LESSONS FROM THE RING – PART ONE
Mime’s Sword Shop
A Case Study in Small Business
You remember Mime? He’s the brother of Alberich, the Nibelung who stole the gold, renounced love and made the all-powerful ring. The ring of course soon slipped from Alberich’s finger – well, it was stolen in fact, by Wotan – and was then claimed by the giants Fasolt and Fafner as payment (in lieu of the goddess Freia) for the building of Valhalla.
No good came of all this ring trading. Alberich cursed it, Fafner killed Fasolt for it and everyone seemed ready to ‘do in’ everyone else to get their hands on it. Alberich wants it back in order to rule the universe, Wotan needs it to prevent Alberich finishing off the gods, Mime wants to settle old scores with his brother for being brutalised in Nibelheim, and Fafner (now in the shape of an enormous dragon) just wants to sleep on it – the ring, that is.
But back to Mime. Years of sibling rivalry have taken their toll and he’s a nervous wreck. Vengeful, sly, ruthless, even murderous he may be, but fearless he most definitely is not. Insider trading is one thing, but taking a gold ring from under the very fangs of an acid-spitting, limb-crushing dragon is quite another. No, Mime needs a fall guy – a trusting, presentable innocent who has no idea what he’s letting himself in for and is positively eager to get his hands dirty. Enter Siegfried!
Cradle-to-grave employment opportunity
Mime fancies himself at picking staff and has been able to groom Siegfried for a once-in-a-lifetime, cradle-to-grave appointment. Siegfried has been on training programs for as long as he can remember and Mime assures him that, one day, all this will be his. Frankly, Siegfried couldn’t care less. He just wants to enjoy life and has an eye for the birds – and the fish and the deer and the bears.
So what is this family business that Mime is so proud of? He’s a master smith by trade, whose expertise is in fancy jewellery and magic helmets. But does he open a magic helmet business? No way – he opts for swords, of all things. This is a big mistake because swords are not really his forte. To make matters worse, he’s failed to draw the right conclusions from his quality-control program which is administered enthusiastically by Siegfried. Not a single sword has survived the stringent testing program. Shouldn’t that have set him thinking? Fewer swords, more magic helmets?
Mime’s second mistake is really hard to fathom. He’s established his business in the remotest possible part of a forest, where there are no customers! He went to no end of trouble dragging equipment – forge, bellows, anvil and everything else – to this Wotan-forsaken spot, only to find that his nearest neighbour is a dragon who has no need of swords at all and, indeed, has a positive antipathy towards them. In these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that Mime’s Sword Shop has failed to be a thriving business.
How he must wish he had stuck to magic helmets!
For members who would enjoy some more frivolous nonsense, I would strongly recommend: Kieran Tapsell, The Valhalla Building Dispute, Australian law Journal (ALJ) Vol 70, No. 5 (May 1996) p. 415-420; The Flight of the Valkyries (ALJ) Vol 70, No 11 (Nov. 1996) p. 925-932, and Götterdämmerung (ALJ) Vol 71, No 3 (March 1997) p. 224-231, and I also share the following:
‘Siegfried is progressing well. Alas, a blot of ink has found its way on to the beautiful portfolio – probably Mime’s fault.’
Letter from Richard Wagner to Frau Ritter, 6 May 1857.
For more of Peter’s (more serious) writings and his four CD set: Der Ring des Nibelungen – Explorations, see: www.peterbassett.com.au.