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Father Time

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A 19th-century Father Time with Baby New Year
Detail of Father Time in the Rotunda Clock (1896)
Father Time in Fountain of Time

Father Time is a personification of time. In recent centuries he is usually depicted as an elderly bearded man, sometimes with wings, dressed in a robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass or other timekeeping device.

As an image, "Father Time's origins are curious."[1] The ancient Greeks themselves began to associate chronos, their word for time, with the god Cronos, who had the attribute of a harvester's sickle. The Romans equated Cronos with Saturn, who also had a sickle, and was treated as an old man, often with a crutch. The wings and hourglass were early Renaissance additions and he eventually became a companion of the Grim Reaper, personification of Death, often taking his scythe. He may have as an attribute a snake with its tail in its mouth, an ancient Egyptian symbol of eternity.[2]

Father Time on an Irish memorial stone, displaying an empty hourglass to a mourning widow

New Year[edit]

Around New Year's Eve, the media (in particular editorial cartoons) use the convenient trope[3] of Father Time as the personification of the previous year (or "the Old Year") who typically "hands over" the duties of time to the equally allegorical Baby New Year (or "the New Year") or who otherwise characterizes the preceding year.[4][5] In these depictions, Father Time is usually depicted wearing a sash with the old year's date on it.

Time (in his allegorical form) is often depicted revealing or unveiling the allegorical Truth, sometimes at the expense of a personification of Falsehood, Fraud, or Envy. This theme is related to the idea of veritas filia temporis (Time is the father of Truth).

In the arts[edit]

Father Time is an established symbol in numerous cultures and appears in a variety of art and media. In some cases, they appear specifically as Father Time while in other cases they may have another name (such as Saturn), but the characters demonstrate the attributes which Father Time has acquired over the centuries.


Chronos and his child by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli, National Museum in Warsaw, is a 17th-century depiction of Titan Cronus as "Father Time" wielding the harvesting scythe
Father Time statue atop a grave at Mount Moriah Cemetery


  • Old Father Time appears in the fantasy novel series Nightside by Simon R. Green, as an elderly character tending to peoples' needs for time travel—and in some cases—guidance.
  • Father Time appears in the fairy tale themed short story, written by L. Frank Baum. Entitled "The Capture of Father Time". That Father Time was captured by the son of an Arizonian cowboy named Jim because of his foolishness.
  • Time is one of the Incarnations of Immortality in Piers Anthony's series of the same name. Time (also referred to as "Chronos") appears in several of the books and is the main character of Bearing an Hourglass. For most of the series he appears as a middle-aged man in a blue robe (which has the power to age to oblivion anything which attacks him) and bearing an hourglass which he can use to control the flow of time and move through both time and space.
  • Father Time is painted in the ceiling of the dungeon, in the Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Pit and the Pendulum".
  • In Mitch Albom's book The Time Keeper, Dor, the central character, is Father Time. He is freed from exile and sent to Earth on the condition that he teaches two people on Earth the true importance of time, a teenage girl who does not wish to live anymore, and a dying old billionaire who wishes to live forever.
  • Father Time is a character in Jude the Obscure, a novel by Thomas Hardy. Father Time is the name given to Jude Fawley's son, who is dreadfully melancholy and commits suicide at a young age.
  • Father Time also appeared in C. S. Lewis' novels The Silver Chair and The Last Battle which are the final two novels (chronologically) in the series The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, he is referred to as Time and is responsible for making the Hatter and his friends to have an endless tea party as punishment.

Business and industry[edit]

  • Father Time was the logo for the Elgin Watch Company. Notable in the logo was that Father Time had switched out his traditional hourglass for a watch.

Comics, magazines and periodicals[edit]

  • Father Time made numerous appearances in the classic comic Little Nemo in Slumberland, both as a general representation of time and as a symbol of the new year.[21][22]
  • A Norman Rockwell painting of Father Time appeared on 31 December 1910 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.
  • Father Time is a recurring character in Tatsuya Ishida's webcomic Sinfest, often appearing as an infant immediately on or after the Western New Year, and as an old man fated to die during the end of the year.
  • Father Time appears in Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman: Overture, depicted as father to the Endless – seven embodiments of natural forces – through marriage to Mother Night.

Film and television[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall, 119
  2. ^ Hall, 119-120
  3. ^ Mike Luckovich Copyright 2010 Creators Syndicate. "Father time takes a beating – Foreign Relations Political and Editorial Cartoons". The Week. Retrieved 12 August 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "The Father Time Comics and Cartoons – Cartoonist Group – Lisa Benson's Editorial Cartoons". Cartoonist Group. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  5. ^ dePIXion studios www.depixion.com. "AAEC – Political Cartoons". Editorialcartoonists.com. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  6. ^ "An Allegory of Truth and Time". Royal Collection Trust. 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Museo Nacional del Prado: On-line gallery". Museodelprado.es. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  8. ^ "A Dance to the Music of Time". The Wallace Collection. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  9. ^ "Theodoor van Thulden: Time Revealing Truth, c. 1650". Vivat! Crescat! Floreat!. 11 January 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Time Reveals the Truth. The Allegory". Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Sebastiano Ricci Belluno 1659-1734 Venice". Christie's. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Time Unveiling Truth". The National Gallery. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  13. ^ "Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy". The Wallace Collection. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Truth Unveiled by Time - Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati - Musei Civici Vicenza". www.museicivicivicenza.it. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  15. ^ Plock, Phillippa (2011). "Time Uncovering Truth". Waddesdon Collection. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  16. ^ "Time Unveiling Truth". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Truth, Time and History". Nationalmuseum. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  18. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Clock with Father Time". Metmuseum.org. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  19. ^ "The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Father Time on a Globe; Design for a Clock". Metmuseum.org. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  20. ^ "Truth Revealed by Time | Galleria Borghese - Sito ufficiale". galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  21. ^ "Digital Collection of Classic Comic Strips". Comic Strip Library. 31 December 1905. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  22. ^ "Digital Collection of Classic Comic Strips". Comic Strip Library. 29 December 1907. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  • Hall, James, Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art, 1996 (2nd edn.), John Murray, ISBN 0719541476

External links[edit]