This is the story of your red right ankle
And how it came to meet your leg
And how the muscle, bone, and sinews tangled
And how the skin was softly shed

And how it whispered
Oh adhere to me
For we are bound by symmetry
And whatever differences our lives have been
We together make a limb
This is the story of your red right ankle

This is the story of your gypsy uncle
You never knew 'cause he was dead
And how his face was carved and rift with wrinkles
In the picture in your head

And remember how you found the key
To his hideout in the Pyrenees
But you wanted to keep his secret safe
So you threw the key away
This is the story of your gypsy uncle

This is the story of the boys who loved you
Who love you now and loved you then
And some were sweet, and some were cold and snuffed you
And some just laid around in bed

Some had crumbled you straight to your knees
Did it cruel, did it tenderly
Some had crawled their way into your heart
To rend your ventricles apart
This is the story of the boys who loved you
This is the story of your red right ankle

Lyrics submitted by sendthestars

Red Right Ankle Lyrics as written by Colin Meloy

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Red Right Ankle song meanings
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  • +3
    General Commenti love this song. it's just beautiful.

    colin meloy wrote it for carson ellis, his girlfriend [she also does all the illustrations for the decemberists works & she used to draw up stuff and flyers for colin's old band when she and colin were roommates in college].
    bryia_026 " it's called "red right ankle" because she has reddish hair and freckles & her ankle has freckles on it. and he said it's about the beauty and simultaneous pain of unions.
    inthetealeaveson March 30, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Commentone of the most original songs i have heard in a long time....the first verse starts with a red right ankle, but describes how each part makes a whole. you need every aspect, muscle, bone, sinews to make a leg. wihout one it would not function correctly. the second verse talks about a gypsy unkle, who moves from place to place without a home that you never met but was dead. but since he was related and felt a blood bond between him, he respected him and loved him. even without knowing him, his one thing he found out was his hidout in the pyranees, but since it was his unkles secret, he respected him enough to keep his wishes and not give away his secret. that in his way was their bond even without his unkle knowing. then finally, the last verse about the boys who loved you. they all loved you, but some did it differently than others. some were sweet and some were cruel. some tore your heart apart violently. it is really about bonds to me, things are bonded in different ways but it all makes a bigger whole. all unions function by little parts.
    meesahunton July 18, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song has to be a love song. I don't agree with the ideas that it is about war or anything else. He's describing this person with such care and intricacy, a description that can only be made by a person who loves someone. The imagery of the ankle and the leg is incredible. I really love the line about rending one's ventricles apart. Amazing.
    Alejoon May 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's a love song because it takes so much care to describe this person. everything is so soft and delicate, and it clearly expresses (to me, anyway) how perfect the singer thinks the person is. also, I think the story of how the ankle met the leg is metaphorical to the singer's relationship to the subject. Don't quite understand the red right ankle though.
    Bryia_026on February 21, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHrm. I haven't heard that it was about his girlfriend. To me, it's about war. I'll try to explain myself, though I might sound like an idiot.

    The first verse I see as a metaphor for the companionship of war like described in the song before it. The tangling of the muscle bone and sinew is from being shot. Then it seems to switch to a reference to "a limb" being humanity, so to say "we are boung by symmetry. Whatever differences our lives (as people) have been, we together make a limb" refers to how we're all human and it's silly how we destory eachother like we do.

    The second verse makes me think of the feelings that I get to never know an interest family member that I never knew. I have several of them, and I see pictures of them and you want to know them because they too are part of who you are.

    The third verse is about a "company" in the armed services or what-have you "the boys who loved you," since we used to refer to men in the army like that, such as "bring our boys home." It talks about how they became part of who he was and he felt a sense of comradery with them (which appears in The Soldiering Life as well) and how they still exist in his heart.

    I guess it's not so much about war, but about pretty much what the above person said.
    YourGypsyUncleon April 07, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBeing as this is my first post, I'm going to go out on a limb with my metaphorical interpretation of this song, most explicitly, the first verse.

    I see it being about a boy who is deeply in love with a girl. He "is" her red right ankle in the fact that he is an essential part of her. I would have to say that her ankle is red because she tried to saw it off i.e. she tried get rid of him. (And how the muscle bone and sinews tangled / And how the skin was softly shed) But he's telling her that she can’t do that because no matter what happens, they belong with each other. (We together make a limb.) It’s meant to be.

    It’s a very moving song, nonetheless.
    CafeteriaBoyon July 19, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song, Red right ankle, means the connection between two people that is irritated by the actual life they live. He might have chosen the ankle because it connects your body to your feet that carries you through life. The connection doesn't fade because it is difficult to be near one another, or because the person is lazy, dead, etc. That bond becomes something that tells the story of your life. These stories add up to become who you actually are. This song describes the correlation to an undetermined magnetism as if someone was attached to you. This bond will suffer throughout life, but will never fade.
    twinva10on September 18, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI dunno. I'm not so good at interpreting stuff but I think this song is just about moving on from past experiences and being sad about it. Like wanting to go in a different direction but not really having a choice. As well as just missing your old times, good, bad and ugly.

    I just thoguht that about the whole 'red, right ankle' thing and how it sort of pleas with the leg to take it back when it is damaged. Maybe even torn off.

    And then about the Uncle who 'you never knew cause he was dead'. Im less sure about this one but I think ts just probably about how you wanted to be a traveller or free perhaps. Like it could be speaking of the direction in which you want your life to go or just maybe your in a new city that u don't like but u have no choice but to be there.

    The last verse or whatever you call it I think is just about the people that you remeber from a long time ago who you miss. All of them: your friends, enemies, aquaintances, people you don't know, poeple you fell in love with and people you loathed. You miss them all.

    I dunno, Im in a city I don't want to live in right now and I just think this song decribes it well in a way. Especially the last verse.
    BIZITCHUMTITZ!on April 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm not sure, what this song means, but the way it sounds just makes me want to cry every time. It's such a perfect song. I think the Decemberists are probably the greatest band of all time. Anyway, here's my guess as to what it means:

    I'm sure this is wrong, but I think each of the three verses as somehow relating to the relationship between the narrator and the person he loves.

    I think the first stanza is a metaphor. Your ankle links two things, your foot and your leg. this allows you to walk. The narrator is saying that their relationship is like that, since it is what is joining the two of them and it keeps them going through their lives and any troubles that they have.

    The second stanza could be about the way you respect someone you feel a bond with. The girl felt a strong bond with her uncle because he was a family member, even though she never knew him. Because of this, even when she found his secret hideout, her feelings of respect and admiration for her uncle led her to not reveal his secrets. This is how the narrator feels about the girl. He loves and cares for her, and would never do anything to harm her (telling secrets, etc.).

    The third stanza is comparing their relationship to those she had with other people, saying that the narrator is just another one of those boys, but that he recognizes what they did wrong and that their relationship will not end the way the others did.

    These are the words that led me to my conclusion: "This is the story of..." It seems to me that their relationship is metaphorically the story of her ankle, her uncle, or her previous lovers.

    Anyway, this is without a doubt one of the most incredible songs I have ever heard. This is the only song that could rival Everlong by the Foo Fighters (the live, acoustic version from Skin and Bones) as the greatest love song ever written. The Decemberists definitely don't get nearly enough credit from most people.
    Sons & Daughterson September 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me, this song signifies everything that's true about love. It's not chance meetings or sweeping gestures but the little things that comprise the object of your affections. The average person would notice grand or obvious attributes, but those intimate details are missed. Those are the things you remember late at night when you miss her.

    Although the ankle has historical significance as a symbol of beauty (so does the neck), it's currently a part of the body that's easily overlooked. Putting so much care into describing something so "trivial" shows how much he cares about the person it belongs to.

    The story about the uncle serves to depict the non-physical attributes that makes the narrator love the subject of the song. How unflaggingly loyal she is to someone she loves even though she's never met them.

    The verse about the subject's, for lack of a better word, suitors tells of the events that shaped her and made her the person the narrator has come to love so dearly.

    I don't know if this is a valid interpretation or just representative of the place I was in when I heard the song.
    Anamenotchosenon March 28, 2008   Link

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