Photo of Wood relief of "Ride of the Valkyries" by Dagfin Werenskiold, in Oslo, Norway

Weekly Gem #137 One Ring to Rule Them All

Published 10/14/2017

Location:  This Weekly Gem is located near the intersection of Kronprinsesse Märthas Plass and Fridtjof Nansens Plass, in Oslo, Norway (see the Clue Me! Map).

Richard Wagner wrote an opera cycle called "The Ring of Nibelung" that lasts about 15 hours, is to be performed over a period of four days. The operas making up this four day story are "The Rhinegold," "The Valkyrie," "Siegfried," and "Twilight of the Gods."

Of the entire cycle, the most well-known and requested section is “The Ride of the Valkyries.” This singling out of a favorite part did not sit well with Wagner, because he was strongly opposed to playing one portion of any opera without playing the entire opera … otherwise, the context is (obviously) lost. But then again, imagine buying a ticket for 4 days and 15 hours in order to hear your favorite 5 minutes, with no rewind or fast forward to be had.

As time went on, Wagner was always being asked to perform “Ritt der Walküren, bitte! He gradually relented, to a degree, and now this short piece is a requirement of most any concert with a Wagner theme. It also played essential roles in “Apocalypse Now,” and the most famous of productions, “What’s Opera, Doc?”.

If you haven’t sat through the entire Ring of Nibelung, you might enjoy it, especially if you’re a fan of Tolkien. Here’s the gist of the story: There exists a magical ring that grants the owner the power to rule the world. A greedy, smaller-than-human creature finds a treasure in the depths of a river. He carries it to his underground retreat where he retains it until it is stolen by a visitor from the upper world. He swears eternal hate to the thief. Etcetera.

Both Wagner and Tolkien used pre-Christian German stories and old Norse poems to develop the plots of their very lengthy stories. You might think Tolkien was inspired by Wagner, but apparently he was not a fan. He downplayed any similarities, insisting, “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased.”


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Is anybody else hearing music by Wagner? (... or maybe Elmer Fudd singing "Kill the Wabbit," in Bugs Bunny's, "What's Opera, Doc?")


Wood relief of "Ride of the Valkyries" by Dagfin Werenskiold.

Why It's Interesting

Dagfin Werenskiold made 16 wooden reliefs placed on the outside of Oslo's City Hall. The reliefs depict stories from Eddic Poems from Norse mythology. Eddic poems are the old minstrel poems passed down through generations orally from singer to singer. The Valkyries were "choosers of the slain." These maidens led the warriors to Valhalla, the god Odin's majestic afterlife hall for those who die in combat.

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