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The Old North Wind

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"The North Wind" is a common name given to a specific gust of wind that formulates in the Northern hemisphere and blows south. It's often known for being a particularly powerful gust, and was especially seen as significant to people living in the Northern hemisphere, because its presence often meant winter was coming soon.

As with many natural phenomena, the North Wind is often given an Anthropomorphic Personification in fiction, myth, and folklore. This anthropomorphic version is almost always male, and usually takes the form of an old man made of clouds or snow. He can be portrayed in any moral alignment, but tends to be portrayed as a malevolent character who enjoys freezing things, and especially making humans cold. After all, Evil Is Deathly Cold. However, he can just as easily be more neutral, or maybe even benevolent.

Having Blow You Away powers is practically a necessity, although he may also have other Elemental Powers such as An Ice Person.

Compare Jack Frost. See also Cumulonemesis and Elemental Embodiment.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Fables, the North Wind turns out to be the father of Bigby Wolf, explaining the infamous "Huff and Puff" ability that he used against the Three Little Pigs as the Big Bad Wolf. He isn't depicted as villainous as such, but he's a terribly neglectful father, which he tries to excuse by claiming that it's his nature to be mercurial as a wind.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In one Russian fairy tale, the North Wind (called Polunochnik; polnoch means midnight) is responsible for ruining a poor old man's harvest. However, the mother of all winds orders him to apologize and make amends, and the Wind actually gives the old man three magical artefacts. Compared to his three brothers, the North Wind is described as the most roguish and noisy one.
  • In The Lord of the Winds, the eponymous lord called Kotura is a personification of the winds in general and the north wind in particular; he appears in the form of a tall young man. He has a very strange moral code, summoning terrible snowstorms that pose a threat to the entire human population (or at least all the people in tundra) but being nice and polite when he actually meets humans in person, willing to give a second chance even to the unpleasant ones.

    Fan Works 
  • The Palaververse: Thunderstorm and the Four Winds tells the story of how the pegasus Thunderstorm faced the personifications of the North, East, South and West winds to give pegasi the ability to control the weather. The Winds are all depicted as powerful and feared entities who batter and scour the land with storms, gales and harsh weather, and the North Wind in particular — in contrast to the spoiled and indolent West Wind, the largely neutral and overworked South Wind and the genuinely helpful East Wind — is a harsh, cruel bully who lives in the frozen north, constantly sending forth harsh winds and terrible storms and caring nothing about the people caught in its gales.
    "Yo, North Wind," said Thunderstorm. "I want to know how the pegasi can master the weather, so that we don't have to suffer under it any longer."

    Films — Animated 
  • Fantasia: In the Pastoral Symphony segment, Boreas appears during the storm and blows Bacchus all around.
  • The Legend Of The North Wind features the North Wind as the wicked, ghostlike Big Bad. He was sealed away long ago by the other forces of nature as punishment for causing destruction, but is freed at the start of the film.
  • The Ugly Duckling: The "Winds of Winter" sequence depicts three malicious winds (and their "friend" Frost, who is depicted as a tiny crystalline creature) flying over the land and covering it with ice and snow, while singing about how they enjoy making people suffer in the cold.
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus: In A Miser Brothers' Christmas, the North Wind is depicted as a scheming figure who wants to get rid of Santa Claus and become the figurehead of Christmas himself.

  • Aesop's Fables: "The North Wind and the Sun" describes a contest between the two titular entities over who will be able to strip a passing traveler of his cloak. The North Wind blew his harshest, strongest winds to tear the garment away from the man, but the more he did so the more the traveler pulled his cloak close to himself. The Sun simply shone brightly and warmly, and the traveler took off his cloak of his own accord in the pleasant weather. The story is meant to teach a moral about the value of civility and persuasion, as embodied by the Sun, instead of using the North Wind's brute force to solve problems.
    • Genius Bonus: Translations of this fable into a wide variety of languages serve as examples in a pamphlet explaining the International Phonetic Alphabet.
  • At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald features a female North Wind. She's depicted as generally benevolent, but still capable of doing terrible things like sinking ships.
  • Discworld: There are various Gods of Wind: the two names so far are Zephyrus, God of Light Breezes, and the far more powerful Flatulus, written and illustrated as an Expy of the personification of the North Wind. When Flatulus blows, everybody knows about it.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: The wind gods of Classical Mythology make an appearance. Boreas, being the north wind, is based in Canada, and is depicted as a stodgy French Jerk. However, the bulk of the villainy is given to his daughter Khione, a snow goddess who sides with Gaia and generally enjoys freezing people.
  • The Neverending Story: Lirr, the black North Wind, is one of the four giant elemental embodiments who guard the winds of Fantastica.
  • The Song of Hiawatha: Played with. The strongest of the winds is Mudjekeewis the West Wind, and Kabibonokka (from the North), although fierce-looking, is proven weaker than a simple human man.

    Live-Action TV 
  • H.R. Pufnstuf features anthropomorphic embodiments of the four winds. The North Wind is portrayed as a bitter old man with icy features. (The West Wind is a cowgirl, the South Wind is a Southern Belle, and the East Wind is an Oriental gentleman.)

  • In Antonio Vivaldi's violin concerto cycle "The Four Seasons," Boreas (il vento Borea) makes noted appearances in two of the concertos. In the first movement of "Summer," Boreas manifests in a tumultuous passage with the violins playing thirty-second notes, disrupting the gentle breezes of Zephyr and foreshadowing the destructive thunderstorm depicted in the third movement. In the third movement of "Winter," Boreas is similarly represented as a wild solo violin break; though quickly joined by other winds (i.e. the ensemble), Boreas once again follows music depicting a gentler wind, in this case the hot Sirocco, recalling the languid opening of "Summer." (A similar violin solo in the first movement of "Winter" represents a nameless "horrid wind.")
  • The Rammstein song Dalai Lama features an airplane full of passengers being utterly destroyed by God for encroaching on his territory (the sky). God is depicted using wind powers (and thunder and lightning, but the wind seems to be the main feature) and his "sons" (which may or may not be a literal title) are the wind. It also mentions "the driver of the clouds" (it's unclear whether this is God or a servant), which refers to wind pushing the clouds across the sky. It never specifies a north wind, however.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology gives us Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, often depicted as a winged man who flies down from the mountains to chill the air with his cold breath. Boreas also had sons who were part of the Argonaut expedition, where they helped to fight off the harpies. Boreas was also responsible for the Classical Greek name for Britain: Hyperborea, the land beyond the North Wind (i.e., unbelievably remote and equally unbelievably cold, bleak, and inhospitable).
  • Thanks to myths and folklore seeping into the common culture, "that ol' North Wind" and Old Man Winter are common subjects for stories, poems, and songs dating back centuries, whether as antagonists, allies, or simply background figures.

  • Boreas (promoted to King of all of the Winds) is the center of the pageantry surrounding the St. Paul Winter Carnival in Minnesota since its inception in 1886. According to festival legend, King Boreas proclaimed St. Paul as the seat of his kingdom and decreed it play host to an annual celebration of winter that would host his royal court and those of his four brothers. This party is crashed every year by his fiery foil, Vulcanus Rex and his Vulcan Krewe, and the Carnival ends on Boreas being overthrown so Vulcanus can begin making preparations for the coming of Spring and Summer.

    Video Games 
  • Golden Sun: In the first game, the ultimate water elemental summon is Boreas, here represented as a giant robot who grinds a huge block of ice into powder, then blows an icy wind at the party's enemies. In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, he still attacks with icy wind, but his form is now a gigantic mechanical horse-train-thing, who stomps the ice under him to generate a blizzard.
  • Pokémon: The Legendary Pokemon Suicune is described in Pokedex entries as the embodiment of the north winds.
  • The Winter Windster, the boss of Shivering Mountain in Wario World, seems to have been designed with this trope in mind. His Japanese name, Kantaro, is even a reference to a traditional anthropomorphic depiction of the North Wind.

    Western Animation 
  • Over the Garden Wall uses the trope by name in an ominous song titled "The Old North Wind". While Greg and Wirt try to sleep in the cold, windy forest, Greg envisions the wind as a villainous character in his dream, where the North Wind is depicted as a sinister old man made of clouds who, along with his three cloudlike minions, wreaks havoc on the Fluffy Cloud Heaven world in Greg's dream.
  • In the 1936 Happy Harmonies short "To Spring", Old Man Winter is a rather jaunty take on this trope, singing and blowing freezing snow as the last hurrah of winter as the gnomes of the short work to usher in spring.
  • In one episode of Little Bear, we learn that the title character's fisherman father once encountered the North Wind, depicted as an angry face in the clouds, while at sea. The wind was determined to capsize Father Bear's boat, but thankfully, Father Bear tricks him into blowing his boat to safety.
  • The Legend of the North Wind also had an animated series version, in which the North Wind possesses/disguises as a human on a quest to try and unseal his full power.


Video Example(s):


Trope Namer - Old North Wind

The trope namer, YES HE IS! Greg imagines the cold wind as a villain in his dream (with three cloud minions.)

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5 (8 votes)

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