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Ice Crystals

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Looks cold.

"My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around!"
Elsa, Frozen (2013)

In real life, ice is frozen water, meaning that it can take on a variety of shapes because of water's fluidity. You can have tall pillars, vast sheets, or even irregularly shaped ice formations. Melting and refreezing can also have a wide variety of effects on ice's shape, as well as its colour too; a good quantity of the ice in glaciers and icebergs tends to turn a very nice light blue colour, as air pockets inside naturally get forced out of the ice over time. Ice can also have a wide variety of colours depending on what's inside the water that makes it up — take these icebergs, which bear striking stripes of rock and other debris gathered up before they were calved, with some even looking like big boiled sweets!

In fiction, ice tends to be portrayed as having a crystalline shape. You know the kind, with the perfect edges, tapering points, absolutely clear, perhaps there are "spikes" that jut out at odd angles. Whatever the case, if you were to hold up, say, a quartz crystal next to a fictional ice crystal, they would look identical outside of possibly color.

Why this is so is unclear. Snowflakes do follow a hexagonal crystalline pattern, and when very still water freezes, it forms radiating structures of horizontal ice crystals, like snowflakes writ large. The "ice crystal" concept may also come from the fact that large bodies of water tend to freeze in multiple sections, and where these separate ice sheets meet, the ice forms long hills or ridges of interlocking pieces, known as "pressure ridges". Or it could be simply for the visual cue, something to let the viewer know "This is definitely a Slippy-Slidey Ice World", or something as simple as The Coconut Effect, where it has become so ubiquitous, it's now expected.

It could also be because, etymologically speaking, the English word "crystal" evolved from the Old English word cristal which meant "clear ice", which in turn evolved from the Greek word kryos meaning "frost", which itself evolved from the proto-Indo-European prefix kreus-, meaning "to begin to freeze". Whatever the case, there is a clear connection between crystals and ice as portrayed in fiction.

Compare with All-Natural Gem Polish, when gems themselves are found perfectly cut and faceted in the wild. Can sometimes overlap with Instant Ice: Just Add Cold!, especially when characters are frozen and emerge as perfectly cubical ice blocks.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Digimon Ghost Game, Ruli's second DIM Card produces a Phantom Zone that resembles a snowfield with pale blue crystals jutting out of every surface. These Phantom Zones are made by mapping environmental data from the Digital World onto locations in the human world, which means there's a region of the Digital World that's a wintry Crystal Landscape.
  • In Naruto Haku's kekkei genkai jutsu "Demonic Mirroring Ice Crystals"/"Ice Crystal Magic Mirror"/"Crystal Ice Mirrors" are mirrors made of ice that are perfectly shaped (at least on one side) to function as mirrors for Haku to dash between.
  • In Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon, the Ice Stone is depicted as a completely polished, translucent, icy-blue stone with a snowflake contained within.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Frozen (2013), Elsa's ice palace seems an exercise in just how crystalline the animators could make ice look. It probably helps that it's magical, and with a mind guiding it, the ice would of course be able to create a stunning crystal palace. The crystalline ice chandelier she creates sure seems deliberate. Later on, when she begins to use ice to attack people, the ice is polished but still more jagged and less crystalline than her castle is. Some crystalline ice she creates appears to be accidental, but it's still magical and tied to her emotions, which seems to explain it. As a general rule, when Elsa makes ice accidentally, its form tends to reflect her emotional state. When she's upset, her ice usually gets spikey.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: The Bewilderbeasts breathe supercooled water as their breath weapon; when it strikes anything solid, it freezes into gigantic ice crystals.
  • Titan A.E. has the Titan world-ship nested amid the ice rings of Tigrin. These are gigantic crystals of ice that function like an Asteroid Thicket. Cale and Akima in their small spacecraft are the mouse to Captain Korso in the Valkyrie as the cat in this ice maze. The ice also acts like funhouse mirrors, creating multiple images of the two spacecraft, making tracking difficult.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Offscreen, and elaborated on thanks to the Expanded Universe. The planet on which Starkiller Base is situated was mentioned to have been chosen due to its high number of kyber crystals to use in the base's superlaser, but we never see a hint of either ice crystals or normal ones. It wasn't until the video game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order where we see that the planet Ilum is being converted into Starkiller Base by the Empire, and there are ice crystals aplenty within the planet's bowels, while the kyber crystals are separate formations typically found among them.
  • Superman: It's not clearly stated, but it's very likely that these are what make up Superman's Fortress of Solitude in Superman: The Movie and Superman II, among other depictions.

  • Isaac Asimov's Words of Science and the History Behind Them: In the entry for "Crystal", Dr Asimov explains how the ancient Greeks believed that the symmetry of rocks indicated that they were a type of ice; "kyros". Thus, all minerals that are transparent or symmetrical were called krystallos, which evolved to the modern English word crystal. Any sort of crystalline structure retains this etymology to frozen water, even when the structure isn't actually ice.

    Video Games 
  • The Ice Cavern and Frozen Veil in Aquaria are full of these, most of them opaque and form obstacles along the walls. Given the need to wall-jump in the Frozen Veil, this is both a help and a hindrance. The only transparent ones are foreground objects that Naija can swim behind.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The "Wall of Frost" spell creates a line of ice crystals on the ground, as does the magic attack of an Ice Wraith.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy:
    • The Ice element (naturally) is displayed this way, though it can have a rougher appearance instead of being entirely polished. However, in the Ice Cave environment, perfectly-cubical ice blocks do appear for some floor puzzles.
    • Natalie's recurring spell Iceshard portrays crystalline ice chips.
    • The "Solid Water" item has an appearance much closer to ice, with sharper edges in 4, but it's softened and made to look more like actual water in 5.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy, the Ice Cavern level's walls are made of crystallized ice.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, the Great Glacier section has ice crystals featuring in several caves.
  • In Fortune Summoners, Sana's Diamond Dust spells create large chunks of ice in mid-air which are then tossed forward. These aren't quite as polished as other examples, but still have a crystalline shape.
  • In Grimms Notes, the Crystal Devils are monsters made of crystal chunks, who wield a sword and a shield to do battle (which are made of the same material).
  • In the GBA version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the "Glacia" series of spells feature crystalline ice structures.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, the Ice Titan throws ice-spikes at you that are shaped in the typical hexagonal-crystalline shape. All other instances of ice spells use a sort of spiked ball shape or snowflakes to indicate ice projectiles or ice damage.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, a crystal-shaped chunk of ice tops the Ice Staff.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, due to system limitations, ice normally appears in blocky shapes. However, anything frozen in red ice is trapped in a crystalline shape. Kotake's and Twinrova's Ice Staff also has a crystal on the end.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, actual ice crystals appear as a breakable object in the Sword and Shield Maze of Seasons, and they are said to have the power to freeze anything. In-game, they function as part of a puzzle to cool a lava floor leading to deeper parts of the dungeon.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, ice crystals form natural blockages in the Temple of Droplets, including sealing the Water Element in one larger giant block. Smaller ones can be melted with the Flame Lantern.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Chillfos and White Wolfos are enemies made out of crystal-shaped ice, and Blizzeta shapes her icy pillars into the typical crystal shape (at least on the bottom) so she can spear Link with them.
  • Metroid:
    • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Rundas' ice-emitters are shaped this way and stand out as a bright clear blue against the greyer sections of his armor.
    • In Metroid Fusion, ice crystals appear all over the backgrounds of Sector 5 (ARC), the ice level of the game. They disappear once Nightmare has wrecked the place.
  • Minecraft has the self-explanatory ice spikes biome, a rare snowy region marked by huge towers of packed ice jutting from the landscape. The largest spikes can be over fifty blocks tall.
  • In Paper Mario 64, the Crystal King, the last of the seven bosses possessing the Star Spirits, is a spectral being with a frozen crown in perfect symmetry and accompanied with three Crystal Bits that resembles 3d shapes. One of his attacks involve spitting them to harm Mario, hitting him a number of times depending on how many of the bits are in the battle.
  • Pokémon:
    • The first three generations would represent Ice-type attacks with crystals in some way. The first two gens would show ice crystals creeping up from the bottom, with the second generation also showing them flying from the attacking Pokémon to the target.
    • Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver feature an image of each environment that is displayed when the player enters it, and the image for the Ice Cave has these.
    • In Generation VII (namely Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun, and Ultra Moon), the Ice-typed Alolan Sandslash has crystal-shaped ice spikes on its back to replace the sandy spines normal Sandslash has. Gen VII also introduced the Ice Stone, which (as mentioned above for the anime) looks like a typical crystal-shaped shard of ice and can be used to evolve certain Ice-type Pokémon (specifically, Alolan Sandshrew into the aforementioned Alolan Sandslash, Alolan Vulpix into Alolan Ninetales, and Galarian Darumaka into Galarian Darmanitan).
  • In Starbound, icy planets can feature the Prism biome, which causes ice crystals to appear in place of typical flora (as well as regular crystals deep underground too).
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: Most of Velvet's ice-based attacks come out looking like these. Probably as a callback to the game's roots where Rarity (Velvet's inspiration) had attacks using gemstones.
  • The Witches' Tea Party: Evangeline's room is an ice palace and its snowing grounds. There are blueish-white transparent crystal formations scattered around, with the implication that it's ice.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 1, they're everywhere on Valak Mountain, as seen in the trope image. At night, they even have beams of yellow light that go into the sky.

  • In Champions of Far'aus, Ice spirits have a crystalline design, which incorporates elements of snowflakes.

    Real Life 
  • While large amounts of ice can form irregular shapes due to how water freezes, smaller and thinner occurrences such as frost or snowflakes do form crystalline patterns. Ice is a regular solid whose atoms are arranged in a specific, repeating pattern — i.e., by definition, a crystal — it's just that when large quantities of water freeze, they remain in whatever shape the water happened to have at the moment. When ice is allowed to form gradually, with increasing quantities of liquid or gaseous water accreting onto a central "seed" (such as what happened when snowflakes form), it does form into crystals.
  • Long pillars like the above picture are probably impossible. First, to even get this shape requires a cave because it requires constant vertical deposits of water dripping to the ground. But the problem is, in order to drip, it has to be warm enough for water to flow, yet somehow cold enough to freeze. Freeze-thaw cycles do produce icicles, but gravity and the natural tendency of water to melt, tend to mean this ice forms top-downward not bottom-upward, and not to this scale. (Scratch that, ice stalagmites do form.) That said, a glacier is pretty close to a crystal pillar formation. But again, certain shapes are impossible due to the movement of air and water. Water would have to spout up in a straight line and freeze instantly that way, in order for a perfect crystal to form.