Brace yourself! Words that begin with Yuki litter this Pokemon origin story. That’s because Yuki is the Japanese word for snow. There are hundreds of old Japanese folklore tales built around snow witches and apparitions. It’s a widely admired topic! Theories suggest that they were likely legends passed between travelers in alpine climates, who witnessed women suffering from madness.
The short answer is that Froslass is based on a myriad of Yuki-Onna tales and related legends. The Yuki-onna is a yokai whose name translates to ‘Snow Woman.’ When analyzing Pokedex entries and the evolutionary line, it becomes clear that Game Freak played a bit of a mix and match between yokai stories.
I love an unforgettable yokai story about a dangerous damsel. So, stick around. You’ll walk away from this post as a genuine scholar of Japanese legend and folklore.
Froslass is the epitome of excellent Pokemon design.
Visually, she’s adorned in a blinding ivory kimono laced with a crimson ribbon. Two shards of ice bear the semblance of a demon’s horns, but she is neither frightening nor intimidating. That’s 100% Sugimori’s signature style, but it lines up with Yuki-Onna legends, too!
The red ribbon is likely a reference to a Yukifuriba: An old snow witch who spent her life with the job of handling the dead – widely considered unclean. She used a red rope to hold corpses since it left her hands unscathed. In death, as the legends say, she carried that crimson cord around to tie up children and devour them.
Functionally, Froslass bears a dual-typing oozing with the sensation that she has a riveting backstory lurking quietly in the shadows. Ice and ghost are an awkward type pairing.
Froslass is my absolute favorite slippery spike setter in competitive Pokemon. She’s elusive under the protection of a hailstorm, access to thunder waves and confuse ray spam make her an ephemeral nightmare on the battlefield. Those are cannon Yuki-Onna traits as well!
Here’s a list of each unique Pokedex entry for Froslass:
D/P: It freezes foes with an icy breath nearly -60 degrees F. What seems to be its body is actually hollow.
Platinum and B/W: It freezes prey by blowing its -58 degree F breath. It is said to then secretly display its prey.
HG/SS: Legends in snowy regions say that a woman who was lost on an icy mountain was reborn as Froslass.
Sun: When it finds humans or Pokémon it likes, it freezes them and takes them to its chilly den, where they become decorations.
Moon: The soul of a woman lost on a snowy mountain possessed an icicle, becoming this Pokémon. The food it most relishes is the souls of men.
US: It freezes hikers who have come to climb snowy mountains and carries them back to its home. It only goes after men it thinks are handsome.
UM: It’s said that on nights of terrible blizzards, it comes down to human settlements. If you hear it knocking at your door, do not open it!
Sword: After a woman met her end on a snowy mountain, her regrets lingered on. From them, this Pokémon was born. Its favorite food is frozen souls.
Shield: It spits out cold air of nearly −60 degrees Fahrenheit to freeze its quarry. It brings frozen prey back to its lair and neatly lines them up.
Creepy, right? Again, every trait here reinforces her snow witch origins.
The Yuki-Onna is a Kami that’s extremely popular and equally misunderstood. Her stories range from faithful wife to carnivorous killer, depending on which region or century the story spawned. Sometimes she serves as a guide for childless couples lost in a snowstorm. Sometimes the Yuki-Onna is a servant of a higher deity. She also bears a few different names:
If there’s a word pairing between snow and woman, Yuki-Onna likely bears that name, too. The exchangeable names sometimes muddle her stories with different yokai, but there’s plenty of information we can still confirm.
The first recorded encounter with the Yuki-Onna appears in Sogi’s Tales of Many Lands, written in the Muromachi period – predating Froslass by about 700 years. Sogi claimed to see her in present-day Niigata.
According to Sogi, the Yuki-Onna was a ten-foot-tall woman who appeared in a fierce blizzard. Her skin was pasty and pale. Her hair was long, white as frost and hung loosely from her shoulders. She wore a translucent white kimono that tightly cusped her skin with the force of magic. She was slender and voluptuous.
Well, that description explains all the Froslass fan art we see floating around on the internet.
Settle down, boys. The Yuki-onna is one of those ‘forbidden attraction’ types. Although, she’s pretty docile in her first appearance. She vanished upon hearing the monk speak. She was the spirit of the snow, and Sugi didn’t elaborate further.
As the story of the Yuki-Onna began sprouting up in other Japanese prefectures, her hair became jet black, and her nature grew more sinister. Otherwise, her appearance remained static.
Sogi’s story expanded with time. This version of the Yuki-Onna would call out to victims in the middle of the forest. Those who actively engaged her were frozen solid by her touch or icy breath.
The Niigata prefecture had a few stories of their own to tell about the elusive snow witch. The citizens often said that the Yuki-Onna haunted desolate, snowy forests constantly searching for human prey. Scouring. Ransacking. She survived by using her icy breath to suck the vital energy from a male victim. Since she had no use for flesh or meat, she often decorated her encampment with frozen corpse trophies.
This version of the story carried over to the Aomori and Miyagi prefectures.
Each generation added more details. It became widespread knowledge that the Yuki-Onna left no footprints. Many storytellers went as far as to say that the Yuki-Onna hovered gracefully across the snowdrifts. Froslass absorbed this trait, too.
Many storytellers began to embellish the story with the idea that a Yuki-Onna was a woman deceived, abandoned, and murdered under the veil of a ferocious blizzard. These stories mentioned that a Yuki-Onna was most likely to appear at the start of a new year.
In Yamagata, they spoke of the Yuki-Onna as a well-adorned moon princess suffering from boredom and an overwhelming fascination with the Earth below. She descended to explore the foreign land but struggled to return. On snowy nights with a full moon, you could hear her crying out for her old home.
I say it’s about time I share a Pokemon yokai story of my own. I’ll be fashioning it around the most popular Yuki-Onna story ever told. The version by Lafcadio Hearn in his personal work, the Kwaidan:
Our hero Ash and his father, Professor Oak, were off woodcutting in the foreign region of Sinnoh. The deafening howl of the wind hampered their ability to communicate. Legend says that the flakes of snow were so dense the men could scarcely recognize one another.
Ash and his negligent father sought out refuge in a nearby hut that hunters would regularly use. They cast aside their straw raincoats and built a humble fire to rest for the night. The crumbling old shack grew warmer, and the men fell into slumber.
Around the tick of midnight, Ash woke up to a light and elegant snowfall within the hut. Beside him, the fire began to peter out. When he rose to stoke the fire, Ash noticed something peculiar and ethereal.
A Froslass was kneeling before Professor Oak. With her icy embrace, his skin faded into a pale turquoise. His breath was stolen from him. Eventually, his skin lost all pigment, bleached white like a ghost. Professor Oak lay still and lifeless, frozen solid. Not even a max revive could grant him more time on this planet.
With Oak’s sacrifice, Froslass quelled the blizzard. She glanced over at Ash and drifted toward him with beautiful, unwavering poise. She whispered lightly, “Oh, but you’re so handsome! I shall spare you, but only if you vow to never speak of this night.”
Ash was speechless and fearful for his life. He nodded vigorously.
A few years passed.
One summer afternoon, Ash was hiking back to Pallet Town from the Cerulean gym, and he came across a fatigued Misty. She looked dehydrated, beaten by the elements. Ash slumped her arm over his shoulder and took her home.
Ash and Misty had half a dozen babies. They opened up a Pokemart. The whole town gossiped about how the children were destined to become Pokemon masters. They won the genetic lottery.
So many years had passed that Ash could not discern whether the night he’d encountered Froslass was a murky dream or reality.
On a snowy evening, Ash sat before a fire, reminiscing his last evening with Professor Oak. Misty glanced over at him, wondering what had his feathers ruffled. So, she asked what was bothering him.
Yeah. Ash blurted out his secret in the same reckless way that Ash tends to do everything.
Suddenly, Misty began to shift in form. She was that dreaded Froslass all along! She ruthlessly murdered all of their shared children and levitated off into the hazy night’s sky.
Moral of the story? Snitches get stitches.
So the last story was great and all, but if you watch the Pokemon anime or delve any deeper into information about Froslass, it doesn’t quite line up.
Froslass is a motherly figure. I think the story that matches Froslass best is the story that arose in Aomori: The tale of Yuki Onba and Yukinko. (Onba is Japanese for nursing mother, and Yukinko translates to snow baby.)
The Aomori prefecture is infamous for its tales of snowy apparitions. On average, they get 13 feet of snow a year! Anyway, on to the story of Yuki Onba and her baby:
Tales arose of a young woman resembling a Yuki-Onna clasping a child for dear life in an overgrown alpine forest. Shivering and inappropriately dressed for the climate, she weeps and begs passerby men to hold her child. The men accept.
The men are frozen solid on the spot. The death is slow and agonizing, though. They helplessly witness the snowdrifts piling onto their stiff bodies. The last thing these unfortunate men lay eyes upon is the cackling laughter of a Yuki Onba. Men who refuse to hold the child are hammered into the ground and sloppily devoured.
Here’s the wild part: One man apparently outsmarted a Yuki Onba by clenching a small sword in his teeth. As he froze, he drew his sword closer to the child. The man was released and showered in gold and inhuman strength.
A similar story from Miyagi exists, too. The Yuki Onba and her Yukinko behave similarly, but the victim is a samurai guard who wandered off into the dark after an evening of spooky stories. His friends venture out to avenge him, and one trips over a small child running rampant in the day. He grows at an alarming rate until he’s the size of a house. The samurai stabs the gigantic toddler and discovers his body was hollow. Little yukinko shatters into a million little icicle shards. The guards call it a day.
Now we can mark the hollow body traits from Froslass Pokedex entries off of the checklist! But back to the ‘Please sir! Hold my baby!’ segment.
Look. If you ever find yourself in a Japanese folklore tale and a random apparition of a woman asks you to hold her baby… Just say no. I know this version screws you either way, but there are similar stories in every climate throughout Japan.
This story is a snowy variant of the Ubume yokai. Since Yuki-Onba and Yukinko tales resemble the tale of the Ubume, there’s a lot of speculation surrounding whether the baby is real or conjured up as a trap. Stories like these are a result of a gradual change in historic Japanese belief:
Early on, a child was considered an extension of a woman’s body. As time progressed, Japan viewed children as separate entities; and, with that evolution came some pretty chauvinistic viewpoints. Children fell under male ownership, and it became a cardinal sin for women to die during childbirth.
That’s where the legends of ‘hold my baby’ hexes took shape.
The potential conjuring of Snorunt brings me to the final yokai: Yuki Warashi. Snorunt shares the appearance of a child dressed in a Yuki Mino coat. It’s a little pointy-tipped straw coat used exclusively on young children. It’s the same coat that Yuki-Warashi are infamous for wearing.
A Yuki-Warashi generally looks lifeless in artwork. They’re often expressionless and resemble dolls.
Although, the tale of the Yuki-Warashi is a lighthearted one. It involves an old childless couple who desperately wish for a child. The couple sculpts a snow child as a distraction from their despair and utter loneliness.
At nightfall, a massive blizzard approaches, and the elderly couple hears a faint knock on their door. They open the door with extreme caution, and a lively child prances into their home. The child was healthy and exuberant, and the couple was too delighted to question where he appeared from.
Yeah, it’s pretty much the plotline to The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Sequels never live up to the hype of the original, though!
The elderly couple discovered their joy was fleeting, however. The child grew frailer as spring drew closer. On the first day of spring, a trail of wet footprints led to an open doorway. The child disappeared.
But the joyous little kiddo returned next winter, fat and boisterous. The mother and father then understood the magic of their offspring and raised him every winter for years to come!
So I went a little overboard writing about the origins of Froslass. I probably could have typed out “Oh, Froslass is based on a Yuki-Onna” and answered your question adequately.
But then you’d miss out on centuries of fascinating cultural lore that extends beyond the reach of Pokemon, Game Freak, or every valuable asset of Nintendo combined. Froslass is much more than a Yuki-Onna. She’s a culmination of half a dozen yokai tales and a unified expressive statement for every region in Japan.
Next time your opponent in competitive online battles rages out because you’ve stacked your Snow Cloak ability with brightpowder and general Froslass parahax, you can rest easy. You’re giving your opponent the complete Yuki-Onna treatment. Cryptic. Enigmatic. Silvery. Ghastly. Just be sure to steer her clear of rain dance teams!
Froslass is peak Pokemon design.
I sincerely hope our crew at Game Freak return to their [roots in Pokemon art style.] Especially after Pokemon Sword and Shield were such a letdown.
As always, thanks for reading. Much love. Maybe you’re curious to hear the horrifying origins of Exeggutor next? Hydreigon? Perhaps you’ll slither down to my social media and haunt me with a follow? If not, I hope you enjoyed your stay!