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.
- 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...
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.