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FROM IRON AGE MYTH TO IDEALIZED NATIONAL LANDSCAPE: HUMAN-NATURE RELATIONSHIPS AND ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM IN FRITZ LANG'S DIE NIBELUNGEN

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image of Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology

From the Iron Age to the modern period, authors have repeatedly restructured the ecomythology of the Siegfried saga. Fritz Lang's Weimar film production (released in 1924-1925) of Die Nibelungen presents an ascendant humanist Siegfried, who dominates over nature in his dragon slaying. Lang removes the strong family relationships typical of earlier versions, and portrays Siegfried as a son of the German landscape rather than of an aristocratic, human lineage. Unlike The Saga of the Volsungs, which casts the dwarf Andvari as a shape-shifting fish, and thereby indistinguishable from productive, living nature, both Richard Wagner and Lang create dwarves who live in subterranean or inorganic habitats, and use environmental ideals to convey anti-Semitic images, including negative contrasts between Jewish stereotypes and healthy or organic nature. Lang's Siegfried is a technocrat, who, rather than receiving a magic sword from mystic sources, begins the film by fashioning his own. Admired by Adolf Hitler, Die Nibelungen idealizes the material and the organic in a way that allows the modern ''hero'' to romanticize himself and, without the aid of deities, to become superhuman.

Affiliations: 1: Whitworth College

10.1163/156853500507825
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2000-11-01
2017-10-18

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