Frisk

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Character
Name: Frisk
Occupation:
Relationships:
Fandom: Undertale
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Frisk is the main character of Undertale.

Canon Overview

Frisk is a child who has presumably fallen into the Underground through a hole, and must be guided by the player to try to find a way out, either killing or befriending many monsters along the way. They are rendered in-game as having dark brown hair, vivid yellow skin, closed eyes, and blue clothes with pink stripes. In the game's artbook, Toby Fox says that "[everyone] says the protagonist's sprite looks terrible" and goes on to indicate that this is purposeful because "[if] it looks too good, you'll have a different expectation"[1]. At the beginning of the game, the only items in their possession are a stick and a bandage that has "already been used several times" according to the game's flavor text.

Few canon details are known about them, aside from the fact that they are a child and are referred to with they/them pronouns by all other characters. The rest of the game's cast sometimes behave as though Frisk is communicating with them, but their dialogue is never depicted in-game except for choices made by the player.

Toby Fox once stated in a twitter conversation that the reason he made everyone in Undertale give Frisk food was to promote feelings of "I probably love you forever"[2][3], but it is unclear whether this is supposed to reflect Frisk's own feelings of attachment, a hoped-for emotional response from the player, or both.

Narrative tricks are employed by the game to encourage players to assume that they are the human seen falling into the Underground in the opening sequence and named by the player at the start of gameplay (the first human, Chara), and their true name is only revealed in the game's happiest ending. All official merchandise simply refers to them as "The Human"[4][5][6], and their name is often considered by fans to be a spoiler.

At the end of the True Pacifist ending, the player can choose whether or not Frisk becomes the monsters' ambassador, and whether they stay with Toriel or go off on their own. Exactly what happens to Frisk in other endings is never directly portrayed and is the subject of fan theorizing.

Fandom

Due to the sparing nature of Frisk's canon characterization and how much is left up to player imagination, Frisk's portrayal in fanworks varies wildly in all aspects, from their personality to their appearance to their age. Some fans note a general trend that fans tend to portray Frisk as behaving in a way that reflects their gameplay style the first time they played Undertale, although many cases also exist of fans changing their characterization of Frisk to match changes in their headcanons, or simply because they think that Frisk behaving in a different way fits canon better or is more interesting than how they played.

Frisk is prominently featured both in novelization-style fanworks and in postcanon works. Postcanon works starring Frisk in a main role tend to involve themes of found family.

Fan Theories

Because so little about Frisk's origins is depicted in-game, there are several different theories used by fans. One particularly popular fanon backstory for Frisk in Western fandom is that they were an abused or neglected child pre-canon and were abandoned on Mt. Ebott or otherwise climbed the mountain for "unhappy reasons" like Chara. This headcanon spread from the Abandoned Quiche theory post[7] by tumblr user wordbending and the fic bon courage by Feral Phoenix.

Tumblr user spottoydog, the mod of theory blog passivechara and creator of popular fan character Reada (based on the poncho-wearing human from the game's opening), proposes that Frisk is Chara's reincarnation because they both have red souls, and that Chara is Reada's reincarnation.

Meanwhile, in Japanese fandom, the most popular headcanon for Frisk's backstory is that they never fell from the outside world at all, but were created from Chara's lingering determination, the Golden Flowers on Chara's grave, and Chara's corpse. This theory originally came from a mistranslation in the fan translation patch that rendered the flavor text for Chara's grave ("* Golden flowers. They must have broken your fall.") as "Golden flowers. They will surely break your failure." However, this theory gained extra traction after the official 8-4 translation when Frisk's starting equipment, the Bandage, was confirmed to be a long medical bandage ("houtai" in Japanese) instead of a band-aid ("bansouko"). Fans of this theory propose that the Bandage may have been part of the "mummy wrappings" (Chara's funeral shroud) found in Chara's coffin in the basement of New Home.

Because of the Bandage's description, some fans portray Frisk as having a history of self-harm or suicide attempts. The earliest known such portrayal in fandom is the fic the place I stop and you begin by Feral Phoenix. This headcanon is not without its controversy; BNF tumblr user truereset (formerly beforuskanaya, whittler_of_words on AO3) once received hate mail demanding that they stop drawing Frisk and Chara with "ugly" self-harm scars. In retaliation, truereset organized an illustration zine for drawing these characters with self-harm scars.

One other very popular fan depiction of Frisk is of them using sign language to communicate, as their dialogue is never rendered in-game. However, some dispute this headcanon because Frisk is still depicted communicating over the phone with various characters, even though their dialogue is never shown.

Common Pairings

Wank

Frisk is a common subject of fan disputes.

Gender

One source of discourse is the portrayal of their gender: While their gender is never outright stated in-game, they are consistently referred to with they/them pronouns in the game itself, and are generally interpreted as a nonbinary character. However, some fans, especially those who are less familiar with gender politics, see Frisk's gender as simply ambiguous, and meant for the player to project their own gender onto Frisk. These fans portray Frisk as male or female in fanworks.

Because this issue is so sensitive, fan wank and harassment surrounding it has a tendency to become very heated.

Race

Another common source of arguments is how Frisk's race should be depicted. Because Frisk's sprite is depicted with such an unrealistic skin tone, their race is also seen as ambiguous, with a tentative general consensus that because their sprite has more saturated skin than Chara's, they are probably intended as a character of color.

However, some particularly outspoken fans insist that Frisk should only be drawn with dark brown skin in fanart, which has in some cases led to POC and nonwhite fans being accused of whitewashing or colorism and harassed for drawing Frisk as the same race that they are, with their own skin tone. This sort of harassment is especially common for fans who draw Frisk as East Asian or Native American.

Guzusuru's promotional artwork for Undertale's Kickstarter (which features Frisk, Toriel, and Flowey) portrays Frisk as East Asian,[8] but Toby has never explicitly stated whether Frisk is supposed to have a canon race, so it is possible that this is just Guzusuru's personal interpretation.

Meanwhile, in countries such as Japan and Korea, it's common for fans to believe that Frisk's skin is canonically supposed to be bright yellow like their sprite. This is both because cartoons that stylize human characters' skin tones as unrealistic colors (e.g. The Simpsons) are outside the cultural norm, and due to the headcanon of Frisk literally being yellow being interpreted as support for the theory that Frisk was created through supernatural means. Aside from this, ethnic homogeneity and the prevalence of light-skinned characters in anime can lead to artists in these countries drawing Frisk with the same/nearly the same skin tone as Chara.

Unfortunately this lack of shared cultural context can lead to Western fans reacting with aggression and harassing overseas artists, either because of the "Frisk should only be drawn as brown or black" wank or because Frisk having yellow skin in artwork that doesn't clearly adhere to the game's canon 8-bit homage palette can be unfortunately reminiscent of racist caricatures.

Shipping

Frisk is often the subject of ship wank due to the strong presence of anti-shippers in Undertale fandom.

Because some fans interpret Frisk as being a very young child (as young as 5 or 6), some believe that it is inappropriate to ship Frisk at all. Additionally, due to the prevalence of found family themes in Undertale fanwork and because Frisk can be adopted by Toriel in the game, ships such as Frisk/Chara and Frisk/Asriel are sometimes decried as having incestuous overtones despite the characters not being related; anti-shippers who headcanon Chara as evil often claim that Frisk and Chara should not be shipped because they believe the relationship between the characters to be abusive.

Pairing Frisk with Sans is especially contentious, as depending on individual interpretation of the characters' ages, they can be seen as having a large age gap. Such ship wank has led to fans being harassed, threatened, defamed, and in rare cases physically assaulted.

Fanworks

Fanfic

Fanart

Meta

Archives and Fannish Links

References

  1. ^ Undertale artbook, page 73
  2. ^ *is given food / I probably love you forever - Temmie Chang, 6 December 2016, retrieved 31 January 2018
  3. ^ thats one of the reasons i made everyone in undertale give the protagonist food lol - Toby Fox, 7 December 2016, retrieved 31 January 2018
  4. ^ The Human shirt - Fangamer
  5. ^ Undertale tarot cards - Fangamer
  6. ^ The Human Little Buddy - Fangamer
  7. ^ Abandoned Quiche theory
  8. ^ Undertale Kickstarter page (retrieved 26 December 2018)