In fiction, it's not uncommon to see reptiles being associated with fire. After all, Dragons are often portrayed as reptilian, and it's common knowledge that they breathe fire. Plus, dinosaurs have often been associated with volcanoes and lava. Being cold-blooded, reptiles are more comfortable with warm climates, especially lizards, who like to rest under the sun, which is pretty much symbolic to fire. And let's face it, the concept of a giant lizard breathing fire, swimming in lava and living in volcanos is just plain awesome
The trope is named after the salamander, a mythological animal depicted as a fire-breathing lizard or a wingless dragon. Nowaday, the name is given to a real animal who actually isn't a real reptile, but a small amphibian with a lizard-like shape. However, alchemists would often attribute them mystical properties, such as the ability to survive fire, or even extinguish it by the mere coldness or their blood. As a result, the legendary counterpart of the salamander stayed in the memory, and has been raised to the rank of Elemental Embodiment
The exact reason for all these stories and the length of times through which they survived is often theorized to be due to a behavior of Real Life Salamanders. Being amphibians, they seek lair in humid locals, like stacks of wood kept outdoors. People would then use that wood to make fires, which would wake the Salamanders and cause them to flee for their lives, leaving people convinced the creatures had been "birthed" by the flames through abiogenesis. As wood remained a primary source of heating for humans till the industrial revolutions, such events, though rare, would keep reoccurring, ensuring that the myths of the fiery Salamander would live on.
Since Reptiles Are Abhorrent
, expect a frequent association to Demons
, Hell Fire
and Fire and Brimstone Hell
. Exceptions do exist, however: a dragon or dinosaur-themed protagonist can sometimes be associated with fire as a way to reinforce his hot-blooded temper and bravery
rather than his evil nature. Those exceptions seem to be especially popular in japanese culture, where the connection of reptiles and dragons with evil isn't as strong as it is in Occident.
Note: Fiery Salamander
is not to be confused with real life Salamanders which are actually amphibians that live in and around water. Also, this trope applies to reptiles and reptile-like beings as a whole, not just Salamanders.
Can be considered a Super Trope
to Our Dragons Are Different
and a subtrope of Alchemic Elementals
. Arguably related to Dinosaurs Are Dragons
Anime and Manga
- The 1970s Super Friends tie-in comic book featured a team of four elemental superheroes; the fire-powered member was called Salamander, and got his powers because he was possessed by a mythological salamander.
Mythology and Religion
- Some salamanders show up in Harry Potter, enjoying the roaring blaze they're in. The tie-in book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them explains that they can survive out of fire for six hours if regularly fed pepper.
- On the Discworld, Salamanders are creatures that absorb sunlight and store it in a special organ, then release it in a bright burst to scare predators. They've thus been adopted for use as flashbulbs in photography.
- In The Obsidian Trilogy, these and other elemental creatures sometimes make brief appearances when casting spells with High Magick. The High Mages teach that they're illusory, but an exiled High Mage discovers they're real, and can be negotiated with.
- In Fahrenheit 451, the fireman are emblemized by a salamander, to go with their purpose of starting fires.
- A prominent location in the Redwall series features the Mountain of Fire Lizards named Salamandastron. There are actually neither dragons nor salamanders there, but the Badger Lords of the mountain encourage the myth.
- The title character of the Honor Harrington series bears "Salamander" as an In Universe Nickname. In her case the name comes from her always being in the most destructive, plot-relevant battles; or rather for "always being where the fires burn hottest."
- In the first Xanth book, Bink is transformed into a flame-throwing salamander so he can completely incinerate a swarm of teleporting wiggles, worms that create holes by teleporting short distances and telefragging everything they contact with.
- In the Narnia book The Silver Chair, the freed gnomes tell the protagonists about their underground homeland Bism, which features friendly and talkative fire lizards that live in the lava rivers. As the gnomes leap down into the abyss leading to Bism, the heroes hear a voice urging the gnomes to hurry, which they wonder if it was a fire lizard.
- A Fantasy Attraction has a small salamander being tossed around by a wyvern flock.
- Satan sometimes is portrayed as a Snake or a Dragon. Since Fire often is associated with Hell...
- The Seraphim, of all people. Some abrahamic despictions of the Angels distinctly despict them as dragon/serpent-like (their name is a corruption of "sarap", "fiery", more often than not connected with the word "nahash", "serpent") and associated with Fire.
- The KISS pinball table shows two snakes (with tiny green wings) leaping out of a mushroom cloud while breathing fire.
- Warhammer 40,000: Salamanders feature heavily in the mythology of the Salamanders Chapter of Space Marines, which has a big fire/forging image. They are large lizards, some of which can breathe fire, and aspiring recruits must defeat themin combat.
- Older versions of Dungeons & Dragons have several exemples:
- The salamander is a lizard-like humanoid from the Elemental Plane of Fire that prefers to live in temperatures of 500 degrees or more.
- The Fire Lizard is a large (30 feet long) lizard that is immune to fire and can breathe out a large (15 feet long) puff of fire from its mouth.
- Fire Newts are reptilian humanoids (similar to Lizard Men) that can breathe fire up to five feet away.
- Role Aids supplement Monsters of Myth and Legend III. The Egyptian deity Apophis could take the form of either a giant snake with a human head or a huge crocodile. Twenty times per day he could breath out a 120 degree wide 75 foot long cone of fire that did 10-60 Hit Points of damage.
- Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia Egyptian mythos.
- The deity Apep has the form of a giant snake. Once every two minutes he could breathe out a 100 foot long by 40 foot wide cone of flame that does 6-60 Hit Points of damage.
- The Flame Snake appeared to be a small harmless grass snake, but five times per day it could breathe out a burst of fire 30 feet long that inflicted 15 Hit Points of damage.
- Shadowrun has Salamanders, magical beings who look like a ball of fire with flames dancing around it. No one is sure what their motivations are or if they even are sapient, but rumor has it that some humans can seal a pact with them.
- Magic: The Gathering has a couple of creature cards that share the type of salamander, like Scalding Salamander, Pyric Salamander and Flowstone Salamander. They all belong to the red color type most strongly connected to fire and have rather similar offensive abilities. There are also other fiery lizard type creatures, like Lava Runner and Bellows Lizard.
- Charmander and his evolutions from Pokémon are clearly reptiles, based on the mythological Salamander for the first two states and a dragon for the final state.
- In The Legend of Zelda series, Death Mountain is filled with fire-resistant, fire-breathing lizards called Dodongo. Other reptilian creatures, especially dragons, have been known to breathe fire.
- In War Craft III, Salamanders are gigantic, fire-breathing, stegosaur-like lizards that live underground.
- Golden Sun: The first game's salamanders are small, dragonlike lizards. The sequel adds the Avimander boss and the Palette Swap enemies Macetail and Bombmander, which are bigger, stockier, and have a morningstar-like tail.
- In the old game Empire of the Overmind, it was possible to summon a small fiery salamander to provide light with the command "Call Pyro".
- Fallout 3 has Fire Geckos, giant Geckos that breathe fire.
- Dungeon Keeper 2 has Salamanders who can breath fire and walk over lava without taking damage.
- In the Castlevania games, a flaming salamander is a boss in a few games, and in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, it's the fire elemental card in the "DSS" system.
- In AdventureQuest, the salamander is a fire-breathing creature the size of a horse.
- The Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy calling themselves "Salamandra" in The Witcher is led by a mage specializing in fire magic, and many of their other mages specialize in fiery magic, too, probably giving the organization its name.
- In The Battle of Olympus, the player gains protection from enemies' fireballs by collecting salamander skins and paying a weaponsmith to wrap his wooden shield in them.
- World of Mana features Salamander as the elemental spirit of fire who grants the player fire magic in each game.
- The Legend of Dragoon's Random Encounters in Volcano Villude contain a four-legged, fire-breathing monster simple called Salamander, but it looks more like a bull dog than anything else.
- Kirby's Epic Yarn has a common Salamander enemy appearing in Dino Jungle that can turn into a ball of fire.
- Skies of Arcadia: Salamanders are common in the Temple of Pyrnn.
- In La-Mulana, the Tower of Ruin has salamanders that can float around as flames.
- In Chrono Cross, Salamander is the stronger of the two red elemental summons. He's apparently the Red Dragon's pet.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court, when Antimony helps a boy in Good Hope Hospital pass on, the fire that killed him and his family is represented by a salamander until Antimony realises what happened.
- Heartcore features Carval Jarvoc and his predecessor Volaster, both Salamander demons. They specialize in a unique form of Blood Magic: their dark flammable blood can be used to create powerful explosives, ranging from bombs as powerful as dynamite to Fantastic Nukes.
- French king Francis I had salamanders as his personal emblem. The creature was portrayed as a wingless dragon breathing fire.