Was Elsa’s Dad So Wrong?

For a character that is in so little of the actual movie, Elsa’s father in Frozen has gotten raked across the coals by numerous movie reviewers for many of his parenting decisions. His daughter doesn’t hold back either. ‘Conceal, don’t feel‘ and ‘Be the Good Girl‘ are shouted by Elsa during the song Let it Go as she is finally able to be who she truly is now that her dad is gone. This becomes the anthem of the movie promoting not being afraid to be different and never having to hide who you are. As a dad, I get the outrage against his actions, but what if Elsa’s father was thinking less like a dad here and more like a King?

King of Arendelle

When The King & Queen take Elsa & Anna to see the rock trolls, the Troll King lays it out pretty well for the family. Elsa’s got lots of power and it will be bad if she is controlled by fear. However, it seems like Elsa’s dad puts on earmuffs during this conversation as all of his guidelines and advice from that point forward only help to create fear in his daughter ultimately contributing to the craziness later in the film. But isn’t what happens at her coronation most likely what her Dad was afraid of? Not the revealing her powers part but the creating fear in others part. Because Elsa showing the world her powers doesn’t just put her at risk but the entire kingdom of Arendelle! (stick with me, I’ll explain why) I propose The King may have been putting his family’s legacy above his family, and isn’t that what Kings are supposed to do?

Let’s look at the coronation. When everything goes south and she freezes Arendelle, the first reaction of all the guests is fear. You can attribute this to the scale of the Elsa’s actions or just the simple fact that she can do it at all. In general, people fear what they do not understand and it’s not a stretch to think everyone wouldn’t understand this situation. Even if she had control of her powers and made everyone snow cones at the coronation ball, I bet that more than one person would still have been terrified because of the sheer implications of this skill. News would spread like wildfire across the neighboring regions: Did you hear that Queen Elsa of Arendelle can make snow cones from her hands? What else could she do? Could she freeze a lake? What about our ships? Could she create snow monsters? Could this be used to hurt us? Are there other people in Arendelle that have ice powers? What about Anna? Something has to be done about this right away! Uncertainty would lead to fear and fear would lead to a cold war. Attempts would be made on Elsa’s life and maybe even an all out war on the Kingdom just so everyone could feel safe again. Think of it like one country having nukes and every other country just being ok with not having them…it wouldn’t happen. The King had to have thought about that possibility. No doubt, he definitely could have made some better choices as a father so his daughters wouldn’t have so many daddy issues, but as a King, I think he may have gotten it right.

Do you think we should cut the belated King some slack here? Or was he cold as ice, willing to sacrifice…his daughter?

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More to come. Follow me here –> @DadsQuestions

Image Credits: disney.wikia.com

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Related: Maybe that’s why Eugene & Rapunzel didn’t want to get involved.

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22 comments

  1. Very well said, but if the answer was as obvious as love, (kind of the opposite of fear, which is her enemy) then why didn’t he just try that? It controlled her powers, and therefore protect the kingdom.
    Though, what happened in the movie does sound like something I myself would resort to, so I’m kind of being hypocritical. :/

    1. Yeah…so I was thinking more about this…why didn’t the King Troll just tell Elsa’s dad the key was love….that would have saved a lot of heartache….?

  2. I love you how stated this!! Frozen is one of my favourite Disney films to date and I can’t help but feel he was wanting to protects his daughters more than anything. I think keeping her away from everyone, including her sister, was a little extreme but I think it was done out of love more than anything else. As a parent all you want to do is keep your children safe and give them the best possible life and I think that’s what he tried to do. He didn’t want any harm to come to his daughters and maybe he thought, like you said, if other people knew of her powers they’d start a war to kill Elsa or they’d use her for her powers. Then there’s Anna, they’d be fearful that she could grow up to be the same as her sister and end up wanting her dead too in order to be safe. If I was her parent I would have done whatever it took to protect my children even if that meant keeping her hidden.

    1. Yeah. I try to think what I would do and if he didn’t do that, I think his only other option would be to hide her somewhere else. Away from the castle. Let her be herself alone somewhere remote. It is a sacrifice, but she would be safe. Really don’t think the reveal on that type of power coupled with the fact that she is royalty could end well. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I think everything would have been solved if Elsa had been taught to make snow cones. Whenever there’s an argument, fear, or negative emotion, she could pull out some paper cups, syrup, and her snow powers, and give everyone a snow cone.

    The king and queen’s actions make sense – and, it’s clear they spent time with Elsa to try to help her. However, I think they let their own fear control their actions.

  4. I definitely agree that Elsa’s father could have resorted to another plan. As I watched the movie, I noticed she seemed more in control of her powers when she wasn’t concealing them. But I also feel her emotions play into her ability to control her powers. When she’s upset, everything just falls apart (in the ballroom at the beginning of the movie and on the way to the trolls and after Hans told her that Ana was dead). When she’s worried or frightened there’s the snow and wind that encircles her (when Ana tells her that she froze Arendelle and when she was trying to escape the frozen port). And when she’s panicked whatever she’s holding or touching her starts to frost.
    When the one troll tells Elsa as a girl that her powers can be dangerous, she gets scared herself. And seeing her fear at what could happen to her, the king probably thought it was best to keep her powers from everyone for her safety. And the King and Queen really had no choice in whether Ana would know of Elsa’s powers, the troll replaced the memories of magic in Ana’s head. I think in a way, he was wrong, but if you go more in depth, then there’s some meaning behind his actions.

      1. He didn’t put her in solitary confinement. She came out of her room twice before her parents died. Once when her father gave her the gloves and once when she was seeing her parents off for their trip. She chose to be in her room because it was safer in there than facing her sister and risking hurting her again or risking her people turning on her.

  5. I might agree in theory — I do believe he’s trying to protect Elsa and his family, he seems like a nice guy — but the fact is that the people seem to embrace Elsa pretty quickly at the end once they see she’s not trying to hurt anyone. Of course they’re afraid when she freezes the entire kingdom, that’s a pretty aggressive thing to do, but they seem to understand pretty quickly afterward. They’re judging Elsa on her actions, and once they get to know her, (when she’s actually interacting with them and not hidden away in her room), they get it.

    I like The Scarlet Author’s comment above, that Elsa chose to stay in her room alone. That looks accurate. But she was just a little kid, and her parents should’ve helped her come out rather than encourage her to suppress her emotions. I think they were well-intended, but they should’ve realized that she wanted to stay in her room BECAUSE she was afraid; it wasn’t helping her control her fear.

    As a king, I can certainly understand that he’d want to keep ice powers secret from the subjects UNTIL Elsa could control them reasonably well. But she should’ve been learning how to use them in a controlled way, not trying to suppress them entirely, because clearly that wasn’t working. Really, from the scene where she’s playing with Anna, it looks like she could already use them with quite a bit of accuracy, enough to display to the people that she has them. Maybe start off giving the impression that they’re not very strong, kind of a charming oddity, so other countries wouldn’t try to assassinate her. Over time, the king could’ve been cultivating his daughter’s emotional health AND a pretty powerful surprise weapon for his kingdom, should they ever be attacked. It’s the guy from Weaseltown who thinks she’s terrifying, her own people are much more understanding, so even they could be reassured by her power and keep it somewhat under wraps as far as other kingdoms are concerned.

    I think you’re quite right that the king loved his daughters and was trying to do his best. From a narrative point of view, Frozen interacts with a lot of traditional tropes like the princess-locked-away-in-a-tower, and it works really well in that way too. I just think the poor king completely misunderstood the situation and how to deal with it, and was acting from a lot of his own fear too rather than really understanding what was going on with Elsa. (The troll’s advice may be partially to blame here too, with erasing Anna’s memory and everything.)

    1. Great comment! I think you are right in a lot of areas…I think the problem is that you have to ‘know’ her to not be afraid. Her subjects accept it because she is the queen. She is not a queen of another country. The Weasletown Emissary is the perfect metaphor for what the outside world would think…maybe not everyone, but it would only take one kingdom to start a war. Thanks again for stopping by and hope to here your great thoughts on future posts!!

  6. The sense I got was that the whole hide-and-conceal thing was meant to be a temporary matter, while the immediate crisis was dealt with, and then cleaned up later on when there wasn’t worry about one of the kids being dead by the other’s hand. As a matter of keeping the number of crises down that’s a sensible reaction, to me anyway, but the cleaning-up part never quite happened and it isn’t made clear why. (On the other hand, it’s probably not necessary to say why: if the potentially huge crisis is stabilized, why mess with the stabilized state?)

    1. I think you are right. Maybe it was hide & conceal since you are a kid…until you grow up and can figure out how to control it. That’s why I teach my kids that ‘potty talk’ is never ok…of course it is, but not until they understand that it is when they are with their friends and not in front of mom at the dinner table!

  7. Here is a theory to tie into yet another theory that might explain the king’s motivation for keeping the power hidden. First of all, I agree that he is thinking like a king and protecting his family and legacy. Secondly, IF the king is the brother of the queen in Tangled, the magic [flower] was not concealed, and the daughter was abducted. By keeping Elsa hidden away from the world with her powers, the king is protecting his family from ne’er-do-wells and wicked witches and such. Instructions to Elsa to keep her power hidden would protect the family, the legacy, and the kingdom. After all, wicked witches generally target princesses in kingdoms like these. It happened once to family, it can happen again.

  8. Why are you assuming that she would go around making snow cones during her coronation? The way I see it, if her father had allowed her to hone her skills and learn to control her powers from childhood, she would have no problem concealing her powers in any given situation. She would have easily become Queen with no mishap. She could have ruled her kingdom by day, then put on a costume and mask and fought crime as some kind of ice powered superhero by night.
    Protecting her family, the family legacy and ultimately her kingdom? That’s what secret identities are for.
    Dad should have been more Professor Xavier and less Jonathan Kent in the “Man of Steel”.

  9. I agree with you wholeheartedy.
    I would also like to point out the fact that if Elsa’s powers were revealed, there would not only be attempts on her life for political reasons, but religious ones as well.

    It is obvious that Christianity has a powerful role in this kingdom, specifically in the monarchy (Elsa was coronated by a priest).

    So, if Elsa was found out to have ice powers while the King was still alive, I have no doubt that fear would make Arendalle claim her a witch and demand that her father sentence her to death.

    Of course he had to keep her powers a secret, if word got out, even through someone like Anna, the King would soon find an angry mob gathered at his doorstep.

  10. I thought it was pretty obvious that Elsa’s parents took ‘fear’ to mean the general populace’s fear of Elsa’s power? Coupling that with the vision of Elsa being attacked, it certainly does come across that way, and the parents can’t really be blamed for interpreting the troll’s advice as such. I’d always thought that they took the lengths they did out of fear that Elsa might be harmed because people were afraid of her, never that she might be hurt because SHE was afraid of HERSELF.

    Notice that the king tells her to ‘conceal IT, don’t feel IT’, which Elsa in her later years translates to ‘conceal, don’t feel’, so I wonder if it wasn’t that she internalised her own perceptions of her power, and used her father’s words to fuel them.

So, what do you think?

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