How can the Bob Dylan song "Blowin' in the Wind" be transformed into another genre—for example, a short story?

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"Blowin' in the Wind" really inaugurates in some ways the rich vein of powerfully evocative, sometimes surrealist imagery that runs through Dylan's lyrics. Many of his songs are narrative works which detail fairly intelligible, linear stories, and they run a gamut of tones and attitudes from romantic to fatalistic, mythic...

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"Blowin' in the Wind" really inaugurates in some ways the rich vein of powerfully evocative, sometimes surrealist imagery that runs through Dylan's lyrics. Many of his songs are narrative works which detail fairly intelligible, linear stories, and they run a gamut of tones and attitudes from romantic to fatalistic, mythic to slapstick. Dylan and storytelling are a natural fit. So are Dylan and irreverent adaptation; he has always freely and habitually lifted allusions and images from sources classical, contemporary, and everywhere in between, remixing them in ironic and playful ways, so I would say that the guiding principle for adapting Dylan into a new form should be a sense of fearlessness and imaginative possibility. I once wrote a short screenplay which adapted both the Dylan song "Visions of Johanna" and the Jorge Luis Borges story "The Aleph." My advice would be not to worry about "translating" the song into another medium. The word you use, "transform," is more apt. Take the song as inspiration and mix it up with what you personally know and feel, and with what's happened in the world in the 54 years since it was written. It may help to know that "Blowin' in the Wind" itself is an adaptation; Dylan refashioned the structure and melody from a 19th century spiritual sung by freed slaves (linked to below), opening and generalizing its original theme into a much less historically or culturally specific contemplation of freedom and injustice.

I think your task, if you're adapting "Blowin' in the Wind" into a short story form, is to bring that theme back from the universal to the specific. The source song was about the tyranny of racial slavery as well as the triumph of personal liberation from that tyranny. The theme was a contemporary one. One way to adapt it, then, would be to consider, in story form, how systems of senseless inequality and violence endure today. "Blowin' in the Wind" isn't a narrative song, obviously - in fact its rhetorical device of question and non-answer is rather contrary to how stories are generally told - but it's bursting with lyrics that suggest scenes and mini-stories in the mind. As with a number of Dylan's warmest, most metaphysical, most politically aspirational songs - "The Times They Are a-Changin'", "When the Ship Comes In," "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," among many others - wind and water are key images. Listen to those songs, along with "Blowin' in the Wind," for a sense of the political and moral importance that the natural forces of storm and tide hold for Dylan; they represent the elemental inevitability of social change, for better or worse. And "Blowin' in the Wind" is really the genesis of that idea in his recorded output - the belief that progress and struggle are larger, older, and more mysterious than human beings, and at the same time are the essence of the human experience.

The whole conceptual thrust of "Blowin' in the Wind" is that the ills of mankind - oppression, war - recur in every generation. The possibility of peace and equality is forever all around us and forever within us, yet remains elusive and difficult to grasp. With a theme this grand (and with evil and intolerance such sadly ever-present aspects of our political and social reality), the possible stories are really infinite - as infinite as the roads that a man might choose to walk. The song is simultaneously as intimate and immediate as any political protest or newspaper headline, and as ancient as the biblical image of a white dove flying above a flooded world. So let your mind roam freely as you adapt this song. You'll find no shortage of material in our troubled world. Best of luck.

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