The Night Circus

by

Erin Morgenstern

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The Bonfire Symbol Analysis

The Bonfire Symbol Icon

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

The The Night Circus quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bonfire. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor edition of The Night Circus published in 2012.
Part 3: Intersections Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Marco Alisdair (speaker), Chandresh Lefevre
Related Symbols: The Bonfire
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:

“You’re joking.”

“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.”

Related Characters: Poppet Murray (speaker), Bailey Clarke (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bonfire
Page Number: 356
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Incendiary Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Celia Bowen (speaker), Bailey Clarke (speaker), Widget Murray, Poppet Murray
Related Symbols: The Bonfire
Page Number: 478-479
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5: Divination Quotes

“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.”

Related Symbols: The Bonfire
Page Number: 498
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Bonfire Symbol Timeline in The Night Circus

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bonfire appears in The Night Circus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Illumination
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...is finally opening, and at midnight on October 14, twelve fire performers light the central bonfire. Opening night is a success, and the only strange event is that the wild-cat tamer... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
In the meantime, Marco is nervous and impatient for the lighting of the bonfire, which he has organized. Ever since learning that the circus is the venue for the... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...and reassuring people that it will be fine. And although she is nowhere near the bonfire, she can feel the lighting before she hears the applause; it nearly knocks her off... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...bumps into the Burgess sisters, Tara and Lainie, instead. They watch the lighting of the bonfire, and when the clock strikes midnight, Chandresh begins to feel dizzy and unsettled. Just at... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...new information about Poppet and Widget, she looks past them towards the courtyard and the bonfire. The bonfire never goes out; even as the entire circus travels by train, the fire... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Concord, MA, 1902: Bailey continues to wander the circus, stopping to watch the bonfire and then buy a bag of chocolates that are shaped like mice. He happens by... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...in Thiessen’s workshop, and Celia is particularly interested in one that reminds her of the bonfire. It is not working, and Celia asks if she can help. Without touching it, she... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...begin to talk about magic, or “manipulation,” as she calls it, starting with the white bonfire. She also calls it “enchanting,” which sparks a conversation about how Marco has gotten both... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...to each other’s eyes. Celia mentions how clever it was for Marco to use the bonfire as a stimulus, though it had consequences—namely, Poppet and Widget’s clairvoyance. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...could protect the people outside the circus, like the late Tara Burgess, the way the bonfire protects the performers. Celia did not realize that the bonfire was protective, and admits that... (full context)
Part 3: Intersections
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
...is no scent, but then he is surprised by the smell of caramel and a bonfire, and then he feels a sharp pain in his chest, the sensation of falling, and... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...concentration. Marco tells her that she needs a power source, like he has with the bonfire, rather than constantly controlling the circus on her own. It must be exhausting, he tells... (full context)
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Across the circus, an acrobat nearly misses her partner and crashes to the ground, the bonfire sputters and blows a puff of black smoke, and Poppet’s kitten falls on its back... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...bound everyone in the circus. He has placed another copy of this notebook in the bonfire at the circus as a safeguard, though he has made adjustments to the one on... (full context)
Part 4: Incendiary
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...possible. Tsukiko asks if it would also be problematic if she were to extinguish the bonfire, and Celia nods. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...tells him that this is when she knew she loved him. They kiss, and the bonfire burns brighter, and the circus is perfect for just one moment. (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...if it doesn’t make any sense to her. Poppet describes a fire, starting with the bonfire but bigger and uncontained, like the courtyard is on fire. There is also a loud... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...but the grounds are empty. He turns a corner to see the cauldron where the bonfire is supposed to be, but the fire is not burning anymore, and there is someone... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...may call her Tsukiko. He looks past her and tells her that he thought the bonfire never went out, to which she responds that it never has before. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...the tree. She tells him that there are many trees that would suffice, but the bonfire would be more appropriate. He looks at the bonfire and realizes that the story of... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...for him to trust her. They dissolve into the air in the moment before the bonfire explodes, turning into nothing more than light and shadow. They are gone and the circus... (full context)
Rivalry and Competition Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...looks around he realizes that the Ice Garden is melting. He tells Celia that the bonfire went out, and that she is the only thing holding it together. She nods, and... (full context)
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
Marco then explains that Tsukiko tried to imprison him in the bonfire, and there was a change of plans that led to the current situation. Marco is... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...and Celia tells him he needs to finish something she started, and to re-light the bonfire. When he re-lights the fire, that will power half the circus, and he will need... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...it is old. She then asks if he is going to try to light the bonfire again, and he tells her he is, and asks if she would like to help.... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Family, Community, and Belonging Theme Icon
Time and Mortality Theme Icon
Magic and Illusion Theme Icon
Freedom and Agency Theme Icon
...flames catch. He is blown back on to the ground by the force of the bonfire, and all around him the circus springs back to life again. From inside the Wishing... (full context)