Who is the One Tin Soldier?

By: The Late Mitchell Warren (Author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom” series)

“One Tin Soldier” by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley-folk below.

On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.

Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

Who was the “One Tin Soldier” that rode away one bloody morning after?  The Canadian pop group Coven first recorded the song in 1969, working with a song written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.  The song became a Northern American sensation when Skeeter Davis recorded the single, which also coincided with the Billy Jack phenomenon.

The song was always conceived as an anti-war song, and this was very apparent when the song landed on the soundtrack of the popular Billy Jack film starring Tom Laughlin.  The song obviously mirrored themes happening in Vietnam at the time, as the war was nearing its end by 1973.  Tom Laughlin obviously saw himself as the Tin Soldier, which explains why Warner Bros. first released the film as “One Tin Soldier: The Legend of Billy Jack.”

However, one wonders if Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter really visualized the image of a blue denim wearing, hat-clad, ass-kicking man in blue jeans when writing the poignant song.  Once the listener removes all pretenses, the story itself is rather abstract; the motivation is treasure and two neighboring people, the Mountain People and the Valley People, want it.  The Mountain People want to share the treasure with their brothers while the Valley People wanted it for themselves.

The lyrics never explained whether the Mountain People were being elitist in their wanting to share their treasure only with “brothers” instead of the entire land.  Were the Mountain People acting just as greedily as the Valley People by insisting the treasure was theirs?  At the time, we were living in the age of peace loving hippies and aggressive Kent State National Guardsman, and so we assumed that the pure Mountain People must have been exploited by the modernistic Valley People.  The lesson seemed to make sense; more importantly, it seemed to satisfy 1970s audiences who read their own problems into this simple song, which could have very well remained timeless and abstract.

Religious references do abound in the song, from the denunciation of religious leaders claiming to be heaven-inspired, to the “judgment day” coming in which presumably God judges those who are blood guilty for their deeds, not their side.  This led many to believe that the song may represent more than just governmental abuses of power; perhaps it was a reference to the power that all organized religion had over the masses.

While it’s hard to believe anything of value could come out of The Sonny and Cher Show, the program did manage to run an animated cartoon based on the song that raised some provocative issues.

(Warning: Contains disturbing scenes of Cher singing and butchering a great melody)

Here we catch three messages within the short animated film: first, that the Mountain People were isolated from the rest of the humanity and were fiercely protecting the gift for their brothers, even taunting the Valley People with their knowledge of the treasure.  This actually challenges the traditional view that the song is about oppression of the weak.  If anything, it speaks to the poor communication skills of both sides.  Second, the Valley People were largely affiliated with a Christian religion.  Third, that one tin soldier rode away—clearly ashamed at what had taken place.

Was the One Tin Soldier ashamed because he was part of the onslaught that took place, or was he perhaps one soldier with a conscience that turned away from the masses before the carnage ensued?  Was the soldier indeed the messenger of God who would one day have to bring judgment day and shamefully commit violent acts to those who are violent in hopes of finally bringing peace on earth?

As you stare into Cher’s glassy fish eyes while she croons the theme, it’s clear to see that she probably doesn’t grasp the depth of the song, just as I’m fairly sure that 90% of everyone who listens to it doesn’t quite understand the implications or indeed, the role they play in the story.

The one point that everyone can agree on is that the Valley People, whoever they are, deserve judgment for their violent misdeeds.  To that, I say, be careful who you implicate in this story.  By the same criteria by which you judge others, you will one day be judged—if not by God, then by your fellow man who wields a sword.

I don’t know about you, but after hearing this song I usually run out and grab my sword ready to make to tear those Valley People a new cavity for storing their treasure.  However, a long time has passed since that song was written.  Now when we go looking for justice we see far too many paths and roads to take, not one of which is guaranteed to take us to the redemption we are seeking.

The truth is, it’s easy to implicate any number of people or entities for their crimes against humanity if you really want to hold court.  Why, if you analyzed the history of human behavior, you would see a long list of sins worthy of judgment day—many of which have been perpetrated by your own side.  Let’s start with religion.

Suspect #1: Religion

From the very moment Christ died for your sins, Christians all over the world have been sinning like wildfire.  The Jews and the Romans, barbaric in their own right, taught Christians how to die.  However, Catholics and Protestants are the ones who truly taught the world how to suffer.  From Saint Augustine’s Cognite Intrare (“Compel them to enter”) plea for intolerance, to the majestic brutality of the Holy Roman Empire’s Crusades, in which Muslims and Christians killed each other, to the Catholic Sponsored Inquisitions, in which heretics were burned at the stake, these Christians have killed mountains of innocent people.

Even after the Reformation took place, Protestants continued with their own versions of the Inquisitions, cruelly burning heretics at the stake and duking it out with Catholics in the Thirty Years War, and much later during The Troubles.  The absolutism that Luther and Calvin taught led to the persecution of numerous other sects of Christians who dared to be different from mainstream Protestantism.

Torture and intolerance continued throughout the second millennium, culminating in a campaign of misogyny against women during the European witch-hunts, a time often called a “woman’s holocaust.”  Religious extremism is indeed responsible for much of the bloodshed throughout human history, and usually such violence is motivated from a simple thought that lost souls should be converted to the right way.  And so they repented, and they won their just reward…

Suspect #2: The United States of America


While we’re finger-pointing at organized religion, let’s not forget the definitive Christian nation, the United States of America.  Ever since colonial times, the United States has listened to nothing but its own trumpets blowing.  The Manifest Destiny mission had brutal consequences for Native Americans and the U.S. made no secret that “white power” was the primary motivator for dominating its inferior neighbors.  John C. Calhoun was quoted as saying, “We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race.”  Calhoun has that ingenuous 19th century honesty that is sorely lacking in white politicians today.  Who doesn’t feel patriotic when he says something like, “We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged…it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent.  It is a great mistake.  None but people advanced to a very high state of moral and intellectual improvement are capable, in a civilized state, of maintaining free government.”

And from there early America, deceived Native Americans (“savages” as the infallible Constitution once called them) into losing their land, and eventually to forcible removal and death, courtesy of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Trail of Tears in 1831.  Historian authors like David E. Stannard of American Holocaust believe early Americans ordered a true genocidal act with these decisions, even surpassing the Nazi Holocaust in terms of cruelty and death.

Did the Mountain People learn their lesson the first time?  Why yes, provided you sidestep American slavery in the 1800s, in which black slaves were owned as property, ridiculed, beaten and then viciously murdered if they dared to runaway.  Abraham Lincoln, America’s Greatest President, reiterated Manifest Destiny when he stated, “If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.”  In fact, his Emancipation Proclamation only resulted in the freeing of Confederate slaves and prompting a Civil War that was just waiting to happen.  “I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races,” Lincoln repeatedly assured his contemporaries.  At least Lincoln was consistent about his prejudices.  He approved the largest mass execution in American history, ordering 38 Indians and “half-breeds” hanged to appease authorities in Minnesota who wanted “savage” land for themselves.

At least the Mountain People learned their lesson in the 20th century—or least we thought they did before during World War II, in which the U.S. bombed and killed over 200,000 Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Just when you think it’s safe to say the U.S. has evolved into a peaceful and dignified nation, you are confronted with ugly military stories out of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.  Whenever there is silence, American wonders what happened to those trumpets.  Thank goodness for civilized and intelligent people in the world, you know, like in the medical community.

Suspect #3: Science and Medicine


A long time ago (or to be specific, a few years ago in a B-movie called Psychopathia Sexualis) one of Krafft-Ebing’s protégés was overheard boasting to a patient that the documenting and medical torturing of people for “medical and psychiatric treatment” was necessary back in the day because it helped to establish science and medicine as a legitimate “power” in modern society—one that was no longer controlled by the state or by religion.  “People will no longer go to judges and priests for answers, judges and priests will now come to us!” he exclaimed.  Indeed, the scientific and medical community worldwide—no doubt oppressed for many years by religious fanatics—exacted their own revenge, but unfortunately upon poor unsuspecting anomalies of nature.

Medical scientists in America and Britain subjected homosexuals, the mentally handicapped and disagreeable women to shock therapy.  Who could forget the biological warfare experiments conducted in Savannah, Georgia and Avon Park, Florida in the 1950s in which army bio-warfare researchers released millions of mosquitoes on the two towns to see if the bugs would spread fatal yellow fever or dengue fever?  (Oh wait, you did forget about that one…they kind of swept that under the rug)  As recently as Bush’s administration, the CIA has conducted cruel and unusual medical experiments on prisoners.  This is not to suggest that only the U.S. has a god complex.  What about stories coming out of Lake Alice, New Zealand in the 1970s in which children were routinely punished with unmodified electroconvulsive treatment?  And of course, we just love German history which gives us harrowing tales of Nazi experiments performed on concentration camp dwellers involving bone, muscle and nerve transplantation.  These experiments left thousands of children and adults disabled, disfigured or dead.  Meanwhile, Japanese medical personnel tortured Chinese prisoners with vivisection surgery and the Khmer Rouge communist regime in Cambodia let scientists bleed suspected country traitors to death.  Whatever moral atrocity you could possibly think of in the darkest corners of your mind, your country’s best scientists and doctors have probably done it to some nameless orphan or senior citizen that no one would miss.  Hey, at least some treasures of technology have been revealed to us, one bloody morning after.

Science #4: Humanity

The truth is, like any transcendent parable, One Tin Soldier ages with us, and evolves nicely from one corrupt generation to the next.  We always see ourselves and our worse enemy in the story, because we like to believe that we are on the right side of God or at least, the right side of rational human behavior.  We stay true to our mountain of hope.  Meanwhile “they” are the people of the Valley, the ones who have no motivation other than greed, hatred and intolerance.  Whether they are religious zealots, patriots, scientists or capitalists, they are evil.  They fill the role we make for them and march with their empty signs showing the whole world their hypocrisy.

Now here’s the fatal stab.  You are the Mountain People.  You are the Valley People.  Whoever dares to trespass on your personal treasure assumes the role of a contentious mob.  Whoever dares to insult your pride or stand between you and certain success, is an obstacle that must be destroyed.

Can you deny that your own people have failed to bring peace on earth to this world?  How can Americans possibly make excuses for their treatment of Native Americans or African Americans?  How can the Germans ever apologize for giving us Hitler, or Russia ever apologize for Stalin?  How can Islam ever make up for extremist Muslims who commit terrorist acts?  How can Christianity ever reconcile murdering so many witches, heretics, sinners, dissenters and yes, even fellow Christians?  How can you possibly forgive your brothers across the world for practicing cannibalism?  Are they really your brothers if they want to share world peace and a few legs of fried human meat?   How can you forgive your neighbor for contributing to animal suffering?  How can you forgive that bear in the woods that ate your girlfriend?  (God loves ya, Timothy Treadwell)  Maybe you can’t forgive.  Maybe that’s how you want it.

Injustice can be found wherever you turn and the Valley People need no motivation ascribed to them other than they are Valley People—urbanized, soulless sodomites who bring their culture in like mud and rudely place their wishes in front of you.  They are the bullies, the expansionists, the capitalists and the dangerous dreamers you fear.  Unless, of course, they stand between you and that treasure, in which case they quickly become selfish, intolerant and greedy little buggers capitalizing on your misfortune.

If anything, to me, One Tin Soldier with its iconic religious imagery, takes back the idea of an just or unjust God, and leaves moral responsibility with the miserable people of this modern world, people who are totally incapable of bringing any peace on earth.  So go ahead and hate your neighbor, you can always justify it in the end.  All we need from you is a little more hate to make the world turn.

One last question for you, the thinking subversive: who really was the “One Tin Soldier” that rides away?  Perhaps Lambert and Potter wrote the lyrics as a call to action, asking their listeners to decide who the one tin soldier was, and consequently, what you intend to do about all the injustice you see.

Ideas for Redemption

If you are the One Tin Soldier here to pass judgment on the wicked, then by all means join the suicide bombers, Tea Party Christians, atheists and serial killers in the world and continue wallowing in your hate as regularly scheduled.  Keep trying to change the world, because all of these stupid people need to be enlightened.

If you think the One Tin Soldier represents the error of man and you are now ashamed of your formerly self-righteous ways, then by all means, continue to repent of your sins, i leave peaceably, forgive others, live and let live, have a big interfaith orgy, preach hippie peace, and do all sorts of Yoga and Tantric crap to relieve your negative energy.

Lastly, if you think the One Tin Soldier was the one soldier who turned back from the angry mob and avoided committing a senseless act of violence, and that he somehow represents independent thought amid a morally senseless world, then brace yourself.  Be prepared to be trampled on by suicide bombers, Tea Party Christians, atheists, serial killers and evil medical scientists who want to perform vivisections on you.  Because your type, the type that lives separated from society in that suspicious looking mountain, doesn’t live long.

For me personally, I see the One Tin Soldier as Billy Jack.  Sometimes in order to protect yourself and your treasure beneath the stone you have to have a weapon.  Billy Jack was a living weapon, and was so cool that even Chuck Norris wishes he was Chuck Norris but pretending to be Billy Jack.  Guys like me, who can’t afford karate lessons only have one alternative.

COME AND GET IT VALLEY PEOPLE!

“I got your piece on earth right here!”

“Go ahead…hate your neighbor.”

If the Mountain People had kept a few badass shotguns beside their stone, maybe those Valley People would have left them the hell alone.

REFERENCES

http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/christian/blfaq_viol_index.htm

http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/crusades1.htm

http://www.bede.org.uk/inquisition.htm

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/03/protestant-inquisition-reformation.html

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/30YW_western_europe.htm

http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/articles/witch-hunts-and-christian-mentality

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=478

http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryAmerican/NativeAmerican/?view=usa&ci=0195085574

http://www.lestweforgetmuseumofslavery.com/

http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo44.html

http://campus.lakeforest.edu/~ebner/mackiag/lincoln.html

http://www.unitednativeamerica.com/hanging.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_torture

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_experimentation_in_the_United_States

http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/6370-mengales-children-american-medical-experiments-and-torture.html

26 Comments on “Who is the One Tin Soldier?”

  1. It wouldn’t exactly be peace on earth with a few shotguns now would it? 😛
    Interesting article! I really like that song. Me, being the perpetual optimist though, I still feel the mountain people were eager to share their “treasure” (the effort to live peaceably) and my theory was always one tin soldier rides away (the outcast like you said) to either be the one to tell the story in hopes people would learn from the mistakes, or as the “hope” of peace on earth, even if small.

    “And leaves moral responsibility with the miserable people of this modern world” is a great theory too. Maybe we are all damned and hopeless. Though my optimistic heart still says it would rather hope. I guess you can put me in the preach hippie peace, forgive others and do the best I can category if you like. Good thing I live with a man with a shotgun 😛
    Billy Jack doesn’t factor in ANYWHERE on my thoughts of this song thankfully! oh wait… is that hate? damn.

  2. Tin soldier has such a hollow sound, like something artificial or a substitution for something else. I think in my younger years, i associated the song “Tin Soldier” and the movie, “Billy Jack” because they were aired around the same time period, a time when the civil rights campaign was gaining strength and the morality of the Vietnam war was being questioned. It felt good to sing “go ahead and hate your neighbor”. It was as though those who sang it had an enlightenment of the song that others did not.

    It takes a gifted prosecutor or someone like Cher, who believe the ends always justifies the means, to read taunting and selfishness into the mountain folk. It’s equivelant to being the driver of a Cadillac running over a man on a bicycle, then suing him for the scratches on the bumper. Not one line in the song indicates that the mountain people were feeling antagonistic nor that they even put up a fight. Maybe they were like the Jews who were quietly and obediantly herded into prison camps.

    Who is the tin soldier? Maybe just an observer, the last man standing, the one person who can say what really happened so that it’s never forgotten. That is finally, our judgment. We can fabricate our lives. We can buy our way into favoritism. We can pretend to lofty sentiments, but ultimately, it isn’t the image we painstakingly attempt to present to others that we’re remembered by, but the pain or the joy, the kindnesses or the brutality, and what we’ve done to make another’s life easier or more difficult that will mark our individual humanity.

  3. As one who always saw the concept of “peace on earth” as being a load of bullshit (nature is filled with conflict – life overcoming life to advance its survival: all the hippie peaceniks in the world won’t change that), I see in the one tin soldier one man who has just fucking had it with society as a whole – be it mountain or valley. What I see is an individual asserting his own sovereignty and weilding his weapons for no cause anymore but his own: all ideologies and their herd animal fanatics be damned.

  4. I too do not find anyplace in the song where the mountain people were taunting, to my ears it plays with our brother we will share. Anyone could have joined their family, there were no terms named. The fact that the soldier was tin, one of the weakest metals, but a good conductor says something to me about meekness. But perhaps we have past the point where there is anyone who can understand parables like these anymore.

  5. First of all, thanks for this reality check.

    Sometimes I believe I have what others want. Sometimes I want to share. Sometimes I’m afraid to share because I can foresee consequences. Sometimes I share in hope it will be appreciated. Sometimes I want what others have. Sometimes I want more than what I’m offered. Sometimes I take when I should be giving. Sometimes I’m ashamed of myself and feel so alone.

    One tin soldier has no winners. It is a learning experience.

    In the biblical account, Adam and Eve were given 3 things to do and 1 thing not to do. They were free to choose what they did. Mercy was available in the tree of life. After giving them the opportunity to confess they were banned from eating of it. That solution and the garden where it grew eventually disappeared. But a promise was made. So the ultimate solution is out of our hands. But the promise was made.

    It is hopeless to believe that the solution lies with men. There is hope which follows faith which then leads to action. The Shakers had a song named, “Love is Little.” The lyrics are, “Love is little. Love is low. Love will make my spirit grow. Grow in peace. Grow in light. Love will do the thing that’s right.”

    I’ve been told that God does not want anyone to die but wants them to be changed. And I’ve been told that change does not come through justice but rather by being an example of love and mercy. That’s what I want to do, but I fear I’ll often experience the same feelings as the one tin soldier. Suffering is a way for us to see a glimmer of how God feels about the situation.

  6. Thanks for all the info on one of my favorite songs. I chose One Tin Soldier for the theme song of my educational, illustrated story book: The Rabbit King: Kingdom Leporidae, The story of The orphan Hare . . . who became king! http://www.therabbitking.com

  7. perhaps he is the one valley person who walked away before the fight. it says ” the morning after one tin soldier walks away.” that means the fighting started one day after the soldier walked away. i believe it was meant to symbolize the one person who sees the big picture. both sides of the story not just his own. war starts when one cannot see the others point of view. in which case you have no sympathy for them. you simply think i am right, they are wrong. and because we’re human we punish them for not being us or thinking like we do. so the next time you tell someone to shut up for talking or cuss someone out for some thing. just remember you are no better. you throw stones and carry on like a violent crazed savage just like them. just watch price is right your the uncivilized lunatic jumping around flouncing on stage. and every one else is watching you do it thinking “what a stupid waste of space”. but had it been they who was picked for the spot they would have done it too. and vice versa you are the person watching the hoodlum flounce and act a fool. lesson of the parable don’t throw stones they act as boomerangs.

  8. The “One Tin Solider” is the people who are against war of any kind. What is a solider? A solider is a person who is willing to fight for a cause. A cause that we as anti-war people see as a good and worthy cause. A tin soldier is bound by his very anti-war and peaceful fabric which is made of tin…all the tin soldier can do is stand by any watch as his brothers of humanity fight and kill each other all the while wishing there was something he could have done to stop it.

  9. For more background, you may wish to refer to Andersen’s “Steadfast Tin Soldier.” I am sure I am not the only one (implying the songwriter is one, as well) who alludes to this rather famous story when using the term “tin soldier.”

    For all that remains after his passing, is a heart. The one from the song, however… rides away.

  10. And since, as Grainnerhuad mentions, parables may be more elusive to the modern audience, I will add this, from the same source:
    But of the pretty dancer nothing was left except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal.

  11. The mountain people stated that they would share it with their brothers which I understand it to be the valley people but the valley people wanted all the riches and gold for themselves.

  12. I have this song stuch in my head, and this is 45 or so years after is writing. I think I have found a flaw in its concept that I doubt even its author intended. In the song the treasure was ” buried deep beneath a stone” and “turned the stone and looked beneath it, peace on earth was all it said”. What if the mountain people were really crafty and actually did bury this treasure deep. I know this takes away the intent of the song, but actually makes the song all the more tragic. Maybe all the mountain people were slaughered for a treasure that was never found. Sorry if I burst some idealistic bubbles, but this is the kind of thing I think of late at night when I can’t sleep. Not sure anyone still reads this, but though I’d throw it out there.

  13. Your knowledge of history is a little skewed… Lincoln didn’t order the execution of 38 people, what he did was commute several hundreds of death sentences, from that very event, and only let the truly guilty, who had in addition to go to war on the US, had done acts of rape and murder of civilians.

  14. I remember this song back in the 60s when I was a kid but never truly understood it till later on in life; and yes, in my opinion the song is a sad testament to the greedy & violent side of Humanity which began when Cain killed Abel. With that said, I find it curious how this article: “Who is the One Tin Soldier” likes to emphasize (foot stamping 3-times on the floor) Christianity, especially White Protestant Christianity, as being the #1 violent violator of Peace & Humanity while “lightly treading” on islam and it’s follower’s brutalities from its bloody beginnings to current times. Long before there even was a Europe or White Europeans sailing around the World, peoples from the Fertile Crescent / Middle East, Africa and Asia were regularly engaged in warfare against their neighbors, slavery and genocide, something the “revised Western History Books & liberlal College Professors” never bring up in the classrooms. Instead, Whites (especially the liberal Anglo-Saxon liberal ones), love to single-out “White Christians” (especially the Male ones) as the only guilty party of crimes against humanity; oh and by the way, Hitler and Stalin were not Christians. With all of that said, I was Career Military, travel the globe and fortunate enough to further my academic ambitions to a Masters. I have been in combat and on missions that personally I didn’t particularly agree with, but I didn’t have the luxury to just go-solo and walk away from them. When people join the military, they take an oath and make a commitment to the country or the cause. Many of these “social justice liberals and peace types” both past and present have never been in the military, been in combat, worked in physically-demanding jobs or had to make sacrifices. I might add that they also mainly come from wealthy elitist families or backgrounds that insulate them from >>>Reality<<< and what the rank & file masses have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. As far as understanding the song from the get-go? When I first heard it the Viet Nam War was still going on and I was more "GaGa" over the Gypsy Woman Cher singing the song than I was about the song's meaning. But in the end, Cher got old and I was one of many Tin Soldiers wearing a Flak-Vest who walked away with an Honorable Discharge.

  15. I always thought the mountain kingdom represented people of a higher awareness or understanding of what’s really important; the ideal of peace on earth and sharing. The mountain kingdom being symbolic of a truly worthwhile place to live… up on a mountain where everything is in sight and ruled by the treasure. Even though all surrounding areas can be seen from the mountain top, the people choose to stay there because they recognize it’s value.

    The valley folk live not in a kingdom but in a “lower” realm, where material possessions matter and are thought of as important, even to the point of killing to obtain. They feel as if they are missing something and that is why their lives seem lowly.

    The tin soldier is from the valley folk as the mountain kingdom had no soldiers… they weren’t needed. He was the messenger that was sent and once at the mountain kingdom to deliver the message, saw what the higher life was like. He went back with the mountain kingdom’s reply and after delivering it, tried to convey what he saw to his countrymen. After realizing the futility, he mounted his horse and departed, not wanting to take part in the attack. The next day they attacked.

    I think the treasure being buried deep in stone symbolized it being the foundation that the mountain kingdom was built upon and was embedded in everything the mountain kingdom was about and although buried deep, the valley people only had to turn over the stone to find it, meaning it’s within easy reach of all people that want it.

    With the mountain kingdom destroyed, dark and red, it’s light extinguished, the tin soldier rides out with the message, spreading it… to others, such as you and I.

    I think the message of the song is peace on earth is not found in material possessions or in taking what someone else has that you don’t. It’s found when living by higher ideals and having a willingness to share your treasure with all who rise to desire it. Even though a lot of people don’t “get it”, one will, and for that one it must always be available to all.

    The tin soldier is our messenger… the song.

  16. The song was originally recorded by Canadian group The Original Caste in 1969 and reached #1 on the Canadian CHUM Chart in December of that year.

    Coven was an American group who covered the song for use in Billy Jack.

    And who are you to interpret the song without consulting the people who wrote it?

  17. Way to turn a beautiful anti war song into a thinly veiled Second Amendment piece.
    Did Billy Jack, the one tin soldier, use a gun to protect what he felt was right?
    Hrmmm

  18. The real true point of real true religion is Peace on Earth. Fighting and killing for, about or somehow justified by a corrupted view religion is stupid, and the ultimate irony.

  19. T Golden – I had thought about that also.

    Maybe we should ask the writers? Bud Lynch

    Joe Hummer – The tin soldier is our messenger… the song. Live & Let Live!

    Justathought!

  20. The Valley People had no right to assume that they could justify killing the Mountain People for their buried treasure. The Mountain People aware of the Valley People’s intentions brought on their own demise by not being forthright as to what the buried treasure was. A willingness to share it with their brothers means they retain control and that only served to infuriate the Valley People to attack these people for thinking they could control anything much less a buried treasure. So, in the end, One Tin Soldier rides away. One (though the song hadn’t been written yet) is the loneliest number. Tin is a rather weak metal, but strong enough to hold its own, not to mention it shines. Soldier is a person who stands for peace, but isn’t passive so they will defend those who are defenseless. The Mountain People had in their possession the means by which to avert the onslaught that befell them and chose not to use it. The only Peace on Earth to be found on the bloody morning after was in the heart of the One Tin Soldier as he rides away. He had no part in the fight or slaughter (depending on your perspective) and wanted no part with those who kill for gain.

    Mind you, I couldn’t have come to this conclusion without reading all the posts that have been written by all you who cared enough to take the time. Thanks!

  21. I stand corrected, “One” had been written and released the year before by Three Dog Night

  22. I think the “one tin soldier” could be me, or you. Perhaps we, like the tin soldier, are to relate the message in this song to others. Feels, to me, that this is a song that should cause us to search ourselves to consider how we are living out our time here and, what will we leave after we are gone.

    It is said “finish the race well”. It’s not about coming in in first place but it’s about finishing well and I think love is the “Gatorade” that will give the stamina to finish well.

    All said and done, it is what we live, not what we say, that is important and the question I need to ask myself constantly is “am I being loving?”

    Could that be the one tin soldier?

    Amazing, 48 years have passed and this song is still causing people to think. That is fantastic. Thanks to the writers of this tune.

    “Peace be with you”

  23. All someone needs to understand this song is a little time in the service during a time when our government is doing something that obscene. I served during Reagan/Bush,during Iran/contra. Trust me I get every word.

  24. If you are looking for an answer to the question of the identify or meaning of the “one tin soldier” who rides away, you will not find it.

    There are some great thoughts in the article above but I think they are looking at this question too deeply.

    First, the answer as to who or what the “One Tin Soldier” is cannot be found in the song nor did the writers signal this to the public in any way. So there really is no code to decipher here.

    But here is my take on this great song.

    The One Tin Solider is mentioned as riding away the next day, after the battle, on a “bloody morning”. The tin soldier simply symbolises something very small and insignificant that remains after all who have died and all the bloodshed. Think about what a tin solider is… its a child’s toy. It can symbolise innocence, and also smallness. The writers could have said that “one mouse survived” or “only a butterfly flew away” but that could change the perception of the narrative here. They just wanted to say that after the battle and all the deaths, only something very small made it through. Its not even important what that thing was. It just kind of ‘worked’ in the composition of the lyrics and the narrative. Its like saying, “it was a huge battle and most if not all died. It was so big that only something tiny survived”.

    You can look at the Tin Soldier in another way. Consider the whole story described in the song as being played out bu children on the living room floor or in a sandbox. They would play all this out using toys, tin soldiers, and things like that. The event they played out was so calamitous that only one of the tin soldiers rode away.

    But in the end, I do not believe that the Tin Soldier who rides away is intended to symbolise or signify anything or anyone in particular.

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