Carnival of Rust is a song by the Finnish Rock band Poets of the Fall. I remember listening to this song when I was in 2nd year of Engineering. I used to play it for like 10-20 times a day. It was my favorite tune even though I did not have any knowledge about music at that time. I listened to anything and everything that sounded good to my ears and this song was catchy. I did not understand the meaning of the lyrics but I loved it. Then I watched the music video for this song.

It was weird, really weird. It did not make any sense.”

A video set in a desolated carnival. I understood a few things but most of it was fuzzy and I was not sure of anything. So, I stopped watching the video but kept listening to the song. Then I started listening to other forms of music and exploring other new bands. So I completely forgot this song. 

Yesterday, I found the same song on my computer. I was really happy as it reminded my of my college. I played it on my BT Speakers and loved it. Only this time, the lyrics made some sense to me. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of symbolic stuff nowadays (Thanks to Death). So out of curiosity, I watched the video again and it blew my mind. I realized how stupid I was in 2011 :P. This video is the work of a genius. It is one of the best music videos I have ever seen. Sadly, the world does not watch meaningful videos. Any video by any pop star tops the charts. So, Let me share my thoughts about the meaning of this video and the symbolism hidden behind it.

Carnival of Rust – Song Lyrics Meaning and Symbolism

Watch the video first, i have embedded it from YouTube.

Now, this is what the song means, according to me.

1- The first thing you see in the video is a Carnival. According to me, the Carnival represents the world which is full of Rusty (metaphorically) things. Most of the things in the world are bad, evil and not good (Rusty).

2- Then we see a girl who is wearing a mask. The girl represents us and the mask means that for the world, we are all the same. The world does not care about who you are. They just want you in their hour of need for their own selfish reasons. But this is not a simple mask, it is a gas mask which is used to prevent toxic gases. It means the mask also represents the protection that our loved ones give us to keep us safe from the bad things in the world. It may be a word of advice or some physical protection, so protection in general.

3- This girl has some coins which represent time/resources/attention/love that a person can offer to others. They would have to be spent in order to do anything in the Carnival/world.

4- The girl decides to go to this fortune teller who is caged inside a box. I think the fortune teller represents our lover/family/friends/relatives (I will be using Lover from now on) who care about us and who deserve the coins/our love/our attention/our time. The box may represent his limitations. He/Lover can not protect and guide the girl physically, he can only give her advice as he is trapped inside the box. In real life, a lover can only advice his love to do the right thing and stay away from bad things. No one can protect their loved ones physically, all the time. it does not work like that.

5- The girl spends her first coin on the fortune teller/lover. Which I think represents how there is so much love in the beginning. We give our attention/time/resources/love to our loved ones till we are not blinded by other things. The girl does not get distracted by other things at this point. Her heart is pure and she wants to spend the time with the Fortune teller/lover.

6- The fortune teller shows her The Star tarot card. I googled it. The Star tarot card means hope and inspiration. It is a good omen. So the girl is happy as she is hopeful about the future and she is with her love.

7- As she is spending more time with him, she starts getting distracted by other things – two musicians playing a single violin, a group of people, two fire eaters and a shop with sign which says “Break for Freedom”. This represents materialistic things in life. Things like money/fame which blind us. She gets attracted to these things and looks at the coins in her hand. She thinks about whether she should spent them on the lover/fortune teller or move on to other things. This is what happens to most of the relationships and families. Most of us start giving more attention to materialistic happiness rather than the happiness that comes from being with family/friends/love.

8- The Fortune teller/lover knows that the girl is distracted so he shows her a Nine of swords tarot card. I googled it and found out the meaning of it. It represents anxiety and fear. Materialistic things often result in anxiety and fear of losing everything you have earned. He tries to warn the girl of the consequences because he loves her and cares about her. He wants her to stay with him and not get blinded by those shiny things. He then sings the following lines –

Come feed the rain, cause I’m thirsty for your love

Dancing underneath skies of lust.

Yeah, feed the rain, cause without your love my life

Ain’t nothing but this carnival of rust”

( he craves her attention and love. Come feed the rain – Feed the rain of love/attention. He wants her to shower more love on him then she is doing. He is thirsty for her love and wants more of it. Dancing underneath the skies of lust- even after being surrounded by selfish people, he prays for the rain of her love. He is not spoiled by these things. He wants her to know that without her love, his life would be nothing. Remember he was in this carnival before the girl came to him? If she leaves, he would be left alone in this Carnival, again. Hence the line – Without your love my life ain’t Nothing but this carnival of Rust)

carnival of rust

9- She doest not heed his advice and gets hypnotized by those things. She dreams about a Roller Coaster. This represents how we think of materials as a way to ensure good life and happiness (Roller coster).

10- The girl then decides, not to spend more coins/love/time/attention on the lover. Her heart tells her to give more coins/time/love/attention to other things which are materialistic in nature. She is drawn towards these things. It means how we stop paying attention to our lover when we are entrapped in this thing, when we care more about the materials.

11- She gives a coin to the musicians hoping they would play something for her. They don’t pay any attention to her and keep playing whatever they were playing. There’s a sign which says “Play For Food”, which might represent that they are poor people. She realizes that they do not care about the coins but food, so she gives them the candy and leaves the place.

12- Then we see a guy getting a tattoo which says “Delicious” and showing his tongue. It represents how some people in this world see you with lusty eyes and wicked thoughts. They see you as objects.

13- We continuously see the caged lover crying his heart out and warning the girl about the consequences of her actions but she does not pay any attention to him anymore. He sings the following lines:

And more than ever, I hope to never fall where enough is not the same it was before”

( It may mean how nothing is enough when it comes to materials. We love collecting more and more. It is never enough.)

14- Then the girl goes to the shop which says “Break for Freedom”. People treat her nicely because they see her as their customer. The girl spends a coin to win the prize/materials. It means how the people exploit us by showing us dreams of a good life (The prize/Break for Freedom). She tries hard to win the big prize and after many tries she manages to win a doll/money/fame/attention. She hugs it which means how we love things we earn at first. But soon, the shopkeeper bids goodbye to the girl and she leaves the shop. As soon as the purpose of the people is fulfilled, they will kick you out of their lives. The girl is happy that she won a doll while her lover is shedding tears as he is really sad seeing her wandering aimlessly in the carnival. He knows she is lost. The girl then decides to leave the carnival as she thinks she has got what she needed- a doll/fame/money. She does not yet realize that love is the ultimate prize. The lover then sings the following lines:

Don’t walk away, don’t walk away, don’t walk away. When the world is burning”

Don’t walk away, don’t walk away, don’t walk away. When the heart is yearning.”

(He begs her not to walk away when he needs her, when the world is burning- when his life is dis balanced and he needs her. The girl meant the world to him. When his heart is yearning for her love. He wants her to listen to him and not go away.)

15- The lover starts hitting the box trying hard to break it so that he could be free and protect her. He is hurt and going through a lot of pain. He loves her and wants her but she chooses to ignore him as she is happy with the doll/materials she has won. But as soon as she is out of the gates of the Carnival, she realizes what she had done. She looks back to her lover but he is not alive anymore, it is too late. A printed ticket comes out of the machine which says – Cor Cordis. I googled it and it means “Heart of the Heart”. I don’t know what it represents.

16- The girl lowers down the doll means she realizes its true worth. She realizes it is nothing but just a doll/material. She realizes that love was the thing she should have spent her coins/attention/time on. Now, she is alone with all the materials and no one to share it with.

P.S: This is my interpretation of the song. This is what I understood from the video and lyrics. It need not be what you think. That is the best thing about art. You do not know what the creator had in mind while creating something, you form your own stories and interpretations and each one is equally true. I would love to hear your views about the same. I do not know what the fire eaters represent.

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15 Replies to “Carnival of Rust : Song Meaning and Symbolism

  1. Isn’t it funny how we listen to song and fall in love with it just to realize years later what it actually meant. Your interpretation is right on point. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one in physical or emotional sense can feel the pain and truth in this song. You have done an excellent job making sense of it all except “cor cordis. ” Perhaps it means that her winning ticket was his “hear of hearts” and she walked away without knowing that she had won him over or claiming her love.

  2. I think the fire eaters represent lust in basically mean and pure mean.and for example lusty people that all the things they see an want is LUST…
    I think love is it ditoxic

  3. I agree with your view but I also feel that there is symbolism of the seven deadly sins through out the video. The fire eaters that you did not know their meaning, symbolize gluttony, the violinists are sloth the masked person being tattooed is lust, the lady wanting g the doll represent greed, the Fortune teller is envious of the attention the lady is giving to the other stalls, when at the doll booth the lady smashing the plates is wrath at the world, and finally pride when the lady is walking away from the carnaval she is prideful of her doll she won.

  4. I heard this song for the first time a day back. I wonder why didn’t I hear this song before. thanks…too good and easy to understand explanation …
    Does anyone idea for the ticket meaning at the end?

  5. The card with “Cor Cordis” written on it may represent the fortune teller trapped in the box offering his heart to the girl, but she had drifted too far away from him to accept it.

  6. This is so good! I was struggling with the meaning and you made it extremely clear! I was thinking on the same lines but missed some key bits like the tarot cards which you caught. Those really make it helpful to understand! Thanks man for the effort!

  7. I just found out that heart of the heart (in cards) represents ‘childhood’. Respective of the article above, maybe, the girl is going through a phase. And the fortune teller is someone close to her who must be in severe circumstances or physically suffering, and while she enjoys the materialistic things in life, he suffers and calls out for her but she focuses on herself or other transient things. As he dies, it depicts how she couldn’t spend enough time with him and now she regrets chasing ‘things’ instead of being with him, and doesn’t know anymore what to do with the doll (materialistic achievements) anymore now that she’s lost him. Or letting go of the doll can depict her letting go of her childhood and rough childhood memories where she had lost someone special.

  8. I also noticed there is a tarot card eight of cups, after she gave a lollipop to musicians a walk around the “lover”. I googled it and it means walkimg away from your loved one, abandon them.
    Ten there is nine of wands, which could mean, that the lover still tries to be strong and is waiting for the girl.

    Amd when she gets the doll, there is ace of wands which I found means: time to daring and brave, the time to tale risks to get what you want. I’m not sure about this meaning in the song, if the lover tries to get to jer at any cost…?
    Then when she is leaving and he is singing don’t walk away, there is the magician card, which means a new beginnig, new opportunities, which I think means, that he gave up, becase he see, that she begins in the wold to live without him. Maybe?
    Then there is strenght card, which means: the Strength card speaks to the inner strength and the human spirit’s ability to overcome any obstacle. Strength is about knowing you can endure life’s obstacles. I think, that lover is saying, that he will be waiting for her, but in this case I don’t know.
    And then, when hi is dying, there is again the nine of swords, maybe that now it is everything hopeless.

    But anyway, it is really nice catch to notice these tarot cards, you are really great. And really appreciate the explanation of the song’s meaning.


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