A Deeper Look Into Disney’s Frozen
By now most people know the story of Anna and Elsa of Arendelle. As children, the sisters are inseparable. Their favorite games involve playing in the snow generated by Elsa’s ice powers. But when a slip puts Anna’s life in danger, the sisters’ parents separate the girls. Anna’s memories of Elsa’s magic are removed, the gates of the castle are closed to visitors, and the girls grow up in isolation from everyone, including each other. At Elsa’s coronation years later, her magic is revealed, turning Arendelle’s summer into “eternal winter.” Elsa runs away to the mountains and Anna chases after her, determined to repair their relationship and bring back summer.
How interesting a book’s adaptation of a movie is depends on how much more it can tell readers beyond what they already know. While it is clear from Frozen that Anna’s isolation growing up makes her desperate to connect to other people–explaining why she fell so quickly for Hans–the rest of her thoughts are mostly hidden behind her bubbly exterior. How does she feel about Elsa keeping secrets from her? What is she really thinking when she meets Hans? Beyond Anna, a big question of the movie is how Hans became cruel and conniving. These questions and more are answered in A Frozen Heart, which tells the movie’s story with alternating chapters from Hans and Anna’s perspectives.
The book, while providing a few additional scenes and insights into Anna’s story, does not give us much more than we already know. Overall, Anna remains the cheerful, quirky character we know and love. There is one particular detail that I appreciate most: while she seems all-in with Hans in the movie, the book shows us something more complicated. There is clearly desperation behind her choice. After the coronation, the castle gates will be closed again. If she doesn’t meet the man of her dreams now, how will she ever find love? With that perspective in mind, it makes sense that she takes this chance, even if she does not know Hans well.
While we get little more about Anna than we already knew, A Frozen Heart gives Hans a backstory. As Anna grows up hidden behind the castle walls in Arendelle, Hans is stuck in the shadow of his twelve older brothers. Taking the lead from their father, the brothers bully Hans relentlessly. They insult him, throw things at him, and generally make his life miserable. Given his childhood, Hans looks for any chance he can to get away from the Southern Isles. His best chance comes in the form of Arendelle’s future queen. If he can get to Elsa’s coronation and make her fall in love with him, he can get away from his family forever. After all, his father would not deny him a pairing that would be beneficial for the kingdom. When he accidentally connects with Anna instead of her sister, he must rethink his plans a bit to get himself on the throne. While Hans’s motivation makes some sense, the level of cruelty he displays towards Anna at the end does seem out of character for this Hans. In movie we do not know him well enough to judge. Here, we see him actively trying not to be a brute like his siblings and having a soft spot for Anna.
This is not a book for those hoping to find a whole new take on Frozen, though it is a fun visit for those who are not quite ready to leave Arendelle behind. Personally, I would have liked to see Elsa’s perspective as well. How did she feel about being isolated from her sister? What must it have taken to constantly turn Anna away? Was she truly happy at the top of the mountain? What did she do all day in her room growing? Did she ever think of running away? A Frozen Heart did not answer all my questions, but I love Frozen enough that this was good enough.