I think that 99.99% of us can agree that The Rise of the Guardians was an awesome and under-appreciated film. I mean, on Monday, we listed out just five of the billions of reasons why this movie is phenomenal. The elves, the character design, the animation, the music, the fan art… Who couldn’t love this movie?
For me, Jack Frost is what makes this movie. He is funny, but you get such a deep and personal compassion for him by seeing his past, his loneliness, and his tragic death.
So I began to wonder: Who is Jack Frost really? We all know that a majority of animated movies are derived from fairy tales or folklore of some sort, but they never really stay true to the original story. When I was little, Jack Frost was that guy who drew pictures on the windows. In this movie, he is a Guardian who fights away the darkness.
But where did his tale come from? That was what Jack Frost wondered in the movie, and we got the DreamWorks version of his tale, but in our world, where did his story come from?
So I decided to do some research.
Jack Frost never really had his own personal story, so DreamWorks embellished that, but his name was simply used throughout tales, poems, and songs to personify winter. He would create those fern-like spirals on our windows, and would chill you in the winter. Sometimes, he walked around, paintbrush in hand, painting autumnal leaves in various fiery shades. With few obligations, he was able to flourish in these departments.
He was usually depicted as some sort of sprite or elf (although nothing like the elves in TRotG) and, while it is uncertain where exactly his origins came from, evidence points to Scandinavia, where the winters are cold, and Norsefrost giants were prevalent in myths. Some tales claim that he is related to said giants, who were responsible for glaciers, avalanches, ice caps, and frozen rivers (so pretty much our TRotG Jack but on steroids and with slightly more devious intentions.)
However, Jack Frost was never a human, and was never changed into a magical, snowy man by the moon (sorry.) Usually, he was seen as an old man, and only occasionally he was a child or teenager. His mother is thought to be Kari, the Norse god of the winds. Her son was named Jokul Frosti (which literally means frosty icicle) and it is believed that the name Jack Frost is just a modernized spin on this.
Other myths claim differently. In Russia, he was known as Father Frost, who was a blacksmith, forging chains to bind the Earth and it’s waters together (I know, weird, right?)
And in Germanic folklore, they instead have Old Mother Frost, who was a white-haired crone, who shook out a feather blanket to create snow.
DreamWorks did get Jack’s personality correct though (well, at least similar to the Jack represented in English folklore.) He is said to be happy-go-lucky, and whimsically decorates the world for us in wintry shades with utter happiness. DreamWorks does show the deeper side to Jack as well, but this is at least what you see for the majority of the movie (think of North’s Russian nesting dolls… This is just one part of his personality.)
Some myths show a more evil side of the normally mischievous, happy Jack however. If you anger him, he might just suffocate you to death with snow (definitely a departure here.)
Jack Frost has sustained himself throughout history, and TRotG wasn’t the first time that we have seen our favorite snowy guy modernized.
In the 1979 stop-motion film, Jack Frost, the tale is narrated by a talking groundhog (wow…)
In the 1998 film, Jack Frost we see a father who dies too young and returns as a snowman to spend time with his son (weird…)
In The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, a jealous Jack hijacks Christmas to become more popular than Santa (lame!)
In Jack Frost and Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a serial killer turns into a snowman and continues to murder people (now this is just ridiculous!)
So Jack Frost has been seen as a completely different character throughout history. But in TRotG, you can see that his best traits were chosen, and that might have been his best depiction to date.
To hear more about Jack Frost, listen to The Rotoscopers podcast about The Rise of the Guardians this Friday! Let us know in the comments below what you think about Jack and his different depictions throughout history.
Disclaimer: I have never seen the 1998 Jake Frost or the killer Jack Frost movies, so I don’t know if those pictures are correct. All of my other sources are good though!