Conceptual metaphors in “Riding the Storm” by Running Wild

Hi there! You are reading Digging Metalaphor and I am happy to announce to you that this is my tenth post of the project. I am going to mark this milestone by presenting you something special. Yes, again.

In almost every post of mine I had been getting on my soapbox and talking about the beauty and power of metaphor, when investigating certain thought twists and peculiarities of their linguistic realizations. This time, however, I will show you that entire texts can obtain a completely different meaning and create a new imaginary world if you look at them through the lenses of metaphor. This is, in my view, what gives literature its ultimate value. We, humans, are able to provide any text with a unique meaning, not inherently present in it. This meaning may be (and usually is) heavily influenced by our personal experiences and it contributes to the construction of the new fictional worlds via metaphor and other conceptual tools.

In this post I show you a song and how you can put an alien meaning into it when applying metaphor. We will focus on the lyrics from “Riding the Storm” by the legendary German power metal band Running Wild (featured on the “Death or Glory” LP, 1989). This opus is the second text on the blog, written and performed by a non-native speaker of English. And trust me – it is great for our purpose. Let’s go straight to the lyrics:

  1. Breaking the waves, a ride on the wild raging sea
  2. Playing with fortune, oh, what a lust to be free
  3. Flashlights and thunder, the pattering rain on the hull
  4. From a stormy horizon we get our course
  5. The cry of freedom

Chorus:

  1. Face in the wind, we’re riding the storm
  2. We’ll stay our course whatever will come
  3. Wandering souls in the sea of the damned
  4. Death or glory, oh, oh, we’re riding the storm
  1. Cracks in the planks, the rigging moves upwards and
  2. Staggering masts, the pounding splash of the prow
  3. The wind in our sails, our flag flies high on the top
  4. From a stormy horizon we get our course
  5. The cry of freedom

I really enjoy listening to Running Wild, as their songs are cheerful and fast, featuring amazing riffing with memorable lyrics about pirates and all sorts of adventures. I am also not going to hide the fact that “Riding the Storm” is probably my favorite song of the band, mostly because I used to construct my meaning of it, projecting my own life experience onto it.

Let’s ride on that wild raging sea!

I will keep my report as short and clear as possible. In case you still have questions after reading it you can always use the comment section below or ask me directly via the contact form.

The point I am making here is that I never – and I really mean it – thought of this song as a voyage at the stormy sea. It appealed to me so much, because in my opinion it was a song about us, about ordinary people who, in spite of all the difficulties we encounter, are fighting through life, pursuing certain goals, taking on challenges and standing strong in the face of unknown future. This meaning (constructed by me) is metaphorical. The song itself does not even hint on that. The new meaning is based on a few very common conceptual metaphors, with the help of which most of the conceptual work is done. Let’s go straight to verse 1:

  1. Breaking the waves, a ride on the wild raging sea
  2. Playing with fortune, oh, what a lust to be free
  3. Flashlights and thunder, the pattering rain on the hull
  4. From a stormy horizon we get our course
  5. The cry of freedom

Lines 1 and 3 are constructed on the LIFE IS A JOURNEY and DIFFICULTIES IN LIFE ARE IMPEDIMENTS TO MOTION metaphors (the latter one refers to the weather conditions in the lyrics). Both are a part of the Location Event Structure Metaphor. Journey is depicted as crossing the sea on a ship and is a metaphorical life. The sailors – travelers – are people, living their lives. The course of the ship is the ‘life path’ of those people. The distance traveled by the ship is the progress in life. The raging stormy sea is life in general and its difficulties are bad weather conditions. As a storm is a serious threat and an impediment to steady safe motion, so are the real life challenges, faced by millions of people every single day. The analogies are very clear and mappings are easy to construct.

Line 4 “From a stormy horizon we get our course” adds to this picture, namely saying that the journey is not aimless. The PURPOSES ARE DESTINATIONS metaphor is at work here. It is also a part of the same complex: the Location Event Structure Metaphor. Our purposes/our goals is what pushes us to act and achieve things in real life. We envision our goals and then think of ways to reach them. Life is a metaphorical journey. Correspondingly, life’s goals may be mapped onto the journey’s destination(s). The means to achieve the purposes are routes. Thus, a person, achieving a goal is a metaphorical traveler, reaching his/her destination. Life goals inherently belong to the future; future is metaphorically viewed as in front of us via the TIME ORIENTATION metaphor (we are in the present and past is behind us), as is the horizon – always in front of a traveler. In our song, the horizon (well, anything on the horizon, of course, not the horizon itself) is providing a course for the ship. In life, as I just mentioned, our goals are shaping our everyday courses of action: steer us, in other words.

These four metaphors add to each other to create a perfectly coherent world. We (travelers) have life goals (destination of the ship, based on its course), which we are dying to achieve; we undertake certain actions to reach them (sea travel), but life is not an easy thing and in the course of it we face problems and difficulties which we have to fight (stormy weather).

Lines 2 and 5 “Playing with fortune, oh, what a lust to be free… The cry of freedom” may be interpreted through the LIFE IS GAMBLING metaphor. Whatever plans to reach the goal we have may be taken from us away any moment in case, for instance, of death. As the sea travelers may not be sure whether they survive a raging storm to reach their destination, we may not be completely sure if we wake up on the next morning (of course, we presume this will happen, the same way the sun will rise, for example). The chances are always open, which brings up the concept of gambling. “Playing with fortune” is playing with destiny. As in gambling, where you are free to play or to quit, to increase your bet or to lower it, the same is in life: you are free to take your chance or to refuse taking it. Or to ‘quit your game’ once and for all. This brings into the spotlight the concept of freedom, mentioned in both 2nd and 5th lines.

Riding the storm

The narrative goes on in the chorus. It features the same metaphors and follows exactly the same logic. I will dwell only on a couple of issues, which are new to this piece.

  1. Face in the wind, we’re riding the storm
  2. We’ll stay our course whatever will come
  3. Wandering souls in the sea of the damned
  4. Death or glory, oh, oh, we’re riding the storm

In line 7 “We’ll stay our course whatever will come” we encounter a time metaphor, namely TIME (PASSING) IS A MOVING OBJECT. To be more precise, it is not exactly the time, which plays a major role in this line, but the changes, happening with time and hence associated with it. Let me remind you that the metaphor above presumes that the observer is situated in the present and is static. Time, on the contrary, is dynamic: it is conceptualized as a physical object that moves from the future to the past, facing the observer (we can illustrate the metaphor with numerous examples: Christmas is approaching fast; winter is coming etc.). Whatever future brings to us will not change our course says the line. Interpreted metaphorically, it would carry identical meaning, only applied to the life circumstances.

Wandering souls” in line 8 is a metonymy, where “soul” stands for “a person” in a part-whole relation.

One last thing to mention here is more of a speculative nature; however, it also contributes significantly to my way of understanding the text. Think for a second about the utterance “we’re riding the storm” (lines 6 and 9). This is also a metaphor, allegedly an orientational one. One can ride a horse, but not the storm. However, if riding is viewed in the sense of being on top of an animal and if you recall that in order to ride a wild horse, for instance, you must first tame it, so to say, we get the BEING IN CONTROL IS UP metaphor. The storm is violent; nevertheless, we are in control of the situation (we are ‘riding that storm’ like a wild stallion) and that is why we will stay our course whatever will come. In other words, we are prepared to face any challenge, which I metaphorically project on the course of real life.

Our flag flies high. And it always will

Check out the second verse below:

  1. Cracks in the planks, the rigging moves upwards and
  2. Staggering masts, the pounding splash of the prow
  3. The wind in our sails, our flag flies high on the top
  4. From a stormy horizon we get our course
  5. The cry of freedom

The last five lines do not contribute anything new. We discover the same metaphors here we found in the first verse and yet another instance of an orientational metaphor. This time it is GOOD IS UP/BAD IS DOWN in line 12: “our flag flies high on the top”. Of course, this utterance obtains its metaphorical meaning only in the context of the entire song. A flag, as a signature of a ship or a military squad, is put down in case of surrender or defeat. As long as it is flying high, the battle goes on. This line refers us back to the “riding the storm” thing and it may be claimed that we witness the same CONTROL metaphor when the flag is mentioned. However, I opted for a more general one to be on the safe side. Again, the line states a clear superiority over the difficulties, hampering the way, with a dedication not to surrender to anything. This applies to both literal and metaphorical readings of the lyrics.

That’s it! So simple was it. To discover a completely new world in a text as simple as this one we needed only four basic metaphors about life, time, goals and everyday problems. I am more than sure that I am not the only one who interpreted this classic of Running Wild in this manner. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and even suggest songs for the future posts.

Best wishes, AK.

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About Andriy Karamazov


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