Jack Frost

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19th-century cartoon depicting Jack Frost as a United States major-general during the American Civil War

Jack Frost is a personification of frost, ice, snow, sleet, winter, and freezing cold. He is a variant of Old Man Winter who is held responsible for frosty weather, nipping the fingers and toes in such weather, coloring the foliage in autumn, and leaving fern-like patterns on cold windows in winter.

Starting in late 19th century literature, more developed characterizations of Jack Frost depict him as a sprite-like character, sometimes appearing as a sinister mischief-maker or as a hero.


Frost on a window

Jack Frost is traditionally said to leave the frosty, fern-like patterns on windows on cold winter mornings (window frost or fern frost) and nipping the extremities in cold weather. Over time, window frost has become far less prevalent in the modern world due to the advance of double-glazing, but Jack Frost remains a well-known figure in popular culture. He is sometimes described or depicted with paint brush and bucket coloring the autumnal foliage red, yellow, brown, and orange.[1]


Tales of Jack Frost may originate from Anglo-Saxon and Norse winter customs. Jack has an entire chapter named after him in Kalevala, the Finnish national epic compiled from their ancient oral tradition.

There are various other mythological beings who take on a similar role yet have a unique folklore to them. In Russia, he has taken on a different form as Grandfather Frost, and in Germany there is instead a different entity altogether known as Mrs. Holle. The Hindu Kush mountain range is named after stories of a resident giant who would kill (kesh) those who attempted to pass, and has been compared to England's Jack Frost.[2][3]

The earliest reference to Jack Frost in literature[4] is in the book 'Round About Our Coal Fire, or Christmas Entertainments' published in 1734.[5]

Jack Frost is mentioned in many movies. for example, in the wintertime song "The Christmas Song" (aka "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). He has been presented as a villain in some media and a hero in others.

In popular culture[edit]


  • Hannah Flagg Gould's (1789-1865) poem "The Frost" features a mischievous being responsible for the quieter phenomena of winter, beautiful ice paintings on windows but who also got upset at lack of gifts and caused the cold to break and ruin things.[6]
  • In Margaret T. Canby's "Birdie and His Fairy Friends" (1874), there is a short story titled "The Frost Fairies." In this story, Jack Frost is the king of the Winter Spirits and is described as a kind fellow who wants to help children, whereas a king of a neighboring kingdom, King Winter, is cruel to them. The story tells the origins of how Jack Frost began to oversee the coloring of the leaves of the forest in fall.
  • In Charles Sangster's "Little Jack Frost", published in The Aldine, (Vol.7, No.16, 1875) Jack Frost is a playful being who runs around playing pranks and 'nose-biting', coating places with snow before being chased off by Dame Nature for spring.[7]
  • In L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902), Jack Frost is the son of the otherwise unnamed Frost King. He takes pleasure in nipping "scores of noses and ears and toes", but Santa Claus, who likes Jack (who he sees as a "jolly rogue") though he mistrusts him, asks him to spare the children. Jack says he will, if he can resist the temptation. The same Jack appears in "The Runaway Shadows", a short story by Baum. In this story, he has the power to freeze shadows, separating them from their owners, making them their own living entities.[citation needed]
  • In Laurell K. Hamilton's Meredith Gentry series, a character emerges as the original Jack Frost.
  • Jack Frost has appeared as a minor character in the Rupert Bear stories.
  • In the Rainbow Magic books by Daisy Meadows, Jack Frost is an antagonist who causes trouble in Fairyland. He is accompanied by pesky goblins who steal the fairies' important objects, and try to sabotage them.
  • Jack Frost also appears in "First Death in Nova Scotia", a poem by Elizabeth Bishop.
  • In the novel Hogfather by Terry Pratchett, Jack grows tired of "fern patterns" and paints more elaborate pictures on windows.
  • Jack Frost appears in The Veil trilogy of novels by Christopher Golden.
  • The Man Jack, an enigmatic assassin, calls himself Jack Frost in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
  • The Stranger, a picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, stars Jack Frost as a lonely stranger with amnesia.
  • In Amy Wilson's The Lost Frost Girl, Jack Frost’s daughter Owl discovers powers she’s inherited from Jack and ventures into the world of the fae.[8]



Radio, animation, and television[edit]

Video games[edit]

Jack Frost has appeared in many video games including:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bartholomew F. Bland, Laura L. Vookles, William H. Gerdts, Laura L. Vookles. (2010) Paintbox Leaves: Autumnal Inspiration from Cole to Wyeth. Hudson River Museum. p. 41. ISBN 0943651301.Tveten, John L. and Gloria Tveten. (2008). Nature at Your Doorstep: A Nature Trails Book. Texas A&M University Press. p. 47. ISBN 1603440364.
  2. ^ “The Upper Basin of the Kabul River,” C. R. Markham. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography New Monthly Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Feb., 1879), pp. 110-121.
  3. ^ Rollo's Museum. Jacob Abbott. Boston, Weeks, Jordan, and Company. 1839, p. 185.
  4. ^ Chamberlain, Rebecca. "Where did Jack come from? The origin of Jack Frost". RLC words. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  5. ^ Round About Our Coal Fire, or Christmas Entertainments (PDF) (4th ed.). London. 1734. p. 6. Retrieved 17 December 2020.
  6. ^ Griswold, Rufus Wilmot (26 November 2018). "The Female Poets of America: By Rufus Wilmont Griswold". Ardent Media – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Charles Sangster (April 1875). "Little Jack Frost. A Rhyme for Flossie". The Aldine. 7 (16): 308. doi:10.2307/20636992. JSTOR 20636992.
  8. ^ Wilson, Amy (2017). The Lost Frost Girl. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN 978-0062671486.
  9. ^ "DreamWorks Adapting Upcoming Book Series The Guardians".

External links[edit]