The fire’s story

He’s born as a sparkle, struck to life by steel against steel. He flies through the air and lands on a faggot of birch-barks, put there by his father, the woodcutter. He greedily absorbs the rich food and burst into flames. The world surrounding him is dark and cold; the air filled with heavy snowflakes, all of them wet enough to put him out. But his father put his hands around him and blows fresh life into him.

For a while life is smooth and easy. There is food in abundance in the shape of chopped logs. His father sees to that. The fire cracks through the bark and gage upon its white flesh. He throws his sparkles up against the dark trees, which stand like sombre gatekeepers around the small source of light.

The trees don’t like a cocky log-fire that throws sparkles about, because they are wise. They know that even the smallest sparkle can grow strong and eat them all up. They therefore slowly waves their snow-weighed branches to quell the rising fire in their midst.

The fire reaches out his arms through the darkness of the night, like he wants to embrace the whole world. But then he’s father decides he’s strong enough to bite the sour spruce, heavy of snow and ice. The fire grumbles and cracks under the heavy burden, but he gains no favour with that. His father needs to work. He will chop woods. He does that every day, all day long. The work is hard and the profit low; to gain strength he needs warm water. Therefore he hangs a bucket of snow over the fire.

The fire murmur and don’t want to cook coffee. He tries to push the bucket away but don’t have the strength. Then he fire up a rage and try to melt the black iron. But the bucket is created in a much grander fire. In the black smith’s shop it was made glowing hot by the fire, moulded into shape by the sledgehammer and harden by the cold water. It has since meet many log-fires and knows the fire must butt itself tired before getting useful.

The fire soon stops to struggle and dutifully warms his father’s water. Now the woodcutter can drink and get warm while daylight patter through the woods. Today he’s only working half-day because it’s the holiday. At home wife and children awaits him with porridge and milk. In the evening he will give them gifts that he has carved out of wood, and he’s already takes delight in the thought of their sparkling eyes.

And while he’s lost in daydreams the fire starts fighting for his life. A fire must constantly be fed or else it will fade away. “More wood! More wood!” he cries out but the woodcutter doesn’t hear him. And even if he did, it wouldn’t make any difference. He can’t afford to use all the logs. It’s his job to chop wood and carry it home. He can’t waste it all on his own spoil.

“More wood! More wood!” cries the fire. Still the fire in his heart is strong but he feels his power fading and the cold closing in. Why has my father abandoned me? he thinks while he’s halo diminishing and darkness sets upon him. “Just one more stick!” he begs. “I promise not to complain whine again or complain about the logs being sour. Just let me burst into flame one more time, please!”

But the woodcutter sits with unseeing eyes and warms his hands while the fire die down. Then he gets up, reaches for his axe and hesitates… Shall he add another log? The ember is still hot; he can easily bring the fire back to life, if he wants to.

But no. At home his wife and children are waiting by a much merry fire. One gets worm from working, he thinks. And he takes a handful of snow and throws it at the ember that goes out with a low hissing sound.


This fairy tale in Swedish: Sagan om elden.

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