Ring Literary Sources

In writing the four Ring operas, Wagner borrowed heavily from a variety of sources. This included five major sources and a variety of minor sources.

Three Scandinavian and two German sources comprise the major sources. The Scandinavian sources are The Saga of the Volsungs, the Poetic (or Elder) Edda, and Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda. The German sources are Thidriks Saga of Bern and the Nibelungenlied.

The minor sources are: Das Lied vom hürnen Seyfrid, The Märchen of the Brothers Grimm, Die deutsche Heldensage of Wilhelm Grimm, The Deutsche Mythologie of Jacob Grimm, Karl Lachmannís Kritik der Sage von den Nibelungen, the Norna-Gests tháttr, and Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagenís introduction to the first edition of the Poetic Edda.

The principal source for the Ring is The Saga of the Volsungs.

In writing the Ring, Wagner was emulating the style of the Poetic Edda. This style is called Stabreim. Stabreim is a form of alliterative verse.

The dramatic structure of the Ring is based on Aeschylusí Oresteia. Deryck Cooke details the dramatic structure in I Saw the World End on pages 79-80. (here).

To see how the sources are used in each opera click on the link for the opera below (Note: this is not an exhaustive analysis of the Ring's literary sources):

Das Rheingold
Die Walküre
Siegfried
Götterdämmerung

 


On the web there are numerous translations of some of the source material of the Ring.  Links to various source material is provided below (Note: all translations are part of the public domain and more current translations may exist).

Saga of the Volsungs

The Poetic Edda (Bellows Translation)                            

The Prose Edda (Brodeur Translation)                        

The Nibelungenlied

Grimm's Teutonic Mythology

Grimms' Household Tales