Musical Similarities

An intentional homage to Wagner's Götterdämmerung



Wagner and the end of ROTK

The one true homage in the LOTR scores to preexisting work.


Fans noticed the similarities between the finale of ROTK and Wagner almost immediately. And, at some point, it was stated the nod to Wagner was intentional. But, for a long time, it wasn't clear what part of Wagner's body of work was being referenced. Many Wagner fans weighed in with their thoughts before it was definitively declared that Shore had been inspired by Götterdämmerung. Even after the declaration, fans wanted to believe differently, stating that other portions of Wagner's work was closer to the end of ROTK than Götterdämmerung. Doug Adams explained it thusly:

The only Wagner allusion in Shore’s LOTR scores is the Götterdämmerung near the very end of ROTK. Many have asked, “But isn’t that really a nod to material more prominent in Die Walküre or perhaps Das Rheingold?” The answer is simple… Shore, being versed in Wagner, but again not a Wagner scholar, recalled this material from Götterdämmerung when he chose to reference it. That was his intent, so thus it is listed. It’s the same reason that Stravinsky’s Greeting Prelude is not listed as Variations on a Theme by Patty and Mildred Hill. It is the composers’ intentions that are the key to understanding their work in such instances.

There are slight differences in the ending of the score as heard in the movie itself, the OST, and the CR.

The End : ROTK EE
The End : ROTK OST - 4:35 - end, Track 19, Into the West
The End : ROTK CR - 9:50 - end, Disc 4, Track 7, Days of the Ring
The End : Götterdämmerung - 13:17 - end

The Ring and I: The Passion, The Myth, The Mania (WNYC radio program on Wagner's Ring Cycle - streaming audio)


One last thought before moving on. Doug wrote, "It is the composers’ intentions that are the key to understanding their work in such instances." I've seen statements like this used to shut down discussion. That is, 'the composer didn't think this way so we shouldn't.' I think this is a mistaken application of a comment like this. The composers' intentions are key to understanding their work.


First we have 'key'. Absolutely, the composers intention are key. But the key is not the only thing one considers. It is valid, IMO, to consider lots of things even when it can not be proven to be the composers' intention and even (gasp) when it can be proven to not be the composers' intention. (And I apply this to any artist/creator... beyond just composers). The important part is one must understand how to rank in validity and importance the composers' intentions against other considerations. I like some of my ideas and I think examining how I think differently than the artist helps me understand the work. But I'm careful to place my opinions in a different 'slot'... a different 'class' than the artist's intentions. My opinions don't carry the same weight as official information and they don't get used in the same way.


Then we have 'their work'. A consideration or discussion of a piece of art serves many purposes. Only one is to understand 'the work'. If a group of people sit down to view an unfamiliar work and then discuss what they think of it, all sorts of interesting things can come to light that really have little to do with the artist or even the work. That group might discover more about themselves as individuals, group dynamics, roles each play within the group, cultural paradigms, etc.


The goal is multifold, imo. First, to seek to be educated about as much as one can, from as valid a source as one can. Second, to allow for thoughts other than the 'official line' to exist and be discussed. Third, to understand the difference between the two approaches when forming an opinion, stating a point, or debating an issue. That goes for both 'sides'... that is: people who gravitate towards one approach strongly. If you're all fact based... lighten up sometimes. If you're all personal opinion based... educate yourself. Learn to listen as much as you like to talk. Understand where the other party is coming from and allow for differences in approach.





Many Wagner fans weighed in with their thoughts before it was definitively declared that Shore had been inspired by Gotterdammerung. Some might think it was time to dump all those old thoughts, declaring them 'wrong'. Well, I think you know what I think about that! We may know what Shore intended now but all those other thoughts could still be useful for discussion. I will admit I know nothing about Wagner. Maybe something here is so totally wrong as to be outrageous. I wouldn't know. And I am not interesting in evaluating or editing. I'm just archiving stuff I collected from private emails or discussions at old forums. You got something to say? Post it at Doug Adams' blog.


Tony Bannister wrote:

I'd like to draw your attention to an interesting comparison that hit me the very first time I heard the end of the track "Into the West" on the ROTK soundtrack. While the song itself is not my favourite of the trilogy (that's "May it Be"), the section from 4:34 to the end is one of my favourite moments of music in the score. It is intensely reminiscent of the "Leibestod" from Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" - part of the Ring cycle! I can't think of a better way to end the trilogy than with an homage to such a majestic and moving piece of music. One would assume that Howard Shore knows his Wagner, and I think that he must have wanted to write a comparable piece to round off the trilogy.


(all the following quotes were from's old forums)


Marian Schedenig wrote:

Ok, some clarifications. The motif at the end of ROTK is indeed very similar to the Feuerzauber (Magic Fire Music) first heard in Die Walküre - the string part of Shore's piece, that is; the brass is his. That motif is not heard in Das Rheingold, and the prelude from Rheingold is based on the nature theme (not a Rhine theme, which to my knowledge doesn't exist). Most importantly, the entire prelude is based on a single chord; it doesn't modulate, unlike Shore's piece.

Timdalf wrote:

I have to weigh in here and fully agree with MS (above).

First, T u I is not a part of the Ring although composed between Acts II and III of Siegfried (as was Meistersinger).

Second, the closing bars of the credits for RotK are in the style of the closing bars of Walkeure. They also bear a general stylistic resemblance to the closing bars of Parsifal, Tristan and Goetterdaemerung, but do not quote either the "Magic Fire" leitmotiv of the glockenspiel, piccolos, flutes, woodwinds, and harps, nor the "Slumber" leitmotiv of the cellos but are a reference to the arpeggiated chords of the upper strings that conclude Walkeure and into which these two motivs are woven. And as a closing to LotR as a whole they do not, it seems to me, refer to the Wave leitmotiv of the opening prelude of Rheingold.

I have changed my view as to the work most resembling these bars of RotK originally stated on p. 23 of the first round of this thread.

This sort of rising and falling arpeggiated chord is typical of Wagner when he wants to evoke a moment of serene sublimity. Maestro Shore, I believe, is not quoting but referring to this Wagnerian style. The whole passage from Wotan's words: "Leb'wohl, du kuehnes, herrliches Kind!" is often inexactly referred to as Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music as an orchestral "bleeding chunk", but the actual Magic Fire leitmotif (which comes in after Wotan has summoned Loge, the fire god) more precisely refers to the glockenspiel, piccolo, flute, woodwind, harp and brass parts with the running violin parts below them. It is these violin arpeggiations that Shore references in RotK.

Neo Voyager wrote:

I'll weigh in just a bit on my opinion of that RotK snippet. I do hear a resemblance, if perhaps a somewhat less than striking one, to the end of "Magic Fire Music" in Die Walkure. However, it bears resemblance to Das Rheingold as well, and if one hears the version of this piece that is actually in the credits (not the one on the soundtrack album), I think it firmly places it as a reference to Das Rheingold. Or... perhaps it's an amalgamation of the two! ~



Crippled Avenger wrote:

Browsing through Doug's liner notes today, noticed that Doug identified the Wagnerian reference as coming from Gotterdammerung, whereas I remember the Wagnerites on this board being very confident that it was from the fire music from Die Walkure after an initial and shot down suggestion of Das Rheingold's opening. Not to flame the fire (actually, precisely to flame the fire ), but are the Wagnerites still sticking to Die Walkure or is Doug correct in suggesting Gotterdammerung, and which part specifically do you think he means? Doug, do you want to chime in too?

Marian Schedenig wrote:

It's the nature theme (ascending arpeggio) which features prominently in the Rheingold opening, combined with the magic fire music which has one of its best moments at the end of Walküre. Both do appear at the end of Götterdämmerung, but not nearly as prominently. The ROTK ending is more similar to the first two.

Timdalf wrote:

My feeling now: the Wagner reference at the end of RotK is not to any specific leitmotiv, but to a typical Wagnerian rising arpeggiation that Der Meister used so often to conclude his works. There are some 14 leitmotivs forming the glorious coda of Gd (and at least 9 for the finale of Wlk) and while they too reference the opening of Rhg, the end of Wlk (since musical "reminiscence" is key (pun alert) to RW's technique in general, and any music for that matter, and everything in Wagner relates to everything else, particularly within one integral work like Der Ring!), to pick out this or that leitmotiv as being Shore's specific reference is, I think, a mistake. He doesn't need to.

I know when I sat in the theater and heard the final measures of RotK for the first time I instantly knew I was hearing something Wagneresque and was incredibly "surprised by joy" in a definitely eucatastrophic sense!

Specifically, to claim the "Nature" motiv (which has 3 forms if one wants to consult one possible source: the ENO Opera guides listing of leitmotivs devised by Lionel Friend) which one is MS referring to, that which is commonly called the Erda theme or to the Wave theme? The Magic Fire sequence of Wlk is some 15 minutes long... If the specific "Magic Fire"/"Loge" motivs are being referred to (#s 13a-b & 14 in the ENO listing) by MS, I fail to hear it. Of course, both sets of motivs are going to come up in the finale to Gd since the first refers to the waters of the Rhine and the second to Loge's fire, and both figure prominently as stage effects in the final moments as the Gibichung hall and Valhalla go up in flames lit from Sf's funeral pyre, the first to be quenched by the overflowing Rhine. But I think if one listens to the underlying arpeggiation that binds the whole scene (and those of Rhg, Walk, and Parsifal) together one hears what Shore was really recalling in his final measures to RotK.