Mime, Alberich's brother, is forging a blade in his cave within the
forest. The Nibelung dwarf is plotting to obtain the Ring for himself, having
raised Siegfried to kill Fafner for him. He needs a sword for Siegfried to use,
but the youth has broken every blade he has made. Siegfried returns from his
wanderings in the forest, demanding to know his parentage, and Mime is forced to
explain how he took in Siegfried's mother, Sieglinde, who died giving birth. He
shows Siegfried the shards of Nothung, and Siegfried orders him to reforge the
Siegfried departs, leaving Mime in despair: it is beyond his
skill to repair Nothung. An old man (Wotan in disguise) abruptly appears at his
door. The Wanderer wagers his head on answering any three riddles from Mime, and
Mime agrees in order to dispose of his unwelcome guest. He asks the Wanderer to
name the races that live beneath the ground, on the surface, and the skies.
These are the Nibelung, the Giants, and the Gods, as the Wanderer correctly
answers. Now Mime is forced to wager his own head on answering the Wanderer's
riddles. The Wanderer asks him to name the race most beloved of Wotan, but most
harshly treated; the name of the blade that can destroy Fafner; and the person
who can make the blade. Mime gives the answer to the first two riddles: the
Walsungs and Nothung. However, he is unable to answer the last riddle. Wotan
spares Mime, telling him that only "he who does not know fear" can reforge
Nothung, and leaves Mime's head forfeit to that person.
and is annoyed by Mime's lack of progress. Mime realizes that the one thing he
has not taught Siegfried is fear. Siegfried is eager to learn it, and Mime
promises to teach him by bringing him to Fafner the dragon. Since Mime was
unable to forge Nothung, Siegfried decides to do it himself. He succeeds by
shredding the metal, melting it, and casting it anew. In the meantime, Mime,
realizing that by the terms of his agreement with the Wanderer his head is now
forfeit to Siegfried, brews a poisoned drink to offer Siegfried after the youth
has defeated the dragon.Act II
The Wanderer arrives at
the entrance to Fafner's cave, where Alberich is keeping a vigil. The old
enemies quickly recognize each other. Alberich blusters, boasting of his plans
for ruling the World once the Ring is returned to him. Wotan calmly states that
he does not intend to obtain the Ring. To Alberich's surprise, Wotan wakes
Fafner and informs the dragon that a hero is coming to fight him. Fafner
dismisses the threat, refuses to surrender the Ring to Alberich, and returns to
sleep. Both Wotan and Alberich depart.
At daybreak, Siegfried and Mime
arrive. Mime decides to draw back while Siegfried confronts the dragon. As
Siegfried waits for the dragon to appear, he notices a woodbird in a tree.
Befriending it, he attempts to mimic the bird's song using a reed pipe, but is
unsuccessful. He then plays a tune on his horn, which brings Fafner out of his
cave. After a short exchange, they fight, and Siegfried stabs Fafner in the
heart with Nothung.
In his last moments, Fafner learns Siegfried's name,
and tells him to beware of treachery. When Siegfried draws his sword from the
corpse, his hands are burned by the dragon's blood, and he instinctively puts
them to his mouth. On tasting the blood, he finds that he can understand the
woodbird's song. Following its instructions, he takes the Ring and the Tarnhelm
from Fafner's hoard. Mime reappears, and Siegfried complains that he has still
not learned the meaning of fear. Mime offers him the poisoned drink. However,
the dragon's blood allows Siegfried to read Mime's treacherous thoughts, and he
slays the Nibelung. Siegfried then throws Mime's body into the treasure cave-and
places Fafner's body in the cave entrance to block it as well.
woodbird now sings of a woman sleeping on a rock surrounded by magic fire.
Siegfried, wondering if he can learn fear from this woman, heads toward the
The Wanderer appears on the path to
Brunnhilde's rock and summons Erda, the earth goddess. Erda, appearing confused,
is unable to offer any advice. Wotan informs her that he no longer fears the end
of the Gods; indeed, it is his desire. His heritage will be left to Siegfried
the Walsung, and their child, Brunnhilde, will "work the deed that redeems the
World." Dismissed,Erda sinks back into the earth.
Siegfried arrives, and
the Wanderer questions the youth. Siegfried, who does not recognize his
grandfather, answers insolently and starts down the path towards Brunnhilde's
rock. The Wanderer blocks his path, but Siegfried breaks Wotan's spear with a
blow from Nothung. Wotan calmly gathers up the pieces and
Siegfried enters the ring of fire, emerging on Brunnhilde's
rock. At first, he thinks the armored figure is a man. However, when he removes
the armor, he finds a woman beneath. Uncertain about what to do, Siegfried at
last experiences fear. In desperation, he kisses Brunnhilde, waking her from her
magic sleep. Hesitant at first, Brunnhilde is won over by Siegfried's love, and
renounces the world of the Gods. Together, they hail "light-bringing love, and
laughing death."And the curtain falls.