Bob Dylan: Dogs And Gods


by Larry Fyffe

Nearly every song by Bob Dylan is about God and Jesus, but let’s face it – God’s beyond full comprehension by mere humans, and because of this those of the Jewish faith do not utter or spell His name out in full. It’s well known that Bob Dylan is a Messianic Jew and he avoids the issue, at least some of the time, by spelling God’s name backwards:

Well I set my monkey on the log
And ordered my monkey to do the Dog
He wagged his tail and shook his head
And he went and did the Cat instead
He’s a weird monkey, very funky

(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free No.10)

An allegory is presented in the song lyrics above. The monkey represents Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Darwin knows better than to tangle with the Almighty Who’s likely to strike him down dead with a bolt of lightning. The Cat represents the cataclysm that’s on its way. A geologist as well as a biologist, Darwin is so arrogant that he thinks that the world is going to be spared the disaster that’s certainly going to come and kill many men, women, and children here on Earth:


Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son
Who did you meet, my darling young one
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl who gave me a rainbow


This time ‘blue-eyed’ Bob Dylan himself is arrogant. Dylan envisions the cataclysm-to-come, but presents himself as a sinless ‘white’ man who dares to claim that he  ‘walks’ (that is, controls)the Almighty. He even questions the way ‘black’ God treats humans (including witches) as if they didn’t deserve it; then he commits more blasphemy when he says it’s the girl’s ‘rainbow’ instead of God’s.

In the song below, Dylan’s persona in the song tells listeners that it’s not mankind who’s to blame at all:

With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to  lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game


The sin of hubris in the above song is committed by human pawns; thinking they’ve got God (He’s got no name) on a chain, they feel that they can sin any time they want to with impunity.

But don’t forget that God’s still in charge, and He only gives the pawns the right to move between good and evil up to a point; if they make a really bad move, they’ll get a severe tug on their choke chain – maybe even get drowned in a sack with a bunch of rocks in it.

In the lyrics above, Bob Dylan is taken in by the nihilist visions of Frederich Nietzsche. Dylan imagines that God is chained up outside of the Universe. In the movie version of this modern corrupt philosophy, known as  Godless Existentialism, Doctor McCoy tells Captain Kirk, ‘He’s dead, Jim – the dog is dead’.

Of course, in some songs, Dylan is just talking about the four-legged creature. Below, he compares people to dogs:

If dogs run free
Then what must be
Must be, and that is all
True love can make a blade of grass
 Stand up straight and tall
In harmony with the cosmic sea
True love needs no company
It can cure the soul
It can make it whole
If dogs run free

(Bob Dylan: If Dogs Run Free)

The song writer shows here the the influence of Transcendalist Romantic Poets like Walt Whitman. A blade of grass represents the individual who stands up all by him or herself. God’s around all right, but he’s just a pagan spirit in nature; the narrator in the song is complacent – he doesn’t require God’s direction because he can figure things out for himself.

But we all know that it’s dangerous to let dogs off of their leashes, don’t we.

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  1. If “dog” usually means “god,” then obviously the reverse must be true. It’s only logical.

    “Dog knows the secrets of your heart, he’ll tell them to you when you’re asleep.” No one knows you like your dog.

    “And someday if dog’s in heaven overlooking his preserve”; “Well, dog is in his heaven, and we all want what’s his.” All dogs go to heaven. We know that. But will we meet them there?

    “Dog don’t make promises that he don’t keep.” Dog the truthful, the ever-faithful: Fido.

    “Tattooed my babies with a poison pen, mocked my dog, humiliated my friends.” They gotta quit kicking my god around.

    “Standing by dog’s river, my soul is beginning to shake.” Shake like a wet dog, of course.

    But not all dogs are friendly:

    “Abe says, ‘Where you want this killing done?’ Dog says, ‘Out on Highway 61.'” Abraham recast, prophetically, as David Berchowitz, the Son of Sam, who also let a dog tell him where the killing should be done.

    “Disillusioned words like bullets bark as human dogs aim for their mark.” Human dogs . . . a woman with the head of a hyena . . . the beast who comes as a man of peace.

    “The face of dog will appear, with his serpent eyes of obsidian.” The dog offers comfort in an hour of peril. But he has a snake’s eyes; what sort of comfort, and what sort of dog, is this? “El perro nos vigila”; “The gods are barking and what’s done is done.”

  2. Yes, indeed….I was actually going to go there, but the piece ‘God And Dogs ‘would have gotten a bit long.

    You’ve done a real fine job, and so I needn’t bother with any Part II.

    Goes to show you that great minds think alike .

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