Fire, Faith, and the Sacred Aspect of the Forge
Mankind has always been fascinated by fire. The most spectacular and intangible of the four elements, fire holds an unmatched allure. From Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and crafting, to Kagus-tscuchi, the Japanese blacksmith god, to Logi, the Norse fire giant, fire and smithing have been worshipped and deified in almost every culture on earth.
It seems that our obsession with fire is almost hard-wired into us, a part of our genetic memory. After all, for millennia fire has been essential to our survival. Even today we use fire to cook, to heat our homes, and in various forms, to make power. Is it any wonder that we have sought to tame this strange power?We've been obsessed with fire since Prometheus got nicked for petty larceny.
Fire and flame are deeply entrenched in the fantasy genre. It doesn't take an arduous search to find fire-breathing dragons, or wizards hurling fireballs. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings gave us dragons and wizards both, and a balrog as a bonus.
The netherworld gives us devils and other fire-demons. There are myriad heroes wielding flaming swords, though David Eddings might be argued to have done it best, or maybe that's just my nostalgia talking.
It's no great surprise that it is so prevalent in fantasy; fire is rife throughout classical mythology, and can be found in myths stretching from Mexico to the Norse sagas. There are flaming swords in the Bible, and, when you get right down to it, the largest religions on our planet owe their existence to an old man having a conversation with a smouldering shrub.
One major difference is that mythology would have us worship and venerate fire whilst books within the fantasy genre tend to tell tales of fire having been tamed. Not in any traditional sense, with cooking or heating, but by truly controlling it. By harnessing its raw nature; somehow yoking the primal heart of it with shields formed of flame and spells woven from fire.
Blacksmithing is one example of this level of control, and perhaps a point where fantasy touches reality. In many ways smithing is the act of applying the power of flame to, quite literally, shape the bones of the earth. Smithing tames the very elements, bending them to our will.
My latest novel, Faithless, was an attempt to marry these two concepts, the allure of flame and mankind's need to shape and control, whilst also examining the notion of religion as a whole. It is a dark book, and I make no apology for that. Fundamentally it's the search for the truth of a religion, lying hidden beneath centuries of dogma.
Smithing features heavily in the book, as you would expect in a religion devoted to fire and forging, and I've worked hard to both keep as close to reality as possible whilst instilling a sense of wonder and mystery to the mundane.
“Now,” he told Brial without taking his eyes from the molten iron. “Fetch those tongs and reach this out for us.” He stepped back to allow Brial access and continued speaking. “You can stop now, Wynn. Come and see this. Note how the iron has taken on the colour and aspect of the flame? The heat and the power of the Father has infused the metal and now, with care, we can shape it as we will...”
There is a sense of lost grandeur, of a golden past and paradise lost, as the Forgefather has turned his face from mankind and prayers whisper unanswered into the darkness.
“Through the power of the Forgefather we created wonders this world hasn’t seen the like of since. It’s said we could spin wire thinner than a human hair, but with the strength of anchor chains. We offered up our own blood to the forges and the Father blessed them himself. His was the voice in the fire. Even those who didn’t follow the faith could hear it.”
Faithless is also about the darker side of human nature, about jealousy, and cowardice, and spite. More than anything it is about the lengths we will go to when pushed, when it comes down to you or them, and nobody is there to witness your actions except your conscience. Faithless is out now and available from Amazon I hope you'll join me for the ride.