Smokefrost cracks some Firex____ shippings
Some of the first relationships we are introduced to in the series are connected to our protagonist, Firestar—although, at the time that these relationships were first developed, he was a young warrior. Although I love crack shippings, I will only be going into “official” pairings when it comes to this analysis. With that, the list is narrowed down to three relationships: Firestar and Spottedleaf, Firestar and Sandstorm, and Firestar and Cinderpelt.
Two of the relationships involved mutual love, while the third only involved a one-sided crush. Even with that, I will delve into all of them and see what has come out of them throughout the series. No one couple is better than the other, so please be aware that this is my opinion, and that this analysis may contain spoilers.
With that, we will start off with what might be considered the first “official” Firestar ship: Firestar and Spottedleaf. While I do acknowledge the large age gap between them, I won’t be talking about it in this analysis; instead, I will be going into more of the development of the relationship itself.
I have noticed many times while rereading the series that I have drastically changed my opinions on certain characters and couples. Giving the books a second look with a more critical eye, it was much easier to build a more solid opinion. But surprisingly, rereading Into the Wild after more than 5 years from when I first read it, I was surprised to find that my opinion—or lack thereof—of the relationship between Firestar and Spottedleaf did not change.
When we are first introduced to Spottedleaf, she is given an introduction by Graypaw:
“[Spottedleaf]’s our medicine cat. Not bad-looking either. Younger and a lot prettier than most…” (Into the Wild, p. 32).
By this description, I think it was pretty clear what the Erins were trying to set up. While we knew that there was only one female apprentice, we didn’t know for sure what her personality was like—later, Sandpaw turns out to be snappy, and outwardly hostile towards the newly named Firepaw. With no one close to his own age that he could have taken interest in, it’s not so far-fetched to think that Firepaw might have noticed the gentle and pretty medicine cat.
This is where I might say that things either take off, or crash into the dirt. But no—their relationship goes nowhere, and I pretty much forgot about it as the book progressed. We would occasionally see Firepaw go to her for herbs, but there was little to no indication of any hidden feelings between the two, besides possible physical attraction. Their meetings are quick and uneventful, with not much else besides the friendly relationship any cat would have with their Clanmates.
The first sign of this changing is when Yellowfang orders Firestar to fetch mouse-bile from Spottedleaf.
“Firepaw met her gaze for a moment, then looked away, an uncomfortable feeling prickling his fur. Spottedleaf turned her attention back to the herbs” (Into the Wild, p. 70).
When taking the mouse-bile from Spottedleaf, it states: “[Firepaw] tasted her warm, sweet breath as he took the bark strip between his teeth” (Into the Wild, p. 71).
There are more instances like this one from this moment on, but none of them work to build any sort of relationship between the two besides what seems like physical attraction. He describes her sweet scent too many times to count, and it is what he thinks about when he grieves over her after her death.
Skipping forward to Firestar’s Quest, we see that Firestar has apparently developed deeper feelings for Spottedleaf, despite a relationship never officially forming between them and him already having a mate in Sandstorm. Spottedleaf makes appearances throughout the book, and even gives Sandstorm her blessing to be with Firestar at the end. This is where their nonexistent, out of the blue random relationship really shows its face, and it’s so sudden that I promised myself that the next time I read Into the Wild, I would look for any and all clues that would give me some insight to try and make sense of this couple. But, of course, I found nothing.
This strange relationship continued on with a pretty steady pace until The Last Hope, where Spottedleaf saves Sandstorm and ends up being killed a second time by Mapleshade. Firestar reacted accordingly to what we had been told: Firestar was and still is in love with Spottedleaf. This baffled me, as he had been with Sandstorm the majority of his life. At this point, it was clear to me how forced their relationship had been, right from the start, as well as the slightly obsessive natures of the two. It was even stated that Spottedleaf was only killed off so that Firestar wouldn’t have to choose between her and Sandstorm in StarClan.
The “love” that apparently formed between these two cats has stuck with the series until Firestar’s death, which is pretty ridiculous when you think about how this relationship started and developed from there. In truth, there was no development—no real talks between the two to show their interest in one another, or any signs when they were together to show anything more than the physical part of attraction. Their feelings were stretched over four series, going back and forth with the argument that Firestar could be happy with Sandstorm, but that they might be able to walk with each other in StarClan.
The fact that Firestar is borderline unfaithful and dishonest to Sandstorm during these times only supports the fact that his relationship with Spottedleaf—and by extension, her relationship with him—is too unrealistic and underdeveloped to actually have a lasting impact.
Next up will be the relationship between Firestar and Sandstorm; arguably, the most developed relationship of the three. While Firestar and Cinderpelt have plenty of development in other areas, Firestar and Sandstorm managed to form a strong bond and later, a romantic relationship over the course of the first six books of the series.
Again, Firestar and Sandstorm’s relationship first made itself known in the first book—although, under very different circumstances unrelated to romance. At the first sight of Firepaw, Sandpaw makes a rude remark, referring back to his kittypet roots when she gives reasons for not wanting to be close to him. With Dustpaw to back her up, Sandpaw pretty much becomes the bully to Firepaw, with the sole reason being his place of birth and the knowledge she has grown up with: kittypets cannot be warriors.
In a sense, neither of them can really be blamed for this mentality, since the Clans are taught to scorn kittypets from pretty much kithood. Because he and Sandpaw are so close in age, however, she might feel more inclined to show more hostility. Very little changes within the first book and the start of the second, since Fireheart and Graystripe have received their warrior names and Sandpaw is understandably jealous and frustrated.
The change in their relationship is triggered when Fireheart and Graystripe are returning to ThunderClan territory after bringing WindClan back home from exile. While taking a shortcut between RiverClan territory, Fireheart and Graystripe are attacked, but Tigerclaw’s patrol intervenes just in time. With all cats fighting, it is easy to lose track of what is happening, which seems to happen to Sandpaw. Without realizing it, she had been pushed closer to the edge of the gorge. Before she loses her footing, Fireheart manages to save her, earning a not-so-grateful response.
Not so long after, Fireheart and Graystripe receive their first apprentices. Dustpaw wastes no time voicing his thoughts:
“’I feel sorry for Fireheart’s apprentice. Imagine a Clan cat being trained a kittypet!’
But for once Sandpaw didn’t react. She just shot an uncomfortable glance at Fireheart.” (Fire and Ice, p. 60)
Fireheart is later instructed to go on patrol with Sandpaw, which he assumes will be a hassle due to her presumed hatred of him. To Fireheart’s surprise, she agrees without much trouble, and it’s from this point onward that there is a shift in their relationship. While she shows signs of wanting friendship between them, it is clear that Fireheart has gained her respect more than anything. Sandpaw even initiates a snow-fight with him, and their more playful sides—as well as Sandpaw’s kinder side—start to show even more. Fireheart’s ability to save her has opened up her eyes to the idea that loyalty might be his greatest strength, and this is what truly opens the doors and plants the seed for their relationship.
After bringing Cloudkit into the Clan, Fireheart shares his doubts about his nephew becoming a warrior, to which Sandpaw encourages him. With the rest of the Clan not entirely happy with his decision to bring Cloudkit into the Clan, Sandpaw is one of the only cats that reassures him that things will work out.
A sudden attack on the camp by Brokenstar and the other rogues has the Clan in a panic, to which Fireheart manages to take control of. After fighting them off, Fireheart explains to Bluestar that Sandpaw and Dustpaw fought like warriors, openly stating that they should be made warriors. With her respect growing for him, Sandstorm admits that it was Fireheart that really helped the Clan.
“Sandpaw and Dustpaw fought like warriors when Brokentail attacked. We would have been in much more trouble without their strength and courage.”
“Fireheart’s the one who saved the Clan.”
While it’s a detail that might be skipped over by many, their similar personalities and mutual confidence in one another show most prominently in this conversation, allowing them to lean on each other in times that support may be needed, even without question. This support is consistent throughout the rest of the book, with the hardships of leaf-bare causing more stress within the Clan. Fireheart makes it clear that he takes his friendship with the newly-named Sandstorm seriously, especially after falling out with his best friend Graystripe.
Forest of Secrets is the first indication of Sandstorm possibly wanting to become more to Fireheart. She is curious about where he is going after the gathering, and Fireheart even acknowledges that she might ask to go along, prompting him to lie to her to prevent her from getting involved as well as giving her an excuse to give to Bluestar.
Fireheart speaks to Ravenpaw to get more information regarding Tigerclaw’s traitorous actions, but when he returns, he finds that while Sandstorm gave Tigerclaw his message, Tigerclaw does not believe him. Weighed down by his punishment and the recent events, Fireheart promises to speak to Sandstorm later, to which she responds by moving to sit beside him to offer some comfort.
This theme of Sandstorm comforting Fireheart is one of the staples of their relationship, and we start to see their relationship naturally evolve from there. Fireheart, however, is mostly oblivious to Sandstorm’s push for more than friendship, and it is only when Cinderpelt points it out that he takes more notice of it. Unlike his relationship with Spottedleaf, we actually get to see how Sandstorm makes him feel, and the feelings he might actually share.
The major difference between the two is the role that Sandstorm plays leading up to this: she starts as Fireheart’s enemy, gradually becomes his friend, and eventually becomes something more. Unlike Spottedleaf, she was a character that stood on her own and was not introduced with the sole purpose of becoming Fireheart’s love interest.
Her loyalty to him is showed many times: When she chose to trust him over her Clan leader in A Dangerous Path, and had faith that he was making the best choices he could when it came to putting the Clan before himself. She was a strong character that stayed faithful to Fireheart throughout the time that they were together, even with the knowledge that he still held a special bond with Spottedleaf. The slow build-up of their relationship shows a more realistic side of couples with doubts, comfort, and love involved. In the end, they are one of the most developed and healthy couples in the series, and that is what kept them together from A Dangerous Path onwards.
Finally, we will be focusing on the relationship between Firestar and Cinderpelt; the one-sided relationship that, while not developed in the same way as Firestar and Sandstorm, is still more realistic and referenced more than Firestar and Spottedleaf.
They start off as mentor and apprentice, with Cinderpaw more than excited to learn all she can from Fireheart. Because of her eager and borderline rambunctious nature, Fireheart has a bit more trouble as a mentor. Their closeness in age makes them more like close friends, which is mostly where the relationship is able to grow.
Now, the Erins revealed that Cinderpelt had been in love with Firestar from the moment she became his apprentice. As we saw before, the Erins aren’t all that great at “love at first sight” romance, which rarely ever works out to begin with. But even without needing to be told, the books do offer plenty of evidence to their relationship—or, at least, Cinderpelt’s feelings towards Firestar.
The kind of devotion that Cinderpaw has for her mentor is very clear from the beginning, as she’s always trying to please him in one way or another. She has a deep respect for him and doesn’t seem to care where he came from, unlike Sandpaw and Dustpaw when he first came to the Clan. There are many times throughout Fire and Ice that she approaches Fireheart for the sole purpose of getting his approval, to which Fireheart reflects on Cinderpaw herself.
After Cinderpaw is hit on the thunderpath, feelings between the two intensify; Fireheart, feeling like he is at fault for her accident, tries to deny the fact that she will never be a warrior. He desperately tries to assure himself that everything would be alright again, but with her accident and Yellowfang’s confirmation, Fireheart’s confidence as both a friend and a mentor is broken.
He divides his duties to be able to keep visiting her, and there as a constant source of comfort as the reality of her situation sets in. Cinderpaw manages to put on a brave face, but even Fireheart can see through it, and those feelings of guilt still hold him down when he considers that his apprentice will never become a warrior or share in any of the experiences he has. Still, he encourages her, hoping to keep her from falling into a constant state of sadness.
“Fireheart couldn’t bear to see her in such low spirits. ‘I’ll take you out into the forest again,’ he promised. ‘We’ll find the oldest, slowest mouse in the woods. It won’t stand a chance against you’” (Fire and Ice, p. 126).
This kind of encouragement is what keeps Cinderpaw going. When Yellowfang asks if Cinderpaw would like to become ThunderClan’s next medicine cat, she is overwhelmed with joy. Fireheart is delighted for her, but can’t help but wonder what would have happened if things were different. With Cinderpaw training to become a medicine cat, some of the weight has been lifted from his shoulders, but he is still focused on the “what-ifs.”
With the change of Cinderpaw’s status, Fireheart has to face the reality that she will be going on a different path than him.
“Fireheart watched her go, his heart heavy. He knew his friend was at the beginning of a new and happier life, but all the same he could not stifle a pang of bittersweet regret for the life that could have been hers” (Forest of Secrets, p. 141).
Previously, Cinderpaw had mostly been referred to as Fireheart’s apprentice. But with this change, Fireheart really begins to consider her a friend alongside Sandstorm and Graystripe. In my opinion, this is the moment that really changes things for Fireheart; It is where he begins to move on with Sandstorm, and Cinderpaw starts to separate from him. Their relationship is never quite the same after this, since Cinderpaw now has a different destiny, and Fireheart is no longer as concerned about her as he was before.
By the fourth book, we see Fireheart unintentionally putting distance between himself and the newly-named Cinderpelt. With his attention being focused on his duties as deputy and his friendship with Sandstorm, he no longer gives her such close attention. We see the sharper side to Cinderpelt, influenced by Yellowfang, as she attempts to help Fireheart and push him in the right direction. She is the one that points out Sandstorm’s affection for him, but we are finally given a glimpse of Cinderpelt’s true feelings when she and Sandstorm are within the same space.
“Both she-cats were being very polite to each other, but somehow Fireheart felt it wouldn’t take much for them to unsheathe their claws. […] Fireheart felt completely baffled by the tension that had chilled the air. ‘I’ll see to it right away.’
‘Good.’ Cinderpelt gave him a curt nod, and Fireheart felt her blue gaze trained on his back all the way across the clearing” (A Dangerous Path, p. 62)
With the tension building between the two, it was easy to figure out what had been building over four books. Cinderpelt still pushed him towards Sandstorm, though—encouraged him to act on his feelings rather than hold himself back with memories of Spottedleaf. She pushed away her own feelings in order for him to be happy, which honestly takes a great amount of strength to do. While Spottedleaf claimed that Firestar was meant to be with Sandstorm, she still had an unhealthy infatuation with him despite the reality that they would never be together.
When Leafpool is caught meeting with Crowfeather, she defends herself by stating that Cinderpelt had never loved anyone, and because of that, she could not understand Leafpool’s feelings. Cinderpelt, of course, does not reveal the truth to Leafpool, which must have been quite hard considering how long she has held this secret without telling anyone. She was truly selfless, and her love and devotion to Firestar allowed her to stand back and let him be happy, even if it wasn’t with her.
Honestly, it is hard to say who was more devoted to Firestar. On an extreme level, some may say Spottedleaf, with her story only revolving around her supposed love for Firestar. When speaking about loyalty and faith, it would be Sandstorm, as she stood by his side through hard times and grew with him through those challenges that they faced. The most tragic might be Cinderpelt, who basically gave up everything in order for her everything to be happy.
All three of these cats have expressed love towards Firestar in different ways, which does make it interesting to delve into. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot accept Firestar and Spottedleaf as a realistic, healthy couple, and I know that Firestar and Cinderpelt might not have worked out, even if her accident had never happened. The fact that Sandstorm has stood by him his whole life with unwavering loyalty pretty much speaks for itself, and while some may argue one couple over another, it is really up to those people to decide which kind of love is more important.