The Ring of the Nibelung: Vol.s 1 & 2

Adapted by P. Craig Russell

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Format: Softcover, full color, $21.95 Each

Category: Adult Literature

Dewey: 398.2 RUS

Subjects: Comic books, comics, etc.; action and adventure; fairy tales.

ISBN-13: 978-1-56971-666-3 (Vol. 1) and 978-1-56971-734-9 (Vol. 2)

Reviewed by: Kat Kan

I’m going to say this right now – I am not a fan of Wagner's operas. I thought they were overblown and overly dramatic, and I found it hard to follow the story. P. Craig Russell's masterful adaptation of the Ring Cycle, using an English translation by Patrick Mason, has made me change my mind about the story.

In two volumes, Russell retells the story of the fabled Rhinegold, stolen from the Rhine Maidens by the vengeful dwarf Alberich, who fashions the gold into a ring which gives him mastery over the world. Then Votan (Odin, as he's also known) connives to steal the ring, only to be forced to surrender it to the giant Fafnir to redeem his sister. He tries to use Siegmund the Valsung to regain the ring, but he's forced to let his hero die to please his wife Fricka. The Valkyrie Brunhilde, Votan's favorite daughter by Erda, spirits away Siegmund's pregnant sister/wife Sieglinde, against Votan's spoken will, so he punishes her by putting her to sleep on a mountain top, surrounded by fire, destined to be wived to whoever can wake her. The child borne by Sieglinde grows up under the bitter tutelage of Mime, brother of Alberich, who wants to use the boy to steal the ring for himself. But young Siegfried, who knows no fear, manages to re-forge his father’s sword, Nothung, and uses it to slay Fafnir, who had transformed himself into a dragon to guard his hoard of treasure. Siegfried gains the ring, but doesn't know of its power or curse. He then braves the fire and awakens Brunhilde, whom he takes as wife and gives to her the ring. As he travels the world, doing many heroic deeds, he comes to the Gibichungs, ruled by Gunther. Swayed by his half-brother Hagen (son of Alberich), Gunther gives Siegfried a love potion which makes him fall in love with his sister Gutrune; the drug-besotted Siegfried agrees to get Brunhilde for Gunther, who really wants the ring. Hagen then uses Brunhilde’s anger to strike at Siegfried, who at his death recognizes the treachery of the Gibichungs. Brunhilde then rides into Siegfried’s funeral pyre and at her death returns the ring to the Rhine Maidens.

Whew! What a story. Mason's translation retains much of the poetic power of the original opera libretti, and Russell's art vigorously tells the story in such a way that readers familiar with the music can hear it in their minds as they read. This is great reading for people who don’t know the operas as well as for those who do, and it certainly should help anyone who does attend a performance to know what is happening on the stage. Even if one never attends an opera performance, this a great epic story out of Norse mythology, which one can appreciate for itself.

Russell's introductory remarks about the process of adaptation is also great reading, and should help the reader appreciate the amount of work he did to adapt the operas to a graphic novel. This is good for older teens and adults, and I recommend it for most public libraries.