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

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

Introduction, disclaimers, and thesis

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. It makes no definitive statements about Christianity. It can be, and has been, interpreted in many different ways by many different people, ranging from insightful to ridiculous. You, too, are free to construct your own person headcanon however you want, without being subject to any external influences.

So you don't have to see Frozen II with a Christian interpretation - but if you want to look into the deeper layers of its meaning, it's all there, richly 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, many stories will dabble with a Christ-figure: they'll perhaps have a character walk on water, or perform a heroic sacrifice. Such references often do not reach any serious levels of depth. But in Frozen II, every major piece of its lore is there to connect its Christ-figure character to Jesus, the Son of God and Man.

Who is this character? Who else 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. Of course, this analogy is 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 deep music beats at the heart of this claim. Let us follow its call.

Some quick observations

We'll start by clearing some superficial observations out of the way. Yes, like Jesus, Elsa can walk on water. That was a cool scene at the Dark Sea. So we can check off that box. She also raises Olaf back up from his death, like how Jesus raised Lazarus and 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 how Christ will appear at the end of the world, when he returns as a rider on a white horse.

Elsa also comes back from the dead, after being frozen. This is actually a pretty deep level of similarity with Jesus. In any given work of fiction (including Frozen I), it's a fair guess that the character that comes back from the dead is the Christ-figure of that story. After all, Jesus's resurrection is the single most important validation of Christianity's claims. So Elsa's resurrection is definitely noteworthy - but the movie itself doesn't dwell on this too much: it's quite coy about how and why Elsa comes back from the dead, in keeping with its puzzle plot. So the resurrection is important from the side of Christianity, but not as much from the side of the movie, and that leave it as a middling piece of evidence in matching the two.

Now the above points could already be enough to say that Elsa is a Christ-figure, but we want to do better. The issue with these observations is that fundamentally, they're not what the movie is about. It doesn't spend too much time exploring the implications of Elsa's resurrection, or the meaning of her new white dress - although these are both important. Nor is the movie fundamentally about how Elsa can run on water, or whether Olaf will come back from the dead.

So what we now need to do is to turn to the deep questions, the questions that the movie really cares about. Let us start with "what circumstances lead to Elsa being born with her powers?"

What is the reason for Elsa's birth?

The key scene for this question occurs right after Anna and Elsa discover their parent's shipwreck. The sisters learn that their parents were heading for Ahtohallan, searching for answers about Elsa's powers. Elsa, feeling responsible for their deaths, becomes upset. 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.
Frozen - Birth by miacat7
So, 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, out of love for God's enemies - and we respond by believing in him.

Furthermore, Elsa is born to right an ancestral wrong: King Runeard's original sin. From the perspective of all the non-Arendellians - the Northuldra, the elemental spirits, and Ahtohallan - there were two important 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 murdered the Northuldra leader, bringing hostility and war. Through that one man, sin entered and killed their whole relationship, ruining everything. But 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 important 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. But the last man became a life-giving spirit, and restored our relationship with God. For in Adam, all die, even as in Christ all shall be made alive.

As you can tell from the numerous Bible passages linked above, 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.

What is Elsa's role?

But we are still only just getting started. Yes, the reasons for the birth of both Elsa and Jesus line up quite nicely. But how does Elsa satisfy that reason? What does she actually do? What is her role in the "Frozen" universe, and how does that fulfill her life's purpose? That's the heart of the movie. That's what we need to dive into.

Elsa, together with Anna, is the Fifth Spirit - the bridge between humans and the magic of nature. Her role can be analyzed piece by piece, by looking at the four nouns in that description: "humans", "nature", "bridge", and "magic".

First, "humans". One of the roles of the Fifth Spirit is to bring reconciliation to the humans - to right the wrong that severed the relationship between Arendelle and the Northuldra. The goal 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".

How does this come about? In Elsa and Anna, there is no distinction between Arendelle and Northuldra: the two peoples are one in the Fifth Spirit. The sisters have dispelled the dividing mist, and destroyed the dam of enmity that kept the two peoples separate and hostile. They are descendants and heirs to both peoples, and to them belong the heritage and cultures of both of their parents. In this way they have united both peoples to themselves, thus making peace.

Likewise, Christ too came to bring reconciliation and unity among all people. In him, there is no distinction between Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male or female: we are all one in Christ. He has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, that set such ethnic, economic, or gender differences against one another. We are all descendants and heirs to God's promises, and all united to Christ as God's people.

So, both Elsa and Jesus have the role of reconciling and uniting the different people groups.

Second, "nature". Another role of the Fifth Spirit is to restore nature's harmony. In the beginning, the Northuldra lived in accord with the elemental spirits of nature. It was charming and magical. But King Runeard's original sin caused the elemental spirits to become enraged, and they became hostile towards all humans - some murderously so. But Elsa is the Fifth Spirit. She is their rightful ruler. As the center of the symbol of elemental unity, she is the one to whom they all 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 - and it was "very good". But Adam's original sin caused nature itself to be cursed and corrupted, and since then, humans and nature have been at odds against each other. 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. As such, nature itself longs to be set right through his redemptive work.

So, both Elsa and Jesus have the role of being the restorer of nature.

Next, "bridge". As the Fifth Spirit, Elsa and Anna 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. The Catholic Church later used "Pontifex Maximus" as a title 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 Christ has been called our Great High Priest since the earliest days of Christianity, before such a thing was ever a title for the Pope. Jesus Christ is the one who bridges the gap between us and God, and allows us to approach him with confidence.

So, like Jesus, Elsa is the bridge - the bridge between humans and the magic of nature.

But if Jesus is the bridge between us and God, then where does God fit into the description of the Fifth Spirit? This requires us to ask the most important question about Elsa: who, and what, is she? This question now brings us to the last remaining noun in the description of the Fifth Spirit: "magic".

Who, and what, is Elsa?

In Frozen's universe, all magic flows from Ahtohallan. As hinted by young Anna's question ("Ahto-who-what?"), Ahtohallan is a "who" before it is a "what". In fact, "Ahtohallan" - or the entity behind it - is nothing less than the God of the "Frozen" universe. I've written a whole separate post where I explain all this, which I highly recommend you read - some of my following claims may not make sense otherwise. In any case, the relevant key points from that post are as follows:

Elsa is the Fifth Spirit in a manner analogous to the other elemental spirits: meaning, she is the representative, or incarnation, of the "fifth element" - the element associated with the God "Ahtohallan". That is, just as Gale IS air, and Nokk IS water, Elsa IS Ahtohallan. They are of the same substance: Air from air. Water from water. And so, magic from magic, and God from God.

Likewise, Jesus is of the same substance as his Father: God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.

Furthermore, Ahtohallan is Elsa's "mother" in a couple of different ways: one, because Elsa is the Fifth Spirit, who is the incarnation of Ahtohallan and therefore one in essence with it. And two, because Elsa's birth was determined by Ahtohallan, in that it chose Iduna as the one to give birth to the Fifth Spirit. This makes Elsa the "daughter" of Ahtohallan.

Jesus is also the "Son of God" in similar ways: one, because he is eternally begotten of the Father and therefore of one essence with him. And two, because his birth was determined by God, in that his mother the virgin Mary conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, Elsa is still human. This means that the Fifth Spirit has two natures - and this is represented in multiple ways. First, Elsa and Anna are the two sides of one bridge: Elsa is magical, and Anna is ordinary. Second, they are descended from two separate lineages: the more magical Northuldra, and the more ordinary Arendelle. And lastly, Elsa herself is an elemental spirit, but also fully human. So the Fifth Spirit is the daughter of Ahtohallan, but also of two ordinary human beings: Iduna of Northuldra, and Agnarr of Arendelle.

Similarly, Jesus also has two natures. He is the Son of God from his Father, fully divine and perfectly God. He is also the Son of Man from his human mother, fully human and perfectly man. So Jesus is both the Son of God and Son of Man.

All this adds up to a momentous claim. Let's put it all together: Elsa is the Fifth Spirit - the divine elemental incarnation of Ahtohallan itself, who is also fully human. Her unique identity enables her to fulfill her role: to unify all things to herself and thereby to Ahtohallan, by taming the elemental spirits of nature, and bringing reconciliation to the people groups.

In the same way, Jesus is God incarnate. He is the Son of God and Son of Man. His unique identity enables him to fulfill his role: to reconcile all things to God, by redeeming all of creation through his work, and uniting all the peoples of the world to himself.

All this gives Elsa the right to bear some new titles. Some fans have taken to calling Elsa a "goddess", but I often reply that she is at LEAST that: "goddess" is in fact too low of a title for her. According to all that I've said above, Elsa is in fact the Christ-figure of the "Frozen" universe, and there is NO title which is too lofty for her. To her belongs the name above all names, and all the most beautiful, most excellent titles. As Quintessence Incarnate, she is the Queen of the Elements. She is the former Queen of Arendelle, and Protector of the Enchanted Forest. She is the Pontifex Maximus, by virtue of being the Daughter of Humanity - of both Arendelle and Northuldra - but also the Daughter and Avatar of Ahtohallan.

And that, fundamentally, is what Frozen II is all about. The person and nature of the Fifth Spirit is the very heart of this movie. This is what explains everything else about Frozen II. Likewise, the Incarnate Jesus Christ - God himself becoming flesh and dwelling among us - is the very heart of Christianity. The Incarnation is the miracle that explains all other miracles, and everything else about our universe. So at last, in these deepest questions we can ask about the person of primary importance, Frozen II and Christianity are in full agreement.

A midpoint summary

So, here are the similarities between Elsa and Jesus, ordered in increasing depth of meaning.

Quick observations: they both...
...walk on water
...raise their friends from the dead
...appear as a white rider
...comes back from their deaths

Circumstances of their birth: they both...
...were born as a gift, as a result of love for one's enemies
...were born to right an ancestral wrong
...induce others to believe in them

Their roles: they both...
...bring reconciliation and unity between peoples
...restore nature
...act as the bridge between humans, nature, and the divine/magical

Their identities: they both...
...are of the same substance, essence, or element as God/Ahtohallan
...are the child of God/Ahtohallan
...are human, and the child of humans
...are dual-natured, in having both a divine and human nature.
...can uniquely fulfill their roles, because of their unique dual-nature identity.

That is an extensive list, which includes some of the most significant statements you can make in the movie and in Christianity. Is this not enough to say that Elsa is a clear Christ-figure?

The Key

What more can we do make our case? Of course, we cannot expect the creators to come right out and say that Elsa is Jesus: that would ruin the work, as providing the one true interpretation for the film would turn it into propaganda instead of art. But what else could they have done, to leave absolutely no ambiguity that they intended this interpretation?

Well, if there was a Christian element in the movie that laid out the key components of the story, that might do it. And ideally, this couldn't be just any element: it would have to be unambiguously, explicitly Christian. It would have to be crucially important to the whole movie. And it would have to directly correspond to most of the major components that we laid out above, in addressing and answering all of the film's big questions. If such a thing could be found in the story, I would say that's very convincing. And, of course, such a thing does in fact exist.

Vuelie is effectively the theme song for not just Frozen II, but for the whole franchise. It is played three times in the movie itself - including at the very beginning and the very end, bracketing the whole movie. It is played twice in Frozen I, bracketing that movie as well. It also played in the first trailer for Frozen II. No other song is played so completely so many times in Frozen II, or in the whole franchise.

Now, dedicated fans will already know that Vuelie is based on the Christian hymn "Fairest Lord Jesus". You can kind of hear the similarities in some parts of the melody, and it is absolutely unmistakable in the full version of the song.

Okay, so Vuelie is the crucially important, explicitly Christian element - but have you looked at the lyrics to "Fairest Lord Jesus"? Many versions of the song have extended lyrics that iterate on its themes, but the core message of the song can be found in the simple original lyrics:
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown 
Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine.
What does this song say about Jesus? What roles and identities does it ascribe to him? When you strip it of its artistic flourishes, it says that Jesus is:

1. Son of God
2. Son of Man
3. Ruler of all nature
4. Lord of all the nations

And, by God, isn't that the exact the story of Frozen II? For how does the movie present Elsa? From the titles I ascribed to her above, she is:

1. Daughter of Ahtohallan ("Son of God")
2. Daughter of Humanity ("Son of Man")
3. Queen of the Elements ("Ruler of all nature")
4. former Queen of Arendelle, and Protector of the Enchanted Forest ("Lord of all the nations")

Or, in terms of the summary of Elsa's identity and role:

Elsa is the Fifth Spirit - the divine elemental incarnation of Ahtohallan itself (1. "Son of God"), who is also fully human (2. "Son of Man"). Her unique identity enables her to fulfill her role: to unify all things to herself and thereby to Ahtohallan, by taming the elemental spirits of nature (3. "Ruler of all nature"), and bringing reconciliation to the people groups (4. "Lord of all the nations").

You can also think about this in terms of the world-building for the movie. Remember when I said that the whole universe of Frozen II is built with the singular purpose of placing the Christ-figure at its very center? Well, if your goal was to tell the story of "Fairest Lord Jesus", with Elsa at the center, then what would be the minimum set of components you would need to build for this world? You would need:

1. "God" ("Son of God")
2. "Man" ("Son of Man")
3. "nature" ("Ruler of all nature")
4. "nations" ("Lord of all the nations")

And what new components did we actually get in the movie?

1. Ahtohallan ("God")
2. the expanded backstory of Elsa's ancestors: Agnarr, Iduna, and Runeard ("Man")
3. the four elemental spirits ("nature")
4. the Northuldra ("nations")

This all makes perfect sense if Frozen II drew its primary inspiration directly from "Fairest Lord Jesus", and was explicitly constructed to parallel its contents. And I believe that's exactly what happened - for it nearly ONLY makes sense that way. Because this theory not only explains the themes, plot, and the world-building of Frozen II, but also its perceived flaws.

Have you wondered why Frozen II doesn't develop any of its new characters very much? Or why it doesn't explore the heavy topics it touches on, like ethnic bigotry? Because such things were never meant to be the main focus: their actual purpose is limited to supporting the "nations" component in "Fairest Lord Jesus".

Have you wondered why Frozen II didn't cut any of its many new components, leading to the criticism that its mythology is too crowded? Because you can't betray your primary inspiration. So you can't abandon any of the four components of "Fairest Lord Jesus", even if this leads to a crowded mythology.

Have you wondered why there are so many difficult and confused questions around Ahtohallan and the Voice calling Elsa? Because they are the "God" component of the story, and as such are the most mysterious and abstract. In this way, all of this - all of the movie's themes, plot, world-building, AND weaknesses - can be explained if Elsa is the Christ-figure, constructed around the contents of "Fairest Lord Jesus".

Lastly, consider the times when Vuelie is played. It featured prominently in the first trailer, and it's played at the very beginning of the movie. This establishes that the movie is going to be fundamentally about this song, about the "Son of God and Son of Man". This is Elsa's identity - and as such, the movie is about how she fulfills the two roles specified in the song: to become the "lord of all the nations" and "ruler of all nature".

The next time we hear Vuelie is when the Northuldra sing it to Elsa and Anna, as they accept the two sisters into their tribe. This instance of the song is bracketed by two events: right before, Elsa announces that "our mother was Northuldra". And right after, she promises that "I will free this forest, and restore Arendelle". What is she doing? She is fulfilling one of the two Christological roles in the song. As Jesus is "Lord of all the nations", Elsa is becoming the leader, reconciler, and uniter of Arendelle and Northuldra, in announcing that she is descended from both peoples, and promising to solve both of their problems.

The last time that the song is played is at the very end of the movie. Elsa is travelling to Ahtohallan, and the four elemental spirits are finally all in harmony with her, each paying tribute to her through their service and affection. Again, what's going on here? She is fulfilling the second Christological role in the song: as Jesus is the "ruler of all nature", Elsa is finally taking her place as the Queen of the Elements.

And - that's the whole movie. It's a story about how the Fifth Spirit - the child of both humanity and divinity - makes peace between the nations, and restores nature. It's all laid out in this song. Like "All is Found", Vuelie serves as the blueprint for the entire film - except on a deeper and broader level. Together, they point to the idea that Ahtohallan is God, and Elsa is Jesus.

Show Yourself

Now, you may have already read my post about Frozen I - The Gospel according to Disney's "Frozen" - in which I said that we (humanity) are Elsa. But how could that be, if Elsa is Jesus? Well, it's possible for interpretations to change between a movie and its sequel, but I think there's a simpler answer: both interpretations are true.

Obviously, Jesus is unique and no other human should claim to be him. Fortunately, Christ's warnings on this are clear, and sane people generally don't need to worry much about making that mistake. However, while we can't claim to be Jesus, we Christians are to imitate him - to follow his example and try to become more like him. And how far can we go in this endeavor? Every Biblical answer here seems to be "far more than what you thought possible". And so, both of the above interpretations are true: Elsa is Jesus, and also us Christian imitating him.

This means that every major beat in Elsa's story is ours as well, in our journey to become more like Jesus. We are called to a great adventure - to leave behind our old life, and follow the divine call into the unknown. We are to carry out the ministry of reconciliation - between people, nations, and all of nature. And we, vicariously through Christ, can even claim the superlative calling and powers of the Fifth Spirit, described in the very climax of the movie. All of the following applies to us, because we are found in Christ:

Show yourself. You are the light of the world. You should not and cannot hide yourself. Stand tall, and shine forth your light to everyone.

Step into your power. The very same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work within you, and you have all the authority in heaven and earth behind you in carrying out your divine commission.

Grow yourself into something new. For anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, and we are all growing from glory to ever-increasing glory in becoming more like him.

You are the one you've been waiting for all of your life. You are God's workmanship. You've been chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, and created in him to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.

So show yourself. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.

You are the ones - you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people chosen to be God's own - that you many proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. If you felt any love for Elsa, or any kinship or empathy with her as she accepted who she is as the Fifth Spirit, those feelings are not to be confined to just the movie. Her identity and roles are real in our world, and they are yours as well in Jesus Christ.

And that's the story of "Frozen II". Elsa is Jesus: the child of both divinity and humanity, bringing reconciliation to all peoples and nature. For anyone in Christ, that work is our work as well, as we love and emulate the Son of God and Man. And so, in this way, "Frozen II" echos, quite directly, the one eternal story in all of existence.

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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