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Taking Inventory: Torch

Light Up Your Life

Starting a new world in Minecraft is always exciting. What biome will you spawn in? Is there a village nearby? Where’s the nearest source of wood? It’s always tempting to explore a bit before deciding where to put down roots. But if you explore too long, you’ll run out of perhaps the most important first-day resource of all: daylight.

As the sun sets for the first time in a new game, it’s common for players to duck into a cave or dig a hole in the ground to shelter from the zombies, skeletons and creepers that come out at night. To keep the monsters from coming in, they wall up the entrance. Too late, they realise that they forgot to gather coal or smelt up some charcoal to make a torch, and they’re forced to sit in the darkness for the whole night, listening to the moans of the zombies and the rattle of skeleton bones.

Those who did prepare for the first night will have a handful of torches in their inventory. Torches can be stuck to walls or placed on top of a block, and will spread light to its environment, as well as melt any ice within three blocks or snow within two blocks. They’re made with sticks and either coal or charcoal, but torches can also be found and “borrowed” (you’ll bring them back, right?) from villages, strongholds, abandoned mineshafts, igloos and woodland mansions.

Torches originally came to Minecraft after a suggestion from Syrion on the Tigsource forums. They were added in December 2009, and haven’t changed much since. The neatest trick with torches is that they can be used to quickly clear sand or gravel when you’re mining – when a falling sand or gravel block hits a torch, it’ll pop off into a pick-uppable form, saving lots of shovelling time.

Real-world torches work in much the same way as the ones in Minecraft, except that they eventually burn out. The earliest evidence of controlled fire is found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, dating back to about a million years ago. But the controlled use of fire didn’t become widespread until 500000 to 100000 years ago. Torches – sticks with combustible material on one end – no doubt followed soon after.

Torches are a common symbol of hope and enlightenment. The Statue of Liberty, in the bay of New York, holds a torch aloft to welcome immigrants arriving from abroad. The Olympic Torch travels from Olympia in Greece to the venue of the Olympic Games every four years. Torches are frequently used in religious rituals, and in ancient Rome and Greece they were used to symbolise love.

So the next time that you’re hosting a Minecraft wedding, have your guests carry torches to symbolise the undying light of love (and here’s another handy wedding tip: DON’T FORGET TO INVITE ME). Or use torches to bless your mining cavern in the hope of discovering more diamonds. Or just stick them on your walls so you don’t have to spend the night in the dark. Your call, really.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere

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