A tale in images of Der Ring des Nibelungen for which inspiration was sought in Steampunk. The images were generated with AI software.
After the opera that bears his name, Siegfried takes some quality time with Brünnhilde. He now has a life he did not know before. Not that he has now become a proper family man. He is still a rascal, some tableware occasionally breaks, but he leads, especially for a hero who killed a dragon, a relatively quiet life.
Weaving the Rope of Destiny, the Norns read of the past, the present and the future. No good news for the gods coming up. As their narration approaches the point where the fate of the ring becomes clear the rope breaks. Well, we will see for ourselves in due time.
Not that he didn't want to break it to Brunnhilde sooner but now he really needs to go. In search of new adventures. After all, Siegfried is the hero of this story and too much domestic happiness knocks the story dead. After kissing her goodbye he gets into his zeppelin, on his journey he sees the Rhine below.
Siegfried is on his way to the world of the Gibichungen, the humans in this story. And with the arrival of humans on the scene, things take another dramatic and decisive turn. But first Siegfried is welcomed in a beautiful hall (for those who have a taste for it) by Gunther, king of the Gibichungen people.
Gunther needs to get a woman. A woman worthy of a king and Hagen, son of Alberich, has come up with a cunning plan for that. Brünnhilde is the perfect bride for Gunther and to make that happen Siegfried is going to help him. Siegfried himself doesn't know that, as he doesn't know anything anymore after Hagen pours him a cup of tea. What Siegfried does know is that he is going to court the woman sitting there at the bar (her name is Gutrune)
While Siegfried is offered a cup of tea on the other side of the banks of the Rhine, Brünnhilde is also having tea. Waltraute, sister in Valkyrie affairs, is visiting but things don't really want to get cosy. She won't give away that ring she got from Siegfried, even when Waltraute kindly but urgently asks her to. (Neither would you if you were asked to give away your wedding ring.)
But nastier matters await Brünnhilde. Siegfried, with no active memory of her, has fallen for Hagen's trick and is on his way to Brünnhilde to win her for Gunther. With the help of the Tarnhelm, he takes the guise of Gunther, himself too weak to make a sturdy woman like Brunnhilde his own, and takes Brünnhilde back to the Gibichungen court.
Brunnhilde does not exactly react relaxed when she finds out that Siegfried has cheated on her with another woman. She seeks revenge. And in the same way that Siegfried let himself be used by Hagen previously, Brünnhilde lets herself be used by Hagen. She engages in a plot to kill Siegfried.
Siegfried is always a cheerful guy but today he is extra cheerful. Today he goes hunting with Hagen and his men. But first he is going to tease some Rhinemaidens who are interested in that ring of his. Shall he give it back? (Perhaps/perhaps not.)
(ominous music playing)
After the dramatic events during the hunting party in the forest where Hagen kills Siegfried, we are heading towards the finale of Götterdämmerung and the end of the entire Ring cycle.
When Brünnhilde finds out that it was Wotan who was behind it all, has tricked her, she is in a blaze. The gods need to go and with them mostly everything and everyone else. Even her favourite horse Grane, a loyal companion in good times and bad, does not escape her destructive drift. The world needs to be cleansed and everyone needs to do their part.
A woman setting the world on fire. Brunnhilde has never been a pussy but the injustice done to her fuels her anger with a deeply felt determination.
With Valhalla going up in flames, the world as we know it comes to an end. An end that harbours a new beginning. The beginning of a world without gods.
Go and rest Wotan, your time is (finally) up.
The Rhine overflows its banks, extinguishes the flames and the Rhinemaidens swim in to claim the ring. The Rhinegold is back where it belongs, at the bottom of the Rhine, where we can only hope the daughters of the Rhine will do a better job of guarding it this time.
We leave it here with the man who set all of the preceding drama in motion. What has become of Alberich? The story goes that, after the Rhine overflew its banks, he found shelter in an abandoned mine. Thus surviving, as the only one of the main characters, the story of Der Ring des Nibelungen. A story that is, after all, named after him.
Stories circulate of people having seen Alberich years after the world of the gods had come to an end. The dwarf is said to lead a reclusive life and rarely go out. Waiting for time to come and get him too. But if you do happen to see him, perhaps you should ask him about it, about the story of the ring. Maybe it will teach you something. About yourself. About the world you live in - a world without gods.
Software: StableDiffusion XL, Photoshop, After Effects
- Wouter de Moor