What is The Ring of the Nibelung?

   The Ring of the Nibelung is a group of four operas by Richard Wagner. The cycle consists of: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Die Gotterdammerung. The plot of these operas deals with both men and gods, and is based on Scandinavian and Germanic mythology and on ancient legends, especially material in several poems in the Eider (Poetic) Edda, and in the Volsunga Saga. The operas are not only highly dramatic, but also symbolic in theme.
   The leading characters include Brünnhilde, a warrior maiden and daughter of Wotan (Odin), chief of the ancient gods, and Siegfried, a fearless hero. The story centers around the struggle for the possession of a hoard of gold. A Nibelung, or dwarf, steals the gold from the Rhine maidens, and makes a ring from part of the hoard. Wotan steals the treasure from the Nibelung and gives it into the custody of Fafnir, a giant turned into a dragon. The angry Nibelung puts a curse of death on the ring.
   Siegfried slays Fafnir and gains the treasure. He also succeeds in rescuing Brünnhilde from her mountain prison, and the two fall in love. But Gunther, a half-brother of one of the Nibelungs, gives Siegfried a magic potion that makes him forget Brünnhilde. Later Siegfried's enemies kill him, and Brünnhilde rides her horse into the funeral pyre. In the end, the gold is returned to the Rhine maidens.