The Gospel according to "Frozen II" (or, why Elsa is Jesus)

(This post is still under construction. I will work on it more in the coming weeks.)

(This post contains spoilers. Go watch "Frozen II" before you read it)

(pic: Elsa's birth)

First, I'm going to give the same disclaimer that I gave in "The Gospel according to Disney's "Frozen"". Like the first movie, Frozen II is not explicitly "Christian" in the way that a movie like "The Passion of the Christ" is. Frozen II makes no explicit, definitive statements about real-world Christianity. Like other great works of art, it can be - and has been - interpreted in may different ways, ranging from insightful to ridiculous, and it has different meaning for different people. You don't have to see it with a Christian interpretation. But if you want to look into the deeper layers of its meaning, it's there, infused throughout the whole story. 

In fact, Frozen II is quite remarkably Christian in one very important sense: its whole universe is built from the ground up with a singular purpose, to place the Christ-figure of the story at its very center. Such stories are quite rare. Sure, there're many stories that'll dabble with a Christ-figure: they'll perhaps have a character walk on water, or perform a heroic sacrifice (tvtrope links). Such references often do not reach any serious level of depth. But in Frozen II, every major piece of its lore is there to connect its Christ-figure character to the Son of God and Man.

Who is this character? Who could it be but Elsa? Frozen II is fundamentally about her: her calling, her journey, her transformation and acceptance into her true role in the universe. And Elsa is Jesus: or more precisely, her role as the Fifth Spirit is analogous to Jesus's role in the real world. This analogy is, of course, bound to be slightly imperfect, but the points of similarity are numerous and profound, and occupy crucial points in the story.

What I'm saying is that Elsa is one of the clearest case of a Christ-figure that I have ever seen in any work of fiction. This level of similarity to Jesus himself - close but not exactly the same - actually creates a problem of its own, and necessitates another disclaimer. Here it is:

I most seriously urge you not to get your Christology from a Disney movie. If you want to know about the real Jesus, go read the Bible. Yes, Elsa has some major points of similarities with Jesus, and we should employ such points to illuminate our understanding for them both. But keep in mind that there are some dissimilarities as well.

So, is Elsa really that much of a Christ-figure? To the point that the film's entire world is built around this analogy? To the point that it merits a warning not to carry it too far? You'll see. A strong music beats at the heart of this claim. Let us follow its call.

We'll start by clearing some superficial observations out of the way. (pics) Yes, like Jesus, Elsa can walk on water. That was a cool scene at the Dark Sea. We can check off that box. She also raises Olaf back up from from his death, like how Jesus raised Lazarus and some others. Another box checked off there.

And one of the most striking images of Elsa is her as a white rider, saving Arendelle from its destruction at the end. This depiction fits well with Christ on a white horse, as he'll appear when he returns at the end of this world (Rev. 19:11-13).

At a slightly deeper level of similarity is Elsa coming back from the dead, after being frozen. In any given work of fiction (including, incidentally, in Frozen I (link)), it's a fair guess that the character that comes back from the dead is the Christ-figure in that story. After all, Jesus's resurrection is THE single event that validates Christianity's claims. So this is definitely worth noting. But the movie itself doesn't dwell on this too much, probably because it wanted to keep the fact that Ahtohallan is God (link) in the background, in keeping with its puzzle plot. So, while I will mention that this is important, it actually doesn't provide a whole lot of evidence for my claim that Elsa is Jesus. It's important from the side of Christianity, but not as much from the side of the movie, so that leaves it as a middling piece of evidence in matching the two.

But at this point, we already have enough evidence to say that Elsa is a Christ-figure. In any other work of fiction, such a concentration of evidence would be enough to say that this interpretation is a legitimate contender. But we haven't even really gotten started yet.

The issue with the kinds of observations presented above is that they're not at the heart of the movie. They're fundamentally not what the movie is about. As mentioned before: Christ's resurrection is absolutely critical for Christianity, but the movie doesn't spend too much time exploring the implication of Elsa's resurrection. Nor is the movie fundamentally about how Elsa can run on water, or whether Olaf will come back from the dead. So what we need to do is to get to the deep questions, the questions that he movie really cares about - starting with "why was Elsa born with her powers?"

The key scene for this question occurs right after Anna and Elsa discovers that their parents died en route to Ahtohallan, while looking for answers about Elsa. She's upset, feeling responsible for their deaths. Anna and Elsa then have this conversation, which is incredibly dense in its references to Jesus:

Anna: Yelena asked, why would the spirits reward Arendelle with a magical queen? Because our mother saved our father. She saved her enemy. Her good deed was rewarded with you. You are a gift!
Elsa: For what?
Anna: If anyone can resolve the past, if anyone can save Arendelle and free this forest, it's you! I believe in you, Elsa. More than anyone or anything.

The key facts here can be condensed as follows: Elsa is born as a gift, out of love for an enemy - and Anna responds to her by believing in her. The parallels with Jesus is clear. He, too, was born as a gift (John 3:16, Rom. 6:23), out of love for his enemies (Rom. 5:6-11) - and we respond by believing in him (Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9).


(cut?)
Elsa was born to Iduna as a reward for saving Agnarr, her enemy: the son and heir to the throne of King Runeard, who attacked her people. Even just saving a friend is a rare noble deed, although close friends do occasionally save one another. But Iduna demonstrated a remarkable righteousness, in that she loved her enemy enough to save him in battle. And Elsa is born as an eventual result of that love, even as Christ was born to us while we were still sinners, and naturally God's enemies (Rom 5: 6-11).



Furthermore, Elsa is born to right an ancestral wrong: the original sin by King Runeard. From the perspective of all non-Arendellian actors in the story - the Northuldra, the elemental spirits, and Ahtohallan - there where two Arendellian monarchs who established a new kind of relationship with them. The first was King Runeard. The second, and last, is Queen Elsa. The first monarch murdered the Northuldra leader, bringing hostility and war. Through that one man, sin entered and killed their whole relationship, ruining everything. The last monarch became a life-giving spirit, and restored that relationship. So in Runeard, all is lost, and in Elsa, all is found.

Likewise, Jesus was born to right an ancestral wrong: Adam's original sin. From God's perspective, there are two humans who established a new kind of relationship with him. The first is Adam. The second, and last, is Jesus Christ. The first man violated God's direct command, and brought sin into the world. Through that one man, sin - and its consequence, death - spread to everyone, and ruined everything (Rom 5:12). The last man became a life-giving spirit, and restored our relationship with God (1 Cor 15:45). For in Adam, all die, even as in Christ all shall be made alive (1 Cor 15:22).




"you're a gift", "I believe in you, Elsa" - right before connection with the fifth spirit


As the Bible passages linked above should convince you, these are not trivial connections. "Love your enemies" is one of the most important and distinctive of Jesus's teachings, and Christ as the "Second" or "Last Adam" is a major theme in Christianity. These are both paralleled very closely in Frozen II, where a major plot plot is the circumstances and reason for Elsa's birth.





But we are still only just getting started. Yes, the reason for Elsa and Jesus being born line up quite nicely. But what is that reason? What is Elsa's role in the "Frozen" universe, and her life's purpose? That's the heart of the movie. That's what we need to dive into.

Elsa is the Fifth Spirit - a bridge between humans and the magic of nature. This statement can be broken down into its three components: "human", "nature", and "bridge".

First, "human". As the Fifth Spirit, one of Elsa's roles is to bring reconciliation to the humans - to right the wrong that severed the relationship between Arendelle and the Northuldra. We briefly touched on this above, when we spoke of her role as the "Last Adam". The eventual goal here is succinctly stated by Queen Anna at the end of the movie, in her role as the "human" half of the Fifth Spirit: "our lands and people, now connected by love". In Elsa and Anna, there is no distinction between Arendelle and Northuldra (Rom 10:12): they are one in the Fifth Spirit. They are descendants and heirs to both peoples, and to them belong the heritage and cultures of both of their parents (Gal 3:29).

In fact, if there is any further group out there who presents a dividing wall of hostility between them and the Fifth Spirit, you can bet that Elsa and Anna will break down that wall and reconcile with them too (Eph 2:13-14). For in Christ, there is neither Arendelle or Northuldra, nor Jew or Gentile, nor Greek or barbarian or Scythian. Neither is there slave or free, nor male or female. For everyone who's connected by love to the Divine Bridge are one (Gal 3:26-29, Col 3:11, Act 10:34-48).

Again, as the preponderance of Bible verses referenced above should convince you, this is a major part of why Jesus came into the world. And it correspondingly serves as one of the major pillars among Frozen 2's themes.

Next, "nature". In the beginning, the elemental spirits of nature lived in harmony with the Northuldra. It was charming, magical. But King Runeard's original sin caused the elemental spirits to become enraged, and they turned themselves against all humans. When they awaken later, they're still hostile - some murderously so. But Elsa is the Fifth Spirit. She is their rightful ruler, as the center of the symbol of elemental unity, and the one to whom they need to be aligned. As such, the enraged elemental spirits are naturally and quickly tamed by her.

Likewise, in the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in harmony with nature in the Garden of Eden. It was "very good" (Gen 1). But Adam's original sin caused nature itself to be cursed and corrupted, and since then, humanity and nature have been at odds against each other (Gen 3:16-19, Rom 8:20-21). But Christ is the Creator. He is the rightful ruler of nature, as the firstborn over creation, and the one by and for whom all things were created (Col 1:15-17). As such, nature itself longs to be set right through his redemptive work (Rom 8:20-23).

Again we see that Elsa's role in the story correspond directly to Jesus's role in real life. They are the unifier of people and the ruler and tamer of nature.

Lastly, "bridge". As the Fifth Spirit, Elsa and Anna together form the two sides of the connection between humans and nature. They are, together, builders of that great bridge. The title of "The Great Bridge-Builder" is a very old one. You may better recognize it in its Latin form: Pontifex Maximus.

Let's go over a little bit of historical background. In the days of ancient Rome, "Pontifex Maximus" was the title of their "greatest priest". That is what the words literally mean. A moment's reflection here will tell you that "pontifex" then must mean both "priest" and "bridge-builder". And of course, that makes sense. Priests are those who bridge the divide between gods and men, and act as the mediator between them. This title was later appropriated by the Catholic Church for the Pope - you may recognize "Supreme Pontiff" as being essentially the same in meaning.

But, of course, by now you should not be surprised to learn that this was title for Jesus before it was ever a title for the Pope. Christ is our Great High Priest.


Originally, the elemental spirits lived in harmony with the Northuldra.

 The elemental spirits are enraged by the battle following Runeard's original sin. They are, in a sense, cursed by it, and consequently set themselves against all humans (gen 3). When Elsa finally encounters them later, they are still hostile - some murderously so. The major action scenes of the movie are basically Elsa fighting, defeating, and taming them, as they implicitly acknowledge her as the Fifth Spirit - the one to whom they need to become aligned.

fallen creation (gen 3
rom 8 creation redeemed
christ's primacy over creation Col 1
creation meant to reflect God, his goodness, in benevolence to humans (gen 1, Rom 1:20, Ps. 19)



. They turn themselves against all humans, and when Elsa finally encounters them later, they are still hostile - some murderously so.


 Thereafter the elemental spirits are







Who is Elsa? (possibly switch with above)












Elsa is not shown to be morally perfect - not in how she abandons Anna, and certainly not in Frozen I, where the whole story is basically about what a mess she's in. 


disclaimers
no serious Christology
not only interpretation

Shallow to deep

walks on water
comes back from the dead
ability to create life/ raise her creations from the dead
white rider

roles - this is what the movie actually cares about.
to right an ancestral wrong
born from love of one's enemies
Bridge: Pontifex maximus
uniter of people (Jews and gentiles) - Anna's last line
ruler of nature - specifically with stopping the tidal wave
work of reconciliation
two natures, spirit and human
"Fifth Element" incarnate



Explicit connection: Music: Vuelie

new titles:"goddess" is probably too low. Quite frankly, if I'm right, NO title is high enough.

But Elsa is us?

Yes, with some adjustments:
Also, Elsa is probably only ~75% of the way to a full-blown Jesus figure, like Aslan.
Elsa and Anna
some regrets - not exactly the "Gospel" story, relies too much on Frozen 1.
again disclaimer, nobody should claim to be Jesus
"Christian" means little Christ?, and we are to imitate him

But show yourself,
Korean version?
step into your power
Grow into something new
you are the one you've been waiting for for all of your life
so show yourself





You may next want to read:
A systematic mythology of the "Frozen" universe
The Gospel according to Disney's "Frozen"
Another post, from the table of contents

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