Magnus Chase and Wagner’s Ring

Alex has previously resisted reading out loud, so when they appeared in my bedroom last week jigging up and down with excitement and desperate to read one of their favourite books to me, of course I said yes. It’s a Rick Riordan book, the first in the Magnus Chase trilogy, which is based around the characters and stories found in Norse mythology. (I now know a lot more about the world tree than I previously did.)

That was last week; Alex read aloud, endlessly, while I crocheted. The audiobook version is 15 hours long and that’s about what it took us I reckon.

We finished the first book yesterday and of course all Alex wants to do today is start the second one. 🤦🏽‍♀️ However before we did that I decided to take a slight detour and look at the story of Wagner’s Ring Cycle – we’d already listened to Ride of the Valkyries last week but I’ve never actually looked at the cycle as a whole.

To Alex’s delight it seems that there’s a fair bit of crossover between the Ring Cycle and Magnus Chase – the gods have slightly different names but we were able to match them up to their Norse equivalents, and we found certain features in the story of the ring that have been lifted directly into Magnus’ story in the second and third books. (Alex was literally bouncing up and down with excitement at this point.)

THEN I discovered that Opera North have recorded the Ring Cycle in it’s entirety and made it available for free on YouTube, with subtitles and additional text to put the story in context! Naturally I was delighted; Alex rather less so – after all it is fifteen hours long. We were less than five minutes into the first act when the moaning began; I pointed out that it was about the same amount of time as Alex had spent reading Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer to me, and if they could cope with that then surely they could cope with the equivalent amount of time listening to one of the most epic musical creations in the history of anything, ever – and that’s when my genius idea struck.

OK, I said. We’ll read the next Magnus Chase book. But we’re going to match it minute for minute with the Ring Cycle. 🤩😈

So far we’re 25 mins into the first opera, and Alberich has just stolen the gold from the Rheinemaidens, who kind of deserved it as they were pretty mean to him. Twenty five minutes of Magnus Chase has seen Otis the goat dying again, and a rooftop fight with the unknown livestock assassin.

We’ve also looked briefly at Wagner’s use of leitmotif, and discussed the difficulty of separating art from the artist – can we appreciate Wagner’s work whilst being opposed to his views on race? We talked about a couple of modern examples, J.K. Rowling, Graham Lineham etc. Alex has an interesting viewpoint on that one – they think we can’t separate the art from the artist, as by its very nature the art is going to have elements of the artists views, beliefs, opinions etc embedded in it. Alex thinks though that it’s still possible to enjoy the work of people you disagree with, as long as you acknowledge the problematic bits – separating the art from the artist could also make it easy to ignore any of the issues that might have made their way into the work, and it’s not right to just take the work as an entity in itself without looking at the wider context within which it was created.

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but honestly I wonder who is educating who sometimes.