Remember how it all began
The apple and the fall of man
The price we paid
So the people say
Down the path of shame and let us dare
To bite the hand that fed us
Fairy tale the moral end
Wheel of fortune never turns again
Never turns again
The worst of it has come and gone
In the chaos of millennium
And the falling out
Of the doomsday crowd
Their last retreat is moving slow
They burn their bridges as they go
The heretic is beautified
Teach the harlot's child to smile
Rocked again by indecision
Should we make that small incision
Testify, to the bleeding heart inside
We cut, we scratched
We ran, and we slashed
And when he opened up at last
Found a cul de sac
Deepened black
Of smoke and ash
Deepened black
Smoke and ash
The wicked king of parody
Is kissing all his enemies
On the seventh day
On the seventh week
The tyrant's voice has softened now
But just for one forgiving hour
Before the rise of his
Iron fist again
Fist again
I've come tonight
I've come to know
The way we are the way we'll go
And to measure this
The width of the wide abyss
I've come to you in restless sleep
Were all your dreams turned bitter sweet
With voodoo doll philosophies
Day gloy holy trinities
The wicked raft that leaves the shore
Of ferries drunken souls a board
Pilgrims march to Compostela
Of visions of their saint in yellow
Follow deep in trance
Lost in a catatonic dance
Know no future
Damn the past
Blind war, ecstatic
To save their lives


Lyrics submitted by kevin, edited by ncc74656m

Thick as Thieves Lyrics as written by Natalie A Merchant

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

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Thick As Thieves song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • +4
    General Comment

    wow, this song was written in 1998 so i was way off with my previous post about the millenium meaning 2000. however...i redeemed myself by doing the necessary research. the meaning of the song is as follows (as i see it):

    Remember how it all began The apple and the fall of man (adam and eve eating the forbidden fruit)

    The price we paid (getting kicked out of the garden/no longer being perfect)

    So the people say (author doesn't buy the story)

    Down a path of shame it lead us Dared to bite the hand that fed us (God gaev us all but man dared to disobey him; also refers to eating forbidden fruit)

    The fairy tale The moral end (again suggests this story was untrue (a fairy tale))

    The wheel of fortune Never turns again (Bible says we'll never have a that chance again)

    The worst of it has come and gone In the chaos of millennium In the falling out of the doomsday crowd Their last retreat is moving slow They burn their bridges as they go The heretic is beatified (heretic=anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle

    He'll teach the harlot's child to smile

    Wracked again by indecision Should we make that small incision Testify to the bleeding heart inside? (bleeding heart = A term, usually critical and politically loaded, for someone who is held to be overly sympathetic to another person's (or group of people's) plight. Someone who is emotionally concerned about a person, idea, or event but still refuses to act. i think maybe she's saying we ready to show everyone we are this "bleeding heart" type

    We cut, we scratched We rent, we slashed (rent is the verb form of 'rend' =to separate into parts with force or violence)

    And when he opened up at last Found a cul-de-sac (i think we know "cul-de-sac as a dead-end road, but it also means the bottom of a bag or an opening or hole. when i looked it up though i found it interesting that another defenition is: any situation in which further progress is impossible. In anatomy it can mean a a saclike cavity, open only at one end.

    Deep and black Of smoke and ash

    (i'm not sure of the smoke and ash part, but it's obviously saying we found in our hearts something other than we expected; a big hole)

    The wicked king of parody (God)

    Is kissing all his enemies On the seventh day Of the seventh week (refers to Christian Premillennialism and the beliefe that: in the apocalypse, weeks 1-7 retell the biblical history from the creation of humanity to the author’s time of writing (possibly during the Maccabean crisis). However, after the seventh "week", the temporary earthly messianic age begins and occurs for a period of three more “weeks”. After the temporary messianic kingdom, the creation of the new heavens and the new earth occurs.)

    The tyrant's voice is softer now But just for one forgiving hour Before the rise of his Iron fist again (The apocryphal book was apparently an attempt to explain the difficulties associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the Jewish people.During one of the visions in the book, Ezra received a revelation from the angel Uriel. The angel explained that prior to the last judgment, the Messiah will come and establish a temporary kingdom lasting 400 years after which all of creation will be obliterated including the Messiah. The Author in this song is perhaps refering to this 400 year period as the "forgiving hour" afterwhich he will rise his "iron fist" and begin destroying all.)

    I've come tonight I've come to know The way we are The way we'll go Come to measure this The width of the wide abyss (i think she's saying we should take things with a grain of salt as they say and not jump onto every bandwagon that comes along)

    I come to you in restless sleep Where all your dreams turn bitter-sweet With voodoo doll philosophies And day-glo holy trinities (I believe she is saying we're filled with beliefs which aren't backed by reality)

    The crooked raft that leaves the shore Ferries drunken souls aboard (?? crooked raft would suggest a dangerous trip ahead or ill-planned perhaps for "drunken souls" which may mean the souls (us) are not in our right minds or mislead)

    Pilgrims march to Compestella (Compestella = ancient Campus Stellae, Eng Compostella 42°52N 8°37W, pop (2000e) 106 000. City in La Coruña province, Galicia, NW Spain, on R Sar; former capital of the Kingdom of Galicia; world-famous place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages (shrine of St James))

    Visions of their saint in yellow (St. James shrine located there)

    All follow deep in trance Lost in a catatonic dance (deliberate movements but without thought; robotic)

    Know no future Damn the past Blind, warm, ecstatic Safe at last...

    ('Ignorance is bliss', to put it quite plainly)

    frogger6on May 01, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    I found the following quote, if anyone still cares, on an orthodox xhristian website:


    ""Thick as Thieves" refers to the story of Adam and Eve as simply a fairy tale, the Holy Trinity as a philosophy, and expresses an overall negative and dismissive attitude toward Christian beliefs. Even the picture of Natalie dressed as a Roman Catholic nun on the CD cover is in poor taste. "


    frogger6on May 01, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I think its about the rise and fall and the major clashes of Religion and ideologies throughout history.

    Almost Realon April 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I'm surprised I never posted in response to this. Frogger, your post was... wow. Excellent research and interpretation. There's even more to this song than I had originally suspected, and wow, I'm in awe.

    I absolutely love this song, as with so many by Natalie. Such depth in her writing, and as always, her voice says in many ways more than the words.

    ncc74656mon July 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I should have mentioned the song title - "Thick as thieves" - it has a sort of double meaning. It means people who are closely allied/very close friends. It makes me think of a sort of clique mentality in religious groups. But "thick" can also mean stupid or dense and "thieves" are obviously people who steal from others.

    sakurablossomon July 16, 2011   Link
  • +1
    My Opinion

    "The heretic is beautified, he'll teach the harlot's child to smile" The harlot's child...a prostitute's child...I guess you could assume the harlot's child is confused about who "The Father" is/ the "Father" is absent from their life...the harlot's child = non-believer/someone who has not been looked after by God?

    "Wracked again by indecision Should we make that small incision Testify to the bleeding heart inside? We cut, we scratched We rent, we slashed And when he opened up at last Found a cul-de-sac Deep and black Of smoke and ash"

    Could she again be speaking about God...the indecision being doubt about whether to believe in him or his good intentions/compassion? Then on further close investigation (cut/scratch/rent/slash) we find he has no heart...only a deep black cul-de-sac of smoke and ash (heartless destructiveness)?

    The idea of a destructive heartless God seems to follow with the next verse:

    "The wicked king of parody Is kissing all his enemies On the seventh day Of the seventh week The tyrant's voice is softer now But just for one forgiving hour Before the rise of his Iron fist again "

    God is the "wicked king of parody" and a "tyrant" who, in the final moments of the apocalypse kisses all his enemies and speaks softly to them but only briefly (for one forgiving hour) before he raises his "iron fist" and mercilessly destroys them.

    referring to the raft as "crooked" could mean it is immoral. The drunken souls (deluded, "drunk" on the holy spirit - as in pentecostal beliefs - drunk on a belief system?) are ferried...this gives me the impression of people being moved like cattle...not really 'steering' their own way. This is reinforced by speaking of pilgrims following in a trance/catatonic dance (can't use their own minds). But in their delusion/blindness they are safe and warm, it is easier and safer for them not to think outside the box...

    I love the words "catatonic dance"...catatonia is basically a stupor, someone who is catatonic cannot dance of their own accord...so it gives the impression of a limp, brain-dead body being remotely controlled/hypnotised by an outside force.

    I love this song and can really relate to it. God - the God of the Old Testament especially - to me seems a very cruel, vengeful, heartless and violent God (see evilbible.com for examples!). For me, Christianity is a fairy-tale, and if God is real in the way the bible says he is, I reject him because I do not agree with the things he has supposed to have done/has ordered to be done to men, women, children and animals. That said, there is some good stuff in the New Testament...but there is still too much blood, war, killing, rape, animal sacrifice, child abuse etc for me to agree with the religion. This is from an ex-christian btw who has studied the bible in detail.

    Natalie Merchant is awesome...

    sakurablossomon July 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    well the allusions to the fall of man (im sure most of us have seen brad in that adorable leather skirt in troy) are obvious. heres the readers digest verision (mythology is so entwined, there will always be a lot not said) neways, paris was in a field and three godesses came and made him pick who was the most beautiful. they were fighting over a golden apple that was to be given to the prettiest hoe in the clouds. he picked the godess who said she'd give him a sexy wife (typical guy right?) well taht caused some wars and it was all downhill from there. i think the rest of the song is commenting on moral decay of our world. so many other allusions are made, im sure someone else would like to comment on them :)

    beautifulcowon December 15, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Not many people said much about this one...huh. This is how I see it: Okay, I think the first few set of lyrics refers more to Adam and Eve. They took the forbidden fruit, which destroyed everything. So the people say is basically how the story is told by everyone, and in the bible, and how the price we paid was being kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Down the path of shame and let us dare To bite the hand that fed us (I think this is reference to the eating of the forbidden apple, how God 'let them dare' and choose the life they wanted and they chose to eat the apple and bit the that hand that fed them by doing so.) Fairy tale, the moral end Wheel of fortune, never turns again Never turns again (They had one chance in the garden, but they threw it all away, and that was it. They will never have the chance again. Humans act this way often with things, and it is often the moral end.) 'The worst of it has come and gone…' (I think these set of lyrics refers to how it's the end of time, and we have fought constantly, and the 'doomsday' is gone now, and everything is over. We have fought our last battle, in whatever way. The lyrics travel from the beginning of time's mistakes to the end of time's mistakes. Their last retreat is moving slow They burn their bridges as they go (They've destroyed so much, there is little refuge to go to anymore. Maybe by burning bridges they're biting the hand that fed them again, and running from all that they should have learned from past actions.) 'Rocked again by indecision' could mean that they were at a lost what to do, so we did what we always automatically do, and fought. We apparently expected that to have solved our indecision, and what we were left with was ash and smoke. Everything destroyed, and nothing solved. 'The wicked king'. I think this is just how the tyrant realizes how we have destroyed everything, and now they are all remorseful and calling a truce with this enemies and saying live and let live, but only until the next time of crisis, and then the tyrant arises again and everything goes back to normal. I've come tonight I've come to know The way we are the way we'll go (This is simply the narrator referencing to everything she's learned from the history of man.) I've come to you in restless sleep Were all your dreams turned bitter sweet With voodoo doll philosophies Day gloy holy trinities (I think she's asking, whoever she's speaking to, if they loss all their hopes and dreams because of the 'philosophies' and mythologies they've heard of) Follow deep in trance Lost in a catatonic dance Know no future Damn the past Blind war, ecstatic To save their lives (We're just looking out for ourselves again. We're in a blind war, because we never learn, and only go in circles.) Overall, I think it's the foolishness of men and how we are destroying ourselves by falling the same steps over and over. Great song.

    strybook23on March 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    i have to agree that the first part about the fall of man would have to be about adam and eve and not some roman mythology. It just makes sense that way. enkainami, you did a good job, but one part i disagree with you on is the bit about the falling out of the doomsday crowd. she says the worst of it has come and gone with the choas of milleneum - and the falling out of the doomsday crowd. I think she's refering to all the people who insisted the world was coming to an end in 2000 (milleneum) and the falling out would be them being wrong (obviously). I was unsure about the burning bridges part and that's why i came here. I guess we can look at in the general sense as it usually refers to making enemies and not allowing yourself an opprotunity to return in the future (never a good idea). I tend to think this song follows a timeline of sorts. If it starts with adam and eve and then progresses to 2000 and then later in the song she mentions "tonight". ...although i'm not sure when this song was written off the top of my head. I'm going to search around some more for other people's thoughts. I'll check back if i find anything.

    frogger6on May 01, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Thanks for the post, frogger6. I'm glad someone else tried to figure this song out, and I like that you did your research. It gives me a new perspective on the song. Guess I was pretty off >_>.

    strybook23on July 26, 2007   Link

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