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The Discovery of Fire

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They're underwater. You'd be surprised too.

"We'll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys."

The "discovery" of fire, or in reality the "discovery of how to use fire", is most likely the single most important discovery in human history. Without it, our warm-weather species would never have been able to survive in cold environments, easily digest meats, or ward off dangerous animals the way we do. And you can forget about firing pottery or smelting metal.

Naturally, fiction depicts humans (and other species) overcoming their natural fear of fire and learning to use it as an important turning point in their evolution. This usually occurs either after lightning strikes vegetation or as someone rubs flint and wood together.

Compare to Inventing the Wheel. Naturally, the cavemen are usually Ignorant About Fire, since even if they're not stupid, they've never had any experience with it before.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dr. STONE: After Senku wakes up from 3700 years of being Taken for Granite, he spends several months figuring out how to make fire with sticks (he ends up using a bow drill). Once he's mastered it, the monkeys who were watching this strange hairless monkey run away in fear.

    Comic Books 
  • In a Richie Rich comic book story, the father of the Rich family's prehistoric ancestors discovers fire, but doesn't know what to do with it, and it ends up going out a few times. Later on when they show up at a costume party with other prehistoric people, wearing what they thought would be the fashions of the future — and being laughed at when they wear clothes that are nearly identical to that of their modern-day counterparts — the prehistoric Richie wishes he could sic the flame they discovered on them.
  • Supergirl: In Action Comics #259: "The Cave-Girl of Steel", Supergirl travels back in time and meets prehistoric humans, whom she teaches to create fire and to use it to ward off an attacking sea serpent.
  • In Tragg and the Sky Gods, Tragg and Lorn discover a tribe of man-apes. In saving one of the man-apes from a dinosaur, Tragg extinguishes a naturally occurring column of flame. Only after this act does he learn that the man-apes worship this flame as a god, as they lack the ability to make fire themselves. The man attempt to execute Tragg for his heresy. In escaping, Tragg reignites the lake of oil that was feeding the column of flame.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • Cast Away. Chuck gleefully hams it up the first time he gets a fire working, doing a victory dance and shouting, "Look what I have created! I! Have made FIRE!!"
  • The Jungle Book (2016)
    • In The Jungle Book remake, the protagonist (a feral human)'s Coming of Age Story concludes when he uses fire to defeat the tiger Shere Khan.
    • The secondary antagonist King Louie is an ape that believes that learning how to make fire will make him "rise up to the top of the food chain" and become as powerful as a human.
  • Night at the Museum: The museum exhibits that come to life features a trio of cavemen trying to discover fire. Larry the night guard tosses them a cigarette lighter as a two, but they end up setting themselves on fire with it.
  • In Prometheus, as part of the viral advertising a video of Peter Weyland's appearance in TED 2023 was posted online, and as expected of the symbolism spread throughout the film, Weyland spoke about how fire was "our (mankind's) first true piece of technology", and how humanity had evolved from worshipping the gods (that "overreacted a little" when Prometheus gave us fire) to "we are the gods now".
  • An early concept for Star Trek: The Motion Picture would have involved the search for a race of Benevolent Precursors who taught humanity how to make fire. They'd end up being the Enterprise crew from the future.
  • A variant in Quest for Fire. The Neanderthal protagonists know what fire is, but not how to make it, so they keep a small bonfire that is always burning. After it is doused in an attack by a rival tribe, the three heroes go out in search of more fire to bring back home. Eventually they come into contact with an advanced tribe of Cro-Magnons, who show them how to make their own fire.

  • Bears Discover Fire is a short story about bears discovering how to use fire. Along with ruminations on aging, American culture, and evolution.
  • The Book of the Named series stars a species of prehistoric cat-like animals who have rudimentary herding skills. One of them, Ratha, discovers how to use fire. She calls it a "creature" and believes it to be alive.
  • Discworld: In Small Gods, a man from a tribe that has thus far been untouched by the Disc's civilisations, until he accidentally got caught up in The Alliance, is taught about fire by his new friends:
    Some of the new people had shown him this amazing way of making lightning. You hit this rock with this piece of hard stuff and you got little bits of lightning which dropped on to dry stuff which got red and hot like the sun. If you put more wood on it got bigger and if you put a fish on it got black but if you were quick it didn't get black but got brown and tasted better than anything he'd ever tasted, although this was not difficult.
  • The Evolution Man by Roy Lewis purports to be a first-hand account by the son of the first man to discover fire. To prevent further 'advances', the family takes matters in hand, leading to a conclusion given away by the book's eventual subtitle, 'how I ate my father'.
  • Hayy ibn Yaqzan has the titular Wild Child rediscovering fire. When a fire breaks out in the reeds, Hayy tries to take some of it, but it burns his hand. Instead he sets part of a stick on fire and takes it back to his lodging, where he nurses and feeds the flames. He experiments by throwing as many things as he can find into the fire. He burns a fish and then tastes it, and likes the results so much that from then on he cooks all his fish and meat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The very first adventure of The Doctor, "An Unearthly Child", was about the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan and the teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton going to 100,000 BC where they are captured by a tribe of cavemen who want them to make fire for them.

    Mythology And Religion 

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side:
    • One comic had a caveman who claimed to have invented fire—but it's actually just a wooden cut-out of a campfire. The caption notes that he was exiled from the tribe over "the Firegate incident".
    • Another strip features caveman researchers fleeing from a burning laboratory. The caption reads "Fire is invented."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Don't Let It Die is a cooperative game in which players control a group of cavemen trying to discover the secrets of fire, gathering food to feed themselves, resources to make tools, and fuel to keep the fire going while they study its secrets.
  • In Promethean: The Created, the "Divine Fire" Prometheus gave to humans is explicitly self-awareness and the ability to innovate and create, as well as study, learn from, and utilize the world around them. That Divine Fire, channeled through raw desire to create life, is what allows all Prometheans to be created.


    Theme Parks 
  • Ellen's Energy Adventure: Ellen is taken back to prehistoric times, and we see a caveman (played by Michael Richards) whose stick is struck by lightning and catches fire.

    Video Games 
  • In the backstory of Dark Souls, the discovery of the First Flame (and as a consequence, fire itself) empowered Gwyn to overthrow the dragons and usher in the Age of Fire. It's also implied that without the First Flame, fire itself cannot exist, and keeping the flame lit is what causes most of the drama of the series.
  • In Dawn of Crafting, you can learn how to create fire in order to access new skills, like cooking and making pottery.
  • In Eternal Champions, Slash returns from the competition with knowledge from the future to give to his people. Among these secrets is the knowledge of fire-making, which he uses to impress his clan.
  • The central premise of Jump Start Spelling. A family of cavemen is in desperate need of a fire, to the point they mistake Edison Firefly for fire. C.J. Frog rescues Edison after giving the cavemen a torch, distracting them.
  • In Spore, the creature stage finishes with a cutscene (also a Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey) where the player's creature learns how to make fire and forms a tribe.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: During Caboose's time-travel escapades in season 16, he travels to the time of the cavemen where they share the discovery of fire with him. By setting him on fire.

    Web Original 
  • Hamster's Paradise: A highly intelligent yet extremely aggressive animal known as the riplet discovers that other animals fear fire after witnessing them flee from brushfires causes by lightning strikes, some packs learn to sustain the flames and use them in hunting by spreading it and picking off the animals that try to flee from the blaze. Several million years later, their sapient Always Chaotic Evil descendants, the harmsters, have managed to use fire to jumpstart their civilization and spread to places where they couldn't before, with some cultures still extensively relying on arson hunting for food and practically worshipping fire itself.
  • In the speculative evolution project Serina, the gravediggers, a species of badger-like birds, learned how to create fire at the beginning of the Ocean Age, but the act of discovery only becomes a plot as Brighteye, a sapient blue jay-like bird, seeks to learn their secret in order to help a race of sapient mammoth-like birds hold back the thorngrazers and plants that are taking over their ecosystem.

    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory:
  • In the Hercules: The Animated Series episode "Hercules and the Prometheus Affair", it is revealed that the reason why the school Hercules goes to is called Prometheus Academy (and why they served liver and onions every Thursday) is because Prometheus introducing fire to humanity is what inspired humanity to advanced their society with language and science, as well as providing comforts like cooked food and warm water.
  • "When Mice Ruled the Earth" is a Pinky and the Brain short in Animaniacs where the duo travel back in time to key evolutionary moments in prehistoric mice. Their attempts to teach mice how to get food and make weapons fail, but succeed in teaching how to make fire before mankind could.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Ugh", set in prehistoric times, lightning strikes a log in the middle of the episode, setting it on fire. Spongegar and Patar are initially confused about the fire, but they soon find a use for it: to grill things into tasty things. Then they fight over the fiery log so that they can own it by themselves, until the rain comes and puts out the fire.
  • Time Squad: "Planet of the Flies" sees the squad go back to help with discovering fire. Tuddrussel just uses his laser to start one.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Martha Speaks

In Martha's story, a caveboy named "Tuh" discovers fire by banging two rocks together, then Prehistoric Martha discovers how to use it by trying to smother it with some meat.

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