A list of Motives in theRing

It is with some trepidation that I offer, as a supplement to the precedingarticle, yet another list of motives in the Tetralogy. In mitigation I can only plead that this is my list and I offer it for what it might be worth. It was made by distillation and reconciliation of many lists provided by commentators on the four-part drama. I have included all of the motives identified by Dr. Allen Dunning (178), all of those listed by Wolzogen (90-91), all of those discussed in Sabor's Commentary (80), most of the motives discussed by Stone on hisRing Disc (124) and others gleaned from books respectively by Ernest Newman, Albert Lavignac, Spencer and Millington, Robert Donington, and more recently Roger Scruton (whose list includes most of the motives listed by Dunning). Not least, I have included all of the motives discussed by Deryck Cooke in his books and recordings. The resulting consolidated list includes around 84 musical motives (the same number that were described by Albert Lavignac, see below) that might be classified as "leading motives", just over 100 other motives that are incidental but nonetheless interesting, and a few from Dunning's list that in my view are not well-defined motives or trivial but I have included them anyway.

The names that I have chosen to provide in the column headedSuggested Name were variously selected from traditional names (some of them originating with Wolzogen) and from those given by later commentators such as Newman, Cooke, Holman, Stone and Sabor. In some cases I have combined names from different sources: for example, AD#71 I have calledSieglinde's Compassion. Several commentators have called this motif "Sieglinde" but to make it more specific I have taken "Compassion" from Lavignac. In a few cases I have been able to suggest a name that was used by Wagner himself, according to Porges or Cosima; but it seems that Wagner was not concerned about giving names to his "principal themes".

There is not enough space on this web-page for musical examples. The reader should be able to find examples in the sources that I have referenced in the tables below, namely:

  • AD: Dr. Allen Dunning's webpages are no longer online. Paul Heise has taken over Allen's material and included in hisWagnerheim. On this website Paul has published his book, in which he presents a consistently Feuerbachian interpretation of theRing.
  • SM: Stewart Spencer's and Barry Millington's translation and commentary onWagner's Ring of the Nibelung, pages 17-24Thematic Guide contains examples of the core Leitmotive. There is a general consensus among commentators that these are leading motives, although most commentators argue for a few more that are not universally accepted as "leading".
  • Cooke: Deryck Cooke'sAn Introduction to Der Ring des Nibelungen was recorded to accompany the Decca/Solti/VPO recording of the Tetralogy. Originally it was issued on LP's and it is now available as a CD set: Decca 443 581-2. Musical examples are provided in the booklet.
  • JKH: J.K. Holman'sWagner's Ring: A Listener's Companion and Concordance is an indispensable guide for everyone interested in the Tetralogy and it should be of enormous help to anyone experiencing the work for the first time. Chapter 3 is devoted to "The Music" and contains a discussion of 145 motives and motivic complexes. I find Holman's list rather eclectic but I have included most of his motives, and in some cases accepted his suggested names, in my own list below.
  • Stone: I have tried to identify in my list the motives as named by Monte Stone and included his names for them in a column of each table below. It might be difficult to find his interactive CDThe Ring Disc which although 20 years old, and no longer leading-edge technology, is still a useful study aid. The CD contains a very compressed, complete but monophonic version of the Solti/Decca/VPO recording which is synchronized with the vocal score. Each motif is identified as it appears and there is a reference guide to the motives, in which Monte presents a detailed and insightful analysis of each one.
  • Sabor: Rudolph Sabor's poetic translation of theRing poem (libretto) is in my view the best English translation of the work. In hisTranslation and Commentary (Phaidon Press, 5 volumes) Sabor provides a discussion of the leading motives prefacing each scene or act, and in the Commentary volume he presents a complete list of motives with musical examples and an analysis of the music. Sabor gave a short name (in English or German) to each of the leading motives (which in his list are a few more than S+M had listed). I have shown Sabor's name for each of his 80 leading motives (which are, for Sabor, those motives that return after the scene in which they first appear) in a column of each table below.

Examples of the leading motives (and some incidental motives too) can be found on YouTube: includingthis set of 98 musical examples from Jason Pano, which principally uses the names given to the motives by Rudolph Sabor andanother set with 127 examples, which uses more traditional names.

Das Rheingold

Some of the musical motives that are introduced inDas Rheingold will return in the later operas of the cycle. Limited space on this page does not allow me to continue the table immediately below into the later operas, so I have only shown in which scenes of the first opera the motives appear. To fill this gap, at the bottom of this page I have included the big table from the English translation of Albert Lavignac's book, which shows the occurrences of 84 motives through the entire cycle.

As well as the return of motives heard earlier, later operas in the cycle present variants of motives first heard inDas Rheingold and new motives that Wagner developed from the material of this first opera, which is a kind of "exposition" for theRing.

IDAD#SM#Cooke #JKH#Suggested nameM. Stone nameR. Sabor nameSc. 1Sc. 2Sc. 3Sc. 4
111a51GenesisNature ArpeggiosGenesis*
331c73River RhineRhine-*
442224Woglinde's LullabyRhinedaughters' SongInnocence**
5---5Flosshilde's Warning--*
65397, 367Woe / GriefWoeGrief****
7----"die Dritte, so traut"-Liebesnot (embryonic)*
86---Alberich's Pursuit--*
97-1656Alberich on the rocksAlberichAlberich**
108---Feminine Allure--*
11----Rhinedaughters' MockeryMockery-*
129---Alberich's FuryAlberich's Fury-*
1310---Rhinedaughters' TauntRhinedaughters' Taunt-*
1411-148ShimmeringWater Murmurs-*
15124179GoldGold FanfareRhinegold***
16135b26b, 2910HeiajaheiaHeiajaheia-****
1714---Nature in Motion--*
18155a26a11Joy in the GoldJoyJoy**
2017639, 4012World's WealthRing (embryonic)****
211878013, 59Renunciation of LoveLove-CurseLiebe-Tragik (1)**
2219641, 42-Ring, definitive formRing (definitive)Ring****
2320857-6114Valhalla (complex)ValhallaWalhall + Crisis***
2522---Love LongingLove Longing-*
2623-14715Love's BondLove's EnchantmentEnchantment*
272410a9316aFreiaFreia (a)Freia***
282510b9216b"Flight"Freia (b)Liebesnot (definitive)***
3127-64-Irrevocable Law--*
3228126519Treaty with the GiantsContractTroth**
33--66-6818Power of the Gods--*
34--9320Fasolt's Love Song--*
352913221Golden Apples of Eternal YouthGolden ApplesGolden Apples**
3832---Donner's Wrath*
393314b-25aLogeLoge (1)Loge***
4034--25bFlickering FlamesLoge (2)-*
413514a-25cMagic FireLoge (3)-*
4236--26Loge's Craft--*
4337-8427Woman's WorthLovelessnessLiebe-Tragik (2)***
4438---Nature Weaving--*
4539-95-Descent to Nibelheim--*
464010b99-Tragic Love--*
4741153228Nibelung Forging-Forge***
48----Mime's AnguishMime's Wail-*
514417--Mime's SchemingBrooding (1)-**
5245-47,19031Power of the RingTyrannyGold's Dominion**
5346-5333Nibelung HoardHoardTreasure**
5447---Alberich's RebellionAlberich's Hubris-*
55----Arrogance of PowerImpudenceArrogance**
56481854, 5532SerpentDragonDragon**
5850-4634Resentment / HatredAngstNibelungen Hate*
5951195035Alberich's Curse on the RingAlberich's CurseCurse*
6052---Death Devoted--*
6254211137DownfallGods' TwilightGötterdämmerung*
6355221838Donner's ThunderDonnerThunder*
6456-1939Rainbow BridgeRainbow BridgeRainbow*
65572321,12240Wotan's Grand IdeaSwordSword*
6658-12353Purpose of the SwordPurpose of the Sword-*
67595c27, 2841Rhinemaidens' LamentRhinedaughters' Lament-*

Die Walküre

Some motives that were introduced inDas Rheingold also appear inDie Walküre. The table below shows when new motives are heard in this opera alone. Some of these "new" motives are really variants of those that were first heard inDas Rheingold.

IDAD#SM#Cooke #JKH#Suggested nameM. Stone nameR. Sabor namePrel Act1Act 1Act 2Act 3
7062247144Siegmund's FatigueSiegmund's FatigueSiegmund*
7163257245Sieglinde's CompassionSieglindeSieglinde**
7264269446The Basic Love MotiveLoveLiebesnot***
7365---Siegmund's MisfortuneSiegmund's Misfortune-*
746627106,10747Volsung WoeSufferingWälsung Ordeal**
7668-51-Hunding's RightsRules of the GameAtonement*
7769--50Maiden's Grief--*
78----Hunding's SuspicionHunding's Suspicion-*
7970-117a-Infinite Sorrow of the VolsungsPeace-*
807129117b51Volsung RaceWälsung MotifWälsungen**
8273-10856Spring SongWinterstürme Melody-**
87773011661Valkyries/ BrünnhildeValkyrieRide**
887831-62Battle CryBattle CryValkyrie Cry**
89----Fricka's Rams--*
9079--63Fricka's AngerFricka-*
91----Fricka's Dignity--*
9280-13164Fricka's Reproach--*
938132a73-7765Wotan's FrustrationFrustrationWotan's Frustration**
9482-76-Wotan's Revolt--*
958332b18166Distress of the GodsGods' Distress-**
96----Nibelung SonSon of Darkness-*
9784---First Motive of Wotan's AngerWotan's Bitterness-*
9885--67Second Motive of Wotan's AngerWotan's Rage-**
9986--68Hunding's Pursuit--*
101883311970Annunciation of DeathJudgementDeath**
10389---Siegmund's RebellionSiegmund's RebellionSiegmund's Rebellion*
10490--71Sympathy for the VolsungsBrünnhilde's Compassion-*
105----Sieglinde's Dream--*
107923512072Siegfried the HeroSiegfriedSiegfried*
1089336-73Glorification of Brünnhilde (RW)RedemptionAssurance*
10994---Brünnhilde's Punishment--*
11095---The Valkyries' Protest--*
111----Judgement of Brünnhilde--*
11296377874Brünnhilde's ReproachLove's TriumphWotan's Child*
113--7975Brünnhilde's Love for Wotan--*
114973815676Magic SleepMagic SleepOblivion*
11598392577Sleeping BrünnhildeAssurance (inversion is Fear)Sanctuary*
11699-10978Wotan's Love for BrünnhildeWotan's SadnessWotan's Farewell*
117100-151,152-Magic Fire (2nd version)Magic FireMagic Fire*


Some motives that were introduced inDas Rheingold orDie Walküre also appear inSiegfried. As a result of limitations of space here, in the table below I list only the new motives that appear in this opera.

IDAD#SM#Cooke #JKH#Suggested nameM. Stone nameR. Sabor namePrel Act1Act 1Act 2Act 3
119102---Mime's Failure--*
1201034013780Siegfried's Horn Call (short)Siegfried's Horn CallHorn Call***
12110441-81Youthful EnergyImpatienceAdventure***
122105-16782Starling SongSob StoryCrocodile (tears)*
1231064211084Love in NatureLove Longing (1)Longing**
124107--83Yearning for Knowledge--*
125108---Who were my Parents?--*
126109---Siegfried's Heritage--*
127110--85AdventureAdventure (1)Freedom**
12811158142,16886Siegfried's MissionAdventure (2)-*
1291124315788Wanderer's first motiveWanderer (part 1)Wanderer***
13011344--Wanderer's second motiveWanderer (part 2)-**
131114---Wotan's Questions--*
1321155466-68-The Power of the GodsSpear InversionAuthority*
133--1289World Ash Tree, first version--*
134116---Hallowed Contracts--*
135117---Grovelling MimeMime's CunningShuffle**
137---97Siegfried as SmithLabourAction*
138119-12760Neidliches Schwert!--*
13912045-90SmeltingBellows (1)-*
140121---Blowing the BellowsBellows (2)-*
141122---Casting of the SwordHardened Steel (1)-**
142123---Mime makes SoupHardened Steel (2)-*
143124--91Forging SongHammering Song-*
144125---Siegfried's Praise of Nothung--*
1451264616392Fafner as DragonFafnerFafner***
146127--93The Free Hero--*
147--14-1694Forest MurmursForest Murmurs-*
14812847-95aBird SongsWoodbird Song (1)Woodbird (1)*
1491294823,2495bWoodbirdWoodbird Song (2)Woodbird (2)**
150130---Egoism / Egotism--*
151131--96False Flattery--*
153---98Yearning for Love + Siegfried's Mission--*
154133--100Waking of Erda--*
15513449148101Redemption (RW)BequestBequest*
157135---Wotan teasing Siegfried--*
158136---Wotan tries to stop Siegfried--*
15913764--Love's Confusion--*
160----Brünnhilde's Beauty--*
162138---Awakening Music 1 - KissAwakening (1)Revival*
163--161104Awakening Music 2 - SunlightAwakening (2)-*
164139---Greeting to the World--*
16514050102105Love's GreetingLove's GreetingHosanna*
168143-113108Treasure of the WorldLove's HappinessLiebesglück*
169144---Waving Waves--*
17014552105109Love's ResolutionLaughing at DeathLiebesbund*


Many of the leading (or principal) motives that were introduced in earlier operas also appear inGötterdämmerung, where Wagner has woven them into a rich tapestry of sound. In the table below I have only listed the new motives that appear first in this opera, some of which are variants of motives heard earlier in the cycle.

IDAD#SM#Cooke #JKH#Suggested nameM. Stone nameR. Sabor nameProl ogueAct 1Act 2Act 3
1711465313-World Ash Tree, second version--*
173---111Rope of DestinyWeaving Music-*
17414855-112Mature SiegfriedHeroHero*
17514956149113Brünnhilde as Mortal WomanBrünnhildeBrünnhilde****
17615057114114Heroic LoveHeroic LoveConsorts***
17915260121119Gibichung RaceGibichungGibichungen*
180---120Gutrune's 1st motive--*
182154-154c121Magic Potion or ForgettingMagic PotionAmnesia***
18315559132124False Friendship--**
18415661135125Gutrune's 2nd motive/ DeceptionGutruneGutrune***
18515762-1261st motive of Blood-brotherhood-Bloodbrothers**
186158631451272nd motive of Blood-brotherhoodBlood-brotherhood-*
187159-52128Vow of Atonement--***
188160---Pledge / Troth--*
189----Hagen's Watch--*
190161---The Power of the Ring - Hagen version--*
191162--129Hagen's Envy--*
192163---Brünnhilde's Query--*
193----Funeral Pyre--**
194-64a-131BetrayalConfusion (1)Revenge***
19516464b-130Escape from the GodsConfusion (2)-**
197166---Hagen's Lovelessness--*
19916866170134Hagen's DayDawn-*
200--171139Vassals' Song*
201169--136Gutrune's 3rd motive/ Greeting--**
201170-38137Hagen's Rallying Cry--*
20217167136138Gibichung Horn CallGibichung Horn Call-*
204---140Vassals' Greeting--*
205173-139141Swearing of the Oath--*
206174--143Rhinemaidens' Lament - variant--*
207175-174-Rhinemaidens SwimmingRhinedaughters' Dance-*
210177--144Siegfried's DeathDeath Chords-*

Lavignac's Analysis of Returning Motives

Albert Lavignac in his invaluable reference workThe Music Dramas of Richard Wagner provided this table, showing the occurrences of 84 motives through the cycle. Please note that the names given to these motives by Lavignac, based on those provided earlier by Wolzogen, may differ from the names that I have used in the tables above and that, in a few cases, Lavignac gave the same name to a different motive. In the left margin I have tried to relate Lavignac's motives to Dunning's list.

Leitmotive - Lavignac

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