I finally went to see the current Disney movie, Frozen. I loved it. The music was good, the animation incredibly well done, the characters complex. And none of that was what was most striking about it.
It’s loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, but it is told from the perspective of the Queen. She begins as Princess Elsa with magical power over ice and snow. Playing with her sister Anna as little girls will, she accidentally hurts the younger girl with her power. She’s terrified by what could have happened. So are their parents. With the encouragement of the adults, she tries not to feel her power, not to let it show, to be utterly controlled – emotionally frozen – at all times. Predictably enough, that eventually fails. She runs away, not realizing she’s leaving bitter magical Winter behind her in what had been the heat of summer. Finally letting her power go, in defiance and in utter joy, she creates an incredible ice palace on the side of the highest mountain. She is determined to remain there, in isolation, where she cannot hurt anyone.
Of course it’s never that simple, and eventually it gets to the point that once again, using her power to defend herself against would-be assassins, she strikes Anna – this time leaving a sliver of enchanted ice in her heart. Eventually it will turn Anna into solid ice. The only cure for a frozen heart is an act of true love.
Everyone – Anna herself, the young man helping her, the villain of the piece (a prince conniving to claim the throne) – assumes that means “true love’s kiss”, the same thing that woke Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Anna is on the verge of turning to solid ice, the young man who really does love her is in sight, and she sees that the conniving prince is about to kill Elsa. Anna turns away from the man who might save her and interposes herself between the prince and Queen Elsa. Just at that moment the enchanted ice turns her into a statue, and his sword shatters when it strikes her.
And then she slowly thaws back into her normal self. That is the act that saves her. It isn’t external. Neither man is required. It isn’t something done for or to her; it is something she herself does. It is her love for her sister, her act of willing sacrifice, that melts the enchanted ice. In saving her sister, she saves herself.
And in the end, there isn’t a wedding. There’s a friendship that might develop into more for Anna. There is no hint of any kind of romance involving Queen Elsa. The ending is happy, and the women saved themselves. I love that.