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Secret motifs on the Screen: Part2 Fire

Updated on March 17, 2011

The Symbolism of Fire

Let’s see how fire works as a symbol in storytelling. Please read my water hub if you haven’t as I am skipping the intro to hidden symbols.

Fire, in myths and the collective consciousness, stands for many things depending on its source, fury, strength and size.

Water flows down due to gravity. It could mean something given to us by heaven. Fire, on the other hand, reaches upwards, towards the heavens, and provides us warmth, protection and light. That’s why it represents growth, enlightenment and ‘burning’ ambition.

Next time you see fire used in a story, note how the storyteller has made it stand for something. And tell us, please!

Stills from
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Small fires like bonfires are the warmth of relationships. They promote togetherness, and promise sustenance. Scenes with fireplaces or bonfires mean this, and they are practical props, could be more concrete than metaphoric. Whether we portray cave dwellers or a family celebrating Christmas. Or a camp. Or two friends-to-be in a Western movie sharing food.

Torches mean knowledge or learning. All school stories use fire. When Harry Potter and fellow students cross the lake, the boats have flaming torches like masts.

Lamp posts, like the one the children see when they enter Narnia, represents something to be learnt; some knowledge in waiting.

Blazing fires are danger, war, fury…these are used to much advantage in posters. Most action movies have a lot of this in the climax. Check The Matrix Revolutions out. They could mean things gone out of control, as well.

In Bond movies, fire shows the destruction of a villain's empire by James Bond.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, fire in the climax is divine fury.


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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Bonfires and fireplaces are Western motifs. In the East, fire is food or destruction; two extremes!

      Thanks, Michelle!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      10 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Fire scare me to death esp when it gobbles up houses! But this hub brings a whole new perspective and made me say Oh yes, that's another way of thinking about it. I esp. love the bonfire as the symbol for warmth relationships and torches to mean knowledge and learning. As to what violetSun mentioned about the fireplace, never got to experience one. It's quite hot here, no need for fireplaces hehehe maybe someday. :)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Friend, for your kind comment! :)

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Hi Kenny, Thanks for sharing these secrets and your great writing skills and great observations!! your the man!


    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Isabella! :)

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      So interesting, Kenny!!!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Brother Misha, you are very perceptive! You know my secret; what makes me tick. :)

      Why don't you also give us a new avatar?

      Thank you, Donnalee! Hope you have fun seeing movies differently. :)

    • donnaleemason profile image


      10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      Certainly made me stop and think and it seems you are correct. I didn't realize there was a meaning to the types of fires. Now I shall be more alert. Thank you.

    • Misha profile image


      10 years ago from DC Area

      You are always looking beneath the upper layer Brother :) And it is always fun learning experience to read your hubs :)

      BTW, I like your current avatar the best of all I saw to date ;)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Violet.)

      An extension of this concept is to look for symbols in our life!

    • VioletSun profile image


      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Kenny: Water is my favorite, as I love, so love water, but during the winter months I love to sit in a recliner near the fireplace while I feel the heat of the flames,  and close my eyes while stilling my mind and I just relax into whatever my spiritual focus is at the moment.

      Now I am paying more attention to the symbols in stories, thanks to you! 

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Whether that's surprising or not, you are kind and generous with your comments, Zsuzsy! Thank you! :)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Kenny! I have a 'burning ambition' to say "Another good one" (as if that's surprising).

      Keep-em coming

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thanks for the kind comments, Wehzo. I am in a hurry to share whatver I know that I end up writing the way I speak! :)

      I am delighted to make a difference, however little!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I am always intrigued with your writings. You have such an inviting style, and it serves your readers well, as does this one. You have given me a whole new perspective to explore in my own writings. Thank you.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Missed you too, Frank. Thank you for the Adventures of Little Frank and the Fire Engines! And the Secret of the Cauliflower Ears!

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      I have missed you. Your silence did concern me.I have three stories of fire.

      When I was six I managed to climb in the open door of a fire engine putting a small fire out in our street. and some how I knocked the handbrake and we were off down the road. Fortunately the fire man manage to run after this big red truck. Apart from the fireman telling me off I earnt one on my Mother's Nerve steadiers. (Hit over the ear with her wedding ring finger.) No wonder I have cauliflower ears.

      2nd time a Little older and the big threat was; I was going to play in a rugby Test at school. Always ended up with a broken bone.

      Anyway My Mother pulled one her famous strategies, I was running a temperature.

      I was told to stay home and lay in front of the fire . I built the fire up enormously, Fire engine turned up and put it out.

      A little older and there was this huge paddock down the road. My slightly older brother and I sneaked off down to this paddock and lit a cigarette. Next thing, we had a raging fire going, so the fire engine came.

      Naturally I have a very healthy respect with Fires.

      Thanks for your great hub, I will look out for more

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashok Rajagopalan 

      10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you for taking me to my childhood like a good G-Ma, G-Ma! Yes, I remember Jack be nimble and the other one's Wee Willie Winkie.

      Hugs for you too. :)

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Oh yes Kenny ... and the bonfire has always been my favorite...and second the fireplace and I do believe you are so right with your description of them...all of them It reminds me of the stories I used to read when the children were small...Jack be nimble...who jumpedover the candlestick..and the one when the lamplighter walkes through the town "Now all the children must go to bed....for now it's eight o'clock.." as he put out the street lamps/putting away knowledge for the night....well it is late and my mind is slow..Love your hubs my sweet man God Bless G-Ma :o) hugs


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