In The Polar Express (2004), we see this hobo:
He claims to be the 'King of the North Pole', but I'm not entirely sure.
Who or what is he? I'm looking for an out-of-universe explanation regarding who or what this character is.
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There are a few theories, probably all of them true.
In the DVD extras, there's an additional song which features a backstory about the "king of the train" being killed in a tunnel and haunting the train
There are more Dickens references in this film than you can shake a stick at. With the young boy representing the disbelieving Scrooge, the 'Three Ghosts' become the Hobo (Past) the Conductor (Present) and Santa (Future). Note the Ebeneezer Scrooge cameo about halfway through the film.
There's a fair argument to be made that the Hobo represents the 'Holy Ghost' of the classic Christian trinity with Santa as 'the Father" and the Conductor as the 'the Son'.