(on a mountaintop)
Fricka: Wotan! Wake up!
Wotan: (still half asleep) My noble halls are guarded by a mighty gate and sturdy walls; my manly honor and eternal power will lead to fame without end!
Fricka: Wake up; you're dreaming again! Get up, Wotan, and face the real world!
Wotan: (awake) The everlasting masterpiece is finally finished - there stands the castle of the Gods high on the mountaintop, reaching majestically to the Heavens! I dreamed about it for so long, and my dream's finally come true. As strong and mighty as I wanted it, it stands for everyone to see in all its brilliance and glory!
Fricka: You see only glory in something that's a nightmare to me? That castle might make you happy, but I'm worried about Freia. Don't you remember the terrible price you have to pay now? Your castle is finished, but you've forgotten what you promised in exchange for it.
Wotan: I know very well what I promised those people who built my home; I gave those lowly creatures something worthwhile to do, to show me their true strength. Obviously, they were up to the challenge, but you don't need to worry at all about how I'm going to pay them.
Fricka: Well, that's just great! You pass it off as nothing; as usual, you're only thinking about yourself! I would have prevented your ever having had that thing built if I'd known what a terrible contract you'd signed. But, just like a man, you kept a woman's common sense out of it; you met with the giants all by yourself, and selfishly traded my sister Freia for their work! And you still think you got the better of the deal, too! Is there nothing you men hold sacred when your lust for power blinds you to everything?
Wotan: Weren't you thinking of power as well, when you asked me to have a home built for us?
Fricka: I worry about you all the time. You're very prone to just disappear without warning, and roam the earth without any purpose at all in mind. I thought that by having a place you could call home, you might finally settle down and rest for a change. But instead of peace, this castle was conceived for battle and defense of your power. Instead of building a home, you created more reason for the conflict and turmoil I tried to help you get rid of!
Wotan: I know you'd like to see me at home more often. But I'm a God; even if I were to stay in one place all the time, it's my destiny to control the world. Looking at it that way, how could I think of depriving myself the pleasure of roaming that all living things have in common?
Fricka: So the truth finally comes out! You'd rather chase after worthless, petty conquests than enjoy the priceless gift of a woman's love!
Wotan: Remember, I sacrificed one of my eyes for the sole purpose of winning you as my wife. How can you possibly say that your love isn't important to me? I honor women more than you know, and I never intended to give up Freia - that's been my plan from the beginning.
Fricka: It's time to put your plan into action - here she comes, frightened out of her mind and looking for your help.
Freia: Brother! Sister! Help me, please! Fasolt is coming from the mountain to take me away with him!
Wotan: Let him try! Have you seen Loge?
Fricka: Loge?! Are you going to trust him again? He always lets us down, but you keep believing that somehow, he's going to be able to help you.
Wotan: When courage and strength is all it takes to get the job done, I don't ask for help from anyone! But when it comes to capitalizing on people's weaknesses, even I need the kind of skill that only Loge has. When we negotiated this contract, he promised to keep Freia safe, and I'll trust him to do just that.
Fricka: He's going to let you down again! The giants are on their way now, and I don't see any sign of your savior.
Freia: I see I can't count on my brother-in-law when I need him the most. But where are my real brothers, who should be here helping me? Donner! Froh! Help! Come and fight to protect me!
Fricka: (to Wotan) Everyone you counted on is betraying you when you need them the most.
(the giants Fasolt and Fafner enter)
Fasolt: (to Wotan) You rested peacefully while we tirelessly built your castle. Never sleeping, never stopping to rest, we moved stones, put up the huge gate, and built the walls that will protect you. There it stands, a monument to our work, shining brilliantly in the sunlight. But before you go there, pay us what you owe us!
Wotan: Name it, my friends: Whatever you want, it's yours.
Fasolt: We already agreed on what we thought was a fair price; have you forgotten already? Freia - lovely Freia, beautiful Freia - you were going to pay us with her.
Wotan: Have you lost your minds? I can't sell Freia! Think of something else.
Fasolt: What?! Are you trying to trick us, and get out of our agreement? Don't those marks of honor and contract on your spear mean anything to you?
Fafner: (to Fasolt) Now you see what I tried to warn you of. You trusted him!
Fasolt: I know it's hard for you to be faithful to your agreement, but you have to! Without your word, you're nothing. Your power is defined by the honor you show in keeping your promises. You're a lot wiser than we are; you made us your servants to keep peace on the earth. But I will curse your wisdom and leave that peace behind if you don't live up to your word right here and now. I'm just a stupid giant, but you'd better listen to what I'm saying!
Wotan: You've shown me exactly how stupid you really are by trying to keep me bound to an agreement we made in jest! This lovely goddess, young and full of light as she is - what possible use could she be to you oafs in your dark world?
Fasolt: You dare to mock us like this? How unjust can you be? You glorious, shining race of Gods, who rule with heavenly majesty and power! You want homes with strong towers of stone, but you'd trade the most wonderful feminine devotion for it! We worked all day long, sweating tirelessly in our simple existence, just to try and get something - anything! - that would make our impossible lives just a little more bearable. And now, you're trying to take away our only chance to ever have something beautiful in our lives?
Fafner: (to Fasolt) Don't waste your time with him; it won't get you anywhere. Having Freia wouldn't do us any good anyway, and you know it. But she'd be worth a lot more to us away from her home with the gods. She grows golden apples that keep the Gods young and strong. She's the only one who knows how to raise them, and without her, the Gods will get old and weak; they'll whither into nothingness if we can somehow get her away from them. We have to do this to them, if we're ever going to get anywhere in life!
Wotan: (to himself) Loge's certainly taking his time getting here!
Fasolt: We want your answer now!
Wotan: Think of something else!
Fasolt: There isn't anything else! We want Freia!
Fafner: (to Freia) You! Come with us!
Freia: Help! Save me from these brutes!
(Donner and Froh enter)
Froh: Come here, Freia! (to the giants) Stay away from her, or you'll have to deal with me!
Donner: Fasolt and Fafner, do you want to feel my hammer crush your heads?
Fafner: Why are you threatening us?
Fasolt: What's the meaning of this? We aren't here to fight, we just want to get what's rightfully ours.
Donner: I've often enjoyed giving giants what they have coming to them. Come on! I'll give you what's rightfully yours, and you won't soon forget it!
Wotan: Wait a minute! Fighting won't get us anywhere! My spear is all the protection this contract needs; put your hammer away.
Freia: Oh, Wotan has truly given up on me now!
Fricka: (to Wotan) Did I hear you correctly? Have you really sunk so low?
Wotan: Loge! Where have you been? Is this lazy, half-hearted attitude of yours the one you plan to use to help me?
Loge: What? What help are you talking about? Oh, do you mean the deal you made with the giants? I find my pleasure in roaming the heights and depths of the earth; a home wouldn't mean that much to me. But Donner and Froh, on the other hand - they're always thinking about a place where they could settle down. A home would be a wonderful thing for them, especially thinking of marriage like they are! Just like them, Wotan wanted a strong castle, a noble hall to call his home. Well, there it stands - it's finally been built just the way he ordered it. I went and tested its strength, and found everything in order. The giants kept their part of the bargain; the walls are strong and sturdy, with not a stone out of place. So you see, I haven't been lazy or half-hearted about my duties, and anyone who says so is a liar!
Wotan: Get to the point! It wouldn't be very smart of you to let me down on this one. I alone, of all the gods, believed in you when the others didn't trust you. Now live up to that trust, and help me like you promised you would! You know I only agreed to give Freia to the giants because you told me you had a way out of it for me.
Loge: I did promise to consider how you could get out of giving her up. But how could I hope to find a substitute for her when one simply doesn't exist? How can I ever make good on that kind of a promise?
Fricka: (to Wotan) Now you see the kind of person you trusted!
Froh: People call you Loge, but I say your name is Liar! [a play on words; "Liar" in German is "Lüge"]
Donner: I'll teach you to trick us!
Loge: You're threatening me because you know this is all your fault.
Wotan: Leave my friend alone! You don't understand how Loge works. If he stalls in giving his advice, it'll just be all the more valuable when he finally does!
Fafner: No more delays! We want our payment!
Fasolt: We've been waiting patiently.
Wotan: All right, Loge! Tell us what you're up to!
Loge: No one's ever thankful when I help them! I searched frantically all over the earth, worried to death about how I'd be able to help you. I went through a lot to try and find a substitute for Freia that would be fair to the giants. Of course, my search was doomed to fail - I can see that now all too well. What is there in all the world that would serve any man as a substitute for a woman's beauty and love? Everywhere life exists - in the water, on the earth, in the air, I asked everyone and everything I met: What is there that could be more valuable to a man than a woman's love? Of course, everywhere I asked, the answer was the same: No living thing would ever give up love. I did meet one person who had, though; he had forsaken love for gold. The Rhinemaidens told me their problem: Alberich the Nibelung had tried in vain to get them to love him, but of course they just laughed at him. He got angry with them, and stole their gold right out of the water. Now, it's the most valuable thing in the world to him, more valuable even than the love of a woman. The Rhinemaidens were very upset about the whole thing. They appealed to you, Wotan, to bring this thief to justice and return their gold to them. I promised them I'd tell you about it, and now, as always, I've kept my word.
Wotan: You must be out of your mind! You can see that I'm in a difficult spot here myself; how can I worry about helping anyone else?
Fasolt: (to Fafner) Alberich doesn't deserve to have that gold! He's caused us quite a few problems, and he's always managed to get away from us before we could get back at him.
Fafner: With this gold's power, he may be back to cause us more trouble. Loge, tell me the truth: Why does the Nibelung value this gold so much? What's its true power?
Loge: In the water, the way it was, it's a child's plaything. But if it were to be made into a ring, it would give whoever owned it supreme power over the entire world.
Wotan: I've heard about this magic gold; made into a ring, it would cast a spell on its owner which would make him the most powerful man alive.
Fricka: Would this golden "plaything" also bring power to a female owner?
Loge: A woman could ensure her husband's fidelity if she were to own the magic gold. But now it's being guarded by the dwarfs in Nibelheim.
Fricka: Could my husband get the ring for himself?
Wotan: It would seem to be a good thing to own this ring. But, Loge, how could I learn how to make it?
Loge: No one knows the magic spell it would take, but anyone who completely renounced love could learn it. Of course, you could never do that, and it's too late anyway, because Alberich has already given up on love, learned the magic, and made the ring for himself.
Donner: That dwarf will have power over all of us if we don't get that ring away from him!
Wotan: I must have the ring!
Froh: It would easy to take now, without having to give up love.
Loge: Amazingly easy; child's play!
Wotan: Tell me, how?
Loge: Steal it! You take from the thief what the thief stole. What could be easier? But Alberich is very careful and shrewd; you'll have to be very smart to outwit him and get the gold back for the Rhinemaidens. It does belong to them, after all, and that's what they're asking you to do for them.
Wotan: The Rhinemaidens? What are you talking about?
Fricka: I don't want to hear about them. They've lured many men away from their homes by seduction, sadly for me. [Fricka is the Goddess of fidelity and marriage]
Fafner: (to Fasolt) Believe me, that gold is worth a whole lot more than Freia! Whoever owns it would have anything he wanted. Wotan! Listen to what I have to say: You can keep Freia; I know of a much easier price you can pay. We hard-working giants would be satisfied just to have the Nibelung's gold.
Wotan: Are you out of your mind? How can I pay you with something that's not mine?
Fafner: That castle was very hard to build. You have wisdom we could never hope for, so it'll be much easier for you to bring Alberich to justice and win the gold.
Wotan: So you want me to go to all the trouble of getting that gold, just to turn around and give it to you? You've gotten a little too confident with yourselves, thinking I owe you a lot more than I do.
Fasolt: (to Freia) Come with us, girl! You belong to us now! You'll be our hostage until we've been paid what we deserve.
Freia: Help! Help!
Fafner: We're going to take her far away from here, and hold her until this evening. When we come back, that gold had better be here to buy back her freedom. If not -
Fasolt: Then our patience will be over, and Freia will be ours forever!
Freia: Sister! Brothers! Save me! Help!
(The giants leave, carrying Freia)
Froh: Get up; get after them!
Donner: Everything is destroyed!
Freia: (offstage) Help me! Save me!
Loge: (watching as the giants leave) They're carrying her down to the valley; crossing over the waters of the Rhine. They've got Freia hanging from their shoulders, crying in distress! Heia! Hei! They move pretty slow, but they won't stop to rest until they get back to Riesenheim. Now they're going though the valley! Wotan, why do you look so pale? How is the glorious God reacting to this terrible turn of events? Is a fog covering my eyes? Am I being deceived by a dream? You're all looking so pale and downtrodden! The color is gone from your cheeks; your eyes are staring at nothing! Come on, Froh, all hope isn't lost yet. Donner, you've dropped your mighty hammer! What's wrong with you, Fricka? Are you upset with how weak and helpless your husband has become?
Fricka: Woe is us! What have we let happen here?
Donner: My hands have no strength.
Froh: My heart feels heavy and sad.
Loge: I've got it; I know what the problem is! You haven't eaten any of Freia's fruit today. Those apples keep you all healthy and young when you eat them. But now she's gone, and her fruit is withering and dying on the vine. Soon, it'll fall to the ground, and be as lifeless as you all are now. That doesn't bother me, though: Freia's always kept her apples away from me, because I'm only half the God you are! But all your power depends on the strength the fruit brings you; the giants knew this, and they took advantage of the weakness they knew you all had. You need to make every effort now to get your strength back; without those apples, you'll get old and gray. You'll wither under the scorn of all the earth, and the race of Gods will die!
Fricka: Wotan, my unhappy husband. See how your thoughtlessness has brought us all to shame and disgrace?!
Wotan: Loge, come with me! We're going down to Nibelheim, and I'm going to get that gold!
Loge: So you want to help the Rhinemaidens now?
Wotan: Shut up with that shallow babbling! We're going there to rescue Freia!
Loge: I'll gladly take you wherever you want to go. Are we going to go across the Rhine?
Wotan: Not through the Rhine! [Avoiding the Rhinemaidens]
Loge: The back way through the sulfur chasm, then? OK, follow me!
Wotan: You others wait here for us until nightfall; I'll win back our lost youth with the magic gold!
(Wotan and Loge exit)
Donner: Farewell, Wotan!
Froh: Good luck! Good luck!
Fricka: I love you! Come back to me!