- Alternate Character Interpretation:
- Whether or not Alberich was looking for love or just looking for sex is left up in the air.
- Fafner can be portrayed differently in the scenes before the fight over the ring. Sometimes, he is shown to be gruff, violent and Obviously Evil from the beginning, sometimes, on the contrary, he is a calm and collected Deadpan Snarker and the Blue Oni to his passionate brother.
- It's also arguable whether Gutrune loved Siegfried and just wanted to secure his love or she trapped him merely because he was the coolest hero ever.
- Designated Hero: Wagner had a classical sense of The Hero, i.e. someone who is the protagonist of his story and whose actions have consequence, and not necessarily someone that the audience is supposed to identify with on a moral level (which is the more contemporary notion of a hero):
- There are some people out there who cannot stand Siegfried, whom they view as a bully and a boor. The anti-Semitic connotations with his treatment of Mime don't help. And he rapes Brunhilde under the disguise of Gunther, which is pretty despicable; even if he was under the effects of Love Potion, he still saw it as no big deal to kidnap a woman on behalf of someone else.
- Wotan's pretty openly a Manipulative Bastard, the Rhinemaidens taunt Alberich cruelly for their own amusement, Alberich is as miserable as he is power-hungry, and Siegmund and Sieglinde are incestuous murderers. Brunnhilde is arguably the only sympathetic protagonist, being manipulated rather than knowingly choosing evil, and accepting her Heroic Sacrifice to try to undo the crimes of everyone else.
- Designated Villain: By the same token, a number of antagonistic characters are dealt with rather harshly.
- Fasolt, an honest, humble and lonely giant who is genuinely in love with Freia and believed the building of Valhalla to be a sort of Engagement Challenge. Unlike the vast majority of characters, he doesn't go crazy about the ring until Loge advises him to get it (and even then, it's not world domination that matters for him but the memory of Freia's look).
- Hunding can be viewed as Lawful Evil. While he is a gruff and unfriendly man with a bad relationship with his wife, he is honourable (keeping his promise to let Siegmund spend the night), and according to the customs of his own culture he has done nothing wrong (it is clearly indicated that forced marriage and treating women like spoils of war is normal in the story's culture). He may want to kill Siegmund, but Siegmund has killed members of his clan.
- Ending Fatigue: It's worth noting that, in the era when the cycle was composed, patrons were expected to make an all-day event of them, bringing meals with them to the performance and even going home to freshen up during intermissions. Those unfamiliar with this fact therefore have a tendency to accuse the cycle as simply being "too long."
- Epic Riff: "The RIDE o' th' VAAALK'-ries, RIDE o' th' VAAALK'-ries, RIDE o' th' VAAAAAAAALK'-ries, RIDE o' th' VAAALK'-ries."
- Harsher in Hindsight: Wotan punishes Brunnhilde for disobedience by stripping her of her power and reducing her to the status of a lowly wife. In Wagner's time, this would have been the standard role for a woman and would possibly have been seen as an Ironic Hell; however, in today's more emancipated world, many women can easily empathize with Brunnhilde's horror at the prospect.
- Memetic Mutation: The expression "It ain't over till the fat lady sings" is very possibly a reference to the end of the Ringnote . The last scene of Götterdämmerung, features Brunnhilde singing a exceedingly long farewell to the dead Siegfried (Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort!note ), although the very last vocal utterance of the work is Hagen's Zurück vom Ring!"note .
- Music to Invade Poland To: Music from the Ring is often used as background music for scenes of Nazism-related activities; "Siegfried's Funeral March" has become almost a Standard Snippet for the fall of Nazi Germany.
- Newer Than They Think: Wagner's depiction of the three Rhine-daughters is largely a creation of his own imagination; though wise-women appear in the Danube in the 12th century Nibelungenlied, there is no indication that they are native to it, much less the daughters of its personified god, and they never go near the Rhine at all.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Wagner's "Musik der Zukunft" ("The Music of the Future") was considered daringly, even outrageously, innovative in his own time, but he became so influential that his music is now reckoned old-fashioned and even stereotypical by some.
- Unfortunate Implications: There has been much discussion over the years as to whether Mime and the other dwarves are anti-Semitic caricatures, given Wagner's own anti-Semitism.
- Vocal Range Exceeded: Being one of the first pieces ever written with it, Wagner's bass trumpet part can get hairy, to say the least, in terms of how high it goes. This trope might also apply to the contrabass trombone and higher horn parts.
- "Weird Al" Effect: Many 20th and 21st century audiences are more familiar with the cycle's ultra-abridged seven minute animated version than the operas themselves.
- What an Idiot!: The Rhinemaidens have waited almost four operas for somebody to return their precious gold, now forged into a ring. They manage to convince Siegfried to give it to them.
Youd Expect: Them to squee, say thank you, take the ring and go back underwater.
Instead: They suddenly begin to tell Siegfried that he can keep it, and that the ring is cursed, and then that he should give it to them after all so that the curse doesn't hit him. Siegfried, being who he is, was ready to give it up when they just asked him nicely, but the moment they begin threats and warnings, he decides to keep it just to show he is not scared.
The Ring of the Nibelung
aka: Der Ring Des Nibelungen