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What does play colors of the wind mean?

What does play colors of the wind mean?

The phrase “play colors of the wind” comes from the 1995 Disney animated film Pocahontas. It refers to the song “Colors of the Wind” sung by the character Pocahontas, who urges the English settler John Smith to open his mind to the beauty and wisdom of nature. She sings that if he goes into the forest and listens, he will “paint with all the colors of the wind.” So playing the colors of the wind means appreciating the diversity and interconnectedness of all living things.

Meaning Behind the Lyrics

In the film, the free-spirited Pocahontas tries to teach the practical John Smith about her Native American worldview. She believes everything is connected in nature – the trees, animals, water, and wind. Each element has its own meaning and wisdom if you listen closely. Pocahontas sings that the white settlers see the land as something to claim and own. But she sees living spirits in every rock and creature. She implores John Smith to open his mind and “play” with the colors of the wind – to see nature in all its variety.

Some key lyrics that capture the overall meaning are:

You can own the Earth and still
All you’ll own is earth until

You can paint with all the colors of the wind

And the chorus:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon?
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Pocahontas sees nature as a living, breathing thing with endless colors, sounds, and spirits to appreciate. Playing the colors of the wind represents opening yourself to nature’s beauty and gaining wisdom by listening and observing closely.

Deeper Meaning

On a deeper level, the phrase also represents respecting diversity and seeing things from other cultural perspectives. Pocahontas is urging John Smith to appreciate the worldview of Native Americans rather than dismiss it. She sings that the settlers see only themselves when they look at her people and see nothing worth understanding:

But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Part of playing the colors of the wind is being open-minded to different cultures and not judging by appearances. Pocahontas believes that if John Smith took the time to “walk the footsteps” of her people, he would gain insight and see the Native American life as just as rich as his own.

So in summary, playing the colors of the wind represents:

  • Appreciating the diversity and interconnectedness of nature
  • Gaining wisdom by observing and listening closely to the environment
  • Being open-minded to the value of other cultures and perspectives

It’s about seeing the beauty in all living things and people when you take the time to understand them.

Context in the Film

The song comes at a critical point in the Pocahontas narrative. Relations between the Native Americans and English settlers have reached a peak of tension. John Smith – who represents the settlers – has been condemned to death by Pocahontas’ father Chief Powhatan.

Pocahontas realizes neither side will back down from their current views. So she decides to teach John Smith about the Native American relationship with nature in hope of getting him to open his mind and reconsider his prejudiced views.

She takes him on a mystical journey down river and through the forest. The colors, animals, and spirits of the land come to life in a Disney fantasia set-piece. Pocahontas sings “Colors of the Wind” during this sequence as various forest animals join in. It represents her passionate plea for cross-cultural understanding.

The lyrics urge John Smith to appreciate living in harmony with nature, rejecting notions of ownership and domination. This context gives greater meaning to the phrase “play the colors of the wind.” It’s not just about appreciating nature’s beauty – it’s also about changing prejudiced perspectives.

Impact on John Smith

While at first resistant, John Smith does begin to change his views after hearing Pocahontas sing “Colors of the Wind.” The sequence ends with Pocahontas on a cliff edge telling John “Come roll in all the riches all around you…and for once, never wonder what they’re worth.”

This line sums up the overall message that true value lies in embracing and appreciating the natural world rather than claiming ownership. John Smith realizes Pocahontas has a valid perspective and he should not dismiss her culture as primitive or unimportant.

Later in the film, he prevents an attack on the Native Americans, proving he now sees more value in peace and understanding. The song served its purpose in getting John to open his eyes to a new way of seeing the world. So in a sense, Pocahontas succeeded in getting him to metaphorically “play with the colors of the wind.”

Relevance Today

The message remains very relevant in modern society. Many people could still stand to appreciate nature more deeply and be more open-minded to other cultures.

In an age of technology and urbanization, society can become disconnected from the natural environment. Taking time to observe nature, gain wisdom from it, and see the interconnectedness of living things provides balance. Appreciating animals, plants, ecosystems, and the intrinsic value of wilderness is part of playing the colors of the wind.

Regarding cultural understanding, many divisions still exist today between ethnic groups and nationalities. Pocahontas’ message to “walk the footsteps of a stranger” encourages trying to see from other perspectives. Embracing diversity and being willing to learn from other cultures ultimately enriches society.

So Pocahontas’ urging to “paint with all the colors of the wind” carries timeless meaning. It’s a call to nurture wonder at the natural world and appreciate the diversity of human experience – as these things make life more vibrant and meaningful.


In summary, the phrase “play the colors of the wind” means:

  • Appreciating nature’s beauty, diversity, and interconnectedness
  • Gaining wisdom by listening and observing the environment
  • Being open to understanding different cultural worldviews

In the film Pocahontas, the lyrics represent Pocahontas’ plea for John Smith to reconsider his prejudiced view of her culture. More broadly, it’s a call to value nature and embrace human diversity. The message remains relevant today in helping society nurture wonder at the living world while learning from other peoples’ perspectives. Ultimately, playing with the colors of the wind makes life more rich and meaningful.

Table Comparing Perspectives

Perspective John Smith Pocahontas
View of nature Something to claim ownership of and exploit for profit A living thing with its own wisdom; spirits exist in every part
View of Native Americans Primitive, uncivilized culture Rich culture with its own value and perspective worth understanding
Ideal relationship with nature Control, tame, exploit resources Live in harmony, appreciate beauty and diversity

This table compares the perspectives of John Smith and Pocahontas on nature and Native American culture, highlighting differences Pocahontas hoped to change by urging John to “play the colors of the wind.”