Go ahead. Let it go. Let go of fear, let go of the restrictions, let yourself be free to express who you really are. Let go of all those times they told you to keep control, let go of the fear of hurting others that’s been imprisoning you for years. And to do that, you also need to let go of Love. Let go of the past, of attachment, of true companionship. Let go and release your power – let go of warmth, community, empathy. Or, move past the First act climaxes of your life and actually hold on, don’t ever let go.
Yes, I’ve finally watched Frozen. Yes, I loved it (despite being told every five minutes what was coming next – “he’s a bad guy!” you gotta love children). Its reworking of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen was inspired – a perfect example of turning the “enemy” into the good guy by applying empathy. It was apparently when the writers were working on the song Let It Go, getting into Elsa’s head and heart that they realised what this should be about. And what a successful turnaround. Because it retains the true heart of what goes on between Gerde and Kay in the original story, but heaps lots more layers on the top for us to unpack and help us understand what makes Love, Friendship and Community truly work.
Because what drives both Gerde and Anna, the engine that makes their friendships, their love work as its supposed to is their inability to Let go of someone. It’s their utter stubborness, tenacity and faithfulness in tracking through snow and ice a person who was distant, cold and cruel. Neither Anna nor Gerde had any reason to believe that the person they loved, the person at the end of their quest would actually reciprocate their love. All they know is that someone they love is in trouble and they need to go to them. What happens once those loved ones are saved is something neither girl thinks about. And for Anna, once she finds her sister she is once again pushed away, rebuffed and is mortally wounded by the Person she went to rescue. For Gerde, the quest ends when she finds Kay in the Snow Queen’s palace, where her tears of love wash away the Splinters of the Evil Mirror from his eye and heart. But for Anna, finding her sister and being rejected, turned away, is itself the bigger wound – having her heart pierced by Elsa’s ice shard is just the icing on the cake – the shard is merely the physical manifestation of Elsa’s rejection, of having “let go”. And having had this most bitter and harmful message of cruelty from Elsa (yes, yes, I know it’s for Anna’s own good, in Elsa’s mind she’s protecting Anna – shush) she leaves unwillingly, cast out of the ice castle and borne away by Kristoff to be ‘saved’.
And then the third act turns everything on its head. It embraces that ideal of God’s upside down kingdom of not letting go, of embracing and not giving up. We’re shown the duplicity of Hans – not only did he never love our heroine, but he’s willing to kill her (yes, letting something/someone die equates to killing it/them yourself people). Hans is about as close to a real villain in the story as we’re going to get, and though you can understand why he feels the way he does (youngest child issues) it’s his deception that is the hardest to forgive – and of course, he doesn’t really get a chance to make good in the end. He had been the perfect guy, the perfect resolution to the dangers; potentially a good king, a perfect husband, the “un-doer” of harms and spells. It does feel odd somehow, perhaps even disorienting, that here is a world where the “good guy” a) isn’t actually always good, and b) isn’t the answer to all our woes. And here in the climax we get a girl who despite being “let go” still sacrifices all to save the one who moved on, who turned her back and who did the rejecting. Yep, that is indeed true love. Giving yourself utterly and completely without any thought of reciprocation or return. And that this in itself is the act of True Love that breaks the spell and dislodges the Ice from Anna’s heart – that Anna in essence is her own saviour, that too turns our expectations on their heads. Being her own saviour though doesn’t mean that Anna herself subscribes to the self-preservation/utter independance/Let it Go school – because what we’ve seen is that Anna feels most complete as part of a community. Her sacrifice is not worth anything if it didn’t save her sister, or if Kristoff dips out of the picture, or if Olaf is destroyed.
And the act of True Love saves not only Anna from the Shard of Ice that pierces her heart, it saves Elsa both in the immediate term (ie, saving her from Hans’ swordstroke) but in the long term too, because it releases Elsa from her self-made prison of isolation. It simultaneously frees her from the restrictions on her power and magic (both the parental and self-imposed restrictions) and then ties her to the obligations and blessings of family, community and love. (how ironic that being tied to obligations is in itself a form of freedom – just think about that for a while).
We see that the answer for Elsa isn’t letting go, moving on and abandoning restrictions, but instead in Letting those around her know of what she can do, letting them see that she cares, giving them permission to be part of her life. And in understanding that, in opening herself to vulnerability, to faithfulness, to true community, she also accepts her obligations as the Ruler of Arindelle – the idea of the ruler being one with the land is one deeply embedded in the ancient stories. For it wasn’t in fact Elsa’s magic that placed the kingdom in the icy grip of winter, but her abandonment of it – the “magic” was merely the tool of the curse on Arindelle, not its source. And that same magic is the tool to the healing of the Kingdom, but the source of its healing is the healed ruler and her embracing of her obligations, responsibilities, the embracing of others into her life.
As ever a happy ending. A ruler who fully embraces her power and is released from Fear. A Queen who doesn’t treat her people as distant and separate. A sister who welcomes and shares her heart and power. A friend who never gives up on you. And a Miraculous Snowman who can live on in summer. Cheers Olaf, Keep up your optimism. 😀