Podcast

319 – Monsters of Fire and Flame

The Mythcreant Podcast

Things are heating up this week on the Mythcreant Podcast, because we’re talking about monsters of fire and flame! From dragons to salamanders, from phoenixes to… actually, there don’t seem to be that many classic fire monsters. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of this while also talking about the role these creatures play in stories and why so many fantasy authors invent their own special type of fire.

Download Episode 319  Subscription Feed 

Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Smaug

Goron

Firebending

Salamander Myth

Pliny the Elder

Azers

Zuko

Calcifer

Hellfire

Soulfire

Balefire

Hellhound

Mount Doom

Torch Slugs

Charmander

Balrog

Kyo

Fire Keese

Jump down to comments ↓

Transcript

Generously transcribed by I.W. Ferguson. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast, with your hosts Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle. [Opening song]

Wes: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Mythcreants podcast. I’m your host Wes. And with me today is Oren and Chris.

And maybe I’m just dreaming of warmer climes or maybe I’m just ready to talk about monsters again. Yeah. So we’ve covered monsters of snow and ice before and today we’re talking about those monsters of fire and flame.

And there’s not so many of them turns out.

Chris: I was really surprised. I expected to find lots, but I guess they’re kind of modern.

Wes: We did hedge a bit on the snow and ice podcast. So, we’ll talk about some monsters. And by that we generally mean beasts, but we’ll probably broaden out to be some more just…creatures to try to encompass a wider range of sentient-type things that are composed of or exist in fire and flame zones.

Oren: Fire themed in some way.

Wes: The challenges that I was thinking here is the environment is just super hostile. I mean, how can anything of much size get enough to eat? We talked about that with Oren’s story with the last wampa That at least explained how something that size ended up in its situation. A dragon breathes fire, and it’s associated with fire. And I guess they eat. I mean, we see them eat on Game of Thrones, but Smaug just hung out in the Lonely Mountain.

Chris: That’s true, Smaug didn’t eat much. I suppose we could say they eat gold.

Wes: No, unless dragons eat gold. That’s the only thing that makes sense and why they raid. They don’t spend the currency; they’re just so hungry.

Oren: They must not eat that much though. There was still a lot of gold in there. So unless they get something from it other than a traditional digestive process. Maybe they eat it and they absorb the greed that’s built up in it for a while and then it just comes out the other end as regular gold.

Wes: Oren, I like that. I like the idea that dragons consume greed. That’s kind of cool.

Oren: I can’t help but notice that in the flashbacks the dwarven mountain is not just flooded with gold. That’s not a thing. So you would assume that Smaug like went out and got some, but then you’d think that that’s something people would notice: if a giant dragon was flying out and grabbing gold, that would be a more active problem than Smaug is supposed to be.

Of course, granted, that could just be the movie, right? It’s possible that Smaug somehow gathered all of the dwarves’ treasure into one room, even though he’s the size of a building. I don’t know how he got into the small rooms with all the gold in them. I have logistical Smaug questions, is what I’m saying.

Wes: A few other quick things on environment. If you’re thinking about creatures of fire and flame, cruising through a monster manual or something, you’ll see environments for fire types include mountains, which usually means kind of volcanic activity, and also deserts tend to house some fire type spirits, and those are okay because at least in a desert, they’re not full of sulfuric gases and stuff.

And there’s probably some water, you know, oases and things like that.

And then mountains. If you’re a flying fire type Pokemon, you can soar down to the valley and get some fat, squishy thing to eat and it’ll be tasty. I want to make a special shout out to gorons because they’re the only ones in my cursory research for this podcast that make sense because they live in mountains, they like it hot, and they eat rocks. They don’t like gems because gems are not tasty. And so they get to trade with the other races in Hyrule. And therefore gorons are just the best. I think they can even just hang out in lava. The big goron in Ocarina of Time, I think was just in a bed of lava. So they are the ultimate creatures of fire and flame because of all the coolness about them.

Oren: For all these reasons, you’re going to have a much harder time creating a fire themed monster that is made of meat—as we understand it—than a cold monster, because the places we associate with cold are often pretty hostile, but it’s still possible for large actual animals to live there. Like polar bears. What is a polar bear, if not an ice monster?

Whereas the places that we associate with fire are far more hostile. And much harder for any kind of large creature to survive. If your creature is going to survive, it’s probably going to have to be magic, if it’s going to live in a fire themed area. It’s going to have to do something either like the gorons, you said they were called? Where they just don’t care about heat and they eat rocks, and they clearly put some thought into that. In a fantasy world, if there’s a lava spirit swimming in a volcano caldera, most people will accept that. Most people aren’t going to ask what it eats.

Chris: I have to say there is a lot of variety on fire creatures about whether they’re actually sensitive to fire or not. Obviously if they’re swimming in lava they’re invulnerable to fire and many creatures are, but dragons are actually depicted both ways. Or sometimes they’re just invulnerable to fire, but there are also some stories where the dragon has certain biological protections against its own fire and that’s a weak point that you can exploit, if you turn the fire back on the dragon or something like that.

Firebenders in the Avatar setting are actually pretty unique in that they both have fire magic, but they can be burned just as easily as anybody else—as far as we know.

Oren: Well, you know, a firebending duel would be pretty boring if they were both immune to fire. It’s like, “I challenge you to an Agni Kai,” “Do you mean like a fist fight?”

Chris: Okay, but in the cartoon show, they actually are pretty invulnerable to fire. Some would say that this is because it’s a children’s show and it’s not an intentional part of the world building, but you don’t know.

Oren: Look, Chris, sometimes when it gets serious, they get anime scorch marks. That’s pretty bad. You get sent to the hospital for those. My favorite weird monster that’s associated with fire is the salamander. I looked up the backstory of the salamander because it’s so weird that salamanders, in a lot of fantasy literature, are associated with fire because salamanders are amphibians and they don’t do well if they get dried out, let alone with actual fire. They don’t like hot places.

I looked this up and apparently, at least as far as western antecedents goes, the association of the salamander with fire goes back to ye olde Greeks. Cause what doesn’t. It wasn’t that they were creatures of fire, it was that they were so cold that they could live in fire because the coldness of their bodies would just counteract the heat of the fire. That was where the salamander-fire connection got started.

And then the source that I consulted theorized that this might’ve been because salamanders would live in the wood chips that the Greeks would burn in their fires. And so you would put a bunch of wood chips in the fire and a bunch of salamanders would run out of them because there was fire there. And people would be like, “Whoa, the salamanders came out of the fire. Ooo!”

Wes: Look at those little fire spirits go.

Oren: …which is my favorite. I don’t know if that’s true. That was just a hypothesis I saw in one source, but I’m accepting it as my personal lord and savior. Apparently, Pliny the Elder tried to test to see whether or not salamanders were immune to fire and they were not. So thanks for finding that out, Pliny.

Wes: Way to ruin it for everybody.

Oren: But yeah, I could not find a fire spirit. I wanted one for my urban fantasy game, because I had a bunch of other kind of elemental type spirits. And I just could not find a fire spirit. I found a few possibilities, but they were all kind of appropriative, which we’ll talk about next week.

And so I was like, all right, I’m just going to have to make one up. And I could just call it a fire elemental, but that just seemed like a cop-out—it seemed kind of bland. So I created a new kind of creature called an ignis. Cause it sounds like ignite, you see, I’m very clever. One Hugo please. So that was what I had to do because there were just not that many fire monsters around.

Wes: Yeah. For that reason, you just see fire-skinned things in Dungeons and Dragons on the elemental plane of fire. You just get fire genies called efreeti and you also get azers, which are just dwarves. You can fight me on this, but they’re just dwarves. Their beards are made of flame, that’s it. But otherwise they are identical to dwarves.

It’s just like, “We really need to populate this place, so we’ll just do…I don’t know, fire dwarves? Perfect.” “Wait, don’t we already have fire giants?” “It doesn’t matter.”

Chris: It’s true. There are so many fire creatures that modern people are making up for games or whatever that are just like, “Okay, let’s just take a normal creature, you know, say it’s on fire. What does it do? It burns things.” It’s like, okay, well, that’s a start. It’s not particularly interesting.

The thing about the phoenix, why the phoenix is so memorable is it actually has something unique about it. Burning itself up and being reborn from the ashes is just so memorable that nobody forgets the phoenix.

Oren: Actually that myth comes from the legend of Prince Zuko, who was redeemed so well that it was like he was burned up and then reborn anew, and that’s actually where the phoenix myth comes from. True fact.

Chris: My goal for a fire creature is trying to do something more than like, “it’s a creature, it’s on fire, it burns things.” Kind of neat about the salamander. The idea that it supposedly was cold. That would definitely make a creature that’s more unique as it has some kind of contrast like that.

Wes: Calcifer is a fire demon. It’s Billy Crystal who’s the voice actor, and that makes him even more charming, as far as I’m concerned. But you know, that’s a good example of a fire elemental in a setting that kind of has a story and purpose. And then you find out that he’s actually just a falling star, too. And that’s also great.

Chris: For anyone who’s not familiar, this is from Howl’s Moving Castle. The funny thing about this, of course, is that Howl uses him to cook eggs. Oh, actually, no, Howl doesn’t want to use him to cook eggs, Sophie insists on using him to cook eggs. He’s like, “this is undignified.”

Wes: But he’s super powerful. He makes a deal with Howl, then that gets magic up, and then the resolution of that deal is important to the plot.

Chris: But we also see him as a stove fire. So, small and friendly.

Wes: Yeah. Lots of novelty instead of just fire elemental. But the fire elemental stuff holds true because flames just seem kind of alive based on their weird movements and stuff. So you can make fire your monster, if you want. It’s okay. It’s destructive and terrifying, and if it has a little bit of a personality, all the better.

Chris: And I think if you’re going to make a fire creature that’s out in the wild—I mean, we’ve talked about this—but it would be a little strange if they lived in a grassland or forest, just because we’d have to ask why those things haven’t burned down yet.

Prairies, though, are traditionally supposed to burn through once in a while. So you could potentially have a situation with a creature that maybe breathes fire in defense occasionally. Supposedly this ecosystem is developed to burn down once in a while. And it often starts with this creature that has a little defensive flame or something.

Wes: So many of our fire monsters and creatures breathe fire or something like that. It’s tough to think of just normal creatures hanging out that have that ability. Game of Thrones tried to make it where dragons do it. Cause they cook their food, right? Like, “Oh, they’re the only other animal that cooks their food.” And it’s like, “that’s a weird adaptation.”

Oren: There was a…not really a documentary, but a speculative documentary that made the rounds when I was growing up that posited this idea that maybe dragons were a kind of dinosaur that evolved hydrogen-storing organs inside of them. Which allowed them to fly at a larger size than you would expect. And then they would develop some kind of striking tooth that could cause some sparks. And so the flame was them expelling some hydrogen that they would then ignite with the sparking mechanism in their teeth.

And I fell absolutely in love with that idea. I was like, “this is the best dragon explanation I’ve ever heard,” when I was a kid. And I still have a soft spot for it, so if you want to make your dragons fly by having bellies full of hydrogen, I’m way into it. It’s like, I don’t know where they get the hydrogen from, but, whatever, I’m sure that was in the documentary somewhere.

Chris: The gold, they converted to hydrogen.

Oren: Ooh, that’s why they need gold. Boom. Got that solved.

Chris: They’re like alchemists.

Wes: Man, we are really putting the pieces together on this one, you guys,

Oren: One of the things I find fascinating about fire in fantasy stories is that fire is often associated with both demons and angels and it’s different fire. The Dresden Files did this, where for awhile, Dresden is using hell fire, which is this special kind of supercharged fire. He gets right with God, and he gets soul fire instead, which is from the angels. And it’s a different kind of special fire. And I was like, wow, there’s a lot of kinds of special fire around here. I just found that very interesting.

Chris: Fantasy writers do like their special fire. I mean, think of how frequently magic is just fire that’s a different color.

Oren: Wheel of Time has balefire, which erases something in time, which is kind of neat. I don’t know why fire would do that, but that’s a thing that happens.

Wes: Yeah. The angel part is good because fire and heat can purify. So there’s that holy aspect of it. You can just hear some paladin that picks up a flaming mace and he says, “Oh yeah, to the tainted I bring fire.” This is like, “Okay, calm down guy.”

Oren: Yeah. The whole idea of fire purifying is very common. It’s a very common trope. I find it a little weird personally, cause fire doesn’t really do that in most ways. I mean, if you’re talking about it from a chemical perspective, you can use fire to induce a reaction that can cause elements to separate. Right? So that’s sort of purifying, I guess, but for the most part fire just destroys things. That’s basically what fire does.

Chris: I did read a fantasy book once—I can’t remember which book this was—where the protagonists travel through what is basically the center of the world. And at some point there’s some purifying fire in the center of it and it makes the main character, it makes her really hot. It burns away her imperfections or something, and so she’s like super hot now.

Wes: Okay. Yeah. Sexy. I was like, of course she’d get hot.

Oren: I’m really glad that that fire is tuned to modern beauty standards.

Chris: Yeah. Going back to the angels thing. Another interesting thing I found is, one of the few creatures that we usually associate with fire are hellhounds. As you pointed out, Wes, they’re from all over and they’re only fire-ish if the culture happens to associate hell with fire, So, we might depict them as being fiery, but in many depictions they wouldn’t be fiery at all. It’s like they take on whatever properties the underworld is suppose to have.

Wes: Is there a divine equivalent to…like, is there a heaven hound? There should be because they’re good boys.

Oren: In some urban fantasy stories? Yes. But I don’t think that one’s as common. If you’re destined to go to heaven, you probably aren’t running away. Yeah. Okay. I’d like to go to heaven, whereas if you’re supposed to go to hell, it’s like, Hmm, hang on, I don’t think I want to, I think I’m going to try something else and then they have to be like, all right, release the hounds. That’s why hell typically needs hounds more often than heaven does, would be my guess.

I’m also a big fan of not exactly monster, but fire with special properties, like the fires of Mount Doom.

Chris: We’re taking a really expansive definition of monsters.

Oren: I just liked the idea of like, you need the special fires for his first forging of the special ring, and then you’ve got to undo it with that. I just thought that was cool. I liked the rhyme where they explained that.

Wes: A silly fun monster from a video game that I remember: Ocarina of Time had torch slugs and they were weird-looking, fiery, sluggy things, and you could try to slash them and eventually it would work, but that’s where you took the megaton hammer out, hit the ground, they flipped upside down, and then you could take them out. But I just like the idea of a torch slug. Let’s take this slow-moving thing and set it on fire. That works really well.

Chris: Okay, I never actually played through that game myself. So they’re used for making torches?

Wes: They were very large slugs on the ground that were just on fire and would attack you.

Chris: Oh, so they’re just hanging out, slugging, on fire.

Wes: Yeah. Like you do, I guess.

Oren: Apparently that’s how they do. I always pick the Fire starter in Pokemon. Like always. I’m very basic like that. Okay. I need my Charmander. I don’t want this turtle or this weird green thing with a flower ball bud, but no, I want the tiny little dragon with a flamey tail. And then it goes through his awkward Charmeleon phase. And it’s like, yeah, he’ll outgrow this eventually. And then he becomes Charizard and you’re the cool kid. Cause you have a Charizard. And that was like social currency when I was little.

Wes: I too, very much, am team Charmander, but I was looking at least at the first-generation Pokemon. I’m just most familiar with them. The other fire ones—there aren’t that many—I didn’t use them. I didn’t use Growlithe. I didn’t use Rapidash. I didn’t use Magmar I guess I just think a little Charmander is enough, as far as the Fire type goes.

Oren: You probably don’t need more than one Fire type on your team and in gen one, most of the high tiers weren’t Fire type. Although I think Arcanine was. Arcanine is still pretty good. Okay. That’s a whole, that’s a Pokemon art mechanics argument. Save that for never.

Oren: This is fire and monsters. One thing that I do get kind of annoyed by in a lot of fantasy stories is that whenever it’s like, Ooh, it’s a weird creature. How do we kill it? The answer is always fire. It doesn’t matter what it is, fire will always kill it. And it’s got to the point in some of my Hunter games that I’ve played in or DM’d where we wouldn’t even bother doing research on what the monster was and how to kill it. We would just be like, all right, well, if we burn it, that’ll probably do. We’re just going to go find it and burn it. Cause that works on everything.

Wes: It’s just such readily accessible destruction. And as we’ve established, few things can not be harmed by it.

Chris: Well, that is the nice thing about a fire creature, supposedly you can’t just kill it with fire—most of them.

Wes: A creature of fire that we haven’t talked about would be the chimera, which I guess just doesn’t make any sense to me, if either of you know, but it’s like a lion goat snake that also breathes fire. It’s just like a whatever, plus fire.

Oren: Might as well at that point, right?

Chris: Seems like a creature made up by a five-year-old kid.

Wes: And it somehow got popular and stuck around. Great, good job. I learned that, apparently, Tolkien—I’m going to say—invented the Balrog. I don’t know if that’s true. I think he made the word up, but I guess he wanted some kind of super powerful equivalent to dragons. He’s like, “I know I’m going to have dragons, but there’s gotta be something else. I know! Some thing of fire and shadow that is big and for whatever reason has a whip.” Because…

Oren: Everything is scarier with a whip.

Wes: Yeah. And everything’s scarier.

Oren: Apparently there’s a controversy over whether or not the Balrog is supposed to have wings. But I mean, I think that the Balrog is not a dragon. I don’t know what Tolkien’s thoughts on this were, but it was a good choice because—especially if you’ve already read the Hobbit—the dragon has already been somewhat demystified.

If it’s this weird, strange thing, having it not have a super clear physical form. It’s like it’s made of fire and shadow. That just makes it weirder and creepier. We already know how to kill dragons: we find their one weak point, we stab them. It’s like, how do we even fight this? What do we do with it? Does anyone have a hose? I don’t know.

Wes: That was great. In the mines of Moria in The Fellowship. I remember the first time I saw that and Gandalf just like says that this is a creature far beyond any of them, to run, and you don’t see anything other than sulfuric smoke kind of just following them. That was done really well. That was cool.

Chris: Yeah. I have to say the combination of fire plus shadow makes it different than all of the other fire creatures that are just on fire. Having some contrast sounds like a basically good recipe if you’re trying to make a fire creature so that it’s not like every other fire creature.

Oren: I’m actually not sure where I picked this up, but I also kind of associate fire with passion and high emotions. I found that connection to be kind of useful. That’s why in my urban fantasy game, the fire spirits that I created, the ignis, are all kind of extra, and they have really elaborate names and get very enthusiastic about things. That’s not super important—none of my players are an ignis—but it’s just a thing that I came up with in the backstory.

Chris: I mean, it reminds me of how in anime there’s always that red-headed character. So I did the red-headed character. I was going to be threatening to kill people half the time.

Oren: You leave Kyo alone. He’s doing his best.

Wes: That is a good thing to consider though, Oren. We talked about angels and demons, both have fire for their whatever purposes, but the emotional aspects, there are positive and negative qualities that come with that too, which could play into any creatures that you might want to consider creating.

Chris: Well, I think we can agree that anything with lots of fire is probably pretty accurate.

Wes: Except those torch slugs.

Chris: Which are just, you know, chilling.

Oren: I’m also just a big fan of using fire for creative purposes. I just think that’s cool. That’s maybe one of the reasons why I like Calcifer, cause he powers the castle, which I find cool. I like forges, you know, give me a forge sprite or something. I think those are neat. Give me a living forge that makes things. I’m very into that idea. You know, fire can be destructive. We’ve just been talking about that, how fire doesn’t really purify things, but it provides energy, which is important. And you can use that to make things.

Chris: That would kind of turn the whole destructive part on its head. What if we created things instead.

Oren: And that was one of the things that really blew my mind about Avatar. When I first heard about it, I was like, okay, so fire’s the bad guy, that makes sense. And they were like, well, the fire’s not evil in the setting. There just happened to be some bad guys who use fire. And I was like, Whoa, mind blown. What do you mean fire is not evil?

Chris: Fire Nation does have steam punk technology, basically, that you find out later, like these big machines and stuff like that. Are those actually powered by firebenders? I know in Korra, they actually have firebenders that are powering things by shooting lightning.

Oren: So we don’t see for sure, but I always assumed no. The way I always explained it in my head was that the Fire Nation’s technology advanced faster than the other nations, because through firebending they were able to more easily create advanced metalworking, which is really important. I assume at first that involved a lot more firebending personally, more fire labor as it were. But over time, they found other ways to do that because they already have the infrastructure in place. They’ve shunted more of their firebenders into their military. That’s how I assume it works. If I was doing a Fire Nation story, that’s how I would explain it.

Apparently Nickelodeon just made a new Avatar division. So if anyone’s hiring, if you want me to write your Fire Nation history, I am available. Then let me pitch you my 200 season Kyoshi idea.

Wes: So I guess the big takeaway here is that there’s not a lot of selection. If you really want a fire creature, just, I don’t know, pick a…a bat and say it’s a fire bat and it has fiery wings. I’m totally stealing that. It’s from the Legend of Zelda and they’re called Fire Keese. There’s also Ice Keese and Lightning Keese. I mean, it’s just all about the re-skinning.

Oren: Got to love those elemental bats.

Wes: Yeah. Elemental bat characters. You know, there’s some good classics and just maybe never underestimate using fire in creative ways and also just good little fire demons, like Calcifer, are always fun and simple.

Oren: Like a little ball of fire with a face is always going to be adorable.

All right. Well with that, I think we will call this podcast to a close. Those of you at home, if anything we said piqued your interest you can leave a comment on the website at mythcreants.com.

Before we go, I want to thank a few of our patrons. First we have Kathy Ferguson, who is a professor of political theory and Star Trek. Next we have Ayman Jaber. He is an urban fantasy writer and a connoisseur of Marvel. And finally we have Denita Rambo and she lives at therambogeeks.com. We’ll talk to you next week.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

Read more about

 

Comments

  1. Jeppsson

    Dragons just vary a lot in how supernatural they are, vs how much of an animal they are. I think Tolkien dragons (there are more of them in the Silmarillion) falls more towards the supernatural side. They were originally bred by Morgoth, who’s equivalent to Satan in Tolkien’s mythology.

    Also, this might be interesting: Ragnar Lodbrok was probably a real person (either Swede or Dane, and some kind of prince) from the ninth century. But there are still some fantastical stories about him.

    According to stories, he got his name Lodbrok (tar pants or pitch pants) from a protective suit he made out of skin drenched in tar/pitch in order to fight a “lindorm”, a kind of wingless dragon. The lindorm could spray venom that was extremely corrosive and burned the flesh from people’s bones, but thanks to his suit, Ragnar could get close to it and kill it with his sword. He did this to free the lady Tora, who was imprisoned by the dragon.

    So how did Tora end up imprisoned?
    In some stories, lindorms can be either real monsters, or enchanted princes who go back to human form if a nice girl loves them. You see how this can give rise to fatal mistakes on part of the nice girls in question.
    But there are also versions where a monstrous lindorm starts out as a small and seemingly harmless reptile, sitting on a small pile of gold. If you feed it (just regular food) and care for it, the reptile will gradually grow bigger, and as the reptile grows, so does the pile of gold. And this seems great at first, until the lindorm hits a sudden growth spurt and BOOM, there’s now a long dragon wrapped around your house. Sure, you also have a ton of gold, but that might be small consolation in this situation.

  2. Jeppsson

    Oh, more Tolkien geeking out, but: The Balrog in the book is more fire and flame with something VAGUELY humanoid inside, so doesn’t really look like in the movie (still got a whip, though). And the Balrogs are fallen Maiar (like, the lower angels in Tolkien mythology), that fell with Morgoth (who’s a fallen Valar – fallen higher angel – basically Satan).
    Sauron was also a fallen Maiar though, who kind of took over Morgoth’s role after he was defeated, so I guess there are slightly different ways you can develop if you are one.

    And Saruman too, come to think of it. The wizards were Maiar sent to Earth to help people. Gandalf really stuck to the role, the blue wizards… Tolkien sort of forgot to actually write about. Radaghast forgot his original mission since he got so immersed in nature, and just hung out with animals all day, talking animal languages, occasionally shapeshifting into different animals… That line about him chewing too much mushroom was made up for the Hobbit movies, but book Saruman does say he’s become an imbecile. And Gandalf defends him, saying he’s basically just eccentric, and still pure of heart.
    Anyway, Saruman was corrupted eventually, as we all know. So in a sense he also ends up a fallen Maiar, like the Balrogs and Sauron. But I guess he didn’t turn into a fire demon because he’d already spent many millenia in wizard form. He wasn’t just an angel who turned bad in these very early wars.

    • SunlessNick

      Gandalf invokes good fire against the balrog: “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass! The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn.”

      • Jeppsson

        Good point! Yeah, that’s an example of the good fire/bad fire thing too.

  3. Cay Reet

    About the connection between passion and fire: it’s probably the colour red.
    By their nature, humans react very strongly to red (hence we’re using it as a warning colour). Blood is red, which connects red with danger, because when we see blood, someone has usually been injured. When a human gets aroused, areas with thin skin (prominently the lips, but also others) are getting redder, so red also stands for lust, love, and desire. Fire is orange to red, depending on how hot it is, and it’s dangerous, so connecting the colour red to fire isn’t hard. This might be how expressions like ‘burning passion’ might have popped up in different languages, cementing the connection.

    I think dragons are just oversized magpies – they love all things shiny, so they collect gold and gemstones. Since they’re usually also portrayed as lizard-like beings, they might actually not need that much food in general (although, yes, their fire should take a lot of energy). Perhaps they live in hot climates or close to volcanos because they can actually leech that heat and convert it?
    And, yes, I have seen that speculative documentary as well – I think the title was ‘Dragon World’ or something like that. It was pretty well done for the time.

  4. Bunny

    A while ago I found myself in a similar situation of not knowing what to call this group of fire elementals and ended up settling on the name “ignaiad” for them. Y’know, like naiads… but they ignite! I like that our minds went to the same place there

  5. Fay Onyx

    I think you missed something with not understanding why so many people consider fire cleansing. In addition to numerous religious uses of fire and smoke for cleansing from around the world, fire/heat/smoke can be used to kill/inhibit microorganisms.

    Examples:
    Autoclaves use intense heat and pressure to sterilize things.
    Microbiologists regularly use Bunsen burners in there work because there is a little zone of sterile air right above the tip of the flame.
    Smoke can be used in food preservation.
    Candle flames can be used as a emergency method of semi-sterilizing metal.
    Wounds can be cauterized.
    Heat is used in the preparation of many traditional medicines.
    And there are certain types of tradition saunas in some areas that were used for childbirth because they were the most sterile places available (due to smoke I think).

    Also fire can be used in agriculture to remove or discourage undesired plants to make space for desired ones.
    Fire us also a natural part of the Pacific Northwest ecology, where it is an important form of renewal (humans just messed up this natural process).
    Volcanos often have fertile soil.

    • Fay Onyx

      Fire also is used in historic practices for purifying metals, like iron, from ore.

  6. Julia S

    And just to complicate things, Eastern dragons are water beings.

  7. SunlessNick

    Actually that myth comes from the legend of Prince Zuko

    You’d lose so much money if the others set up a Zuko box.

    Is there a divine equivalent to…like, is there a heaven hound?

    That’s just a regular dog.

    The dragons in Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina books are vulnerable to fire. They still breath it, but it’s a weapon they developed for use on each other. They live in mountainous areas IIRC. The fire thing isn’t nearly the most unusual thing about them, though.

  8. Arix

    Hello yes dragons are the best fantasy creature and I will not be taking any further questions.

    Regarding the “dragons eating gold” thing, that’s how it works in the Age of Fire series. Dragons hoard gold because ingesting it helps them grow stronger scales. The protagonist of the first book, Auron, is a rare scaleless dragon, which means he doesn’t have the craving for gold that other dragons do. It also makes him much lighter and therefore faster, but also softer and more vulnerable to pointy things.

    And regarding fire doing different things, there’s the fire of life from the 19th century novel She (which I’ve never actually read, but you can rest assured I’ve listened to the rock opera version about a billion times). Bathing in the fire once makes a person immortal, doing it a second time restores all those years. Ayesha bathes in the fire 2000 years ago and becomes immortal, but when she does it again, she rapidly ages 2000 years and burns to ash.

  9. Arix

    Also, one of my favourite tricks is taking a fire related creature and making an ice version. I recently used a “cryophoenix”. It gathers ice crystals on its feathers which protect it, but also gradually weigh it down until it can barely fly. It ultimately encases itself in the ice, which then shatters apart to reveal the new baby phoenix.

  10. Tony

    Norse mythology also has some jötnar associated with fire, as well as ones associated with frost (the most famous type), the sea, and I think maybe mountains and/or forest.

  11. Tony

    Also, I think some folklore (Scandinavian, for example) attributes certain glowing moss to supernatural foxes, hence the nickname foxfire.

  12. Tony

    Greek giants (such as Typhon, the biggest) are also given some power over lava, as volcanoes like Mount Etna are attributed to their fiery breath.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy (updated 03/28/20) and our privacy policy for details on how we moderate comments and who receives your information.