JACK FROST (1979), Loneliness, and the Paradox of Love
NOTE: Originally published in THE CHRISTMAS GOSPELS (2017). Photos added.
“The happiness of being me is not what it's cracked up to be. It's lonely being one of a kind.”
Distributor: Lorimar Telepictures/Warner Bros. Television
Producers: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr. Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr. Writer: Romeo Muller Runtime: 48 minutes Rating: Not Rated
Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:45-46
This lesser known Rankin/Bass special is a story of unrequited love. Jack Frost, the spirit of winter, falls in love with Elisa, a maiden who adores the season. Jack confuses her sentimentality for genuine affection, which leads him to question his happiness as a spirit. Incapable of interacting with the human world, he becomes aware of a loneliness he never felt before and sets out to become a mortal human so that he can win her hand.
Jack strikes a bargain with Father Winter, who allows him to have a “winter of humanity” with a promise that he can become mortal forever if, by the first of spring, Jack can secure “a house to shelter him, a horse to bear him, a bag of gold to sustain him, and a wife to make it worth the while." Jack is clumsy as a mortal and even slips on ice. Elisa is there to help, but this is where Jack makes his first mistake. Before his transformation, Jack saved Elisa's life from an ice drift heading towards a waterfall. He could reveal himself as Jack Frost, who saved her life, but doesn't. He pretends to be a tailor named Jack Snip, instead. His second mistake is not paying attention. Upon meeting, Elisa dismisses Jack, saying that he isn't the gold knight that she's been waiting for; she wasn't interested in Jack, but, like many young men blinded by attraction, he doesn't see that he never stood a chance.
The village is oppressed by a Cossack tyrant named Kubla Kraus who is so unlikable that he's been abandoned by all of his kin, leaving him alone in his castle with only a clockwork army and a hand puppet to keep him company. Kubla kidnaps Elisa, planning to force her into marriage, but Jack and his friends mount a rescue, joined by an actual knight in golden armor who has come home for Christmas. Enraged at having Elisa snatched from him, Kubla declares war on the village, vowing to destroy it with his clockwork army. Jack surrenders his mortality so that he can keep the castle snowbound using his powers. He saves the village, but this gives Elisa and the knight time to fall in love.
Within an hour of spring, Jack has claimed his gold, house, and horse by defeating Kubla, so Father Winter lets him be a human a little bit longer to marry Elisa. Sadly, it's too late, and he arrives just in time for Elisa and the Knight to be wed. The clock chimes noon on the first day of spring and Jack fades back into the realm of the ethereal as his one, true love marries another man. He blows a whisper of frost across Elisa's bouquet, which she recognizes as a kiss from an old friend, and he flies back into the sky. The show ends with a joyful homecoming for Jack in the clouds to distract us from the sad ending. Jack's sudden, chipper attitude never sat well with me and always seemed like a cop-out.
Love is paradoxical. It drives us to give of ourselves and sacrifice for another while hoping to have that person for our own. Love is both the most selfless and selfish thing we can experience. As I watch this film, I wonder what it was like for Jesus, looking down from heaven and longing to be with us. What conversations did He and the Father have in preparation, knowing that winning His one, true love would cost Him everything? Jesus could have come demanding the world's devotion, but that wouldn't be love. Jack erroneously believed that he could earn Elisa's love by obtaining a house, gold, and a horse, but that isn't how love works. The hardest lesson about love that we'll ever learn is that no amount of loving someone will ever make them love us back.
In today's passage, Jesus compares the Church to a man who finds a pearl and spends everything he has so that he could buy the field where he found it. The story is often interpreted that Jesus is the pearl and we should give up everything for Him, but it means the opposite; we are that pearl. Jesus paid everything for us, just like Jack was willing to give up immortality for Elisa. In much the same way as Jack's overtures of love didn't promise success, Jesus' success depends on us; He may have bought the field, but it is our choice to either offer Christ the pearl of our heart or make Him watch His true love choose whatever gold knight we chase after, instead.
- Have you ever loved someone who didn't love you back? If so, what happened? Were you ultimately grateful?
- How can knowing you're the pearl help your self worth?
If you enjoyed this examination of Jack Frost, you might like my book, The Christmas Gospels, a devotional of spiritual lessons we can learn from 26 of the best holiday movies ever made. Get your copy here.
A Queens native, Jason grew up in Lakeland, FL and attended Rochelle School of the Arts before moving to Florida's Nature Coast, where he resides. He always dreamed of being a storyteller, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Religion. He has been a professional guest speaker for over thirteen years, talking at churches, graduations, and as a guest lecturer at Pasco-Hernando State College.