CONTEXT: DM is a current USC student who attended a North Carolina Christian sleep-away camp in the summer of 2011. This is a story that she heard from an elderly woman named Libby. Libby had been raised at the camp, was head of camp for a number of years, and taught Bible Study and Devotional at the camp. DM interprets this story as a personal story based on the region of North Carolina that Libby was from. Different from many of Libby’s other stories, DM does not believe this was explicitly religious in theme.
This was a story that was said to be sort of local, in the area where I went to this summer camp. It was said to be from a long, long time ago, but in these same hills. Like, back when white people, I guess, first came to these hills. And it’s a story about this tiny village and there are these two young people – this young couple – that falls in love and decides to get married. The boy was learning new skills and working overtime so he could afford to buy the things, like the wedding dress and buy the food for the feast, and have a pig ready when the time comes, so they could kill it and roast it and give it to everybody. He was making all these preparations to get his own stuff and learn how to build a cabin because their dream was to go off into the woods and go away together and build a cabin in the woods. She was bartering things so she could get the best white wool to spin her dress with and she spent months and months sewing
her dress together so it would be perfect. The day comes and everything goes wonderfully, and they get sent off into the woods and basically pack up their two backpacks worth of belongings and set off into the woods together. Their first night in the woods they’re along and cold but they were together, and they were so, so happy. And he chops up some wood and builds a fire for her as his first gift of their marriage. They sleep next to the fire and the warmth from the fire and the warmth from their love is what kept them warm. So, the next morning, when they got up to leave to go find a place to build their cabin, the husband scooped up all of the live coals and put them in this pot that he was gifted – this cast iron pot. And she carried around the ashes and coals from the fire all day, and then as soon as they got where they were going, he would start a fire with these coals and then would continue on like that. And the story is for five generations somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains this fire has been kept going by their daughters, their daughters’ daughters, their daughters’ daughters’ daughters, and they keep this one fire going with the original coals and ashes from the people who found this new place to settle down.
ANALYSIS: This story uses a common symbol of embers/coals/fire as a representation of love. If the love of the young couple is represented in this way, both the relationship and the fire are undying, resulting in new fires, and generations of children. The couple nurtures the fire together, with the husband building the fire and collecting the coals, and the wife nurturing the coals during the day as they walked. This could be representative of the life they built together, lasting long after they were gone. The foundational fire and foundational love that they had set them up for future success in their posterity and survival of the fire itself.