The song Hunter of Invisible Game (released on the album High Hopes in 2014), sprung from a title that Springsteen came up with and wrote down. At that time Springsteen had done some post-apocalyptic reading and wanted to incorporate that in a song. Subsequently the title evolved into a full song. The setting is a wasteland where the narrator is trying to hunt out the remains of what makes the spirit, trying to hold on to humankind and to restore and rebuild a fallen civilization. In the beginning of the song the narrator/the hunter hauls himself out of a ditch and builds himself an arch and I wonder if the the ditch is a grave or a dip off the side of the road symbolising hard times that anyone get into during the course of life.
In verse two the image of a railroad tracks appears (“And a scarecrow on fire along the railroad tracks“). There are railroad tracks in the lyrics of many Bruce Springsteen’s songs, a symbol for escape, a way out. But why the scarecrow, I wonder? Perhaps to scare away the demons?
Strength is vanity and time is illusion. I feel you breathing, the rest is confusion. Your skin touches mine, what else to explain. I am the hunter of invisible game
The short film, Hunter of Invisible Game, takes place in a kind of a no man’s land, where Springsteen plays a weathered hunter, who is travelling with a horse, an axe and a rifle. In the beginning he is sitting alone, noticably haunted, looking at photograps of his past (a wife, kids and a home) that turn into visions. Along the way he comes across a young boy who is searching for his family. Finally they locate the boy’s family and village. The song kicks in around halfway through the 10-minute film and through the song the character narrates his own story. The film paints a portrait of a resilient man who is not quite ready to give in, despite the hardship he’s been through.
It may seem quite random that I picked up this song and film to write about and I agree. It is not on rotation on my Spotify playlist (though it may will be). There was something that caught my attention and as I started to look more closely on the lyrics I felt I wanted to try and analyse the meaning to me. Part of what I like about this song is the ambiguity. Is the hunter the Devil or the Saviour? In what way do the lyrics speak to me?
To me a lot of Springsteen’s work urges us to resist the kind of stagnation that derives from the fear of leaving your comfort zone. This fear may lead you to stay in a place that feels safe but that does nothing for your progress. Anxiety over making a wrong move, the potential for discomfort, knowing that you don’t have all the answers are not reasons enough for inaction.
We all come up a little short and we go down hard. These days I spend my time skipping through the dark.
In my post Leap of faith I write about my “10 Bruce Commandments” and there you find that many of the lines I’ve listed point in the same direction; be brave enough to try something new, don’t fear change and (most importantly) don’t settle.
I guess you could argue that “you get the answers you are looking for” (a Swedish saying* quite clumsily translated) and these were the answers I found when I read the lyrics of the Hunter of Inivisble Game. What do find? Is the Hunter the Devil or the Saviour? What is the Invisible Game to you?
* Som man frågar får man svar
Great essay, Anna! I love this song–one of my favorites from “High Hopes,” and I was fortunate enough to hear it live (sort of, anyway) during a soundcheck in Houston back in 2014. I never really thought of the Hunter as any kind of sinister or heroic figure, though. I always thought the important part of the metaphor was the “invisible game.” I think the narrator is just a restless man who has a strong, solid love in his life, but who craves… more. But he doesn’t know what. He builds an ark and waits for the rain to carry him away so that he doesn’t have to actively leave; he watches a barren, burning landscape from a train, finding nothing to anchor him, But he presses on, or rather is carried forward, obsessed by finding something he cannot name, but missing and craving his love all the same. As someone who has always had the travel “bug” but who has always missed his family tremendously each time I went away, this song has always resonated strongly with me. So maybe you’re right: we get the answers we’re looking for… unless you’re the narrator of the song. 🙂
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Thanks Ken! Wow, your analysis is way better than mine 😏
Nah, like you said, with art and music you tend to find what you’re looking for. We have different lenses, so we see different things. 🙂
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