Jack Frost is a spirited elf who brings frost and snow to the world each winter. He has a playful, impish nature, and his deliveries of wintry weather may be frustrating to adults at times, but they are a delight to children everywhere.
Quick Facts about Jack Frost
- Jack Frost is a mischievous, elf-like character who often works at night to bring snow and winter.
- His origins are unclear, and he may have sprung from Norse Mythology, 16th or 17th century Britain or somewhere else.
- He first began to appear regularly in 1700s literature.
- There are many depictions of him in modern media, and in almost all of them he wears some combination of blue and grey clothing.
What does Jack Frost look like?
Jack Frost is usually depicted as an almost elf-like character who has magical powers to create winter. He can be portrayed as young or old, and in modern media is almost always seen wearing some combination of blue and grey clothing. Sometimes he can be seen with icicles hanging off of him, or icicle-like features.
Jack Frost’s main ability is to bring about winter, snow or frost. In literature, he works to do so at night. In modern media he can also freeze objects, make and throw snowballs magically, and sometimes even fly.
Where did Jack Frost originate from?
Unfortunately the origins of this fanciful and well known character aren’t extremely clear. There have been many winter or frost gods in mythologies spanning back to Ancient Greece. In ancient Greek Mythology, there were four wind gods, known as Anemoi. Boreas was known as the winged god of the north wind. At the onset of winter, he would fly out of the mountains of a region called Thrace, located to the northeast of Greece, and he would bring winter with him with him.
In Celtic lore, the Cailleach, or hag, was born on Samhain (All Hallow’s Eve) and she brought winter until she was defeated in early spring by a goddess named Brigid, or Là Fhèill Brìghde.
There are several theories about the direct origins of Jack Frost. Some sources believe that he has direct roots that stem from Norse mythology. In Norse mythology, there were two frost giants, one named ‘jokul’ and one named ‘frosti’. There is not a tremendous amount of evidence to support this theory, but it is certainly possible.
Another theory states that his origins lie in 16th century England. In stories, Jack Frost is often described as mischievous as he works his frigid magic. This mischievous nature possibly originated from the similar mischievious nature of elves, pixies and gnomes of British and Celtic folklore. It also is a plausible theory, again with little hard evidence to support it.
Jack Frost in Literature and Media
Jack Frost began to appear in literature and poetry frequently in the late 1700s and particularly the 1800s. In 1832, a poet named Hannah Gould wrote a poem that detailed Jack Frost’s work and wintry capabilities. Below is the first stanza of her poem titled ‘Jack Frost’, which incorporates the idea that he works at night:
THE Frost looked forth, one still, clear night,
And he said, “Now I shall be out of sight;
So through the valley and over the height
In silence I ’ll take my way.
I will not go like that blustering train,
The wind and the snow, the hail and the rain,<
Who make so much bustle and noise in vain,
But I ’ll be as busy as they!”
Another well known poem titled ‘Little Jack Frost. A Rhyme for Flossie.’ was written by a man named Charles Sangster, and was published in a New York magazine called The Aldine in 1875. In it, it is once again apparent that Jack Frost is out and causing mischief at night, causing leaves to freeze and playing other pranks. Below is the first stanza of that poem:
Little Jack Frost went up the hill.
Watching the stars so cold and chill,
Watching the stars and the moon so bright.
And laughing aloud like a crazy wight.
As television became popular, Jack Frost began appearing in movies or television specials that over the years have become winter classics. In 1979, he appeared in a movie with a title of his own name, and is a winter elf or sprite with pointy ears and a pointy hat. Recently, a television show called ‘Rise of the Guardians’, has a boy named Jack Frost as the main hero. Once a boy, he acquires similar powers to the Jack Frost found in literature, with additional powers such as the power to change images in windows and fire wintry ice bolts.