Fire in Art and Storytelling

CAMPFIRE

My life has been told to me through camprfire tales — stories that spill over when the fire has burned low and silence must be filled. They’re like old coats hauled from the back of the cupboard. Dusted off, aired out, good as new. My mother, Vivienne, doled them out as reward or consolation, depending on her mood. And so I came to know myself — through the telling and retelling.

Friday Brown by Vikki Wakefield, Australian author

Tall tales are a storytelling tradition that extends far back into human history. In our imaginations, tall tales happen around the camp fire.

LE DIEU VIVANT (1974) DH Comes campfire
LE DIEU VIVANT (1974) DH Comes campfire
Evgenii Rachev (1906 - 1997) 1960 illustration for Russian Folk Tales campfire
Evgenii Rachev (1906 – 1997) 1960 illustration for Russian Folk Tales campfire
Top-Notch v016 n05 [1914-05-20] campfire
Top-Notch v016 n05 [1914-05-20]
PRIJDTE K NAM, MUZIKANTI (1960) Jiri Trnka camp fire
PRIJDTE K NAM, MUZIKANTI (1960) Jiri Trnka camp fire
Olivier Tallec campfire
Olivier Tallec campfire
from How To Make Friends With A Ghost by Rebecca Green
from How To Make Friends With A Ghost by Rebecca Green
Western Story Magazine campfire

HEARTH

For more on the significance and symbolism of the home hearth, see this post.

Another one from Louis Wain, Cats by the Fire
Another one from Louis Wain, Cats by the Fire. I’m pretty sure the black cat started a conflagration.

BURN OFFS

A PRAIRIE BOY'S SUMMER (1975) William Kurelek fire
A PRAIRIE BOY’S SUMMER (1975) William Kurelek

CONFLAGRATION

Cover by Achille Beltrame 1906 fire
Cover by Achille Beltrame 1906
Illustration by Ed Emberley in 'Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home' written by Judy Hawes. First published 1967, this reprint in Butler and Tanner, 1970 2
Illustration by Ed Emberley in ‘Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home’ written by Judy Hawes. First published 1967, this reprint in Butler and Tanner, 1970
Huckle's Mum sets the house on fire while ironing Daddy's shirt, Richard Scarry
Huckle’s Mum sets the house on fire while ironing Daddy’s shirt, Richard Scarry

BONFIRE

A bonfire is a big campfire, right? Except it’s not just for warmth but for fun and celebration and to raise the emotional charge of a celebration.

Bonfire Night by John Kenney 1967
Bonfire Night by John Kenney 1967
‘Bonfire Night’ (1951) John Bull magazine by Ronald Lampitt
‘Bonfire Night’ (1951) John Bull magazine by Ronald Lampitt

HELL FIRE

WHAT EVEN IS THIS

Edward Gorey fire tea
Edward Gorey fire tea

Fire can be a powerful and sometimes all consuming force. Helpful and dangerous in equal measure, the ability to use fire sets man apart from the animals. It should not be too surprising then that fire features heavily in our folklore and traditions.

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