The Cranberries: Zombie Meaning
Covered By: Bad Wolves (2018)
child is slowly taken.
And the violence caused such silence;
Who are we mistaken?
But you see, it's not me, it's not my family.
In your head, in your head, they are fighting.
With their tanks and their bombs,and...
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Sep 1st 2007 report
This song is directly related the conflict between Ireland and england the reference to the easter rising of 1916 make this obvious however the song can also be seen to be about the horror`s of war.
The first line talks about the shame of killing a child the soldiers or mourners "head hangs lowly" as another child(which can represent innocence)is "slowly taken". The words "slowly taken" however could also be a reference to indoctrination and how children are taken in and made believe that they are fighting for justice even though that may not be true. "And the violence caused such silence" could mean that each side of the war committed such terrible atrocities that neither side were willing to negotiate and so the violence continued. The question "who are we mistaken?" asks if war and killing is ever right and says that its always a mistake to go to war no matter the circumstances.
The next part is a denial saying that neither her or her family have anything to do with the conflict and are trying to distance themselves from it but cannot escape because the memories of the events are implanted in her head she can never escape the fighting and the crying. We can see her make a further effort to distance herself from the war as she refers to the weapons as "With their tanks and their bombs, And their bombs and their guns"
"What's in your head?""zombie" could be a statement to the fighters asking what they were thinking when they were doing this or had they just turned into zombies unable to do anything but follow orders. This particular part of the song is screamed as to protest the war and mimic the cries of those who were being killed.
"Another mother's breakin',Heart is taking over" this line mimics the first in that the death of a child causes so much pain however the next line is slightly changed instead of asking if war is wrong like the first verse it is a statement this time "We must be mistaken".
The next line is what makes me believe that this song is about the conflict between Ireland and england "It's the same old theme since nineteen-sixteen" it seems to be a direct reference to the 1916 easter rising in which the I.R.B (Irish republican brotherhood later the I.R.A) captured a number of locations in Dublin most notably the G.P.O (general post office) in an effort to rebel against British rule in Ireland this caused a number of casualties and led to a huge rising in physical force nationalism within Ireland leading onto all the trouble that followed including the war of independence the civil war partition in the north(the 6 counties belonging to england) and the troubles in the north. all the death associated with these things fits in with the songs main idea of the horrors of war.The view that this song relates to WW1 is valid in that it's about the horrors of all war I would feel its more specifically about Ireland however.
The chorus repeats and I have already explained what I feel it means.
This is just my Interpretation of the song I respect other people`s views and would welcome some responses to what I have written thanks for reading and please excuse the spelling which I'm sure is awful haha.
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:
This was inspired by the IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire in 1993. Two children, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, were killed. The IRA (The Irish Republican Army) is a militant group determined to remove British troops from Northern Ireland.
Lead singer Dolores O'Riordan claimed that "Zombie" speaks about "The Irish fight for independence that seems to last forever." The lyrics even say, "It's the same old theme since 1916." Like the responsive works of Yeats, Heaney and U2, the Cranberries claim they wrote "Zombie" to be a "Song for peace, peace among England and Ireland." (thanks, Andrew - Seattle, WA, for above 2)
On August 31, 1994, just a few weeks after this song was released, the IRA declared a ceasefire after 25 years of conflict, leading some critics of The Cranberries to wonder if the IRA was willing to call a truce to make sure the group didn't release any more songs about them.
Thanks to "Songfacts" for this true meaning
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:
Firstly, the lyrics have nothing to do with WW1, abortion or child abuse .... PLEASE!!!
The song chronicles the conflict in Ireland (the northern part) which has had no lasting resolution. I don't think that the writer was taking any particular viewpoint as the lyrics suggest "their tanks and their bombs" - referring to the Brits and Unionists and "their bombs and their guns" - referring to the Unionists and the Republicans alike. It is clear that the two concepts are separated due to the use of "bombs" twice. "What's in your head" is quite simply interpreted as wtf are you thinking (addressed to both sides I presume) for all the "dying" and "crying" that has resulted. That said, I'm sure the villain in these words would be interpreted differently depending on which side of the fence you are on. I know I shouldn't be commenting as I am South African and have not directly experienced the pain of the Irish but there is hope as our nation has witnessed.
anonymous Jul 1st report
My interpretation is exactly as the song writers the wonderful
Delores O'Riordan because I've owned a Cranberries CD since the nineties and had just loved the Cranberries music and Delores O'Riordan 's incredible voice, but until I saw Delores and the Cranberries on New York radio station NPR Tiny Desk performing the most outstanding acoustic guitar performance I had not known the lyrics to Zombie and I couldn't stop crying. Then
I saw on YouTube Delores
O'Riordan in Poland with the incredible Varsova Symphonic Orchestra performing Zombie takes it to another level in that what you see is a little girl and one guitar trying to bring peace in the world and so hopeful that her beloved Ireland was achieving that. This Performance of Delores O'Riordan and Symphonia Varsova should be awarded a peace award of some nature and this performance was followed by Delores singing her song "I Lied to you" and that is on another level also with Symphonia Varsova s immense dramatic backing. I did send an email to the Nobel Institute asking them to look at the performance and that Delores O'Riordan, The Cranberries and Symphonia Varsova deserve to be recognised in some way. Many thanks Teresa Bellinger.
anonymous Jan 21st 2021 report
I’m really feeling this song right now. Very timely.
If you’re a geek like me, you want to deconstruct each line and stanza.
This song was written about a divided nation lashing out with violence. O’Riordan wrote this song to decry both violence and indoctrination of extremism.
Historically, this song was written following the death of two children by pipe bombs planted by domestic terrorists. The lyrics state, “Another head hangs lowly / Child is slowly taken.” This line has two meanings: 1.) The literal death of a child, and 2.) The indoctrination of extremism to youth and how it creates a never ending cycle of violence—this is indicated by the choice of word “slowly” (certainly death by pipe bomb is quite quick) and then further clarification in the next stanza “In your head, in your head, they are fightin'.”
This line can refer to the terrorized believing all Irish support this violence (“me, ... my family”), but it can also refer to the fact that the terrorism happens primarily in the mind.
When terrorism occurs, it takes away any legitimate claims that the terrorists or their countrymen might’ve had. It is counterproductive.
Instead of achieving their violent goals, terrorists achieve the opposite and they simultaneously silence their countrymen whose grievances are veiled by the violence.
Certainly, this speaks to the internal nature of terrorism: it infects the minds of desperate individuals—radicalizing them and deepening the mental divide between perceived oppressors and not just the terrorist, but the innocent aggrieved. It silences true discussion. O’Riordan confirms this sentiment, “And the violence caused such silence.”
O’Riordan then makes it clear that those terrorists do not represent her or her people (although they were countrymen collectively opposed to the British overreach). She writes, “But you see, it's not me, it's not my family,” and she continues referring to the terrorists “with THEIR tanks and THEIR bombs and THEIR bombs and THEIR guns” (emphasis added). Clearly, she is drawing a line of what is too far, and distancing herself from the terrorism.
While O’Riordan empathizes with the plight of the terrorists, she also has a call and response addressing the morality of the terrorists’ actions: “And the violence caused such silence / Who are WE mistaken?” [call]; “Another mother's breakin' / Heart is takin' over / When the violence causes silence / WE must be mistaken” [response]” (emphasis added).
Finally, O’Riordan writes: “It's the same old theme, since 1916 / In your head, in your head, they're still fightin' / ... / In your head, in your head, they are dyin' / In your head, in your head / Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie.” This is a call to reflection. She’s stating that our divisions, discriminations, and hate, start first in our head. When we refuse to let go of difficult history and hold onto grudges, we become slaves to them—or zombies if you will.
I appreciate the vague description of what or who a zombie is. This listener is left to ponder on what constitutes zombie-ism. O’Riordan gives hints that zombies are on both sides—“What’s in your head?” There is no use of the word “THEIR” that she uses throughout the song to delineate terrorists. Rather, she speaks to all listeners on both sides.
I’ve always loved this song, but it has a much deeper and thought-provoking meaning for me now.
I pray that we can all take this time to reflect on our own internal thoughts, and ask ourselves if our internal humanity switch is turned off (yes, Vampire Diaries allusion
anonymous Nov 8th 2018 report
If you watch The Cranberries-Zombie 1999 Live Video on You Tube- Dolores yells out (almost at the end of the video ) “we wrote this song 5 years ago hoping for peace of the North of Ireland —now things are looking better then ever -so let’s hope for Peace for Christmas” —-there you have it ☮️
anonymous Apr 16th 2018 report
I wrote the other day anonymously and was placed in 4th slot...thanks for that; much appreciated. I here use punctuation to show how I believe this incredible poem (O'Riordan is definitely a poet here) should read; hopefully this lends further insight and/or intepretation:
Zombie – Dolores Mary O’Riordan(The Cranberries) Zombie lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Another head-hangs-lowly child is slowly taken.
And, violence caused such silence; who are we mistaking?
But, you see it's not me; it’s not my family
in your head. In your head, they are fighting
with their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns. In your head,in your head, they are crying in your head, in your head, Zombie, (Zombie, Zombie).
What's in your head, in your head, Zombie? – Zombie? – Zombie?
Another mother's breaking heart is taking over.
When (th’) violence causes silence, we must be mistaken.
It's the same old thing since 1916
in your head. In your head, they're still fighting with their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns. In your head, in your head, they are dying in your head, in your head, Zombie. (Zombie, Zombie)
What's in your head, in your head, Zombie? (Zombie? – Zombie?)
- Dr. Jon M. Martin
anonymous Apr 13th 2018 report
I believe the focus of Zombie is on the nature of those that commit war and/or violence against others.
"Another head hangs lowly child is slowly taken"
I believe is about the fact that those with low(er) self esteem are often elevated through gang or war type endeavors or roles. They are often abused or dysfunctional young, then are brought along into the gang thinking and bravado. I do not believe this is about shame of violence, but about the lack of self esteem vulnerability for recruits/recruiting.
"And the violence caused such silence, who are we mistaking?"
I believe that this is referring to those who knew such men and boys but would not speak of it or admit it openly to each other or themselves. Mistaking is a verb here....who are we "fooling"? Who are we seeing differently than they really are?
"But you see, its not me, its not my family"
Is the same denial just spoken of now openly and explicitly personified.
"In your head in your head they are fighting"
This either means that you know in the back of your mind that they are being violent, or it means that violence begins in the mind and mindset.
"In your head in your head they are crying"
This i believe implies that we wish in our minds that they knew better and felt and cared about what they are doing and were torn inside. Or it implies that they still have pain inside them that drives them to violence.
"In your head in your head, zombie, zombie, zombie"
Here various statements and questions are made. O'Riordan's statements here reiterate that it's all in the head, either a zombie not thinking or feeling or asking if perhaps they can indeed still think or feel....otherwise they are robots/zombies acting out violently.
anonymous Jan 16th 2018 report
This was written in response to the 1993 bombing of a shopping mall set up by two bombs designed to scare people into running into the 2nd bomb. The writer may have had some support for the IRA, but she is saying this time they have gone too far. She says anyone who thinks the war between N. Ireland and the South is still going on are Zombies and the was is all in their heads.
She talks directly about the event when she says a child is killed slowly, referring to the boy that was on life support for 5 days. She says "And the violence caused such silence, who are WE mistaken" and then later "when the violence causes silence, WE must be mistaken." Is this We in the rhetorical sense or is she showing soft support for the IRA? Either way she is pointing out that the action of the IRA is so shocking that they really need to question who their enemy really is. Is it England or the kids at a shopping mall?
Then she drives home the message that it's the same thing since 1916 but it is all in your head. There is really no fighting, it's an imagined war. Finally she asks rhetorically, what's in your head, or in other words wtf are you doing? Many think this is directed toward soldiers, but it's really directed toward anyone who would sponsor, order or carry out these acts of violence in the name of the IRA.
I always took the lyrics literally. That the Irish people living through this civil war of 80 years inoculated themselves from the pain of all the fighting by accepting it as part of their daily life, and walk around like zombies. And that when children die, it isn't THEIR children, so it doesn't really affect them. It is in their head.
anonymous Oct 4th 2015 report
If I'm not mistaken, in 1994 th IRA shot down some innocent children. The Cranberries were shocked by such violence and by the fact that violence caused silence - no one dared to protest. So only Dolores raised her voice to accuse the army in this song. "Zombie" means the soldiers who did such atrocities acted not like humans but like fighting machines. "The same old thing since 1916" refers to the beginning of the Urlster conflict. The band point out the conflict is really too long and that both sides need peace.
anonymous May 11th 2015 report
Have you guys ever seen the video? the idea they are talking about real zombies, in the video they directly show irish youth playing war and british soldiers, so no it's no about the Iraq war, its about how people including soldiers of a force that has no business being there [ like wanting to control a country just for the heck of it even though Ireland posed no real threat to them] I feel it spoke about the feeling England has had since old times of superiority over others
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