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The Origins of Jack Frost

Updated on December 17, 2015

Jack Frost the Personification of Winter

Jack Frost is a figure that parents, for countless generations, have loved to tell their children about. Jack Frost is the impish character who personifies winter; and is the wintry figure who decorates surfaces with intricate patterns of ice, and is the person who makes noses tingle in the cold weather.

Despite his continued popularity, Jack Frost is not a modern character, and the origins of Jack Frost can be traced back hundreds of years to Scandinavian mythology.

The Origins of Jack Frost

The roots of Jack Frost, as a mythological figure, are generally thought to be in Norse or Viking mythology; with the name Jack Frost an anglicised version of Jokil Frosti, Jokil meaning Icicle, and Frosti, obviously being Frost.

In Norse and Viking mythology, Jack Frost is thought of as the son of Kari, the god of wind. The appearances of Jack Frost in Scandinavian mythology though, are brief and not very specific about the characteristics of the figure.

Similarly, tales of Jack Frost in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic mythology, are likewise short on details, although the closeness of Germanic mythology to Norse mythology, makes this unsurprising.

Other Personifications of Winter

Jack Frost is not the only personification of winter; and Old Man Winter or Father Winter, are terms used historically in the English language, although their use is rarer than that of Jack Frost. Old Man Winter, in particular, is not thought of as a fun or mischievous figure, but rather a stubborn one, where winter refuses to give way to spring.

Further a field in Russia, there is also a personification of winter that comes in the form of Father or Grandfather Frost, a figure who works with ice and water to sculpt the earth.

Many civilisations have had a figure that is associated with cold weather, but into the modern day, most of these figures are now linked together as Jack Frost, and characters who existed before are all but forgotten.

Jack and Jack Frost

Breetroad CC-BY-SA-3.0 Deviantart
Breetroad CC-BY-SA-3.0 Deviantart | Source

Modern Day Interpretations of Jack Frost

The lack of specifics about the characteristics of Jack Frost in European mythology has ensured a more modern take on the figure.

Jack Frost is now, almost universally, depicted as youthful boy of elfish origins, who is definitely mischievous in nature. This modern depiction can be traced back to a starting point of 1864, when the artist, Thomas Nast, painted Jack Frost as an icicle clad figure for Harper’s Weekly.

In modern stories, Jack Frost can be simply portrayed as the bringer of ice, with his character being anything from an impish joker, through to a vicious sprite.

Jack Frost has famously appeared alongside Rupert the Bear, where he is a relatively friendly character; and the British comic strip even deigned to provide Jack with a sister, Jenny Frost.

More recently, Jack Frost has also appeared on the big screen, and is the central character in the Rise of the Guardians, where Jack Frost is the “Guardian of Fun”. In this version of the origin of Jack Frost, Jack is a boy made immortal after his selfless sacrifice, and can now manipulate ice and snow.

For parents though, the actual origin of Jack Frost does not matter, as the idea of Jack Frost allows for much fun to be had when winter arrives.

Jack Frost and Polar Bear

Breetroad CC-BY-SA-3.0
Breetroad CC-BY-SA-3.0 | Source

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  • Colin Quartermain profile image
    Author

    Colin Quartermain 2 years ago

    Thanks Kim for taking the time to read and comment. Colin.

  • klidstone1970 profile image

    இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 2 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

    I didn't realize the origins of Jack Frost went that far back. How interesting. Of course with kids, I saw the movie about ten times :) Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed this. Best wishes, Kim