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Jack Frost

A popular personification of frost. Frost is the name of a dwarf in the Scandinavian mythology, and it is suggested that our nursery hero Jack Frost may be derived from that source. — Webster, 1882

In the mornings the window panes were covered with frost in beautiful pictures of trees and flowers and fairies. / Ma said that Jack Frost came in the night and made the pictures, while everyone was asleep. Laura thought that Jack Frost was a little man all snowy white, wearing a glittering white pointed cap and soft white knee-boots made of deer skin. His coat was white and his mittens were white, and he did not carry a gun on his back, but in his hands he had shining sharp tools with which he carved the pictures. -Little House in the Big Woods, Chapter 2, “Winter Days and Winter Nights”

Thomas Nast, the artist who gave us our popular vision of Santa Claus, also gave us an early image of Jack Frost. In January 1864, Harper’s Weekly published a two-page drawing of Nast’s titled “Central Park in Winter.” Jack Frost (shown at right) appeared at the top center of the piece. It’s possible that Nast’s Jack Frost was also Laura Ingalls Wilder’s.

Jack Frost is Jokul Frosti (Icicle Frost), an elf from Scandinavian Viking legend. He traveled at night and created beautiful designs on windows, leaves, and grass. In the Little House books, he’s also said to wear white mittens. A period storybook about Jack Frost – one which Laura Ingalls Wilder may have read – is Ina Hervey’s Jack Frost, or God’s Finger in the Winter (Trenton, New Jersey: Printed for the Author, 1870), which can be found online.

If you don’t live in a frosty climate, Jack Frost can still visit, giving you a “frosty” surface on which to make pretty patterns with your thimble. All you’ll need is some beer and some Epsom salts (Magnesium sulfate). Stir Epsom salts into the beer until no more will dissolve. Then either dab the solution onto the inside of a window (or mirror, or glass from a picture frame) with a sponge, or brush it on with a wide brush. As it dries, crystals will form in lacy patterns. This “frost” is long-lasting and easily removed with water and a little scrubbing. You can also use a pencil eraser to draw pretty pictures in the frost.


Jack Frost (BW 2, 12; PG), see also frost