The name Jack Frost conjures up one of two images: a grey haired, curmudgeonly Detective Inspector or a mystical figure that personifies winter. Unlike the detective, whom we all know is a creation of R.D. Wingfield and ITV, not many of us can claim to know about the origins of the wintry ice man.

Winter is a period of freezing temperatures, so it comes as no surprise to learn that Jack Frost is a mix of several characters, such as its Russian counterpart, Father Frost, and Jokul Frosti, a legendary Norse character.

Jack Frost’s magical powers involve the manipulation of the elements of winter, creating extreme cold and bitter winds, frosty precipitations like snow and sleet and even the icy patterns on windows in snowflakes are believed to be his work. In some tales, the ‘sprite,’ as he’s known to many, is responsible for painting tree leaves with the colors of autumn and winter.

Jack FrostThe Scandinavian originating tale has been spoken about for generations, and today he is still used as a warning to children to “wrap up warm, Jack frost is about.”

Looking back over history we find that the depiction of Jack Frost varies from country to country. Modern day Jack, however, can be traced back not to mythology, but to an 1864 edition of Harper’s Weekly, in which popular artist Thomas Nast painted Jack Frost as an icicle-clad general serving in the American Civil War. This image seems to have stood the test of time.

In modern tales Jack Frost is said to:

  • pepper the world with snow
  • come after children’s fingers and toes
  • blanket the ground with diamonds

But in some tales he isn’t such a cheeky, impish sprite who brings ice and snow, but is actually an evil, vicious joker, who brings hardship and terror to people.

So strong is his notoriety that over the years Jack Frost has made an appearance alongside Rupert the Bear, with a sister known as Jenny Frost, and he has even been honoured with a Hollywood movie made in his name.

But whatever the memories or feelings evoked by the name Jack Frost, the one thing to be sure of is, it represents the change in the season from autumn to chilly, icy winter.

[Photo by Heather Silvey]