The Birth of Leiji’s Ring Out of the Alien Spirit of Music
To say that the Ring of the Nibelung manga is Leiji Matsumoto’s version of the Ring legend is true and yet not true.
Traditionally, when a writer decides to do a fictional version of a story or legend, the actual legend gets displaced and is supposed not to exist. For example, consider Tokien’s Lord of the Rings as a version of the Ring legend (he’d kill us for even considering it but that’s beside the point). There is obviously no mention of Wagner’s Ring in Tolkien’s books, or of the Norse Eddas or of any mythology connected to it. Tolkien’s world is meant to displace and replace older Ring stories. That’s the whole point, of course.
Recently, though, it’s become more fashionable to create fictional stories in which the original stories are included, alluded to and played upon. An easy example from Japan would be Ikki Tousen. This story could be called a modern version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but the fact is that the events of ROTK happened in the past of Ikki Tousen, and so it’s not so much a version but a continuation of the original story. It’s a special sort of continuation because history in this manga is cyclical and thus any sequel is automatically a reboot of the original.
With this in mind we can come to understand Leiji’s Ring. The story begins with Alberich on a mad mission to forge a ring that will give him control over the universe. The gold required lies in the planet Rhine, but the location of Rhine is kept secret. Alberich’s first stop is the merchant planet Acrucyon, which is in the vicinity of Rhine. Alberich forces the people of Acrucyon to surrender the secret of Rhine’s location and then eliminates the entire population and engineers the destruction of the planet. He moves on to Rhine, steals the Rhinegold and heads to Earth with the intention of forcing Tadashi Daiba, son of the greatest metallurgist in the universe (now deceased), to forge the ring he so desires.
Maetel, aware of Alberich’s plans, goes to Earth and tries to warn Daiba. He advises him to listen to Wagner’s Ring opera and study it carefully. Daiba ends up forging the ring at gunpoint anyway and he is enlisted by the crew of the Arcadia to undo the mess he helped create. Tochiro gives him the task of researching the Ring legend, and when we look at the books he is reading most of them seem to be copies of Wagner’s opera.
Thus in this manga the Ring legend is fact, and for some reason or another the Wagnerian version of the tales is closest to that fact. The reason, I believe, has to do with the origins of music in the Leijiverse. First two case studies.
Case One: Schubert and Maetel
One of the chapters in the Final Fantasy Arc of Galaxy Express 999 features the composer Schubert’s descendant. This Schubert claims that his ancestor was inspired by a certain Saint Maetel he met in the year 1666. The exact identity of both people in that meeting is somewhat of a mystery. As the Leijiverse Integrated Timeline (LIT) notes, Maetel was more than likely not alive in the year 1666, and so this “St. Maetel” should be her mother Promethium, who was the Millennial Queen on Earth in the period 1000-2000 AD. In the same fashion, Franz Schubert the composer wasn’t born until 1797, so the man in 1666 must have been the composer’s ancestor! The best explanation here involves Leiji’s belief in genetic memory. According to Leiji, we can remember our ancestors’ memories..likely then Saint Maetel influenced Franz through the memories she inscribed on his ancestor a century and a half earlier.
Conclusion: Schubert’s music was directly inspired by an alien being, specifically, a LaMetalian.
Case Two: the Earl of Darkwood
Released 5 years after the chapter in Case One, Interstella 5555‘s plot consists of the son of an English nobleman who comes into contact with an alien artifact, control of which allows him to live for centuries and access outer space. He hits upon the grand idea of kidnapping great musicians from all over the universe, brainwashing them and refashioning them into superstars on Earth. Mozart, Hendrix and Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald and Jimmy Page, are all aliens brought to Earth in this fashion.
In this case the aliens are the musicians!!
Is Wagner Case Three?
We’ve established the following points as valid in the Leijiverse:
1) The Ring legend in its many versions harks back to historical events.
2) Wagner’s opera is the closest to real Ring history that Earthlings have produced.
3) Some of the greatest music in Earth’s history owes its quality to aliens in outer space.
We have to consider the strong possibility that the Leijiverse’s Wagner came into contact with aliens or was an alien himself. Let’s try to narrow this down.
The characters most knowledgeable about the Ring story must be Wotan, Alberich and Miime. The Leijiverse Wotan despises humans and one cannot fathom him imparting any knowledge to any human on any subject. Alberich is obsessed with power so he’s not about to divulge any knowledge either. That leaves Miime. Miime must have taught Wagner all he knew. This dives in well with the LIT‘s speculation that Miime is the source and fountain of Norse mythology in the Leijiverse.
It’s interesting that already in the beginning of the manga, we’re told very clearly that Miime knows lots but she refuses to spill the beans on the past. It’s a bit exasperating because Miime is on the Arcadia, and yet Tochiro has to get Daiba to research the subject of the Ring even though the expert is right there with them!
Alas, Miime works in mysterious ways.