gold

The Valkyrie


Die Götterdämerung

Immanuel Velikovsky

600 B. C. E.

History 009



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