“Brunhild Watching Gunther Suspended from the Ceiling on their Wedding Night”
John Henry Fuseli
Excerpt from The Nibelungenlied (c.1200) translated by A.T. Hatto:
“His attendants, both man and woman had left him. The chamber was quickly barred, and he imagined that he was soon to enjoy her lovely body: but the time when Brunhild would become his wife was certainly not at hand! She went to the bed in a shift of fine white linen, and the noble knight thought to himself: “Now I have everything here that I ever wished for’. And indeed there was great cause why her beauty should gratify him deeply. He dimmed the lights one after another with his own royal hands, and then, dauntless warrior, he went to the lady. He laid himself close beside her, and with a great rush of joy took the adorable woman in his arms.
He would have lavished caresses and endearments, had the Queen suffered him to do so, but she flew into a rage that deeply shocked him – he had hoped to meet with ‘friend’, yet what he met was ‘foe’!
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you must give up the thing you have set your hopes on, for it will not come to pass. Take good note of this: I intend to stay a maiden till I have learned the truth about Siegfried.’
Gunther grew very angry with her. He tried to win her by force, and tumbled her shift for her, at which the haughty girl reached for the girdle of stout silk cord that she wore about her waist, and subjected him to great suffering and shames for in return for being baulked of her sleep, she bound him hand and foot, carried him to a nail, and hung him on the wall. She had put a stop to his love-making! As to him, he had all but died, such strength had she exerted.
And now he who had thought to be master began to entreat her, ‘Loose my bonds, most noble Queen. I do not fancy I shall ever subdue you, lovely woman, and I shall never again lie too close to you.’
She did not care at all how he fared, since she was lying very snug. He had to stay hanging there the whole night through to dawn, when the bright morning shone through the windows. If Gunther had ever possessed of any strength, it had dwindled to nothing now.
Are there any sources you could recommend for someone doing Rammstein research?
The answer is: yes!
Obviously one has to look at various interviews and articles and try to keep up-to-date with them. There are years’ worth of those in video/audio/written form - Rammstein’s been around for two full decades, so just looking through them will help to piece a lot of things about their history together. There is not a specific one that I would recommend fullheartedly; sometimes interviews do suffer from contradictions (as things are reported or recalled wrong) or bias (given that many interviews are conducted with one or two members of R+ only), so reading just one or two won’t help too much. And some interviews are either not translated or translated poorly, which is always a drawback. But if you have a lot of time and patience - and most importantly, if your ‘research’ really is about Rammstein’s history as Rammstein/the band members’ opinions of each other and the world/logistics of tours or future plans etc., interviews and articles should serve as your primary source.
I can also recommend the following books (which I have all read and do possess), if you are also interested in Rammstein pre-history or want a lot of context as to why sometimes they say/think/do the things that they do. They lived through a very different, and if I may say so, quite an unusual period in history. There’s a lot you can gather from wider research. These are all primary sources, they all come directly from the band members or related parties.
The Rammstein Autobiography (ISBN: 3931126323) This fetches a pretty high price nowadays b/c it’s out of print. It’s from 1999 and can provide no information re: the post-millennium exploits of the band, but it is beautifully illustrated, contains long and really quite insightful interviews from everyone in the band (except Olli, who only has a two-page spread of photos, and Flake, whose entire contribution basically reads like ‘this_band_has_caused_me_nothing_but_suffering_and_misery.txt’), and also contains some lyrics and Till poems from a time before either Messer or In Stillen Nachten. Some of those clearly went on to become Rammstein lyrics. Best of all, all the text here is translated side by side in German and English, which is not a common attribute to many R+ ‘primary’ texts. I’d check this one out, if you can get your hands on it.
Mix Mir Einen Drink (ISBN: 3896029053 for the 2010 edition) The quintessential ‘where were they before they were R+’ text. This is actually an incredibly detailed biography about Feeling B, which is still a band you ought to know quite a bit about if you are researching R+ or East German punk rock as a whole. There is no translation, but it’s still a solid 600+ pages of info; what you get out of The Rammbrick this book is a detailed picture of their younger years, and it’s also funny as hell. I think this book has literal historical value; The Rammbrick’s its appendix comes with things like Stasi files that were kept on the band, for one, and it’s a vivid firsthand sketch as to what life in East Germany actually was like. You see it through the eyes of people who were, in that state’s terms, living like outlaws - and the stuff they went through? They’ll come off as at the very least quaint and at the most horrifying, once the implications sink in. (The bit about Flake being the only one to escape arrest at Schoenhauser Allee station during the 1989 protests and later turning up to a completely empty rehearsal room comes to mind.) Highly recommended.
Rammstein Liederbuch (ISBN: 0711972206) Can you read music? I got some good news for you, and some bad news. The good news is that R+ have had sheet music published of their Herzeleid and Sehnsucht songs, and they’re here. The bad news is that this is out of print, and it can sometimes fetch some truly insane prices (used ranges from £25-£430 what the literal fuck). There is basically nothing there except for sheet music, either, no bonus photos or anything. So if you can’t read musical notation/aren’t so much interested in the actual musical structure of R+ songs, you can give this one a miss. Otherwise, it’s stellar in quality and contains every instrumental part and solo - if you play an instrument, worth checking out.
Messer (ISBN: 382180730X for 2005 but I swear there is a later edition) Till’s first poetry collection. I think it’s obvious why I recommend this. If you are interested in the literary merits of Till, you are going to want this, full stop. As for translations, I did a full translation project of this in my blog here, and am slowly in the process of doing secondary clean-up of the translations in messerstein. But you really need the original German texts in front of you, too, because this is poetry and it’s often impossible to preserve devices like rhyme, meter, aliteration, puns, and such that make poetry what it is, you know? I think the 2005 edition is out of print but I swear to god I have a later printed edition that isn’t asking insane prices like £99.95 jfc it was less than £20 when I got it brand new in October 2011??!?!
In Stillen Nachten (ISBN: 3462047779) The second book of Till’s poetry. Poems in there are shorter but there are more of them, and the illustrations are… quite something. You also want this if you want to think about Till’s literary merits, and if you are a fan of Mayakovsky’s or Brecht’s or Rilke’s poetry, you are probably going to like this collection quite a lot. The Brecht is especially strong in this one. (If this is the case, I’m going to assume that you have some familiarity with Marxist critical theory and audience alienation and East German political history, though none of those things are strictly necessary to enjoy anything in Till’s repertoire.) I’m also working on translating this in messerstein and I think there is a translation coming out (don’t quote me on this) but again, same old. You need the original texts in front of you for maximum appreciation. This thing is actually affordable please for the love of god get it support Till hhhhhh
Mike Oldfield im Schaukelstuhl: Notizen eines Vaters (ISBN: 3938686618) I’ve written about this recently. This had a reprint in… 2006, I think? If you are in Germany, you’re in luck; if you aren’t, well… yeah. I’m not sure whether to classify this as an (auto)biography of anybody, whether of Till (called Timm here) or Werner Lindemann (who wrote this book). It is a book vastly about Till at nineteen-twenty years old, and covers a relatively short timespan of maybe eight months, but it’s seen through Werner’s eyes. There is very little pretense in his writing and everything is portrayed with efficient, sometimes even superminimalistic, starkness, and I think sometimes that had led people to have false impressions about how Till and Werner treated each other. If nothing else, this is a very good sketch of life in East Germany, along with the generational difference between those two. I would recommend it more because of the East German aspect, to be honest. I’m translating this bit by bit; there are fragmented translations floating around from years ago, too, though I don’t think there is a completed version.
There are also quite a few third-party publications about Rammstein, usually in the form of unofficial biographies or actual academical texts; I would advise being far more cautious with those, obviously, but if you are willing to gamble, you can gather some original insight that you might not otherwise had. ’Outsider perspective’, in other words. I’m thinking of The Little Black Rammbook (close literary analysis of some R+ songs, discussion of their lyricism, other literary references that you might like to have, etc) and Bis das Herz brennt: Die inoffizielle Rammstein Biografie (exactly what it says on the tin). They are vastly optional. Flake also has a book out. I don’t have it, and I haven’t read it, which is why I have said nothing about it so far bUT JESUS CHRIST I NEED IT SO B A D. I shall have to add that entry in later, it should be really interesting.
Finally, as part of far broader context, I would recommend reading up in East German history, especially around 1960-1989, 20th century German poetry, WWII and the rise and fall of the Nazis (important, because R+ is frequently accused of fascism, and it is absolutely essential that every true Rammfan knows why this is an objectively wrong and horrible opinion), 19th-20th century German theatrical aesthetic theory like Gesamtkunstwerk/Verfremdungseffekt (explains the philosophy behind their stage shows), Das Nibelungenlied (Till seems to be heavily influenced by it), the structure and devices associated with poetry, and Marxism because why the hell not. But they’re the most background of background readings: in most non-academical cases, interviews, articles, their actual lyrics and music, and some knowledge of their history will do the job. Happy researching!
… Now I feel like I’m setting up textbooks for a school of Rammsteinology.