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. Sometimes he is portrayed as a dangerous giant:
The Hindus derive the name of Hindu Kush from the tradition that a giant used to lie there in wait to kill (kesh) all the Hindus who passed that way. This giant was probably the same whom we, in the Arctic Regions, used to call “Old Zero,” better known in England as “Jack Frost.” The horrors of the snow-covered wastes probably gave rise to the tradition."
He may originate from Anglo-Saxon and Norse winter customs and has an entire chapter named after him in Kalevala, the Finnish national epic compiled from their ancient oral tradition.
In Russia however, he has taken on a different form as Grandfather Frost, and in Germany there is instead a different entity altogether known as Mrs. Holle. There are various other mythological beings who take on a similar role yet have different folklore to them.
Jack Frost has appeared as a character in television and movies. He was mentioned 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
Window with frost patterns
Jack Frost pattern on window in Gatineau, Quebec
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.
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.
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.
Jack Frost is one of the co-stars of the 2002 novel Jill Chill and the Baron of Glacier Mountain, written by Ed McCray with artwork by George Broderick, Jr. Jack is portrayed as Jill Chill's boyfriend.
William Joyce's Guardians of Childhood series features Jack Frost as a character, here known by the full name Jackson Overland Frost. He is the subject of the picture book The Guardians of Childhood: Jack Frost which depicts him as having been previously known as Nightlight, guardian of the Man in the Moon. Jack Frost will also be the focus of the upcoming fifth Guardians novel, Jack Frost: The End Becomes the Beginning.
Jack Frost also features in Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
In a Sunday edition of the Hi and Lois comic strip, father Hi, teen-aged son Chip, and young son Ditto are driving to the garden center one Sunday afternoon in late autumn. Ditto asks his father why leaves change color in the fall. "Well," says Hi, "there's actually a very interesting story behind that..." However, Chip interrupts and gives Ditto the correct scientific explanation as to why leaves change color, which he learned in high school. In the final panel, later that night, a dejected Hi muses to his wife Lois, "I wanted to tell him about Jack Frost and his magic palette."
Jack Frost appears in the 2009 comic book Jill Chill & The Christmas Star by Ed McCray and George Broderick Jr., a sequel to the Jill Chill illustrated novel mentioned above. This is a traditional representation of Jack Frost as a teenager.
Jack Frost appears as the protagonist of Rise of the Guardians, loosely based on the series Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, voiced by Chris Pine. Jack Frost is getting tired of being unseen and is suddenly forced to join the Guardians (which consists of Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and the Easter Bunny) to defeat the Boogeyman (aka Pitch Black). This version of Frost is portrayed as a fun-loving teenage boy who has no interest in being bound by rules or obligations and just wants to use his magical staff to spread his winter magic for the sake of his amusement, and for the amusement of others.
Radio, animation, and television
Prior to the popularity of television, Jack Frost appeared in the children's radio serial The Cinnamon Bear.
Jack Frost reappears at the end of the Rankin/Bass TV special Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July voiced again by Paul Frees. He helped Rudolph bring Frosty the Snowman and his family back to life after they melted.
In another Rankin/Bass TV special produced in 1979, Jack Frost, the title character (voiced by Robert Morse) falls in love with a human girl and seeks to become human. Father Winter grants his wish, but tells him that if he does not have a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by "the first sign of spring" he will become a sprite again.
Jack Frost appears in the American Dragon: Jake Long episode "Eye of the Beholder" voiced by Jonathan Freeman. This version is depicted as a big blue man in a Hawaiian shirt. He appears as a judge of Eli Pandarus' beauty contest alongside Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
The pilot episode of BBC comedy series The Mighty Boosh features a frightening villain called 'Black Frost', played by Dave Brown. Black Frost lives in the Arctic tundra, where he freezes to death anyone he meets. A woodcut of Black Frost is presented to show that he is an ancient legend.
^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. ISBN0943651301.Tveten, John L. and Gloria Tveten. (2008). Nature at Your Doorstep: A Nature Trails Book. Texas A&M University Press. p. 47. ISBN1603440364.
^“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.
^Rollo's Museum. Jacob Abbott. Boston, Weeks, Jordan, and Company. 1839, p. 185.