December 16, 2015

Christmas Classic: the secret life of Frosty the Snowman

I first shared this story here three Christmases ago; it had originated a few years before that on the In Other Words site. It's one of my favorite pieces, not least because it comes not from me, but my friend Peter, and it has to do with his interpretation of the cartoon Frosty the Snowman, which I'd never much thought about except in a nostalgic way, as part of the memories of Christmases past. Even at that, I thought the plot was kind of thin. I mean, a kid thinking they can take a train to the North Pole on Christmas Eve? Without bringing any money? And then there’s the phony magician, the talking rabbit, and – well, you get the picture. You didn’t watch Frosty for the drama, you simply basked in its warm sepia glow.*

*Or at least the Christmas-card look that Rankin-Bass used, unlike their other stop-motion animated shows.

Peter is a pretty bright guy, so when he told me that contrary to my opinion, the story of Frosty could be taken as an allegory for the life of Christ, I was more than a little intrigued.

“What?” I think I said.

“Sure,” he replied, and proceeded to document the ways:
  • His birth occurs in the dead of winter, much as Christ's birth is symbolized with the evergreen in winter (and obviously suggests miraculous life from a dead or virginal womb).
  • Frosty always says, "Happy Birthday!" when he comes to life...strongly suggesting a birth... and the tradition of birthdays probably comes from the celebration of Christ's birth.
  • Frosty’s self-sacrifice, going into the greenhouse to save Karen’s life even though he risks melting in the heat, much as Christ the Savior suffers and dies on the Cross.
  • The resurrection – Santa opens the door to the greenhouse and the winter winds sweep into the room, bringing Frosty to life, in the same way that the Holy Spirit (often portrayed in the Bible as a wind) enters the Tomb.
  • Frosty goes to the North Pole with Santa in his sleigh, as Christ Ascends into Heaven.
  • Frosty returns every year with Santa (“I’ll be back again some day,” he sings in the song.) Christ, having been seated at the right hand of the Father, will come again in glory.
Interesting, hmm? Of course, Peter added, “some people will read that and think I'm making too much out of a thin connection. Maybe they're right, but I only say that to be polite. It would be too much of a coincidence, otherwise. It's obviously magicked-up (or kid-story-ified) to make into a neat little story for children, but the inspiration is obvious. The producers might not have wanted to make a Christian story, and that's certainly possible... however, they clearly used the Christ story as inspiration."

All of a sudden, the story starts to make sense, and what until then had been a fairly one-dimensional cartoon (literally, given that the rest of the Rankin-Bass cartoons were done in that three-dimensional animation) has become, in fact, a much deeper and more complex parable. Now, maybe this is like Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz in that everyone in the world already knew about this and I’m just finding out. I’d be interested to hear if anyone out there has noticed a similar religious vein to the story. And I’d have liked to be able to ask Arthur Rankin, Jr., the producer, if either he or Romeo Muller, the writer of the story, had any intentions of this. If not, of course, it’s just another example of the existential interpretation of a television show, not to mention how the Lord works through even the most common and ordinary means.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating, I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense now that you mention it. Like you, I never thought much of this cartoon, I bought it purely out of nostalgia. Thanks, this will give me a reason (besides nostalgia) to re-watch it this year with my daughters.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!