Friday, December 11, 2009


Who made the first snowman? Who first came up with the idea of placing snowballs on top of each other, and who decided they would use a carrot for a nose?

Humorist Bob Eckstein successfully argues for the cultural importance of the snowman in The History of the Snowman. Journeying backwards through time, Eckstein searches for the first snowman, moving from the present all the way back to the 14th century. Again and again, the snowman pops up in rare prints, paintings, early movies, advertising and, over the past century, in every art form imaginable. The book includes more than two hundred surprising pictures of snowfolk, both contemporary and historical, from Old Dutch to Charles Addams.

Some facts in the book:

  • There are no snowmen in the dry, cold Arctic where humidity is below 20% and the temperature below 10° F--both must be higher in order to pack snow.
  • The Association of Education Publishers has banned the use of the word "snowman" in textbooks because it is gender biased.
  • The Taliban banned snowman-making when it came to power in 1996.
  • Snowmen go way back. Even cavemen are thought to have made snowmen.
  • The Middle Ages were the snowman’s heyday.
  • Bottle-postcards from the 1920s show all the snowmen drunk. Later they were big in liquor ads.

And of course, the book has its own website.

Recent fiction featuring snowmen:

The Chocolate Snowman Murders
Lee Woodyard, who runs a chocolate store in a Michigan tourist town, is coordinating the local holiday art festival when the guest juror ends up dead.

The Night of the Wolf
Stories in this collection center on an impossible crime, especially in The Abominable Snowman, in which witnesses see a snowman come to life and stab a man to death.

Snow Blind
The snowman building contest turns into a double murder investigation after the frozen bodies of two policemen turn up inside two of the snowmen.

The Snowman’s Children
Moving, psychologically intense novel tells the story of an incident from one man's childhood in the 1970s, when a serial killer called The Snowman stalked the streets of suburban Detroit.

The Year of the Flood
Retelling of the 2003 novel Oryx and Crake shows how Glenn and Jimmy became Crake and the Snowman.

For more books that explore one, sometimes obscure, topic, see Good Read's One Word Wonders list.

*Postcard from the Smithsonian magazine.


Anonymous said...

Frosty the Snowman's favorite song is "Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow".

Oracle said...

What did one snowman say to the other snowman?

Smells like carrots.