Tarnhelm

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Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm and vanishes; illustration by Arthur Rackham to Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold

Tarnhelm is the name of a magic helmet in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (1848-1874). It was crafted by Mime at the demand of his brother Alberich. It is used as a cloak of invisibility by Alberich in Das Rheingold (1869). It also allows one to change one's form:

  • Alberich changes to a dragon and then a toad in Das Rheingold, Scene 3
  • Fafner changes to a dragon at the end of Das Rheingold and appears thus in Siegfried Act II. (It is never made clear whether or not Fafner actually used the Tarnhelm to transform or not, or simply transformed as many giants and gods did in the myths. There is also no Tarnhelm present in the original Andvari myth from Reginsmál in the Poetic Edda from which Wagner drew inspiration from for this scene.)
  • Siegfried changes to Gunther's form in Götterdämmerung Act I, Scene 3.

Finally, it allows one to travel long distances instantly, as Siegfried does in Götterdämmerung Act II, Scene 2.

In popular culture[edit]

  • It is also an item found in the game Diablo 2.[1]
  • In Thor (Marvel Comics) an adaption was done of the Ring Cycle, in which the Tarnhelm appeared.
  • The 1957 Warner Bros. cartoon What's Opera, Doc?, a comedy on opera in general and Wagner's Ring Cycle in particular, has Elmer Fudd wearing a magic helmet that is meant to suggest Tarnhelm.
  • It is the name of the expansion pack for PC strategy game Naval War : Arctic Circle which features new stealth units, which are supposedly invisible to RADAR.
  • The main character in Brenda Clough's novel How Like a God can psionically obstruct other people from seeing him, a process he refers to as "tarnhelm".
  • The Dungeons & Dragons game includes the magic item helm of teleportation (Gygax & Arneson, 1974 D&D Vol-2, p. 37), similar to Siegfried's use of the Tarnhelm in Act II, Scene 2.

See also[edit]