“Your Bones” is an abstract, poetic story song about a group of people on a treacherous, worthwhile journey in nature. Along the way, one member of the group dies and the other people remember and honor him. Although this is the clear surface meaning, the song is full of additional metaphors and dual meanings which can be applied to life in general.
Ragnar Þórhallsson is the songwriter behind this track, which has never been released as a single. Ragnar described his songwriting process for the track’s album, My Head Is an Animal, as “writing about fairytales.” In essence, “Your Bones” is meant to be an extension of the album’s general emphasis on fantastical storytelling, a folk sound, and bringing the sound of Iceland.
In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these unorthodox lyrics to discover their hidden meaning. We’ll also take a look at the songwriting story and the human themes that make this song accessible to anyone. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The lyrics begin by igniting a spirit of wild adventure – something at home in the spirit of Icelandic folk tales and music. Specifically, the adventure to be had is for seafaring people, who “made a boat” out of feathers and bones.
For this group of explorers, there is no turning back. They admit, “we burned our homes,” which shows the dedication they have toward their journey. There’s nothing to come back to; the only options are to succeed or die.
The adventure’s path is characterized by “walking barefoot in the snow.” What direction are they headed? It’s unclear, but we are told it is “toward the storm.” This has two meanings: First, it literally means they’re heading into an unstable sea. Secondly, there is the metaphorical idea that all adventures worth having will result in some turmoil.
Another bizarre, clever illustration follows. We’re told that a “baby lion lost its teeth,” which are now “swimming in the sea.” I believe the point of these lines is to talk about growth. The adventurers are like a baby lion – capable of being kings, but not there yet. To reach their full ferocity, they must shed their baby teeth (which lions do have) and grow into tomorrow.
Verse two tells the sad part of the narrative. “Troubled spirits” begin to haunt the protagonist. What causes his pain? His “tall friend” has died. As his “body hit the sand,” the protagonist experienced a moment of profound clarity – a “tiger’s eye.” This experience is beyond any one culture, time period, or creed. It is “out of time and out of place” – something universally human.
This is what the chorus emphasizes. It may be simple, but it gets the job done. It tells us to “hold on to what we are” (human beings) and treasure it in our hearts. This allows us to move forward when we’re confronted with obstacles.
Verse three continues the story. The day after what we will soon learn was a funeral for the “tall friend,” the protagonist is awakened by a “screaming owl.” Morning has arrived. The day will be dedicated to “chasing leaves in the wind” (pursuing adventure and moving with life), but not before remembering the night before.
On that night, the group “said goodbye” to the dead member of their group. It was a Viking-style funeral; the deceased was set ablaze on a ship. This is why “all that’s left” are the bones, which will soon “sink like stones” in the sea.
Rather than end the song here, one more chorus rings out before the conclusion. This means that, even though death is final, life and its journeys must go on. In summary, “Your Bones” is about pursuing the spirit of adventure, even with its costs. This inspiring message is no small part of the track’s success.
Of Monsters and Men does storytelling well: With a distinctly Icelandic flair and fantastical lyrics. Their debut album, My Head Is an Animal, is an exemplar of their style. It was through this album that the world came to know “Your Bones,” which itself is an exemplar of the album. Ragnar Þórhallsson has even called it one of his favorite tunes on the record.
According to Þórhallsson, the songwriting process for the songs on MHIAA was very collaborative. Specifically, the teamwork took place between himself and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. Due to the differences between their perspectives, the two reportedly found they preferred to write through “fairy tales” rather than about “real life.” This explains the folksy, fantastic nature of this song’s lyrics.
Evidently, they succeeded. “Your Bones” was never released as a single, but My Head Is an Animal did very well internationally. In addition, “Your Bones” has over 18 Million views on YouTube alone, meaning the song has been heard by millions of ears.
The next time you listen to this pleasant tune, let these pieces of music history make it even more special for you!