Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Of Power and Princesses, pt 5

5. Arendelle, nuclear power

In Frozen, we are shown a magical power at a level never experienced before in the Princess-verse, several orders of magnitude greater than any others.

This is quite a claim, so let us review the level of effect other magic-users have.

First, there are the low-level powers, the fairies and witches. These characters’ powers are rather limited, minor creations (Cinderella’s dress), transformations of a single subject (Brave’s queen), or of multiple subjects but with a limited effective time (Cinderella’s coach and horses), simple blessings (Sleeping Beauty) or healings and illusions (Frozen’s Grand Pabbie.)

The Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs doesn’t actually present many powers beyond those of other witches. She transforms herself into an old woman and creates a cursed apple, in each case magic affecting a single person. She also performs some scrying with her magic mirror, but that was just using a separate magic item, not using any power of her own.

Dallben from The Black Cauldron is supposedly the greatest wizard in Prydain, but we see little, if any, actual use of magic by him. Hen Wen, the pig, seems to show greater powers as an oracle. The Horned King’s power is simply his immortality; he must use the Black Cauldron to raise his undead army, not his own powers.

Jafar purports himself to be a powerful sorcerer, but doesn’t actually do anything other than hypnotism. It is only after being granted the wish to become the most power sorcerer does he do anything of significance, moving objects, breathing fire, transforming himself and others. Even then, however, the effects are limited, a few objects moved or transformed, individual people and himself transformed.

The Genie has tremendous powers, right? But again, upon analysis, his power are not that great. He teleports himself and Aladdin a few times, which is very useful. When he grants Aladdin’s wish to become a prince, there is a great parade of people and animals leading the way for “Prince Ali Ababwa”, but in the end they all disappear, and all that is left is a new suit of clothes for Aladdin. Almost all of the Genie’s powers are just illusions, little of actual substance.

King Triton transforms his daughter into a human. That’s about it. Ursula shows a bit more promise. She does transformations as well, can transfer abilities, and a bit of hypnosis. Finally, she turns into a giant squid and it is in this form that she can cause any wide-spread damage, causing a giant whirlpool and smashing ships.

Malificent has greater powers, teleportation, curses, and hypnosis, but like Ursula, her powers only become wide reaching when she transforms herself into a fire breathing dragon.

The enchantress from Beauty and the Beast finally shows a real power, able to transform hundreds of people into household items (and one beast), and to keep this power active for many years. This is the most significant use of magic up to this point, though it is odd that it goes mostly un-noticed by the surrounding population.

But it is Queen Elsa of Arendelle who possesses a power of true significance. During the events of Frozen she is shown to spontaneously create large areas of snow and ice, create clothing and other small items, summon snow/ice elementals (both small and huge), and create blizzard conditions. She can erect a large palace made of ice in the course of only a few minutes. And finally, she was able to plunge the royal castle, the capital city of Arendelle, and the nearby villages from summer weather in July into an ‘eternal winter’, causing significant snowfall and freezing the entire fjord. This power effected thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands. And this was done unintentionally, subconsciously due to stress and fear. Imagine how much power Elsa could channel if done intentionally, as she did in creating her ice palace.

Let us suppose that the Duchy of Weselton and the Southern Isles felt aggrieved enough to raise a naval force to bring against Arendelle. Based on powers we have already seen, she could create icebergs to ram the incoming ships, freeze the very ocean to immobilize the fleet, even lift ships out of the water altogether, knocking them over and breaking their hulls. She could summon a blizzard to blind them, a hail storm to destroy their sails and masts.

If Arendelle were to be attacked by ground troops, Queen Elsa could create ice battlements in a matter of minutes, summon an army of ice elementals to defend the kingdom, and create ice storms to harry the attacking army.

If she chose to go on the offensive, she could sail her flagship to the offending capital and plunge them into their own eternal winter, freezing their ports and making all roads in or out snowbound and unpassable. Freezing weather and non-stop snow to put the offending city under siege, burying the buildings and collapsing their roofs.

Once past the difficulties following the coronation, the people of Arendelle appear to accept their queen and her powers. She certainly appears to intend a benevolent reign, providing ice skating and air conditioning during the summer, unlike other historical magically enabled rulers, like the Evil Queen from Snow White. While Elsa may feel satisfied to respond to Weselton’s attempted regicide with simply a trade embargo, Weselton, and other kingdoms, may feel threatened by Arendelle’s potential disruptive and destructive power, probably leading to a magical arms race.

Once it is widely known that Arendelle is peacefully ruled by a sorceress, it will likely draw other magic-users who will see Arendelle as a haven, where they can live free of the widely felt belief that magic equals evil, especially powerful magic. However, other kingdoms, feeling threatened by Arendelle’s power, will also be seeking powerful magic-users, for their own defense. However, powerful magic is rare, and none come close to Elsa’s power. These kingdoms run the risk, of course, that once someone like Malificent has been recruited, she may decide to take over.

Hostile kingdoms would likely need to resort to more stealthy approaches, poison apples and assassination, rather than direct conflict. With an increase in inter-kingdom espionage, and a race to acquire greater magical powers, Frozen has shown us the beginning of a (pardon the pun) cold war in the Princess-verse.


  1. I must disagree with you about Malificent's capabilities. Just because someone is not shown doing something, doesn't mean they can't do it. Maleficent is also described as one of the most powerful Disney Villains. I'm basing this on the DisneyWiki's description of her abilities.

  2. I will admit, my description of Malificent's powers are based on distant memories and the disney wikial, but not from any recent movie viewing, so I may be off with the details. however, I still uphold my point that Elsa's level of magic is orders of magnitude greater than any others', including Mal's.

    I appreciate your comments.