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The salamander (Arabic: سمندل samandall or سلمندر salamandar) is an amphibian of the order Urodela which, as with many real creatures, often has been ascribed fantastic and sometimes occult qualities by pre-modern authors (as in the allegorical descriptions of animals in medieval bestiaries) not possessed by the real organism. The legendary salamander is often depicted as a typical salamander in shape, with a lizard-like form, but is usually ascribed an affinity with fire, sometimes specifically elemental fire.

Myths & legends

Salamanders have been said to be able to both create and put out flames, and in some cases are borne of fire themselves and are considered Fire Spirits. However, in other stories they are merely fire resistant.

In fairy legend salamanders are credited with having taught the first humans how to make fire. Interestingly, there are versions of their origins stating that they were created in the furnaces of glass blowers who kept their furnaces stoked for several days and nights. They are often described as small lizards, but have also been known to be depicted as small glowing lights, and on rare occasion traditional fairy-like humanoid beings.

Potential origin

The most likely basis for this myth is found in the real life salamanders, which are known to hibernate through the winter in logs that were then picked up and used to fuel fires. As a result of being tossed into a roaring inferno, they would wake up and scamper out of the fire. Due to their cool and damp skin, they would be able to survive the escape from the flames. As such, it was misunderstood that salamanders were entities of fire themselves.

Other names

This race is also called Vulcanus (plural: Vulcani or Vulcanuses) after the Roman deity of fire and craftwork.

In Slavic mythology salamanders are known as firebirds.

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