How Disney hid some Scandinavian archaeology in the film ‘Frozen’
There's apparently an announcement due soon on plans to release a follow-up to the wildly successful Disney animation, Frozen. There's not a parent in the land that hasn't considered options for boarding-school when their cherubs start belting out the irritatingly catchy 'Let it Go' song at 5am - from a film which spawned a whole new host of Disney characters, including Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer.
However, beyond the Disney, hidden within the film are some very clever, and well-researched nods to the history and archaeology of Norway, in which the film seems to be largely set. Indeed, the plot is loosely based on the tale of The Snow Queen by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who based many of his books on old Scandinavian folktales.
There's plenty of Scandinavian heritage in Britain too, left by Viking raiders, traders and settlers, and Big Heritage provide brilliant Viking workshops that explore this history in your own classroom. For more info, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
The meaning of Arendelle
Arendelle is the kingdom in which the film is set. In Old Norse, 'Aren' may be derived from the Old Norse 'ørn', which means "eagle", and 'delle' is derived from 'dalr', which means "valley" – so it can be translated as ‘Valley of the Eagles'.
Arendelle is also situation on a small bay known in Old Norse as a 'vik' - this may be where we get the word 'Viking' from - someone who dwells in a vik.
Lots of place names in the UK derive from Old Norse – largely in places where Vikings settled - you can find out the meaning of your own place name by visiting this great website here: http://kepn.nottingham.ac.uk/
Castle Arendelle and Stave Churches
The Arendelle links don't end with the name - the main castle itself looks like a stone version of a Stave Church. These stunning timber churches crop up in Scandinavia when the areas become officially Christian in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Long before the word become synonymous with Katie Hopkins, a Troll was a supernatural creature in Norse Mythology. Trolls tended to live in mountains and caves and would enjoy annoying humans. They are mentioned in a number of Norse stories such as the Prose Edda – a famous compilation of Norse mythology. Although a much later story, it’s no coincidence that the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff comes from Norway, they are a big part of Norwegian folklore!
There’s a few scenes in the film where you are able to get a glimpse of ‘Futhark’ script – this is a runic alphabet used both in Scandinavia and in the UK by Viking settlers. Disney employed the services of Dr Jackson Crawford, a runic specialist from UCLA who provided the translation for this script. When translated, the runes tell the story of how the frozen 'curse' came about, and how true love was the way to end it.
At the funeral of Elsa and Ana’s parents, there’s a very clear nod to Scandinavian burial custom. The graves of the two royals are marked by huge stones, carved with symbols and runes. These translate as 'King/Queen who died in the sea'.
Compare these stones to those found at Jelling in Denmark, which contains the burial stone of the parents of of King Harald Bluetooth, King of Norway and Sweden. Incidentally, the same king gives his name to the Bluetooth system we use to connect electronic devices! These stones date to the 10th century, at a time when Scandinavia was transitioning from its old gods (Thor, Odin, etc) to Christianity, and throughout this period, there are a number of examples of art-work that combine pagan and Christian imagery, reminding us that those old gods were not given up overnight, and people seemed comfortable to worship both the old and new.
So, there you have it! We may have missed a few out so if you spot anything missing or any errors, give us a shout! We're hugely proud of our own Viking workshops we run in schools, and we have our own full-sized Viking boat. If you're a teacher or wish to run an educational event focussed on Vikings, please get in touch!