May 28 2014 1:00pm

Disney’s Frozen: Is It a Fairytale Romance?

Frozen PosterJudging by outward appearance, Frozen might seem to be another Disney princess movie, with its traditional princess and the requisite happily ever after.

But, luckily for those of us who like a little darkness in our HEAs, there’s more to this frothy mixture than meets the eye. For starters, it is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. Our Danish friend was not exactly known for light and fluffy—remember that story about the Little Match Girl? Or even The Ugly Duckling? His stories have always contained a dark pathos, and the Snow Queen is no different.

In the Hans Christian Anderson version, we are given no explanation as to why the Snow Queen is the way she is, or why she kidnaps the young boy Kai, who then has to be rescued by his friend Gerda. The female director of Frozen, though, brings Queen Elsa—our story’s version of the Snow Queen—to life, imbuing her with enough angst to make any modern day teen proud.

As a girl, Elsa’s power to freeze things around her is a delight, until the day she accidentally ices her younger sister, Anna, coming perilously close to her heart. When her parents forbid her from using her powers around others, she reluctantly closes herself off from Anna and the world. She is no laughing princess, but instead a tortured soul, trying to deal with the pressure of always being a “good girl” and taught that she “cannot feel.”

Anna, shut off from her sister, grows up as a very solitary princess, and the song in which she grows steadily older, continually pleading outside of her sister’s locked door for her to make a snowman, is truly moving. And then, one day, she stops asking.

After their royal parents die and they are forced to open the gates for Elsa’s imminent coronation, Anna begins to feel that life can really begin for the two of them again. Anna believes they can go back to the carefree lives that she remembers from their childhoods, and that she will perhaps meet someone who is interested in her, and will love her.

And Anna does. The charming, eloquent, and strapping Hans, Prince of The Southern Isles. He’s a superb alpha, concerned, romantic, and protective. As romance readers, we know this can’t be the end, though. Where’s the tension?
When Elsa, embarrassed that she has let go of her emotions and displayed her icy powers, runs away to build a frozen castle, it is up to Anna to find her and ask her to unfreeze their lands, which Elsa has unwittingly given an icy blast. It is on this journey that Anna meets Kristoff, whose job is selling ice (a somewhat odd career choice in Scandanavia) and who is most assuredly not a prince.

It’s here that we wander off the beaten path of Disney princesses. This one is very much in love with her prince to whom she is now engaged, but yet the viewer knows that it is Kristoff, not Hans, who makes Anna feel alive. He questions her judgment, like getting engaged to her prince after just one meeting, and forces her to think about what she really expects from “true love.”

And yet, Kristoff is not a traditional alpha. Anna makes most of the decisions, telling him that he is going to take her up the mountain to find her sister, and then making him wait outside while she has a heart to heart with her potentially dangerous sister. But when that ends disastrously, with her sister unleashing her years of pent-up anger at the world upon her beloved younger sister, Kristoff rushes Anna back to her castle to await a kiss from her true love.

Meanwhile, Anna’s betrothed, the prince, is keeping things cool (no pun intended) in the kingdom: making sure everyone has enough food and running the palace in her absence. He seems to have it all under control. It is not until Hans’s true nature is revealed that we realize that, nope, Prince Charming he is not.

Instead, it is Kristoff who, like a true alpha, puts Anna’s life above his own needs when he races back to her rescue after leaving her in what he thought was a secure and happy life (without him). Though he believes she doesn’t love him, he still intends to save her.

And it is Olaf, the slightly creepy/cute snowman side-kick, who tells Anna that she doesn’t know much about love, because it is Kristoff who loves her. Now we’re back on familiar fairy-tale ground with the man rushing in to save the damsel in distress: only the kiss from her true love will thaw the shaft of ice in her heart. With a few deviations from the standard plot, we are given our happily ever after. And it charms us every time.

Erin Moore writes sensuous and transportive paranormal romances, and is slowly dipping her toes into the world of historicals. She is so grateful to love her job. Living in Atlanta with her husband (who believes he should be the model for all of her covers), her two little boys, and one unruly dog, she finds her inner peace by meditation and writing. Chocolate and good tea are her only vices. Find her most often on Twitter! She's also on Facebook and Goodreads.

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1. Kareni
It was a fun movie. My husband and I saw it for the first time this past weekend.
EC Spurlock
2. EC Spurlock
Actually the thing I loved most about this movie was that the sisters save each other, and the guys have nothing to do with it. It is love that saves the day, but the love of family, of two sisters who were inseparable and needed to remain so in order to be whole, not the love of "prince" and "princess".
Darlene Marshall
3. DarleneMarshall
@EC Spurlock--What you said. I only saw this movie a couple of weeks ago and was struck by the variation on "true love's kiss". I thought it was a wonderful, and healthy sentiment compared to so many of the Disney movies that revolve around standard romance tropes.

@Erin Moore--I'm not at all surprised that the film resonates so strongly with young women. I can definitely see the attraction. The other thing I liked about it is, Kristof argues and challenges Anna where her "Prince Charming" only agrees with her and points out all they have in common. One relationship forces her to grow, the other is static.

I could have survived quite nicely without Olaf the Snowman. Creepy, indeed!
Penelope Gordon
4. pegordon
The bonus CD packaged with the soundtrack CD includes some darker versions of the songs along with commentary by the composers regarding the choices that they made.
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