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Painting the Frost on Windows

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Image courtesy of Matt Watier
Used with permission.

Phoenix: What's her problem, Twilight? She can't honestly think someone can control weather. It's ludicrous!
Trixie: You have to be the biggest imbecile Trixie has ever laid eyes on!
Judge: Mr. Wright... That's a Pegasus's job here in Equestria. It's... sort of what they do.
Phoenix: Mmmph... uh... what...?

Ever wonder why the leaves turn color in fall, or why frost appears on the window during the wintertime? It's not due to any sort of natural process.

Usually appearing in mythology or children's entertainment, this is a character who is responsible for the beautiful colors and patterns we see in nature. The leaves? There's some guy going around and painting them one by one. The frost? Someone such as Jack Frost draws it on people's windows. A character of this trope is usually depicted as an artist; their medium just happens to be nature.

Can be a subset of The Fair Folk, Odd Job Gods, Magical Underpinnings of Reality, or Anthropomorphic Personification. For similar abilities without the responsibility see Power of the Storm and Green Thumb. Compare Peeve Goblins, which are responsible for annoyances or ills rather than changes in nature.

See also "Just So" Story.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • All the fairies from A Little Snow Fairy Sugar create the weather by playing their instruments. Turmeric in particular seems to fit the artist type, not being satisfied with anything less than the perfect cloud.
  • Multiple characters in Anpanman. Some include the citizens of the Flower Kingdom (each have a separate flower they're designed after, and each of them tend to that certain flower), Princess Nakayubi (a harvest princess, she helps fruits and vegetables grow in autumn), and Onsen-kun (has the ability to create hot springs).
  • Heaven's Design Team is a tongue-in-cheek edutainment manga that teaches about animals and zoology by featuring a team of divine "designers" who create beings on behalf of God.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf season Flying Island: The Sky Adventure, Weslie and Paddi both wind up in a factory that produces different kinds of weather by shooting weather fruits out of a cannon (or large weather fruits, anyway; the small and medium ones are used for different purposes).

    Comic Books 
  • One of the strips in Asterix and the Class Act featured the sprite responsible for Spring who went around pushing up the plants, etc.
  • The Sandman (1989) has a variety of servants who work to keep the dream world in order. It's implied that the beautiful scenery people dream about takes some effort to create. Of course, being The Dreaming, such effort varies. Adding a new wing to the library is as simple as pasting up wallpaper containing a picture of the new wing, like a portable hole.
  • Some of the Fables, such as Santa Claus and North Wind, appear to have these roles.

    Comic Strips 
  • This trope is parodied in one The Far Side comic that reveals that the door dings that car get in parking lots are not caused by people hitting other cars with their doors, but are actually the work of gnomes.

  • Fallout: Equestria: After the war, weather got weird, since ponies weren't managing it anymore. The pegasi have retreated to above the cloud layer and keep the sky constantly covered in clouds; weather in the Wasteland below is pretty much just always generically terrible, with little variance. Furthermore, since Celestia and Luna are gone, the sun and the moon have "gone wild." Ponies on the ground don't notice because of the cloud layer, but occasionally the moon doesn't set before the sun rises, something that never happened when Celestia and Luna were in charge. Calamity also describes a solar eclipse, which is a blasphemous concept, as Celestia and Luna would have never allowed such a thing to happen. Littlepip has nightmares about it and she never even saw it.
  • Zig-zagged, if not outright averted, in Ponies After People. Weather on Earth remains as it originally was unless magic interferes with it, and it will reassert itself unless that magic is maintained. The magic to permanently take control of the weather does not currently exist in all of Earth's pegasi and unicorns combined; much greater numbers and training would be required for this to happen. Changing the weather locally, even in an area as wide as a small town, might still be possible for a determined team of pegasi, but worldwide things are going the way they always have been.
  • Through The Well Of Pirene: Besides the ponies' managing of nature from the show, the goblins in the Everfree do weather work of their own, making rainbows out of crushed gemstones and manticore oil, clouds with water and huge fans, and lightning with jars of static and electrically charged thunderstones.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Walt Disney's Fantasia during "The Nutcracker Suite" segment, fairies are shown using their magic wands to spread dew among flowers and spiderwebs, change the colour of leaves, and start the first frost (by figure skating across a pond).
  • A segment of Fantasia 2000 has a Mother Nature type spirit who causes plant life to spring forth following a devastating volcanic eruption.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina, the fairies are responsible for changing the seasons, and so, while searching for the eponymous heroine, Prince Cornelius asks his parents to delay the winter frost for as long as they can.
  • In Rock-A-Doodle (also by Don Bluth), Chanticleer the rooster's crowing is the real reason why the Sun rises every morning. But one day, thanks to Chanticleer being distracted by one of the Big Bad's flunkies, the Sun started to rise without him...
  • Averted with Jack Frost in Rise of the Guardians, who causes snow, ice, and frost wherever he goes. However, cold and ice didn't wait for him to exist. He sure has power over it, but only at his range, winter doesn't require his intervention. Played straight with North; the Aurora Borealis is his method of summoning the other Guardians.
  • The Tinkerbell movies posit that it's the Neverland fairies that bring nature to the Main Land in much this way: painting leaves in the Fall, carrying droplets of water to spiderwebs, even painting spots on ladybugs.
  • In Nocturna, there's a whole range of different jobs in order to make the night - meowing cats make children sleep, there's an orchestra for the various nocturnal sounds, dreams are written down and read to sleeping kids, and there are even people who have to mess up hair and another who makes kids wet the bed.
  • The characters in the Pixar Short La Luna are in charge of sweeping stars along the surface of the moon, thus creating the moon's phases.
  • Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus: The Cloud Kingdom's princesses have the job of painting the sunrises and sunsets.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) featured something like this. During the scene wherein Slartibartfast shows Arthur around the Earth MK.II, we see several engineers hard at work "setting the Earth up" to look like Arthur remembers it. One of them is painting Uluru orange, whereas some others are filling in the oceans using fire hoses.
  • The big reveal in The Thirteenth Floor is when the characters head out to a place they would never go and see it hasn't been built, proving they live in a virtual reality. Broad Strokes Truth in Television because that is what CGI environments look like when viewed from an unintended angle.
  • Played with in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. At the very least, Asgardian tech evokes this effect: hammers that summon thunder and lightning, a teleport bridge that produces a definite "Aurora borealis" effect, grenades that explode into "black holes".
  • In Get Santa, the Northern Lights are created by Santa Claus and the Christmas Elves, since the "flying" reindeer actually run on them. One elf mentions some "misinformation from the science community" that keeps people from questioning things.

  • There's a common joke/urban legend in Russia that in the Soviet army soldiers had to use lawn paint to make the grass look nicer before the top-brass inspections, and form snowbanks in accurate cubic shapes, and pluck dandelions. Idle hands are the devil's workshop and all that.

  • A lot of these show up in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. Note that in Discworld, human belief can create supernatural beings, so this raises a chicken-or-egg question.
    • In Hogfather, a number of these beings show up as a result of the Hogfather's disappearance creating a lot of loss belief that "grounds" itself by creating various odd-job personifications, including the Verruca Gnome, who goes around distributing verrucas out of a bag. Jack Frost also shows up, literally painting frost on windows. Apparently, he's really fond of doing ferns until the Verruca Gnome convinces him to branch out, resulting in pictures like three puppies poking out of a boot appearing in the frost on people's windows.
    • And the title character of Wintersmith, and his counterpart the Summer Lady, who bring and end the seasons.
    • Some of them, like the Wintersmith or Death, aren't necessarily obligated to do every last little detail personally; as anthropomorphic personifications, they just have to exist and do the trade equivalent of checking to make sure the factory production is up to snuff. They can, if they have a particular aim in mind (see again the Wintersmith), but by and large, the books compare it to a monarchy; the king exists and makes the rules, but he doesn't personally show up at your home telling you what kind of tea to have on your break.
    • Death makes a point of putting in as many personal appearances as he can manage, however, because he believes in the value of human life and thinks we deserve the best customer service he can give.
  • The Stranger by Chris van Allsburg: the eponymous stranger is never explicitly identified, but he's essentially Jack Frost or the personification of autumn.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, the symphony orchestra led by Chroma the Great plays all the colors in the world, including every sunset and sunrise.
  • In the Swedish picture book Olles skidfärd (app. "Olle's skiing trip") the boy Olle gets to meet King Bore, the ruler of winter. The King has an antagonistic relationship with Old Woman Thaw (an old hag with a bucket and broom), not because he minds her mistress Princess Spring taking over each year, but because Old Woman Thaw can't keep the time if her life depended on it, and will invariably be either too early or too late.
  • Shel Silverstein wrote a short poem about the man who paints the colours and markings onto the animals and notes, "Jack Frost, he's just a part-time workin' fellah/Touching up the leaves and trees and things/He's famouser than me/But I'm happier than he/For I paint the things that runs, and flies, and sings!"
  • "The Sandman (1816)" by E. T. A. Hoffmann subverts this: the sandman gouges out the eyes of children who stay up late and provides their eyes to the builders of automatons, killing the ones who won't give up the creation.
  • In Santa and the King of Starless Nights, Jack Frost is a good friend of Santa and the Tooth Fairy, and personally applies all the winter frost.
  • In some of L. Frank Baum's stories, fairylike beings called Ryls are responsible for painting the flowers.
  • In Little House in the Big Woods Laura's father tells her that Jack Frost comes to put frost on the windows. This results in Laura attempting to 'catch' Jack Frost in the act.
  • In The Magician's Nephew, Aslan sings Narnia into being.
    • In The Silver Chair, the Earthmen discard the husks of gems when they've drunk the juices, and are puzzled by the notion that surface-dwellers consider the rock-hard, drained rinds to be worth digging up from where they're left scattered underground.
  • As a pre-teen in the early 1890s, Helen Keller wrote—or thought she wrote—a perfect fairy tale about melted jewels staining autumn leaves with brilliant colors. It turned out to be a paraphrase from a story that had been read to her. The story's author went on record that Helen's version was better. However, the resulting accusations of dishonesty left Helen emotionally shattered and, though she was eventually cleared of any deliberate wrong-doing, she became fearful that anything else she wrote might also turn out to be the product of someone else's mind.
  • Daniel Curley, Ann's Spring. Mother Nature has her hands full one year with tornadoes and hurricanes, so she asks her daughter Ann to start spring for her. Ann begins the complex task, assisted by her baby brother Bob. The pair handle various snags and beginners' glitches, but things seem to be going okay—until some neighborhood pranksters lock them in an old truck. Then it starts snowing...
  • In the Rainbow Magic series, the Rainbow Fairies are responsible for color, and the Weather Fairies for weather.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen has the sleeping goddess Burn. Since she dreams existence into reality, Burn's Pain is supposedly the source of earthquakes, when the sleep of the goddess is disturbed or she is in pain.
  • James and the Giant Peach: As James and the insects fly over the Atlantic Ocean, they encounter the Cloud-Men, a civilization of ghostly humanoids who make the weather, sculpting hailstones, crafting and painting rainbows and producing blizzards.
  • Under the Pendulum Sun: In the Land of Faerie, there are fae whose job it is to draw hoarfrost with quill pens, sew up snowstorms, and wither flowers with a paintbrush since it's an Eldritch Location where such things don't happen naturally.
  • This is the entire premise of The Seems series. The titular realm creates every natural process in the World, from Sleep to Weather.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 film Jack Frost featured a Grandfather Frost who used a magic wand that looked like a giant icicle to put frost on the trees in winter. Cue Mike:
    Mike: I'm from Northern Wisconsin. I've seen plenty of this.
  • In the world of Charmed all natural processes are performed by magical creatures. So one day when they're all rendered powerless by the magic going away, all the plants start to die, with full implications that the world would end if magic doesn't return.

  • The Swedish summer song Idas Sommarvisa (lyrics by Astrid Lindgren) is all about this trope.
  • There is also (again in Swedish) Vem tar hand om hösten? which reveals who takes care of the various seasons when it ''isn't" autumn, winter, etc., in case you ever wondered. The Hare watches over Autumn, Tomten (the Swedish Santa Claus) over Winter, the Lark over Spring, and the Shepherd herds Summer with his sheep.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Originates, of course, in mythology and folklore — every tradition (at least in Europe and other parts of the world with major seasonal variations) probably has at least a few. Other depictions may borrow these, or just use generic fairies or nature spirits.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the functions of Creation are run by Elemental spirits. So Elementals of Air drive the winds, Elementals of Earth cause avalanches and raise mountains, Elementals of Wood determine how and where plants will grow, and so on.
  • Nobilis: One of the chief differences between Mythic and Prosaic Reality is that when you go Mythic, things like this become the default.
  • World Tree (RPG): The World Tree's natural systems are anything but natural, and to ensure that they'll keep working the gods created vast numbers of elementals to oversee them. Between the universe's weird shape and weirder physics, for example, habitable weather wouldn't naturally arise on it. The reason it does anyway is due to the endless armies of the air elementals, who constantly work to push clouds around, squeeze them for rain, make the winds blow, keep the air clear, arrange the seasons, and the like.


    Video Games 
  • The Fourth Circle of Elder Gods in Lusternia is the circle of artists, responsible for moulding flowers, painting sunrises, birdsong, and other miscellaneous facets of natural beauty.
  • Touhou Project:
    • Aki Shizuha is the local goddess of turning leaves. She turns leaves red by painting them by hand, which is why the leaves have different hues of colors, and she makes leaves fall from trees by kicking the tree and getting the leaves to scatter.
    • And now we have Kyouko Kasodani, who is responsible for creating echoes. Except that she found herself more and more out of a job as (quoted straight from the game's manual) "these days, superstition like 'echo is just a reflection of sound waves coming back to you-' is a common belief", so much that she entered Buddhist discipline.
  • The second Pajama Sam game, Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening, takes place in the World Wide Weather facility in the clouds, housing a factory that produces various weather phenomena, from bottling rainwater to canning sunshine. The plot gets kicked off when Sam accidentally causes the factory's machines to malfunction, screwing up weather all around the world as a result, and the goal is to find the machines' missing pieces to fix them.
  • Dwarf Fortress is a meta-example: It uses Procedural Generation to simulate weather, erosion, placement of lakes and rivers in extremely complex detail. Software engineers who work on aerodynamics simulations of the sort that run on Cray supercomputers are impressed by this game. Your mundane computer's processors, on the other hand... The game won't melt your PC, but the playerbase still recommends that anyone playing on a PC with a processor from before The New '10s or on a laptop should start worldgen, then go fix themselves a snack.
  • In Jerry Boy, one of the angels flying around Fluffy Cloud Heaven is pouring rain out of a watering can.

  • This is apparently the sort of thing Gunnerkrigg Court's Regional Fairies do. This bonus page demonstrates one of them making metal rusty.
  • A mundane scientific version shows up in Freefall. Winston's specialty as a veterinarian is actually not larger animals like Florence, but the unpleasant-but-necessary microfauna of Planet Jean's freshly-terraformed ecosystem — things like parasites and vermin.

    Web Original 
  • Empires SMP Season 2: Played for Laughs. Apparently, thunder is caused by Joel, the resident sky god, clapping his "cheeks". Take from that what you will.
  • The short story "Night Falls" by Jeffrey Wells is about the fairies of rot and decay because Jeff felt that far too many versions of this trope portray such things as an outside enemy, rather than an essential part of the whole process.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Fairly OddParents!, when Timmy wishes that no one needs to sleep, they see little elves brushing dew onto the grass so it can be nice and soggy in the morning.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Out with the Old... in with the Ed", Eddy fools everyone (sans Double D) into thinking it's summer by heating the cul-de-sac with air conditioning, painting all the orange leaves green, and changing all the calenders. This works until the fall weather starts kicking in at full force, making everyone realize that school is starting the next day.
  • The stop motion movie The Year Without a Santa Claus features Heat Miser (who is responsible for Summer's heat) and Snow Miser (who is responsible for winter). When they get into an argument, the heroes go find their mother (Mother Nature) and ask her to step in.
  • In the 2003 special Spring for Strawberry Shortcake, Spring Is Late, so Strawberry and her friends go off to investigate and not only meet Old Man Winter, but the young girl Spring, who thinks winter is more fun than spring, and thus hasn't bothered to make the snow melt. Eventually she comes around, and even gets a song about how she works her magic: "I Put the Zing in Spring."
  • A 1936 MGM cartoon "To Spring" is built around the trope of little elves/gnomes who put the springtime colors into the plants, by operating various gnome-powered machinery and a color pipe-organ. They battle an Old Man Winter character who is determined to hang around a while longer.
    • There is also "Jack Frost", an Ub Iwerks "Comicolor" short from a year or two previous.
  • In the "Mr. Plow" episode of The Simpsons Grandpa played "Old Man Winter" in the Commercial Within A Show for Homer's plowing business.
  • Rainbow Brite has a number of multi-colored friends responsible for spreading color to the land. Her first mission involved freeing them to restore the balance.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends: "Mish Mash Melee" has the Dell Dwellers, who make the rocks, trees, and other features of the forests around Dream Valley in an underground factory.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Equestria has ponies caring for "wild" animals, stomping clouds for rain, scheduling weather patterns down to shaking the autumn leaves off of trees with organized stampedes and manually (ungually?) crafting snowflakes, and completely controlling the movements of the sun and moon themselves. In fact, this trope is played so straight that the Everfree Forest, a place where weather and wildlife are self-sufficient, is considered an Eldritch Location.
      Applejack: It ain't natural!
  • Oddball variant from Tex Avery: In The House of Tomorrow (1949) there is an improved refrigerator that lets you see if the light stays on or off after you close the door. Turns out a cute little gnome that lives in the fridge shuts it off.
  • The Rankin/Bass version of Jack Frost has the title character working with a bunch of other characters to bring winter.
  • Jack Frost also appears in the 1976 animated Christmas television special Frosty's Winter Wonderland.
  • The 7D: In the land of Jollywood, winter is ended by Jollywood Joe, the Spring Chicken, perching on the castle and clucking.
  • Rupert: Rupert Bear is on a first-name basis with a lot of these beings around his hometown.
  • Kaeloo: The characters live on Planet Smileyland, where they can control whether it is day or night, or summer or winter, by pulling ropes.
  • Herself the Elf follows forest elves who are all in charge of nature and have various duties related to shaping its colors, sounds, and seasons.
  • The jellies in Jellabies operate a machine called the Jellyscope that can create rainbows for any location after they've had a rainstorm.
  • A minor variant in Mixels comes from the Electroids. Thanks to their electrical abilities, combined with their electricity-harvesting mountaintop habitat, they have the job of turning the sun on and off. In the case of the Mixels, the sun is a giant light bulb in the sky.
  • The world of The Smurfs has various personified forces whose responsibility is controlling the environment in some manner. For instance, Father Time can manipulate time, Mother Nature is responsible for maintaining the seasons, the Man in the Moon changes the moon's phases, Spectra is a sprite who handles the colors in the world...

    Real Life 
  • Modellers that work on CGI movies can attest to the amount of work it takes to make an environment. But instead of fairies, we have coders and programs to make things like snow and sand.
  • For that matter, any sort of digital media such as video games. One of the major skills designers (of any sort) tend to learn quickly if they want to maintain their sanity is the difference between needing/wanting/having a realistic environment and a believable one. In the former, you do this trope. In the latter, you only do as much of this trope as needed to fool the viewer.
  • In Moscow, it's customary to disperse rain clouds prior to major festivals by spraying them with silver-based reagents from jet planes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Nature Decorator, I Dye Grass


Winter Wrap Up

The residents of Ponyville work together to change the season from winter to spring, which includes clearing the ice and snow, making nests for and ushering back the southern birds, and waking up the hibernating animals.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / PaintingTheFrostOnWindows

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