Meantime (this, by the way, is how this first opera of the four-opera-cycle begins; I’ve switched the two parts for clarity purposes) yes, on the bottom of the great river Rhine (which today is a miserable muddy smelly stream with power plants and chemical plants and what not lined up along both banks. In days of old it must have been pretty impressive, though) yes on the bottom lies a large pile of gold. Twenty carats. This pile is being guarded by these, like, mermaids, very dumb but feisty and humorous. Light-hearted. Like some of today’s politicians. You know what I mean.
Adjacent to the riverbank is this very progressive string of tunnels and caves, mines, and what not. A fellow called Alberich lives in one of the caves. He’s a dwarf. His people are called the Nibelungs. He’s got a brother, but that’s not, like, important at this point. This Alberich is pretty wild, silly, fatuous, gawky, etc. No one loves him. He doesn’t love anyone either. You know the type. He’s a creep. He’s greedy and corrupt. He’s not the type you’d want to have a drink with.
One day, this Alberich fellow trudges over to the Rhine and looks at the river, and he hates it. He doesn’t like the way it flows, like, it’s mocking him or something. He’s so disgusted he could spit in it. Some dumb birds are chirping away in the trees, the sky’s blue, etc. He hates pristine sights. He hates ecology. Damn. Suddenly he sees the mermaids. He goes, hmm. Suddenly he dives in in order to have a talk with them.
He wants to have sexual relations with them and says so. Naturally, they laugh at him. They say very offensive and insensitive things to him, like, what are you, kidding? Have you looked in a mirror lately? Getting playful in your old age, imagine.
Suddenly he sees the gold. Naturally, it gets to his head. Personally, I’m not impressed by the mere sight of gold, but a lot of people get all excited and bright-eyed when they see it. Alberich is one of them. He goes, why don’t I take the entire pile, since you ignorant broads refuse to have sexual relations with me? They laugh at him again. They explain he can’t take it. He goes, why not? They tell him that only a man who has cursed and, like, renounced, love can take the gold. Only a person who does not need love can renounce it. There are no such people. (Like I said, they’re pretty dumb).
Alberich is unimpressed. He goes, okay, I renounce love, friendship, and everything, forever. I have no use for them. You may keep them. These dumb mermaids, their jaws drop, naturally – and in the meantime Alberich grabs the gold and sticks his tongue out at them, and takes it all away without giving them a receipt.
There’s a whole lot of this gold, imagine. He has to come back a few times. When finally he gets all of it into his cave, he’s suddenly the richest bastard in the whole world.
Meantime, the giants are done building Walhalla. They scoot over to Wotan to see about the reimbursement. Wotan, naturally, expects Loge to find a loophole. Loge shuffles over to Walhalla and sniffs around. He comes back and says, you know, Wotan, dude … I don’t even know how to tell you this … damn … It’s all good. I looked hard, but there’s nothing we could possibly blame the idiots for. It’s, like, perfect. The plumbing, the library, the fireplaces, the bedrooms, the dining hall – everything’s top-notch, including the roof and the supporting structures and flying buttresses. Everything’s in place, pretty much. I’m sorry.
Naturally, Wotan gets nervous at this point. He has to give up the girl. I mean, the giants are not the types to joke with. They don’t do humor.
So Wotan goes, listen, guys … You wouldn’t, like, accept something from me … I mean, what do you say I give you something else instead? Not the girl, but something just as impressive, maybe? Come on. They go – what are you, man, are you kidding, bro? We have this agreement, right? He goes, sure, but, you see, if I give up the girl, all of us gods will keel over and die, man. They go, hey, man, that’s your problem, not ours. Make with the girl, man. Right now.
(Well, you can’t blame them. They’re, like, private contractors – and you know what kind of folks private contractors are. Once they get something into their heads, that’s it. They can’t get it out).
Wotan goes – guys, really, put yourself in my sandals, yo. Name your price. How about some gold instead? You want gold? You’ll have it. They go, how much? He goes, as much as you like.
He opens up his trunk in which he keeps his gold. The giants look at the gold, and then they look at the girl, and then they go, no way, Jose. He goes, oh, come on. They go – hey, man, we appreciate the offer and all, and we’d be happy to oblige you … we understand. We get it about your needing the girl to go on, like, living and stuff. Only as long as we can see her, we can’t give her up. She’s just too hot. You know what? Give us enough gold to cover her up from head to toe. Once we can’t see her, maybe we’ll let you keep her. Stranger things have happened.
Wotan goes, well, well, where am I going to get so much gold, man?
Now Loge steps up and goes, like, quietly, hold your horses, Wotan. I know where you can find a lot of gold. Alberich’s got some. More than we need, actually. Let’s drop by his place right now. The guys we’ll wait here, they don’t care. Shall we?
Wotan goes, yeah, good idea.