Slave's Leader: King! Let my people go!

King: Still gnawing away at that bone, are we? Carry on.

Slave's Leader: You cannot keep ignoring us.

Actually King along with his assistants are rowing on boat, Slave's Leader is on land telling him to give freedom to his people who is working under king as slaves.

After through research on word "Gnawing away" it shows "To bite or chew something a bit at a time". How does it suits here?

2 Answers 2


To "gnaw away at" something is to chew on it relentlessly or assiduously, like a dog chewing on a bone.

So the King's meaning here is figurative or metaphorical. He is comparing the Slave Leader's call for freedom to a dog chewing on a bone and not abandoning it. The Slave Leader is not giving up on his call for freedom as a dog refuses to drop a bone it is chewing on. The implicit comparison to a dog demeans the Slave Leader.

  • ah slightly different. I like your take on it.
    – WRX
    Commented May 18, 2017 at 11:50

a bone of contention (Google Dictionary)

phrase of bone

  1. a subject or issue over which there is continuing disagreement.

"the examination system has long been a serious bone of contention"

So in your example, "gnawing away at the bone" means that the slaves have still not given in to what the King wants and may feel has been settled already. The slaves will likely continue to gnaw away at the bone (of contention) until they are satisfied.

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