Classification: Semi-humanoid race associated with the extradimensional Asgardian gods
Location/Base of Operations: Unspecified location in the river Rhine (formerly the site of the Rhinegold), in an specified location in Europe (see comments)
Known Members: Flosshilda, Vellgunda, Voglinda
Affiliations: Loki (at least they perceived him as an ally), Odin
Enemies: Alberich of the Nibelung clan, Siegfried (a mortal incarnation of Thor Odinson)
Aliases: Water-nymphs, Nixies (Alberich called Vellgunda "pretty nixie")
First Appearance: (Wagner's Rhinemaidens) Das Rhinegold
(The Rhinegold), the first of four parts in the opera "Der
Ring Des Nibelung" (The Ring of the Nibelung) opera (September 22, 1869);
(Marvel's Rhinemaidens) Thor I#294 (April, 1980)
Powers/Abilities: The Rhinemaidens were magical creatures, presumably virtually unaging. Tasked with guarding the Rhinegold, they were unable to leave the river Rhine's waters. Other than being able to breathe water and air, it is unclear what, if any other abilities they had.
Traits: They enjoyed entrancing others with their beauty and teasing mortal men, but they were easily distracted from their primary job and could do little to stop anyone who reached the Rhinegold
Type: Bilaterally symmetric semi-humanoid humanoid-piscine hybrid (humanoid from the waist up, piscine from the waist down)
Eyes: Two (on head; colors not clearly seen)
Fingers: Four (plus opposing thumb)
Toes: None (they had a large fin in place of legs)
Skin color: Caucasian
Average height/length: Approximately 7' fromt head to tail
(Thor I#294 (fb) - BTS) - Following the Ragnarok that destroyed the Asgard of the Aesir, Modi and Magni found Mjolnir, the hammer of their father, Thor. Resisting the urge to use its power to dominate their fellow Aesir, they cast the hammer to Earth.
The hammer landed in a river
(which would become known as the Rhine) in the land that would become
Europe landing with such impact that it altered the river's course for
all time. Additionally, the hammer changed in passing from the ruins of
old Asgard to Midgard, turning into blinding gold. As a great glowing
rock, it rested on an unreachable peak amid the flowing waters, and it
would become known as the Rhinegold.
The surviving gods merged to form a new Odin, who then created a new generation of gods, giants, trolls, etc., and remade Asgard.
(Thor I#294 (fb) - BTS) - The Rhinegold came to be guarded by a trio of mermaids known as the Rhinemaidens: Flosshilda, Vellgunda, and Voglinda.
It was said that world-conquest would be the prize of one who forged a ring of the Rhinegold, but only one who renounced love in all its myriad forms would ever find magic enough to forge such a ring.
Odin proclaimed that none should steal the Rhinegold, and he apparently warned the Rhinemaidens of the types that might try to steal it.
(Thor I#294 (fb)) - As the Rhinemaidens lounged in the river, Flosshilda splashed Voglinda, mockingly asking if this was how she guarded the gold that day. Voglinda clarified that it was Vellgunda's job that day, but Vellgunda questioned what difference it made how or if the gold was guarded: Who would dare do what it took to gain such a prize and to defy Odin's edict.
Noting the approach a man, Flosshilda warned her sisters to look to the Rhinegold.
Alberich, a kyphotic gnome of the Nibellung clan, approached, hailing the "fish-like maid -- or is the other way around?" and asking if he could join their watery frolic.
Flosshilda again warned her sisters to look to the Rhinegold, as the all-father had warned of such a foe.
Alberich assured them that he was not a foe, and that they wronged him, as he but wished to know what gleamed from "yonder rock."
Flosshilda encouraged her sisters to watch as she teased the man, telling Alberich that the rock was the Rhinegold, which was not for him or any mortal. When he asked its secret, Vellgunda called him a fool as she ran her fingers through his hair and told him of its prophecies of power, but that no one would want that. Alberich asked why, and Vellgunda told him how it required renouncing all forms of love, and asking who would be mad enough to renounce love, which "rules all that lives."
Noting that he had never known love, Alberich leapt atop the shallow peak and grabbed the Rhinegold, tauntingly asking if now they knew fear, and then suggesting they should tremble when he told them that he renounced love and he cursed it.
Voglinda tearfully told the others to quickly capture the thief, but Flosshilda helplessly stood by and wondered what could they do as they could not leave the sacred river. Vellgunda ordered Alberich to stop, asking if he had no pity. As he leapt to the shore, Alberich noted, "One needs be capable of love to feel pity -- and I have thus renounced both. Farewell, finny ones!"
(Thor I#295 (fb) - BTS) - The Rhinemaidens prayed daily that Odin would avenge their loss and return the Rhinegold to them.
(Thor I#294 (fb) - BTS) - Loki manipulated Odin into promising the goddess Idunn to the giants Fafnir and Fasolt if they would forge Valhalla, assuring Odin he would find a way that they would not have to give Idunn to the giants.
(Thor I#295 (fb)) - Loki's Earthly search for a ransom the giants might accept in place of Idunn took him to the river-abode of the Rhinemaidens. They avowed that the Rhinegold horde was just such a treasure, but they told Loki that it had been stolen by Alberich.
(Thor I#300 (fb)) - Siegfried, a mortal incarnation of Thor who had obtained the Ring of the Nibelung (into which the Rhinegold had been transformed), encountered the Rhinemaidens as he was out searching for game to take to his bride-to-be Gutruna. Vellgunda hailed "pretty Siegried," Flosshilda asked if the prey had eluded the great hunter, and Voglinda offered to show him where game hid.
When Siegfried wondered what he had to do in return, they told him they desired only the ring on his finger. Siegfried argued that the ring was too precious to be idly traded, but Voglinda told him he was foolish as doom befell anyone who wore the accursed ring, and Flosshilda argued that only the waters of their river could cancel the curse.
Proclaiming himself a dragon-slayer, Siegfried told them he feared no mouthed curse, and the Rhinemaidens dove beneath the waters and swam away, with Flosshilda offering the final warning, "Then there is no hope for you! Farewell, doomed one!"
(Thor I#300 (fb) - BTS) - Thinking the Rhinemaidens foolish and wondering what could possibly harm a mighty warrior like himself, Siegfried nonethless reflected how their words resembled those spoken by the dragon Fafnir.
Shortly thereafter, Siegfried was fatally impaled from behind by the dwarf Hagen's spear. Odin ultimately claimed the Ring of the Nibelung and transformed it into the powerful Oversword/Odinsword.
Comments: Created by Richard Wagner;
adapted by Roy Thomas, Keith Pollard, and Chic Stone.
Flosshilda is the brunette; Voglinda is more auburn or redheadeds; and Vellgunda is the blonde.
The arrival of the Rhinegold on Earth would occur shortly after the previous Ragnarok, which was meant to occur around the birth of Christ, approximately 2000 years ago.
Surprised by their sudden appearance, Siegfried exclaimed, "Rhinemaidens!"
The fact that he called them "Rhinemaidens" as opposed to "the Rhinemaidens," makes me wonder if there were more than just these three, but there's nothing further to support or contradict that.
The Rhinemaidens haven't been seen in any modern appearances as far as I know. It is unrevealed whether they still dwell in the Rhine or perhaps they traveled to Asgard, or...who knows?
The Rhine river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the Rhineland and eventually empties into the North Sea in the Netherlands. I don't really know specifically where the Rhinemaidens were based, and in the Marvel Universe they were likely active before most of those countries came into existence.
disembodied Eye of Odin related the tale of a previous Asgard/Ragnarok
to Thor (as well as the story of the Rhinegold, the Rhinemaidens, and
the previous incarnations of Thor), and while some of its elements have
been called into question
(most notably, Odin told a different account of how he came to power --
and the fate of Ve and Vili -- in Thor I#349),
it remains the apparent source of the Rhinegold, and thus the Ring of
the Nibelung and the Oversword.
It could also be speculated that this account might be an earlier age of Asgard than the one before the modern age; if there are any major disrepancies or things that argue otherwise, the counter-argument is..."magic"!
All I know Wagner and the Ring trilogy comes from Bugs Bunny's "Kill the Wabbit" and this Thor story. Wikipedia says this:
Alone of the Ring's characters, the Rhinemaidens do not originate from the Poetic Edda or Prose Edda, the Icelandic sources for most of Norse mythology. Water-sprites (German: Nixen) appear in many European myths and legends, often but not invariably in a form of disguised malevolence. Wagner drew widely and loosely from those legends when compiling his Ring narrative, and the probable origin of his Rhinemaidens is in the German Nibelungenlied. In one part of the Nibelungenlied narrative Hagen and Gunther encounter certain "wise women" (thereafter described as water-sprites), bathing and refreshing themselves in the waters of the Danube. Hagen creeps softly towards them, but he is seen, whereupon the sprites retreat and mock him from a distance. Hagen then steals their clothes. To obtain the return of these, one of the sprites, Hadeburg, promises falsely that Hagen and Gunther will find honor and glory when they enter Etzel's kingdom. After their clothes are returned, another sprite, Sigelinde (a name Wagner would adopt again for use elsewhere), tells Hagen that her sister has lied. If they go to Etzel's land, they will die there.
This story, itself unrelated to the Ring drama, is echoed by Wagner both in the opening Das Rheingold scene and in the first scene in Act III of Götterdämmerung. Wagner first adapted the story for use in his early libretto of Siegfried's Death (which eventually became Götterdämmerung), introducing three unnamed water-maids (Wasserjungfrauen), and locating them in the Rhine, where they warn Siegfried of his impending death. Later these water-maids became Rhinemaidens (Rheintöchter), and were given individual names: Flosshilde, Wellgunde, and Bronnlinde. As Wagner continued working on his reverse chronology from Siegfried's death, he arrived at what he determined was the initial act of the drama—Alberich's theft of the Rhine gold. Believing that a simple abduction of the unguarded gold would lack dramatic force, Wagner made the Rhinemaidens the guardians of the gold, and he introduced the "renunciation of love" condition. Bronnlinde became Woglinde, probably to avoid confusion with Brünnhilde.
Wagner may also have been influenced by the Rhine River-based German legend of Lorelei, the lovelorn young maiden who drowns herself in the river and becomes a siren, luring fishermen onto the rocks by her singing. Further possible sources lie in Greek mythology and literature. Similarities exist between the maiden guardians in the Hesperides myth and the Rhinemaidens of Das Rheingold; three females guard a highly desired golden treasure that is stolen in the telling of each tale. Wagner was an enthusiastic reader of Aeschylus, including his Prometheus Bound which has a chorus of Oceanids or water nymphs. One author, Rudolph Sabor, sees a link between the Oceanids' treatment of Prometheus and the Rhinemaidens' initial tolerance of Alberich. Just as in Greek myth the Oceanids are the daughters of the titan sea god Oceanus, in Norse mythology—specifically the Poetic Edda—the jötunn (similar to a giant) sea god Ægir has nine daughters. The name of one of these means "wave" (Welle in German) and is a possible source for Wellgunde's name.
Wagner's operas do not reveal where the Rhinemaidens came from, or whether they have any connection to other characters. Whereas most of the characters in the cycle are inter-related, through birth, marriage, or sometimes both, the Rhinemaidens are seemingly independent. The identity of their father who entrusted them with the guardianship of the gold is not given in the text. Some Wagnerean scholars have suggested that he may be a "Supreme Being" who is the father of Wotan and all the gods—indeed, of all creation. Others take the German Rheintöchter literally and say that they are the daughters of the Rhine River. Whatever is surmised, the Rhinemaidens are in a different category from Wotan and the other gods, who are destroyed by fire at the end of Götterdämmerung, while the Rhinemaidens swim happily away in the river, bearing their recovered treasure.
Profile by Snood.
The Rhinemaidens have no known connections to
images: (without ads)
Thor I#294, pg. 13, panel 1 (basking in the Rhine);
panel 2 (with Rhinegold);
pg. 14, panel 3 (lamenting the Rhinegold's loss);
#295, pg. 5, panel 2 (with Loki);
#300, pg. 2, panel 5 (Flosshilda warns Siegfried)
Thor I#294-295 (April-May, 1980) - Roy Thomas (writer/editor), Keith Pollard (penciler), Chic Stone (inker), Jim Shooter (consulting editor)
Thor I#300 (April-May, 1980) - Mark Gruenwald & Roy Thomas (writers), Keith Pollard (penciler), Gene Day (inker), Jim Salicrup (consulting editor)
Last updated: 01/21/17
Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.
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