Der Ring des Nibelungen

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Ring refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Ring (disambiguation).

Der Ring des Nibelungen ("The Ring of the Nibelung") is a cycle of four epic operas or 'dramas' by the German composer Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The four dramas are often referred to as the Ring Cycle, "Wagner's Ring", or simply The Ring.

The Lord of the Rings and the Ring Cycle

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings appears to borrow some elements from Der Ring des Nibelungen; Tolkien even started working a translation of Die Walküre (the second of the four operas that comprise the Ring Cycle), together with C.S. Lewis.

However, Tolkien himself denied that he had been inspired by Wagner's work, saying that "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."[1] Some similarities arise because Tolkien and Wagner both drew upon the same source material for inspiration, including the Völsungasaga and the Poetic Edda. However, several researchers posit that both authors draw upon many of the same sources but Tolkien was indebted to some of the original developments, insights and artistic uses made of those in Wagner, such as the ring giving to its owner mastery of the world and its corrupting influence upon the minds and wills of its possessors.[2][3]

There is evidence that Tolkien's denial of a relationship between his Ring and Nibelungen Ring "was an overreaction to the statements of" Åke Ohlmarks (one of Tolkien's Swedish translators), in his introduction to Härskarringen, his much criticized translation of Lord of the Rings, that Tolkien "mixed material from various legends, some of which mention no ring and one that concerns a totally different ring." Tolkien was infuriated by this statement and used the oft quoted "one sentence rebuttal"[4] but that "wasn't strictly accurate".[5][6][7][8][9]


Howard Shore's soundtrack to The Lord of the Rings (film series) has been compared to Wagner's music of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Employing harmonic analysis, Shore can be shown managing to "[summon] up a Wagnerian atmosphere without copying the original" by using a similar structure of chords, especially in the dramatically intense scenes of the films.[10]

External links


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 229, (dated 23 February 1961)
  2. Edward R. Haymes , Oral Tradition Journal at Center for Studies in Oral Tradition
  3. Edward R. Haymes , The Two Rings (14 January 2004)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 229, (dated 23 February 1961), "Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases."
  5. Stan Brown, How did the One Ring compare to Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung?, at Frequently Asked Questions about the Rings of Power, Oak Road Systems
  6. Various authors, LOTR a retelling of another story?? on The One Ring forums
  7. Various authors, Tolkien views on Wagner, at The One Ring forums
  8. David P. Goldman, The 'Ring' and the remnants of the West , at Asia Times Online, 11 Jan 2003
  9. David P. Goldman , Tolkien's Christianity and the pagan tragedy, at Asia Times Online, 24 Apr 2007
  10. Alex Ross, "The Ring and the Rings: Wagner vs. Tolkien", in The New Yorker, December 22, 2003