Endless Winter

"I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life."
Phil Connors, Groundhog Day

An artificial winter that is intended to last forever, or at least a very long time.

Winter is usually considered the least desirable season: the short days and cold weather can be deadly to humans and animals alike, and no food can be grown. Because of this, causing a winter that never ends is a common goal for a villain.

Of course, not only villains have this in their bag of tricks. Sometimes a character or object causes this just by existing. Such a character is not necessarily a villain, but will often be an antagonist nonetheless. Expect to see a member of The Fair Folk or another creature with Blue and Orange Morality in this role.

In more realistic works, this might be caused by enough material in the atmosphere blocking off the light of the Sun, such as that from nuclear or volcanic fallout or the result of a large enough meteor striking the Earth. In Speculative Fiction, it's more likely to be the work of aliens or a wizard.

Places that have naturally long winters, like ice planets, are not examples. Can be caused by an Empathic Environment or a Fisher King.

A Sub-Trope of Weather Dissonance and Sister Trope to The Night That Never Ends, Spring Is Late. Not to be confused with Frozen in Time.

See also Elemental Baggage (snow is precipitation, after all, and an endless winter presumes an infinite amount of water to make snow.)


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Toyed with in Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden. The glacial era that is about to engulf and destroy the country of Hokkan comes from a prophecy, rather than anyone's evil plans. After learning about this, Takiko aka the Genbu no Miko decides to use one of the wishes she can ask from Genbu the God save the realm; when Genbu is summoned she specifically makes the wish to "bring spring back", which ultimately averts the upcoming ice age via a World-Healing Wave.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Mighty Thor, the "Cask of Winters"/"Cask of Ancient Winters" is used to create this effect by several enemies of Asgard, especially Malekith "the Accursed". Probably inspired by the Fimbulvetr.
  • In an arc on Astonishing X-Men, Iceman was corrupted by the Apocalypse Seed and allowed his powers to go out of control. At one point Thor went into a trance as Iceman's powers grew, muttering the word "Fimbulvetr".
  • In the mini-series Winter World and it's sequels, the world is plunged into an endless winter, though the reasons why are unknown.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Mirror, Mirror has winter fall over the land when the evil queen starts to rule. It ends when she is defeated.
  • In Groundhog Day, Phil gets stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, and it's always February 2. According to Word of God, the loop lasts for 10,000 years.
  • Mr. Freeze's plot in Batman & Robin is to freeze Gotham City using a massive version of his freeze ray.
  • In Supervolcano, this happens as a result of the volcanic winter caused by the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera.

  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch casts a spell on Narnia so that it is always winter but never Christmas. The spell is broken by Aslan's return.
  • In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, the seasons are untruly long long (Word of God is that the unnatural length of the seasons is caused by magic), and as such winters can last for years on end.
    • It's not uncommon for a child to have been born and raised knowing only the darkness of winter in their early years. There are oral traditions of an infamously brutal winter, the Long Night, that lasted for generations. Legend says it was caused by the demons known only as the Others and should they return to invade Westeros, they will cause a winter that never ends. In the later books of the series, the summer that has lasted for the entire series up until that point draws to an end in favor of what promises to be a particularly long and brutal winter — the frigid blizzards that begin to hit the North in A Dance with Dragons, which last for days on end and effectively force the ongoing war to a standstill through the sheer amount of snow and brutal weather they bring, are referred to by the locals as being "only Autumn's kiss". This is implied to be at least related to the Others, who have been reemerging and marching south over the course of the series after millennia of inactivity.
    • The northernmost region of Westeros is dubbed "the Land of Always Winter", which presumably is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. This is also implied to be the region where the Others come from.
  • In The Dresden Files, whenever Mab the Queen of Winter Fae stays on the material plane for too long, the winter seems to drag on forever, with snow and cold winds remaining firmly in place well into the months of spring.
  • Inverted in The Wheel of Time. The Dark One uses his influence to make it eternal summer in order to burn out the world and kill the plants with heat. To counter this, the main characters seek and eventually find an object that controls the weather and use it to start winter. In order to balance things, they have to make the winter much harsher and longer than usual. Winter comes earlier, lasts longer, and grows more bitterly cold each year, as an effect of the ever-loosening prison of The Dark One. Famine becomes a major problem in the series. Ids is played straight in the first installment in the series, where it's not the dead of winter, but spring/the growing season doesn't truly come until Rand defeats the The Dark One in psychic combat and lessens his influence on the world.
  • In Wintersmith the titular Wintersmith creates an unnaturally long winter (although his opposite number, the Summer Lady, would have created an endless summer). Tiffany tries to balance nature again.
  • The Helliconia Trilogy, set on the planet of the same name, involves a world in a highly elliptical orbit around its sun. Its summers last decades, but its winter lasts for over a thousand years. It's so severe that it acts as a de facto Reset Button on the civilization of the planet.
  • In The Barsoom Project, the Fimbulwinter game takes place on an Earth where the sun is shrinking due to evil magic and humanity is faced with a planet-wide winter.
  • In the Fritz Leiber short story A Pail of Air, the Earth is ripped away from the Sun by a passing black hole. As a result of losing the heat of the Sun the Earth has gotten so cold that the atmosphere has frozen.
  • In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, Menelaus's first spring is when he is six. The younger characters regard it as this. The older ones hush them: the Japanese created it deliberately, in order to fight a disease, and if they hadn't, mankind might have gone extinct.
  • In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the Big Bad Storm King makes the entire continent increasingly frosty as his power grows, during what should be summer.
  • In The Yellow Fog, 5th book in Tales of the Magic Land series, the eponimous fog, created by the evil witch Arachna, obscures the sun over the Magical Land to such an extent that the whole land plunges into winter, which will never end.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the Jaghut were fond of bringing about ice ages. Elder God Mael calls ice 'the Jaghut answer to everything'. When the Imass, whom some Jaghut Tyrants had enslaved, declared war on their masters and put themselves to the task of hunting down and killing every last Jaghut, the Jaghut called down an ice age so that the Imass — who were hunters and gatherers — would starve. The continent Lether still sports geographically unusual glaciers and ice wastes as a result of Gothos freezing the place at the request of Mael, effectively blocking the way for the dead to pass on and making the creation of undead easy-peasy on Lether.
  • In N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, the continent-shattering earthquake at the beginning of the book opens a volcanic rift continually pouring out enough ash to blot out the sun for thousands of years. But don't worry, the ensuing winter will end. Eventually.

     Live-action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Winters can last for years and there are oral traditions of a winter that lasted a generation the last time the White Walkers invaded and attempted to cause a winter that never ends. Word of God is that the unnatural seasons are caused by magic, though whether it is the Walkers' magic or something else remains ambiguous.
  • Zig-Zagged (sort of) in an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959), "The Midnight Sun". Most of the story is focused on the Earth getting hotter and hotter because it is moving closer and closer to the sun, with the ever-increasing and unbearable heat slowly killing off Earthly life and humanity with it. But it turns out it's All Just a Dream — in reality, the Earth is getting colder and colder because it's moving away from the sun, and will eventually become an uninhabitable ball of ice. From the protagonist's POV, this is a Happy Ending.

  • The music video for Erasure's "Always" features a Kabuki-style demon who was intent on creating an eternal winter. Andy Bell portrays the nature god who defeats him.
  • The Kovenant's debut album In Times Before The Light focuses on a combination of this trope and The Night That Never Ends. The phrase "Forever winter, Forever night" appears in a few songs, and the song "Through the Eyes of the Raven" appears to be about beckoning 'King Winter' to bring about an endless winter.

    Myth, Legend, and Oral Tradition 
  • In Norse Mythology, the Fimbulvetr or Fimbulwinter is an especially harsh winter that lasts twice as long as usual and signifies the beginning of Ragnarok.
  • In Classical Mythology, this was Demeter's response when her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades. Demeter wandered the earth in a state of rage and grief, and the entire world was as barren and cold as her heart. The situation got bad enough that the other Olympians eventually forced Hades to release Persephone. However, Persephone had already eaten a few pomegranate seeds in the underworld. As a result she could never leave it forever. During the time Persephone and her mother are reunited, the earth would be prosperous and bountiful. During the time they are forced apart, the earth would be barren again. And that is why the different seasons exist.
    • An alternative interpretation of the original myths, however, avert this, with Demeter causing an endless summer instead. In the Mediterranean climate of Greece, summer is the most barren season, being dry and hot. Some academics say that only when the myths percolated to more temperate climates did this myth convert to Demeter causing endless winter.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Several examples from Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The epic spell "Ice Age" does Exactly What It Says on the Tin and lasts until it is dispelled.
    • In Frostburn, a.k.a. It's Cold Outside, there is an item you can make called "Iceheart, Major" that creates winter.
      Thus, the mere presence of a major iceheart generates a 15-mile-radius zone of eternal winter; the majority of frostfell regions that appear in temperate or tropical climates are the result of the introduction of a major iceheart into the region.
    • The spell Fimbulwinter does this, much like the Norse equivalent.
    • The supplement Dungeon Master's Guide 2 has the Killing Frost of Ghulurak, which is meant to end the world by freezing it in an eternal ice age.
  • Irrisen (Fantasy Counterpart Culture of fairy-tale Russia) in the Pathfinder RPG's setting has had this problem since Baba Yaga conquered it. Though the reason why she conquered it is canonically established note , her reasons for freezing it over permanently seem to be For the Evulz. The winter witches insist on keeping it that way, which is why the primary underground freedom fighting group call themselves "The Heralds of Summer's Return".
    • The eleventh adventure path for Pathfinder, "Reign of Winter", fittingly enough involves the current Queen of Irrisen attempting to spread her kingdom's Endless Winter across the entire planet.
    • The fourth adventure of that path sees the party travelling to Triaxus, the seventh planet, which is currently in the depths of a winter that, thanks to the planet's orbit requiring 317 Golarion years to make one circuit, lasts for generations. This is naturally balanced by the fact that the summers are just as long.
  • In Deadlands, Canada has an endless winter approaching from the North, thanks to angry manitou demons. The resident Mad Scientist Dr. Hellstromme has built a wall to stop that along the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which divided the country, Westeros style. No, the fence is not patrolled by celibate Mounties in black, however.
  • The "Endless Winter" of Changeling: The Dreaming is more metaphysical in nature, tied to a fae view of the seasons of Ages, and the upcoming 6th Age is looking really really bad.
  • The aptly named "Ice Age" block (Ice Age, Alliances, and Coldsnap) in Magic: The Gathering was started in consequence of the Brothers' War, when Urza ignited the Golgothian Sylex, devastating the continent, annihilating Mishra's forces, igniting his own Planeswalker spark, and ushering in an ice age that lasted some 3000-4000 years.
  • This happened in the back story of Kings of War. A demon named Winter once covered the world in ice for 100 years, till all the surviving races rallied together and drove her out. However the after effects of all the excess ice melting created a massive flood which broke the largest human faction causing them to be broken to several smaller factions.
  • Warhammer: One of the realms of the forest of Athel Loren, Atylwyth the Winterheart, is locked in an eternal winter, despite being in the fantasy equivalent of southern France and being surrounded on all sides by temperate areas that experience regular seasons. As a result, the forest spirits that live there are far more sluggish than those elsewhere in the forest and often dormant or asleep, forcing the elves to take a greater role in the realm’s defense than elsewhere in the forest.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Quest V, the Winter Queen tricks Dwight into taking the Herald of Spring to the Winter Palace, causing an endless winter.
  • The plot of Fahrenheit takes place against the backdrop of an unnaturally long and harsh winter, which is eventually revealed to be supernatural. Even though the villains didn't cause it, one of them chooses not to stop it in the ending where he wins, destroying humanity.
  • In the Touhou game Perfect Cherry Blossom, Yuyuko steals spring to feed a giant monstrous cherry tree in the ghost world, causing perpetual winter in the land of Gensoukyo.
  • Drakengard's E ending means this in the real world. Subverted in that, 1312 years later, it looks normal again (as normal as post-apocalyptic world can be).
  • Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising stated that before the Warp Storms claimed planet Aurelia, it was a major commerce hub and home to a monastery to the Blood Ravens. When it finally returned to real-space after millenia in the Warp, it has since turned into a wintry wasteland thanks to the ruinous powers in the Warp.
  • In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Killer Frost's classic ending ends up with her freezing the entire northern hemisphere and ruling it as "The Winter Queen".
  • Used in the Edutainment Game Treasure Math Storm! when the Master of Mischief uses a weather control machine to cover Treasure Mountain in a blizzard to make the elves' lives difficult or something.
  • In Battle Realms expansion Winter Wolf, the Lotus Clan plans to use the Wolf Clans wolf totem to bring a never ending winter to freeze the other Clans.
  • In Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok, Fornsigtuna is in the middle of an overly long winter, and many are worried it may be the Filmbulwinter. As the title implies, if the heroine doesn't intervene, it will be.
  • The Lost Colony of Auriga Endless Legend is a dying world, as its climate is in a state of free-fall. Every few months, it is plunged into abrupt winters that kill crops and production. As the game goes on, the winters become longer and longer until the world is plunged in an eternal ice age past turn 300. The eight empires of Auriga are trying to get the hell off before that happens (or in one case, attempt to fix it). Come Endless Space some time later, and Auriga is a lifeless ball of ice and rock, and only two of the factions are confirmed to have survived, one of them only partially.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt features the White Frost, a possibly alive force of nature that has turned countless worlds into frozen, lifeless husks. The Wild Hunt's world is currently undergoing such an apocalypse, and them fleeing it is the driving force behind the plot of the game.
  • In X-Men Legends, Magneto makes asteroids surround the Earth, limiting light and heat from the sun. He publicly makes demands and says that if they're not met, "the chill you feel now will become the endless winter of your discontent."
  • One of the problems in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is the freezing of Aquaria, caused by the dimming of the Water Crystal. Benjamin and Phoebe have to restore its light to get rid of all the snow and ice.
  • The Fall from Heaven: Age of Ice scenario for Civilization IV (also a prequel to the Fall from Heaven mod) takes place during the setting's Age of Ice, characterized by a bitter winter lasting for generations after Mulcarn, the god of winter, rose to power, marking the end of the previous Age of Magic. The long winter results in the powerful civilizations of the Age of Magic collapsing. Few are able to survive the snowy wasteland. It's not until a hero named Kylorin united a tribe of people called Amurites and teaches them magic that they succeed in forging a new civilization and defeating the winter god. This starts the Age of Rebirth, and the main mod takes place during this time, with some of the old civilizations coming back and resuming old grudges.
  • This is how the Snowmad Tribe succesfully conquered Donkey Kong's island in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which was a warm tropical island in all previous Donkey Kong Country games. Lord Fredrik turns it into a cold tundra (with the help of his magical Viking horn capable of releasing dragon-shaped ice projectiles) so his people can live there. The aim of the Kongs is to return to their homeland and confront Fredrik to claim it back and find a way to restore its former warm state.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series' lore, the northernmost continent of Nirn is Atmora. In ancient times, it was home to the Atmorans, an ancient race of men with Barbarian Tribe and proto-Horny Vikings traits. Thousands of years prior to when the games in the main series take place, Atmora experienced what the "Frost Fall", a mysterious gradual cooling of Atmora which quickly rendered it inhabitable to intelligent life. Most of the Atmorans migrated south to northern Tamriel, settling in modern day Skyrim and interbreeding with Tamriel's native Nedic humans to create the modern Nords (and possibly all races of Men save the Redguards, though sources greatly conflict and are heavily biased). Reports from the 2nd and 3rd Eras indicate that Atmora is now completely frozen over, with no sign of intelligent life.

  • In Oglaf, winter lasts until the Snow Queen is... satiated. She's not villainous, but is seen as an obstacle.
  • In Knights of Buena Vista, part of the mechanics for "FantasiaLand" says that if there is enough magical ice in one spot, the surrounding area will be winter until the ice is melted (which of course requires more than just regular heat).
  • Makes for a gritty dystopia in Ice.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly Oddparents TV special "Christmas Everyday!" one of the consequences of Timmy's everyday is Christmas wish is that everyday is a snow day. This made it extremely difficult for him to travel to the north pole to get Santa Claus' help in cancelling the wish.
  • In the My Little Pony 'n Friends episode "Baby, It's Cold Outside", King Charlatan uses a machine to amplify his power over cold and freeze the entire world. That way, all lesser creatures will die and the world will be a paradise for penguins such as himself.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The episode Hearth's Warming Eve revolves around the tale of a terrible and uncontrollable winter in the setting's distant past. Evil spirits known as Windigoes are the cause, attracted by the different species' distrust of and discontent toward each other. It causes famines so awful that the leaders of each tribe, with their respective assistants, migrate to a new land — but the Windigoes just follow them there, too. It's finally stopped when the bossy, hateful leaders become encased in ice, and their three assistants amicably make amends.
    • The Season Six two-parter premiere, The Crystalling, nearly has this happen when the Crystal Heart is destroyed, courtesy of the power of baby Princess Flurry Heart's crying, which causes the collapse of the magical protection that keeps the Crystal Empire livable and sheltered from the vicious weather of the Frozen North. As a result, frigid cold and vicious storms begin to pour into the Empire, threatening to freeze it over and forcing its citizens to abandon it to the ice and snow. Fortunately, this is averted when the protagonists manage to repair the Crystal Heart and reset the magical barrier.
  • The Famous Studios cartoon Suddenly It's Spring from 28 April 1944 features Raggedy Ann pleading with Old Man Winter to relent, so that the sun may shine upon her owner, who lies abed dying from lack of sunlight.
  • The Ice Vikings that invade Acmetropolis, home to the Loonatics Unleashed, are armed with "hammers of frost" and know to attack the power station to best plunge that world into a new Ice Age.
  • An episode of Dora the Explorer had Dora and her friends trying to find Mother Nature and end winter.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has a season one episode, "The Casket of Ancient Winters", in which Malekith the Dark Elf magically unleashes a blizzard and ice monsters.
  • In Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates, Ice King Cyros eventually unleashes this upon Neverland in retribution for Peter Pan constantly invading his home and stealing his gemstones.

    Real Life 
  • Anything beyond 75th latitudes North or South. Due to the inclination of the Earth's axis, the temperature never rises high enough to melt the ice and snow. Likewise, anything over 4,000 m of elevation. As temperature frops 5 deg C per each kilometre up, the high mountain tops have eternal winter as the temperature drops near or below zero deg C.
  • Nuclear winter was a big worry during the Cold War (a Non-Indicative Name for the global conflict involved). This makes the modern issue of Global Warming somewhat ironic.
  • Another possibility is volcanic winter, caused by the ash and sulfuric acid ejected by a sufficiently large eruption blocking out enough sunlight to cause extreme drops in temperature worldwide.
  • Finally, there is impact winter. This is caused by meteor impacts filling the atmosphere with massive amounts of dust, ash and assorted debris, and has the potential to be much worse than nuclear or volcanic winter, especially since associated firestorms would continue to fill the atmosphere with soot, ash and smoke after the impact proper. Impact winter following the K-T meteorite impact is thought to have been a major cause in the dieoff of the dinosaurs.
  • "Snowball Earth" is the term given to a period in Earth's geological history in which ice covered the planet from pole to pole for tens of millions of years. Interestingly, the period came immediately before the rise of complex, multicellular life.
  • The Huronian Glaciation, the first and longest ice age in Earth's history, lasted for three hundred million years.