Frazie jumped back, confused... and then that fire started to stand up.
The small clump of flames grew and grew until it’d formed a sort of humanoid giant, its whole body ablaze and its hair a simple wisp of flame. Its face was carved out of fire, its eyes and mouth glowing orange as it grinned at a frightened Frazie.
One of the most direct ways to employ fire's destructive associations in fiction is to make the fire itself evil — or at least actively and consciously destructive — by simply having flames actually come to life. These flames will then run around and try to burn down the surrounding area, whether it's a forest, a building, or anything else. They may or may not have faces, voices, or personalities aside from wanting to burn things, but even if they do their goals will generally be limited to, or at least heavily themed around, setting things on fire.
A common way for this trope to be employed originated in older western cartoons, although it is not limited to them. In this form, living flames are often little motes of fire, like candle flames, with stubby little legs and no other features; they are often created by large, preexisting fires, budding from or hopping out of the larger blazes and trying to set even more things ablaze. More often than not, they're less individual creatures in their own right and more extensions of a wildfire's destructive potential and resiliency to attack, and other characters will be free to put them out en masse without moral quandaries being raised. Their natural enemies are firemen, who will often have to go through several comical misadventures to put out marauding flames. This is typically part of the type of cartoony comedy that features things like inanimate objects acting like sapient beings simply to torment the characters.
Another common depiction of this trope, more popular in video games, is to show the living fires as small, floating flames with no features save for eyes. Rather than burning things — although they may still do that — they are typically focused on directly harming the player character. They are often endemic to the Lethal Lava Land, heat-themed Hailfire Peaks and other levels where lava and fire are plentiful.
Regardless of the type, these things may also be created when someone is Playing with Fire.
Fortunately, you can usually stop them with water.
Subtrope of Evil Is Burning Hot and Elemental Embodiment. Sister Trope of Living Lava. See also Sinister Sentient Sun, which is basically this in a planetary scale; and Hitodama Light, which looks like floating fireballs but is actually something more ghostly. Hellfire sometimes takes this form. Compare and contrast Murder Water.
- 3×3 Eyes: the Juuma Bao Yan Long (Explosive Flame Dragon) was sealed by Benares because apparently it was too volatile to control and appears as a colossal multi-headed dragon monster made of flames, which can only rampage and burn everything around it.
- Jewelpet Twinkle☆: In episode 4, Miria controls too many light seeds (balls of light summoned by magic) at the same time and they bounce all over the classroom. Two of them leave through the window and turn into big green flames that increase in size with every object they consume.
- One Piece:
- Prometheus is a mass of compressed flames and takes on a fiery appearance in battle, becoming a huge flaming sun that can destroy an entire forest.
- The Kazenbo is a gigantic, roiling mass of flame created by a dying Kanjuro to take revenge against those who persecuted his clan, and is being of literal burning hatred.
- Fantastic Four: In issue #232, the titular super-team faces the villainous Elementals of Doom. One of them, Fire, is a sentient, vaguely-humanoid flame.
- Superman: In one issue of the storyline The Untold Story of Argo City, Supergirl and her family face a race of aliens who are invading Earth and starting forest fires thanks to their bodies, which are made from liquid fire.
- Later, Traitor: Bonfear is a personal demon that embodies Dogen Boole's anxiety and the Power Incontinence that follows, manifesting as a sentient fire-monster causing all of the fires and explosions happening in Dogen's mind.
- Vow of Nudity: Haara and Walburt encounter a fire elemental in the Volcano mines. Though unlike traditional D&D elementals, this one's character artwork shows it to have a busty feminine figure.
- The Divine Comedy: False counselors are damned to suffer forever not in fire, but as fires. These liars can no more speak with their silver-tongues, but must writhe their flame-tips back and forth to poorly imitate organic speech.
- Dungeon Engineer: In Chapter 2, the protagonist encounters fiery vortexes, which he calls "fire elementals", that manifest out of thin air and seem to actively chase down living creatures to ignite.
What I didn't expect, however, was to witness massive vortexes of fire spontaneously bursting forth from thin air. If that wasn’t bad enough, they seemed to move with a will of their own and actively seek out anything living. Needless to say, this didn't bode well for the local wildlife.
I'll refer to them as fire elementals, I'm so good at names.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The Fiendfyre spell takes the forms of several monsters while wrecking the Room of Requirement. These evil flames are extremely dangerous and difficult to control for the caster, as Crabbe (Goyle in the film) learns the hard way. Fortunately, it so happens that it's one of the few ways to destroy Horcruxes, it's just that no one had considered it due to the inherent risk.
- The Thebaid: In the final book, the funeral fires of Oedipus' sons inherit the hatred of their corpses and battle each other in a ungodly display.
- Upright Magic: One of the antagonists is the Underground Fire, who looks like a figure made entirely of flames. He is the only villain who actually almost kills the heroine, since the rest are either idiots or surrounded by said idiots.
- Chronicles of Darkness: Spirits have Blue-and-Orange Morality focused on their area of Influence, so fire spirits want nothing more than to burn things and are unaware or unconcerned that other beings might object to being combusted.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Blazewyrms are creatures of living fire in the shape of dragons, and spend their time seeking out things and creatures to burn to ashes for no other reason than that they like doing it.
- Pathfinder: Mythic fire elementals are described as living fragments of the first flames of the Elemental Plane of Fire, and greatly enjoy scattering flammable mortal foes to set them alight one by one.
- Warhammer 40,000 & Warhammer: Age of Sigmar both have daemons of Tzeentch called Brimstone Horrors, which take the form of small and malicious living flames. Created when a dying Blue Horror splits in half, Brimstone Horrors are among the least of Daemonkind and know this, and spread fire and devastation everywhere they go to make themselves feel better.
- Beauty and the Beast: A Board Game Adventure: In the "Mrs. Pott's Peril" mini-game, Chef Bouche creates these kind of flames, which can burn down the items on the shelf of his kitchen if not put out. Mrs. Potts must pour water on them to put them out, with bigger ones needing several water drops. Mrs. Potts also has to mind her water supply, but can refill it by standing under a pump. If a flame destroys a gunpowder barrel, it will explode and end the mini-game.
- Commander Keen: In the fourth game, living fire monsters (Berkeloids) roam in the Isle of Fire level, throwing fire constantly. They cannot be defeated or even stunned, only avoided.
- The game parodies and homages this trope alongside several others from classic cartoons. During one phase of his battle, Grim Matchstick opens his mouth and stretches out his tongue, and a marching band of flames walks out.
- A variety more in line with the video game enemy variety — that is, flames with a face but no limbs — are among the enemies found in Rugged Ridge, where they float in circles in the air while cackling nastily.
- Dante's Inferno: The Fire Minion and Fire Guardian usually take the form of invulnerable Super Smoke, but have to ignite themselves in order to attack. They can be frozen by Dante's cross while in their fiery state, which in turn makes them vulnerable to scythe attacks. Malacoda also becomes a demon-shaped mass of fire when fully ignited, but can be knocked out of it and made vulnerable again with repeated attacks from the cross.
- Dennis the Menace: In the Licensed Game, anthropomorphic flames appear as enemies in the boiler stage. These enemies cannot be destroyed, not even by the water gun (it only temporarily stuns them).
- Digimon: The Meramon line is heavily based on this concept. The earliest form, Mokumon, is a cloud of smoke with a small flame flickering from its top. The next stage, DemiMeramon, is a flying fireball with a face noted for its aggressive temperament. DemiMeramon evolves into Candlemon, a living candle with a DemiMeramon for its flame, which in turn becomes Meramon, a humanoid made out of fire. Meramon is stated to have a violent temper, enough so to be likely to turn even on its tamer, and to try to burn everything it touches.
- Donkey Kong:
- Donkey Kong: The first DK arcade game of all is also the first to feature such enemies, in the form of fireballs with eyes that hop out of burning oil drums and chase after Mario as he tries to reach Donkey Kong.
- Donkey Kong 64: Flames are an enemy resembling a ball of fire with feet and sunglasses. They only appear one level where where Lanky Kong has to fight them off while they try to reach a barrel of TNT and make it explode, with the walking fireballs cackling when getting close to the explosives.
- Dragon Quest: Dancing flames, roughly humanoid creatures made of fire, are recurring monsters in the series.
- Final Fantasy V features Liquid Flame, which the baddie sics on the heroes to prevent them from saving the Fire Crystal. It's a creature made entirely out of fire that starts the battle in a humanoid form, but can also change shape to resemble either a hand or a fiery tornado, giving it different attacks and weaknesses.
- Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance has living, humanoid flames as enemies in the game's second half, most of them armed with flaming swords. Some of them can even shoot bits of themselves at you as a ranged attack.
- Guzzler, an arcade game, has living flames that chase the player around the mazes, and the player has to extinguish them with water absorbed from puddles.
- Hands of Necromancy has evil flames animating human skeletons in the hell levels, where they use the skeleton as a frame while trying to attack you. Deal enough damage and the flames dissipate, leaving behind a pile of charred bones.
- Jitsu Squad have fire-based enemies in the Lethal Lava Land stage, Infernia, ranging from fire-humanoids to swooping birds made of flames and giant fire-monsters armed with scythes.
- Kaiju Wars: Pterus Ignis is a phoenix-like kaiju made of living fire. While not necessarily evil, the creature is just as destructive as the other kaiju featured in the game, if not more so.
- Kirby: Bobos and their King Mook, the mid-boss Boboo, are living fireball enemies with legs.
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons: In its fiery form, Frypolar a living fireball with a face and arms that tries to burn Link by summing flames around him. In its icy form, it becomes a Cold Flames version of this.
- Mega Man (Classic): Changkeys look like fireballs with eyes, but, like all other enemies, they're actually robots.
- Oriental Legend have fire elementals in various stages, who takes the form of a burning humanoid figure to attack you. Hong Hai 'er, one of the Flunky bosses, can even breathe flames which turns into living fire elementals to attack you.
- In Popful Mail, Venuncio plays on Mail's desperation for money by luring her into a nonexistent opportunity to earn huge amounts of gold, trapping her and her friends in a room full of lava and forcing them to defeat a group of living flames he calls the "Happy Flames of Death" to escape.
- Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale: Will-'o-wisps are made to hunt down adventurers who stay too long in dungeons, being described by Tear as "flaming ball[s] arcing with electricity", and "incorporeal balls of fire and hate".
- Spelling Jungle: The Fire Tricksters, living balls of flame with angry looks.
- Super Mario Bros.: Living fireballs of various descriptions have hounded Mario throughout his games:
- Super Mario Bros. marks the debut of Lava Bubbles (also called Podoboos), which are living fireballs with no features besides simple eyes, which often act as hazards in fire-themed levels. They're usually passive — most appearance just have them jumping in and out of lava, only hurting Mario if he runs into them — but the RPG games such as Super Mario RPG and the Paper Mario series have them as more aggressive enemies that actively attack Mario and resemble floating candle flames. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door also has Embers, evil blue flames related to Lava Bubbles that act as minions to the undead pirate Cortez.
- Super Mario Bros. 2 has a boss version with Fryguy, a living flame entity that constantly spreads fire through its chamber. It's also an Asteroids Monster as, once it's hit three times with Mushroom Blocks, it will split into four smaller sentient embers that chase the player's character, and for each of them defeated the remaining ones will move faster.
- Super Mario Bros. 3 introduces three enemies of this kind:
- Fire Snakes are linked fireballs (with the biggest one having eyes and acting as the "head") that hop slowly but constantly towards Mario or Luigi. They appear in the desert levels, and can only be defeated with a Starman or a large projectile (Koopa Shell or Hammer).
- The Angry Sun is a large, round flame with a perpetually-angry face. It periodically charges at Mario and Luigi in an arcuate pattern.
- Hot Foots are a kind of fire-based enemy resembling a living flame, found in later fortresses. They normally wait in candles, but when one of the brothers comes close the flame will hop off the candle, sprout legs and try to run into the brother in question to damage him, standing still if the player turns to look at it.
- Mario Party 3: In the minigame All Fired Up, all four players are in an octogonal area, and a group of Lava Bubbles will fall from above. The Lava Bubbles start moving around in various patterns (wave-like, circular and cross-shaped; between phases, they move randomly), and the players' objective is to dodge them. The last player remaining wins.
- Mario Party 8: During the minigame Lava Or Leave 'Em, Lava Bubbles begin hopping onto the safe rock platform where the characters reach after fleeing from an eruption's incoming flow of lava. Some of the Lava Bubbles merely move around, but other split into smaller specimens to further reduce the safe space; being touched by them or accidentally falling into the lava river spells an instant disqualification. The last character remaining character survives the ambush wins, though more than one can win if they survive after 30 seconds; conversely, if all remaining characters are disqualified at the same time, the minigame ends in a tie.
- In Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure, in the Lava Cave, anthropomorphic flames (from the short "When You're Hot..." from the TV series episode "Going Places") appear as enemies.
- Valheim has surtlings, small, extremely aggressive humanoids made of living flame that spawn either from flame spouts in the Swamp biome or spontaneously from anywhere in the Ashlands biome; as soon as they spot anything not native to their biomes they start darting around and throwing flaming projectiles at their foes. Fortunately the Swamp ones are quite easy to deal with; by digging away the ground around the spout, the surtlings drop into water and die almost instantly (and because they're guaranteed to drop coal, many players use this to set up self-replenishing coal mines).
- Brawl in the Family: A couple of strips parody the tendency for this sort of enemy to turn up in a lot of Nintendo titles.
- FBA Meeting shows a number of these from several games at a Fire Baddies Anonymous meeting, including Fry Guy, an Angry Sun, a Podoboo, a Fire Snake and a Sova. Things take a turn for the awkward when a group hug causes them to merge into a single giant bonfire.
- Hot Day has Fry Guy and Pandora rather angry about how a movie they just watched made them see a giant inferno be extinguished and then expected them to sympathize with the firemen. Their day doesn't improve much when Morpha, a giant mass of water, comes along.
Pandora: At least he didn't hug us this time.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has this lizard-monster-thing, which represents the fire the boy was playing with.
- Widdershins: A manifestation of Wrath literally burns with anger, leaving behind humanoid flames that try to kill everyone they find.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-457 ("Burning Man") is an entity that appears to be composed entirely of flame, and though it can communicate by writing letters out of its own flames, its goals are limited to simply spreading and acquiring fuel sources. Several wildfires have been attributed to it.
- The Magnus Archives: The Eldritch Abomination known as the Desolation, or "the Torturing Flame", is a manifestation of the fear of unthinking or cruel destruction that takes the form of a lightless flame. One of its Apocalypse Cultists describes it as...
"...blackened earth, the destructive agonizing heat of burning flesh and land scoured of life, the light with the comfort of fire stripped from it, leaving nothing but the terror of its approach."
- The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: A Hot Foot, a kind of fire enemy resembling an orange flame with feet, appears in one episode. It hides inside a candle flame, and when Mario and Luigi come near it jumps out and starts chasing them.
- Angry Birds Toons: In "Fired Up!", during a bout of cold weather, Chuck tries to heat up the eggs with Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass. His plan Gone Horribly Right, the ray not only becomes extremely overpowered, but also grows limbs and actively tries to chase down the birds. The Ray eventually disappears after Chuck use a blanket to cover the magnifying glass.
- Beavis and Butt-Head subverts this with Fire. A living dumpster fire that Beavis reveres as a dark god. While he has a menacing appearance and deep evil sounding voice. The most he does is command Beavis to basically better himself doing things like exercise and homework. He isn't even really angry when Beavis has him extinguished, more sad and disappointed if anything.
- Betty Boop: Such flames appear in several old cartoons such as "Bimbo's Initiation" and "Red Hot Mamma". In "Bimbo's Initiation", Bimbo gets trapped beneath a heavy, spiked weight, hanging from a single rope, with a lit candle threatening to burn it. Bimbo tries to blow out the candle, but the flame sprouts legs, jumps onto the rope, and does a little dance there before burning through it.
- Classic Disney Shorts:
- "Mickeys Fire Brigade": Mickey, Donald and Goofy are firemen trying to put out a fire. The flames sprout legs and act as if alive, forcing Donald to chase them down, closing a window to keep the water from the hose from coming in and even nabbing Donald's fire axe and chasing him around with it.
- "Pluto's Judgement Day": In the climax of Pluto's dream, he is suspended over a blazing pit of fire. Soon, tiny anthropomorphic flames hop out of the pit, run along the rope and try to pull it apart to make him fall in.
- Silly Symphonies:
- "Flowers and Trees": When the evil tree tries to burn down the forest out of jealousy over the protagonist tree getting the girl, the fire is represented as little impish flames chasing the forest's denizens around and setting things alight. They're put out when a flock of birds starts up a rainstorm, but not before the flames tackle the evil tree, killing him.
- In "Elmer Elephant", after being bullied for his unusual appearance, Elmer finds a good use for his trunk when Tillie Tiger's house catches fire. The flames chase Tillie and the other animals around, but are thwarted when Elmer arrives and shoots the flames with water, although one flame manages to dodge the blasts of water a few times before getting put out.
- In "Moth and the Flame", a female moth sees a flame on a candle, which comes to life and tries to grab her. The flame soon sets fire to the costume shop, leading a male moth to try to put out the fire himself, then call in reinforcements when his efforts turn out to be futile.
- Futurama: "The Inhuman Torch" features one of these as the main villain. It's an extraterrestrial being of pure solar energy named Flamo, whom the Planet Express crew accidentally brings back to Earth after a visit to a helium mining facility on the sun and who spends the episode trying to turn the Earth into a new, incandescent sun for him to rule over.
- Looney Tunes:
- Throughout "Porky the Fireman", portions of the fire Porky is helping to fight come alive and antagonize the firefighters. One fiery figure steals a bucket of water from Porky and dumps it on his head, while another mocks a team of firemen as they try to hose it down. At the end, after the building has burnt to the ground, one last anthropomorphic flame peeks from the rubble and gets doused by dozens of firemen at once... before popping back up from the ashes, knocking all the firemen down with a hose used like a gatling gun, and victoriously beating its chest as the screen fades to black.
- They also appear in the 1936 short "Fish Tales" in Porky's Dream Sequence, trying to keep him contained in a cooking pot as he's roasted alive in an oven.
- "Flowers for Madame": When a wildfire breaks out in a flower garden, several flames grow stubby limbs and malicious little faces and start cashing the insects and anthropomorphic flowers around, until they're eventually put out by a cactus poking holes in a field of watermelons. One tries to hide behind a box, but ends up doused by a cricket's well-aimed loogie.
- The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Fire Phantom", a living flame from Earth's core appears and sets off a mammoth forest fire. The living flame is a giant version of the classic "living candle flame mote", and has no intelligence or personality except for causing fire and destruction wherever it goes.
- In the Tex Avery cartoon "Red Hot Rangers", an anthropomorphized flame comes out of a discarded cigarette and goes around the forest burning things, while forest rangers George and Junior try to stop him.
- Screen Songs: "The Big Flame-Up" features a little fire sprite who thwarts the efforts of the fire department and invites the audience to sing along. He later reappears in the Popeye short "Fireman's Brawl", fighting Popeye's attempts to put out a fire.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Procrastination", during SpongeBob's dream sequence, a candle flame comes to life, reads SpongeBob's unfinished essay disapprovingly, then decides to punish him by burning down his house.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: In the short "When You're Hot...", in the episode "Going Places", Buster, Plucky, and Hamton's efforts to put out the fire at ACME Looniversity are impeded by an anthropomorphic flame interfering with their progress. The flame does such things as fill their water buckets with gasoline, pose as a lady in peril only to burn their fire engine's wooden ladder, and even burn the film strip Hamton is on when he corners him in the Tiny Toons film library. When the fire is eventually put out thanks to Li'l Sneezer's trademark Sneeze of Doom, the flame escapes and makes a break for Universal Studios, only to get hugged by Elmyra, causing him to burst and burn her clothes off.