“Pictures in the Fire” is a vivid and reflective story written as a high school English paper. The narrator immerses in the warmth and flickering light of a massive, old-fashioned fireplace, which stirs a series of imaginative visions and memories. These “pictures in the fire” transform into scenes of medieval castles, battles, mythical creatures, and personal recollections, each brought to life by the dancing flames and glowing embers.


The story begins with a detailed description of a large fireplace that occupies a significant portion of the room. The narrator describes how the fire can be both overwhelming and comforting, depending on the time of day and the state of the flames. As the evening progresses, the fire settles into a bed of glowing coals, creating a pleasant warmth and a perfect setting for contemplation.

The narrator settles into a comfortable armchair before the fireplace, listening to the howling wind and the sounds of sleet and snow outside. The firelight casts dancing shadows on the walls, and the narrator allows himself to drift into a state of reverie, watching the ever-changing scenes in the fire.

First, the narrator envisions a grand medieval castle with massive towers and battlements. The scene is so vivid that he almost hears a bugle calling the vassals to the walls. This vision fades as a log falls in the fireplace, causing a burst of cinders and flames that resemble a miniature volcano. Next, a piece of twisted wood takes on the shape of a fearsome, fire-breathing dragon. A knight in crimson armor appears, wielding a flaming sword, and the dragon is vanquished.

As the fire continues to flicker, the narrator imagines a great battle with smoke and flames representing the chaos of cannon fire and the snap of burning wood mimicking rifle shots. The battle scene fades, and the glowing coals begin to form human faces and figures.

The narrator sees faces of friends, enemies, and strangers, some from his past and some he hopes to see again. One face, in particular, stands out—a plump old gentleman who smiles and winks at him, reminding the narrator of a long-deceased acquaintance. The next vision is of a dog stealthily moving forward, followed by the face of a youthful man which transforms into an old, decrepit visage.

A crimson demon with a horned head and fiery nostrils appears, only to be replaced by a stately church. A poor man in rags attempts to enter the church but is turned away, and the church subsequently collapses into ruin.

As the fire begins to die down, the narrator stirs the coals, briefly reviving the flames. Vulcan’s forge appears, glowing in the fireplace, but soon fades as the fire’s last flicker dances and then extinguishes. The coals grow dim, and a draft scatters the ashes over the hearth, leaving it cold.


  • Narrator: The unnamed protagonist who reflects on the visions conjured by the fire.
  • Plump Old Gentleman: A rotund, friendly figure from the narrator’s past, who smiles and winks at him.
  • Dog: A vision of a dog seen stealthily moving as if stalking prey.
  • Youth/Old Man: A face that transitions from a youthful appearance to that of an aged, decrepit man, symbolizing the passage of time.
  • Crimson Demon: A fearsome creature with a horned head, fiery nostrils, and a derisive expression.
  • Poor Man: A ragged figure who is denied entry to a grand church, representing social exclusion and hypocrisy.
  • Vulcan: The Roman god of fire and forge, whose imagery briefly appears in the fireplace.

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