The bonfire at the center of Le Cirque des Rêves is what gives the circus life, and keeping that fire burning is essential to the survival of the circus and its performers. The lighting of the bonfire on the opening night of Le Cirque des Rêves is a symbolic ritual of birth, inaugurating the circus and its family; it also coincides with the birth of the Murray twins, Widget and Poppet, who become an integral part of the circus family. The fire is also a protective element in the novel: Marco’s protective spell, which keeps those associated with the circus unnaturally young and healthy, is written into a notebook that he placed within the bonfire.
When Marco and Celia decide to exit the competition and possibly end their lives, they jump into the bonfire. As a life-giving element, however, the fire does not kill the two magicians, but instead transports them to a magical space within the circus, suspended between life and death like ghosts. The bonfire goes out, and only a ceremonial re-lighting of the fire, using another copy of Marco’s notebook with the protective spells, will save Le Cirque des Rêves and ensure its eternal life.
The Bonfire Quotes in The Night Circus
“I cannot leave. I am not allowed. I must remain here, and I must continue with this nonsense, as you so aptly put it. You are going to return to your drinking and your parties and you will not even remember that we had this conversation.”
“I’m not, I swear I’m not. I wanted to wait until I was sure it was the right thing to ask, the right thing to do, and I’m sure now. It’s important.”
“What do you mean? Important how?”
“I know you’re supposed to come with us. I know that part for certain.”
“But I’m not […] special. Not in the way they are. I’m not anyone important.”
“I know. You’re not destined or chosen, I wish I could tell you that you were if that would make it easier, but it’s not true. You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.”
“I’m not going to give you your memory back. I don’t know if I could even if I tried, though Widge could probably manage it. At this point, I don’t think you need that weight on you. I think looking forward will be better than looking back.”