Similar to many myths, there is some resource or object that must not be meddled within Richard Wagner’s opera “Der Ring Des Nibelungen.” It is the gold at the bottom of the river Rhine.
“A Dwarf named Alberich steals the gold and crafts it into a ring that grants one the power to rule the world, but the wearer must give up love,” said Associate Professor of English David Werner.
On Monday night about 25 La Verne students, faculty and staff filled the Campus Center Ballroom to see Werner’s presentation, “My Precious Illusion: Power in Wagner and Tolkien.”
The lecture focused on different parts of mythology, particularly Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring Des Nibelungen” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
“Mythology is a reflection of what is going on here, inside, in my life,” Werner said. “You must be able to look through the myth to see what is beyond it.”
The third segment of the University of La Verne’s Ring Festival lecture series brought an impressive crowd.
Before going into the mythology of Wagner’s work, Werner presented the three questions most mythology tries to answer. Who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?
Werner also brought up commonality among mythological traditions.
“Many mythological traditions say this (world) is an illusion,” Werner said.
Wagner’s story escalates when the chief of Gods, Wotan, steals the ring from Alberich, who puts a curse on the ring.
Whomever wears the ring will live in fear, and be robbed and killed by the next wearer.
Werner presented a PowerPoint slide show detailing the events, as well as references to “Lord of the Rings,” “Der Ring Des Nibelungen” and the Garden of Eden in the Christian belief.
In all three stories the power of the item that was meant to be undisturbed does not live up to the bearers’ expectations.
It instead makes the bearer want to get rid of the supposed powerful item immediately.
In the stories, death and aging become a factor in the characters’ lives, leading them all to seek some sort of origin and meaning to their lives.
In the Garden of Eden, people seek to return to the garden to gain the power and knowledge it offers.
Throughout the stories of Lord of the Rings and “Der Ring Des Nibelungen,” the characters seek to return the rings to their origins to try to break the curses.
“The purpose of the divine comedy of the myth or the fairy tale is to transcend the reality of our experience,” Werner said.
He added that the idea of these rings was symbolic because the ring is not just a mythological object but a representation of something inside human beings.
“The gold is within us,” Werner said. “The function is to bring the gold back so it can illuminate. The gold is the potential, the possibility… You have everything in you to be everything you want to become in life,” Werner said.
Werner ended his presentation by playing a segment from Wagner’s “Der Ring Des Nibelungen.”
He asked the audience to think of it as more than just people singing about gold but about possibility.
“They are singing about you, the potential in everyone,” Werner said. “The goal of life should be getting the gold back to where it belongs.”
Audience members took the message to heart.
“I liked how he related it to us, and how we can relate it to a personal journey,” said junior English major Jean Pierce. “I think it was a great job.”
“I actually learned a lot,” said Kathleen Lamkin, professor of music.
She added that it was interesting to look at “Der Ring Des Nibelungen” beyond what is seen visually.
On April 24 Sean Dillon, assistant professor of theatre arts, will present the fourth segment of the “Ring Festival La Verne” Lecture Series in Dailey Theatre. It will be followed by Lamkin, professor of music on April 21 in the Campus Center.
Michael Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.