Created By: Nocturna on August 29, 2012 Last Edited By: ArcadesSabboth on January 21, 2013
Troped

Fire Purifies

Fire burns away evil.

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Page Type:
Trope
This is one of the many fire-related tropes that were identified as part of the Kill It with Fire TRS thread. Name suggestions and description/definition refinement suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Indicies: This Index Is On Fire


Fire has the ability to burn away imperfections and evil. This ability draws on fire's association with life and its ability to burn impurities out of metal; combining the two ideas to create a force against evil. This will often be a form of Magic Fire, but sometimes all fire will have this property.

  • It burns up evil or evil-associated creatures, such as demons and the undead, entirely, and it works more effectively against those beings than most weapons or attacks would.
  • It can also sometimes burn away only the evil parts, leaving any pure or good parts unharmed. In such cases, it is useful for de-possessing hapless creatures who have been possessed by evil beings.

In some settings, the characters will believe that fire has this property, and act accordingly, even though fire does not actually have any extra powers against evil.

Supertrope to Undeath Burns, which is where the purifying powers of fire cause the undead to be vulnerable to destruction by fire.

Examples:

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[[folder:Literature]]
  • In the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum, the flames of the Phoenix only burn evil creatures. Granny uses it to keep the darkness of the vampires at bay.
  • Harry Potter: In Deathly Hallows, Fiendfyre turns out to be one of the few ways to destroy Horcruxes. Notable for the brilliant exchange between Harry and Dumbledore that went something like...
    Dumbledore: However, like many creatures that dwell in cold and darkness, they fear light and warmth, which we shall therefore call to our aid should the need arise.
    Harry: * bewildered expression*
    Dumbledore: Fire, Harry.
    Harry: Oh... right...
  • Subverted in "The Road Virus Goes North," a short story by Stephen King. A horror writer buys the last surviving painting of a troubled artist who burned all his other works and then committed suicide. When he realises the painting is cursed he tries to get rid of it, but the painting keeps returning intact. Eventually he burns the picture, because that's what works in the books, right? Unfortunately it turns out that the artist didn't burn all his paintings except this one, he burned all his paintings including this one.
  • Referred to in the title of the George MacDonald novel Salted By Fire ("salted" meaning purified in his Scots dialect). The plot involves a clergyman who doesn't really believe going through trials that "burn away" his apathy and self-centeredness, allowing him to truly find faith.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Fire is used to purify remains in Supernatural. Salting and burning the bones of a person or burning any other earthly remains (hair, fingernail, teeth, etc) is often the only way to put a vengeful spirit to rest.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • Long before there was any scientific germ theory to explain disease humans had learned that fire made rotting corpses and things that had been in contact with sick people and animals harmless. If cleaning infectous things with water didn't work, fire would do the job as a last resort, which makes fire the ultimate form of purification in cultures all over the world.
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Community Feedback Replies: 10
  • August 29, 2012
    surgoshan
    • In the Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum, the flames of the Phoenix only burn evil creatures. Granny uses it to keep the darkness of the vampires at bay.
  • August 30, 2012
    SKJAM
    Referred to in the title of the George Mac Donald novel "Salted by Fire" ("Salted" meaning purified in his Scots dialect.) The plot involves a clergyman who doesn't really believe going through trials that "burn away" his apathy and self-centeredness, allowing him to truly find faith.
  • August 30, 2012
    Damr1990
    alt. tittle: Holly Fire ?
  • August 30, 2012
    NightNymph
    Live Action Television
    • Fire is used to purify remains in Supernatural. Salting and burning the bones of a person or burning any other earthly remains (hair, fingernail, teeth, etc) is often the only way to put a venegeful spirit to rest.
  • October 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    What about using fire to burn away other imperfections, besides evil? I'm thinking of the Greek myths of Thetis and of Demeter -- both of them decided to turn mortal babies into godlings by sticking them in the fireplace, burning away their mortality. Both were foiled when a mortal witnessed the act and screamed.
  • October 15, 2012
    Nocturna
    ^ Hm. That's an interesting point, and it does seem like it would fit here.
  • October 22, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    What about using fire to burn away/destroy enchantments, even non-evil magic? I think that idea was brought up in the TRS thread.

    Here's a Literature example:
    • The Dresden Files:
      • The Holy Fire of the Swords (and occasionally their wielders) is very effective against the forces of darkness.
        Harry: Let that be a lesson to you. Hands off the Fist of God.
      • Harry notes that fire really is a highly-effective weapon against all sorts of nasties, as well as being used against magical enchantments. Fire can disrupt and destroy enchantments when used with that intent, and any wizard worth their salt in combat learns how to use fire first.
  • October 23, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Nexus magazine #3 article "Land of the Pharaohs". The Purifying Flames spell will remove a curse or guilt from a person who enters the flames.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: Among the Imperial forces, flamers are usually seen as a good metaphor for purifying the God Emperor's enemies. Sisters of Battle take it even further, with most squads wielding flamers or wearing hats that are on fire.
  • January 21, 2013
    Antigone3
    Invoked by name by Firesong in the last Mage Winds novel, as he finally destroys Ma'ar's soul by incinerating its refuge in the Void.
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