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.
Naturally, fiction depicts humans (and other species) overcoming their natural fear of fire and learning to use fire 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.
- Supergirl: In 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Classical Mythology has Prometheus who stole fire from the heavens as a gift to the humans.
- Maui from Polynesian mythology is also frequently a fire-bringer.
- Many folktales exist worldwide (with the best-known ones being from Africa and North America) of animals stealing fire from powerful beings and giving it to humanity. Often, these stories also explain certain animal characteristics as the result of being singed by the flames.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Dexter's Laboratory, one episode has Dexter consider the caveman who discovered fire to be so important that he tries to bring him into the present time, thinking that the meeting of the first inventor and the latest inventor will lead to something grand. Hilarity Ensues.
- "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.
- Sponge Bob Squarepants: In the episode "Ugh", set in the prehistoric times, a lightning strikes a log in the middle of the episode, setting it on fire. Spongegar and Patar are initially confused with 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, putting out the fire.
- In the Hercules 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.
- Unlike in fiction, it's unlikely one person "discovered" how to use fire. It's theorized that this occurred repeatedly, in several different areas, over the course of time.