Downfall of the Gods

THE DOWNFALL OF THE GODS

When Brunhilde promised to become Siegfried's wife she well knew what it would cost her. She would no longer be of the family of the gods, nor would she have strength and wisdom beyond other mortal women. Yet she now had no regrets. Her love for her hero eclipsed every other thing, and she knew only that she was entirely happy in the present.

Long the lovers sat and talked, forgetful of all the outside world. Siegfried told Brunhilde of his adventures; his fight with the dragon; his possession of the Ring; and finally his encounter with the mysterious stranger whose spear he had shattered.

Brunhilde started up at this. She had recognised Wotan at once from the description.

"The spear was broken , you say?" she exclaimed questioningly. "Are you sure it was broken?"

"It fell shivered upon the ground beneath my sword."

"What did the stranger do?"

"He looked sadly at me, saying that he was powerless to hinder me further. Then he vanished suddenly."

"Ah, woe to the gods!" ejaculated the maiden. "Their doom is indeed coming upon them! Siegfried, the spear you broke was the dread Spear of Authority with which great Wotan ruled the world. Now, all the old order of things shall pass away. Walhalla itself must fall, because of the curse of the Ring."

"The curse of the Ring?" asked Siegfried in an astonished voice. "What is that?"

"It is the sad fate which has followed upon the heels of a bad deed," she answered. "King Wotan himself told me the tale upon that day so long ago when I disobeyed him." She shuddered slightly at the memory, then went on; "It is bound up in your own fate, so I will tell you also the story."

Then Siegfried listened with wide-open eyes while Brunhilde told him of the lost Rhine-Gold; the building of Walhalla; the reward of the giants; and the curse of the Ring. His breath was bated and his eyes were very moist when she told further of Siegmund and Sieglinde and the wrath of Wotan.

"Then you were the protector of my father and mother!" he said, embracing her joyfully. "Ah, how much love and devotion do I owe you, fairest and dearest of goddess-maidens!"

"Will you never forget me?" she asked.

By way of reply he drew the magic Ring from his finger and placed it upon hers.

"Let this be our troth," he said. "From this moment it becomes a blessing instead of a curse, and our lives shall be one life for evermore."

"It shall tell me always of you," answered Brunhilde. "For I know you cannot linger here, dearly as I should desire it. You come of a race of heroes, and great deeds await you upon earth. Your sword must not grow rusty in idleness, nor your strength weak through ease."

"'Tis true," he said, with a sad but resolute look in his blue eyes, as he glanced far over the nestling valleys. "'Tis true that my lifework is yet to be begun. But, alas! Brunhilde, how can I leave you? You are the only person I have ever known that gave me sympathy or love."

Brunhilde pressed his hands tenderly.

"My sympathy and love shall always be for you!" she whispered; "and here shall I wait your return to me. Loki will build his barrier of fire about me once more, and only you, the hero who knows no fear, can find your way back again.

"And now take with you Grani, my good horse. He can no longer fly through the clouds as formerly, when his mistress was one of the immortals. But he will go through fire and water for you, and will be your devoted slave."

The maiden called the beautiful horse, which had been aroused out of sleep at the same time she was awakened, and which was now grazing near by. Grani came to them whinnying gently. Siegfried patted the steed's soft nose, then took the bridle slowly, as if unwilling to speak. He girded on his sword, placed his helmet firmly upon his head, and slung his bugle around his shoulders.

"Farewell, beloved!" said Brunhilde softly.

"Farewell, beloved!" he answered. "My hunting-horn shall tell you from the valley all that I cannot say."

One lingering embrace, and he turned and led his steed down the steep path. Brunhilde watched his descent with shining eyes. Presently from the valley below she heard the mellow notes of the horn sweet and clear. Then the faint gallop of hoofs told her that Siegfried had gone forth into the world to play the part Fate gave him.

Several days passed by. Grani steadily and swiftly bore his rider over mountains, through valleys, and across rivers with untiring zeal. It was not until they reached the noble river Rhine that Siegfried drew rein. Upon the crest of a hill, across the stream from where they stood, rose a splendid castle. It seemed to belong to the king of the country, for it was very large, and a pennant floated from an upper turret. The current of the river was deep and swift at this point, but a small boat was moored not far from Siegfried.

"Come, Grani!" he said dismounting; "I will take the boat, while you swim beside me across the stream. This promises an adventure!"

Grani obeyed, and they were soon in the channel, heading toward the castle.

Now this castle was the seat of a king of an ancient and warlike tribe. His name was Gunther, and he tried to deal fairly with every man. He had a beautiful sister Gudrun; and, also, a half-brother named Hagen, a sly fellow who was always plotting mischief. Hagen, in fact, was the evil genius of the castle. You will not wonder at this when I tell you that he was of kin to the Nibelungs, Alberich and Mime.

Like all of dwarf blood, Hagen had a passion for gold, and was also adept at discovering secrets. He knew of the stolen Rhine-Gold; and he had also learned—perhaps through Alberich—of Siegfried's quest of Brunhilde. Thereupon he began to plot, and he told King Gunther just enough of his plotting to get the monarch's interest aroused.

On this very day when Siegfried had started across the river toward the castle, Hagen had been telling the King that he ought to find a queen. And then he told of the beauty of Brunhilde, and how she slept upon a lofty cliff surrounded by a barrier of fire.

"None but the bravest of heroes can rescue her," Hagen continued. "But there is one who is even now upon this quest. He is called the bravest of the brave, and his name is Siegfried."

Then turning to the Princess Gudrun, he added slyly, "Perchance Siegfried is the hero you  have been awaiting, O Princess! He is handsome as he is brave."

Now Gunther liked not the idea of another man being braver than he. But he only said, "I should like much to see the fair Brunhilde; but if I could not pierce the flame, how could I persuade Siegfried to do so in my stead, seeing this is his own quest?"

"Leave that to me," laughed Hagen. "I would brew him a drink that would make him forget all his past—his plans and wishes—and he would love the first lady his eyes fell upon."

He looked again slyly at Gudrun, who blushed red, but wished within her heart that she could see this Siegfried. Her wish was soon to be gratified, for just as Hagen finished speaking they heard the sound of a horn, out on the river, blown in challenge.

"Who dares challenge Gunther in his own castle?" exclaimed the King starting up.

Hagen hurried to the battlements.

"I see a knight clad in glittering gold armour," he said. "He is in a boat alone; and by the boat swims a horse. With your favour I will meet him at the landing." And Hagen seized sword and helmet and hastened out.

King Gunther followed him, his curiosity being aroused by the challenge and Hagen's description. Together in silence they awaited the coming of the boat which made swift progress against the current, driven by Siegfried's muscular arms. Soon it touched the bank, and the young man sprang out. Drawing his sword he saluted the two and then placed himself on guard.

"I am Siegfried," he said simply, "and if any man gainsay my landing on these shores, I am ready to meet him in honourable combat!"

"Not so!" said Gunther, stretching out his hand cordially. "If your name be Siegfried, then am I right glad to welcome you! Much have I heard of your prowess, and more would I fain hear while you rest yourself at my board. I am Gunther."

Siegfried looked him frankly in the eye, then gripped his hand. Hagen also exchanged greetings with him and led Grani away to the stables. Hagen was overjoyed at the turn affairs had taken. With his swift cunning he lost no time in putting his own schemes into play; and before he joined the King and his guest he found time to brew the drink of forgetfulness, about which he had told the King only a few minutes previously.

Returning to the hall, Hagen found the King and his guest breaking bread together and chatting in a friendly way. Gunther with true hospitality had thrown open his home and realm to the hero. Siegfried on his part offered to serve the King with his sword and steed when any need should arise.

"But how did you know of me, or even that I am Siegfried?" he asked bluntly.

"We have already heard great things of your prowess," replied Hagen joining in the talk; "and the magic helmet would betray you, else."

"The magic helmet?" repeated the young man.

"Yes, the cap of darkness you have at your belt. Have you never tried its wonderful properties? By its aid you can assume any shape you choose."

Siegfried had never heard of the helmet's power before. He did not attempt to conceal his surprise, but said nothing.

Just then the beautiful Princess Gudrun entered the room. She bore a golden salver, upon which stood a goblet. She had already beheld the hero secretly, and now willingly brought him the fatal cup of forgetfulness which Hagen had made.

"Welcome to the palace of King Gunther!" she said with downcast eyes. "Will my lord Siegfried drink a refreshing brew?"

Siegfried thanked her courteously and placed the goblet to his lips. But though he bowed to her and the King, the toast which he whispered to himself was, "To the health of my Brunhilde! May her memory never grow dim!"

But alas! no sooner had he swallowed the potion than all his past life was blotted out! He seemed like one awakened from a heavy slumber, for he rubbed his eyes and glanced wildly about him.

"Where am I?" he asked, leaning upon a chair for support. "What has happened?"

Then his glance fell upon Gudrun who stood silent and ashamed of what she had done. As he looked, a flame of love was kindled in his heart for her, by the power of the magic draught.

"Who is this fair creature?" he asked, turning to the King. "Is she your wife?"

"She is my sister," answered Gunther. "I have no wife."

"It is not well for man to live alone; and all the more if he be king."

"That is what my brother Hagen has told me. But the one woman I could wish to win, methinks, is not attainable."

"How so?" asked Siegfried.

"She is hedged about by a barrier of fire."

"A barrier of fire?" said Siegfried, slowly, and rubbing his eyes again. "A barrier of fire?"

"She can only be reached by one who is brave enough to force his way through the flame," continued Gunther; "by one who knows no fear."

"One who knows no fear?" again repeated Siegfried. "I knew such a man once." But he shook his head sadly and gave up trying to think.

"Yes," added the King, "he who knows no fear can alone win Brunhilde for his bride."

Siegfried made no immediate reply. The potion had done its full work, and he had utterly forgotten Brunhilde. Presently he said,

"I know not the maid of whom you speak. But methinks she could not be as fair as your sweet sister."

Gudrun ran hastily from the room at this.

"I would be willing to go far to win her  favour," he continued with the frankness of youth.

"Would you be willing to aid King Gunther's wooing?" asked Hagen.

"Right gladly," answered Siegfried. "But how?"

"Your magic helmet would give you his appearance," replied Hagen; "that is, if you would dare face the barrier of fire."

Siegfried's eyes flashed. "Dare ? I dare anything, if only King Gunther and his fair sister give me their regard!"

The King sprang to his feet quickly.

"Spoken like a man and a brother!" he exclaimed. "Upon my soul, I love you! And if you will obtain Brunhilde for me, I shall undertake to win Gudrun for you."

"Done!" said Siegfried, grasping his hand. "I shall go with you when you wish."

Then the King ordered wine to be poured.

"Come, drink a pledge with me!" he said. "From this day we are brothers. And on the morrow we will set forth."

Together they drank the pledge and vowed vows of eternal friendship.

Meanwhile Brunhilde had grown very lonely. Although she had urged Siegfried to go out into the world and win greater fame, her heart still cried for him, and she wondered, as the days crept by, when he would return. She no longer thought of Walhalla, or the War Maidens. Her whole thought was of Siegfried the fearless.

One day as she sat and brooded, she heard the long-silent cry of the War Maidens, "Hoyo-to-ho!" and looked up in astonishment to see one of her sisters come flying on her steed through the clouds. The next instant the two maidens were sobbing upon each other's necks in the joy of reunion.

"How came you to brave Wotan's displeasure?" exclaimed Brunhilde. "Do you not know that I am cut off from you, and that you incur a great danger in coming thus to me?"

"Wotan no longer cares," answered her sister. "Since his Spear of Authority was broken he sits in Walhalla with moody brow. And, O my sister! that is why I have come to you! I heard him say that if you but gave up the Ring to the Rhine-maidens, of your own accord, the curse would be removed, and the home of the gods saved."

"But I cannot give it up!" exclaimed Brunhilde, wildly pressing the Ring to her heart. "It is my betrothal ring from Siegfried, and I have promised to guard it always!"

"That is the only way Walhalla can be saved! Surely you can do that little thing!" her sister entreated.

"What care I for Walhalla?" said Brunhilde, stormily. "I have so long been denied its halls that I have ceased to care. The love of Siegfried is the dearest thing I have in the world. Wotan cannot take that away from me. Go back and tell him so!"

"Then woe must come upon us all!" cried her sister; and seeing further entreaty was useless, she sprang hastily upon her steed and rode away.

Brunhilde made no effort to stay her, but fell again into brooding silence. Presently, however, she heard the sound of a horn and sprang eagerly to her feet. It was Siegfried's horn and he was returning! She rushed to the edge of the rock. The flames which had been burning fiercely parted to right and left, as once before, and the form of a man appeared. It was indeed Siegfried, but she did not recognise him. He had put the magic helmet upon his head and taken the form of Gunther. With Gunther's voice he also spoke to her.

In a tremble she asked, "Who has dared come where only the fearless hero finds a way?"

"I am Gunther the King," he answered, "and have come to claim you as my bride."

"That cannot be," she answered. "I am Siegfried's promised wife."

"Siegfried? You are mad! He is promised to another. Come with me."

"Away! It is not true!" she cried. "This is his Ring, and in its name I tell you to begone!"

She waved it threateningly, but he stepped forward.

"If that is his Ring, I must take it," he said. And before she could avoid him he seized her hand and removed the golden hoop from her finger.

"Come with me!" he commanded. "In the name of this bauble, I tell you to obey."

He had said the words in imitation of her manner, and not at all expecting her to yield so easily, for the power of the Ring also had gone from his memory. But what was his amazement to see her come forward meekly and prepare to go with him. Only as she left the rock, she turned her eyes toward the sky, and moaned.

"Ah, Wotan! I see thy hand in this! Forgive me for having defied thee!"

Siegfried could make nothing of this outcry; but delighted that he should succeed in his wooing for Gunther so easily, he led her down the mountain-side and bade her rest a moment by a fountain. She did so, when he went swiftly around a rock and disappeared. The real Gunther who had awaited him there now came forward in his stead with horses and bade Brunhilde mount. She sadly obeyed and rode with him toward his castle, while Siegfried dashed swiftly ahead to greet Gudrun and await their coming.

Hagen, meanwhile, had not been idle at the palace. He had seen Alberich and they had plotted together as to the best means to seize the Ring, no matter who should return wearing it. Hagen had also talked with Gudrun and easily persuaded her to accept Siegfried without delay upon his return.

Siegfried, therefore, found a pleasing welcome when he presently arrived; and he had exchanged vows with the Princess before the horns announced that the King was returning with his bride.

Siegfried and Gudrun with Hagen met the royal party at the landing.

"Welcome home, brother!" said Siegfried. "I am overjoyed to see that you have been as successful in your suit as I have been in mine."

Gudrun also had kissed her brother. Brunhilde, however, at sight of Siegfried started back.

"Siegfried! You here? Is it true then that you are plighted to another?"

"I am plighted to Gudrun," he answered calmly.

Brunhilde felt a deathly faintness come over her and came near falling to the ground. Siegfried sprang forward and supported her.

"Ah, Siegfried beloved! do you not remember me?" she asked faintly.

The voice stirred strange chords within him, but he did not understand them. He quietly seated her, then turning, said, "Gunther, your bride is ill." And as the King approached, he added to her, "You have been faint. See, here comes your husband."

As he pointed to the King, Brunhilde saw the fatal Ring gleaming upon Siegfried's finger.

"Ha! the Ring!" she cried. "Siegfried's Ring! My Ring! Where got you it, if you are not my hero himself?"

"She is excited and overcome by her journey," said Siegfried to the others. Then as if talking to himself he went on, "This Ring? Where did I get it, I wonder? It seems to me that some time, somewhere—I forget just where—I fought a dragon and wrested the Ring from him."

Siegfried knitted his brow and strove to recall the past. Hagen stepped quickly forward.

"This excitement is proving too much for both our brides and bridegrooms," he said gaily. "Come, let us within where a feast is spread in honour of the great day."

The King was swift to see his suggestion.

"Yes, order the trumpets to blow!" he ordered. "We will rest from our journey and have public feastings."

The party entered the castle, Brunhilde with the rest. She had looked once again beseechingly at Siegfried, but all his attention was bestowed upon Gudrun. At last the proud spirit of Brunhilde flashed up at what she deemed an insult. She, a daughter of the gods, to be wooed and then forsaken! She vowed revenge upon Siegfried for his rudeness.

However, she gave no sign of all this. She joined the feast, and sat smilingly at Gunther's side. She became his wife, while still her heart cried out for her hero, and cried in no less measure for revenge!

Hagen alone knew of the struggle that was going on in Brunhilde's mind. He watched anxiously her every action; and now that he saw her smile and accept King Gunther before them all, he rubbed his hands in glee, under the banquet board. He saw that his evil schemes were succeeding just as he had planned.

And so, after the feast was ended, while all was laughter and music within the hall, Hagen came up and talked to Brunhilde. At first it was only idle talk and hidden flattery; then he touched upon Siegfried.

"Speak not to me of him," said Brunhilde coldly.

"Why not?" asked Hagen in feigned surprise. "He is said to be the bravest hero in the world."

"He may be brave, but I care not to talk of him. He is the falsest man alive."

Some rash impulse made her say these words, and she regretted them as soon as spoken. But Hagen was quick to follow them up.

"You amaze and alarm me!" he said. "I had supposed him to be honourable. If he is false he is a menace to our kingdom, and I for one would wish that he were out of it."

"It would indeed be better if he were gone," said Brunhilde, her pride still making her utter rash things.

"I am glad you have advised me of his true character," said Hagen craftily. "The King purposes to give a hunting party to-morrow. Now if Siegfried should not return from it, do you think it would be better so?"

"Yes," said Brunhilde indifferently, and turned to speak to the King.

But if she gave no more thought to these fateful words, Hagen fairly hugged them in his heart. He saw in them a licence to do evil to Siegfried.

The next day, as he had said, the King gave a hunting party in honour of the two brides. All were to meet at noonday for a repast in a grove, but were at liberty to follow, that morning, wherever the chase might lead.

Siegfried's horse Grani soon outdistanced all the others and led him into a deep wood. There he started a bear, but after pursuing it for some time it disappeared, and Siegfried found himself upon a wild part of the banks of the Rhine. Being thirsty and weary he dismounted, drank at the river's brink and threw himself down upon a mossy knoll.

Just then he heard the sound of singing—a melodious but unearthly strain ending almost in a wail. Looking around, he saw three river nymphs rise out of the water and swim toward him. They were the Rhine-maidens, but Siegfried had never seen them before. However, he was undaunted at the vision, and sought to make a jest at their expense.

"Hail, fair maidens!" he exclaimed. "Some elf has led me astray, so I desire your aid. This elf was in the shape of a bear, and if he was not a friend of yours, I wish you would help me find him."

"What will you give us if we help you?" they asked.

"I have nothing to give until I catch him," replied Siegfried laughing. "What do you desire?"

One of the maidens swam to him with outstretched hand.

"A golden Ring enwraps your finger," she said. "Give us the Ring and we will help you find the bear."

"I think I slew a huge dragon to win this Ring," replied Siegfried lightly. "That would be a sorry trade for me to barter it for a bear."

"You are selfish," the maidens sang teasingly. "Be wise and give us the Ring!"

They dived in and out of the water and Siegfried laughed to watch them, secretly resolving to throw them the Ring before he left them, for it had no present value in his eyes. But soon the three maidens swam close to the shore and lifted up their arms warningly.

"Beware, Siegfried!" they exclaimed. "The Ring has a curse upon it! Better give it to us!"

"A curse?" he asked. "That makes it interesting! I must hear about this curse."

Then the Rhine-maidens sang,

"Siegfried! Siegfried! Siegfried!
Sorrow dire we foresee:
If thou wardest the Ring,
A curse it will be.
From the Gold of the Rhine
It was craftily wrought,
Then cursed by the dwarf
When its magic he sought.
Whoever shall own it
Is fated to fall;
The dragon thou slewest
Was but one among all.
To-day thou  art stricken—
Thy doom we divine—
Unless thou returnest
The Ring to the Rhine!"
 

Siegfried heard the song through, then placed the Ring tightly on his finger.

"Ah, ye are trying to frighten me into giving up the trinket!" he said. "But ye have sung your song to the wrong ears. I know not what fear is and have been hunting it all my life."

"Beware, Siegfried!" the maidens cried entreatingly, sinking once more into the water's depths.

"Farewell!" he called after them laughingly. "I must hasten to join the hunt."

The sound of a far-away horn was now heard, and he answered it with his bugle, then hastily mounted Grani and rode away. Thanks to his swift steed he soon reached the spot agreed upon for the noontide repast. He greeted the two ladies, the King, Hagen and the retainers, and seated himself between Hagen and Gudrun. Brunhilde sat directly opposite, by the King's side.

As Siegfried had brought no game to the feast, it was jestingly decreed that he should entertain the company by telling some of his past adventures. Hagen passed goblets of wine to each one present, and took the opportunity to pour into Siegfried's cup a few drops of a potion which caused him to remember again some of his past.

So Siegfried began to tell of his early life in the forest with Mime; of how he harnessed the bear to frighten the dwarf; of his Sword of Need and the fight with the dragon.

The company applauded his story and begged him to go on. He gladly did so, for it now seemed new and strange to him also; or as if it had been a dream. Hagen poured more of the potion into his goblet.

"After I slew the dragon," continued Siegfried, "a strange thing happened. I chanced to get a drop of its blood upon my tongue, when I heard a bird singing to me and I understood all it said. It told me of this magic Ring I have on my finger and of the Rhine-Gold in a cave. It also told me of a maiden on a mountain height surrounded by a barrier of fire. Her name was—Brunhilde!"

He sprang to his feet, rubbed his eyes, and looked across the table.

"Her name was Brunhilde!" he exclaimed again; and then he stretched out his arms.

"Brunhilde, it was you , oh, my beloved! Where have you been so long?"

Brunhilde rose hastily as if to reply; but before she could utter a word Siegfried fell backward. Hagen had struck him treacherously from behind with his spear.

"What have you done?" shouted the King, while Gudrun leaned her head swooningly upon her knees.

"I have slain a traitor!" boldly replied Hagen. "Did you not hear him admit that he had sought Brunhilde before he was wed with the Princess Gudrun? And Brunhilde herself ordered his death."

"No, no!" shrieked Brunhilde, rushing to her dying hero's side. "Ah, beloved, I see it all now! The curse of the Ring was upon us and you knew not what you did!"

She lifted his head upon her lap and tried to pour wine down his throat. His eyes, which were already fast glazing, opened again at the touch of her hand.

"Brunhilde!" he whispered. "Where have you been? I—have—sought you——"

"Siegfried! Siegfried! forgive me! It has all been a cruel mistake! Do not die! Ah, beloved, look at me with your dear eyes again! Your kiss awakened me from a slumber of years. See, I kiss you and love you. Why do you not awaken as I did? Do not go away and leave me again! I shall not let you go!"

She pressed her lips wildly upon his, and the kiss stayed his soul yet a moment more.

"Brunhilde—mother—we will—not—part——"

The hero who knew no fear had ended his brief earth battle.

Brunhilde wept bitterly in the first outburst of grief. Then summoning all her pride and resolution, she rose and confronted Hagen.

"This is your evil deed!" she said. "You shall not fasten thoughtless words of mine upon it. There has been conspiracy here, and I fear that ye all are in it."

"There has indeed been conspiracy," the King answered sadly; "but Hagen alone is the doer of this deed, and for it he shall answer. Our conspiracy lay only in giving Siegfried a drink of forgetfulness. We did not know he had become plighted to you; and he himself was made to forget it by the potion. He served us in all innocence."

Brunhilde looked at Hagen, Gunther, and Gudrun scornfully; then turned to the retainers.

"Take up the body of Siegfried," she commanded, "and bear it to the river's brink. There we will burn it upon a funeral pyre, and there will I consign this Ring of the curse back to the Rhine-maidens."

They placed Siegfried upon his shield and laid the Sword of Need across his breast. Then they bore him as she had commanded to the bank of the river. At sunset a great funeral pyre had been erected, and the body was laid upon it. A torch was applied and as the heap burst into flame, Brunhilde called her steed Grani and mounted him.

"Hoyo-to-ho!" she cried, giving for the last time the call of the War Maidens. "Siegfried, beloved, I come to thee!"

And straight into the fire she rode, and the flames leaping high hid her and her steed from view. But out of the midst of the pyre her voice called to the Rhine-maidens.

"And straight into the Fire she rode" J. Wagrez
"And straight into the Fire she rode" 
J. Wagrez

"Behold the Ring; the Ring of the curse! Come, seize it, and may gods and men be relieved of its ban!"

At her cry a wondrous thing was seen by the watchers round about the pyre. A great wave rose out of the bed of the river, and on its crest the three Rhine-maidens appeared. Up over the bank rushed the wave, quenching the fire as it came and sweeping all before it into the water's depths.

Suddenly Hagen gave a fearful cry. He beheld the Ring again being swept from beyond his grasp, and he plunged into the current and attempted to take it from one of the maidens who held it exultingly aloft. But the other two twined their arms about him and dragged him down with them. When the wave had subsided he was no longer to be seen; nor was there any vestige of the funeral pyre or Brunhilde. The curse of the Ring was wiped away.

Just then a reddish glow was seen in the sky. Swiftly it grew and spread like the light of many auroras. In speechless amazement the onlookers beheld this awe-inspiring sight. The doom of the gods had come with the recovery of the Ring. Walhalla was being destroyed. Wotan's kingdom was at an end. Henceforth the world was to press forward to new and better things.