TAYLOR: No, no, Patty, you’re wrong. They built the fire to throw themselves on it when their families found them.
MISS PATTY: Taylor, you’re crazy! They built the fire so that they could stay warm their first night here.
TAYLOR: Patty, I am the recording secretary for the Stars Hollow City Council. I think I know how my town was founded!
Lighting a bonfire in the town square is the central focus of the Founders Firelight Festival. It seems to stem from a large fire made by the star-lit young lovers whom the town views as the founders – an earthly star to mimic the ones in the night sky.
However, the reason for the fire doesn’t seem to be known for sure. Miss Patty says they lit the fire to stay warm on a cold night, which sounds perfectly reasonable. However, Taylor believes that they lit the fire so that if their families tracked them down, they could throw themselves on it and burn themselves to death rather than be separated again.
The death-by-fire theory doesn’t seem very sensible (there are quicker and less painful ways to kill yourself, for a start), but it is a reminder of the mutual death met by those star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. It also shows the darker side of love, a fire that can burn and destroy as well as fill you with a warm glow.
It begs the question: does Stars Hollow commemorate a pair of lovers who found each other, and stayed happily together all their lives, or a pair of lovers who found each other, only to kill themselves to make sure they could never be parted again? Miss Patty’s story doesn’t tell us, as it ends with the boy and girl finding each other – what happened after that is never explained.
We probably presume they stayed together, and they and their descendants founded the town (hopefully joined by other like-minded folks at some point, or else the whole town came from the loins of two people, Adam and Eve style).
The alternative is that the town was founded by the grieving friends and family of the lovers, who regretted that they had driven them to suicide, and honoured their memory by founding Stars Hollow (like the Montagues and Capulets coming together after the death of Romeo and Juliet).
Is Stars Hollow a town built on romance and reunion, or grief and guilt? On life and love, or death and darkness? Whether Stars Hollow is magic or tragic seems to be a matter for debate, adding a gloomy lining to the silvery fairy tale of the star-blessed lovers.