Compiled from Germanic myth, the Cycle of the Ring is a collection of four epic operas written by Richard Wagner, over the course of twenty-six years. The story told in the four operas inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in the early part of the 20th century.
Wagner's opera focuses on a ring forged by the Dwarves that grants the power to rule the entire world. The dwarf Alberich stole gold from the maidens who live along the river Rhine and smelted it into the magically blessed ring. In each of the epics, great figures struggle for possession of the ring including Odin, his grandson Siegfried and Odin's daughter, the Valkyrie Brunhilde.
The battle between these three powerful figures includes scheming, trickery, battles and cunning. At the end of the tale, Brunhilde returns the ring to the Maidens of the Rhine, returning it to the true place from which it came despite the destruction of the gods and Valhalla as a direct result.
Wagner created the tale from ancient German legends including 12th century poems that detail how jealousy and conflict destroy the gods from within. Wagner married the elements of ancient Norse tradition to local folklore and modern (for the 19th century) concepts to create an epic that inspired many generations.
The story begins with the scorned dwarf renouncing all love, it is this vow that allows him to forge the ring of power. In the final scene of the first opera, Alberich is stripped of his ring and he curses those who take it from him. It is the same concept that was employed by Tolkien in his novels for the tale of Gollum, Frodo and Sam. The possession of the ring gave the bearer great power, but also enslaved the ring bearer as well.
Wagner's epic remained popular for centuries after it's first composition and is most often performed in the original German.