The next entry in Frozember is about the mythological creatures that inhabit the world of Frozen. We’re going to take a look at three of the mythological creatures that appear in the films and trailers and seem to live around Arendelle—trolls, Nokks, and giants—as well as their fairy tale origins in real life. Although the world of Arendelle is based primarily on the land and culture of Norway, for this article, we will be looking at mythological creatures from a mix of Scandinavian and Norse mythologies.
In traditional lore, trolls don’t always have the greatest public image. According to Norwegian mythology, trolls are depicted as large, stupid creatures who aren’t very friendly. Despite being dangerous and dumb, trolls will often pose clever riddles or challenges for humans to solve. The best ways to defeat a troll is to scare them off with loud church bells, lightning, sunlight, or good old-fashion brainwork.
In the world of Frozen, though, trolls are friendly sources of wisdom and encouragement for our protagonists. The Art of Frozen describes them as “magical creatures whose comic appearance belies their ability to discover the truth hidden in each character’s heart.” In Frozen, the leader of the trolls, Pabbie, warned the king of the dangers that could come with Elsa’s powers; later on, Anna would be another recipient of the trolls’ guidance in matters of love and family. It seems that Anna will need the trolls’ help again in the sequel as danger encroaches on Elsa and the kingdom.
The mythological creature Nokk can be found in several cultures, taking different names such as the Bäckahästen (“brook horse”) in Scandinavian lore, the Welsh Ceffyl Dŵr (“water horse”), and the Scottish kelpie. All versions have the ability to shapeshift and a natural connection to water. But don’t try to ride any magical water horse that comes your way in real life! In traditional folklore, these dangerous creatures like to lure their victims onto a horseback ride and then drown and eat them.
Fortunately, Disney offers a different version of the Nokk. On Disney’s official site for Frozen 2, a Nokk is explained as a “mythical water spirit that takes the form of a horse” and “who uses the power of the ocean to guard the secrets of the forest.” While we don’t know much about the role or character of the Nokk that appears in the Frozen 2 trailers, Screen Rant speculates that the Nokk could serve as a spirit guide for Elsa. Hopefully, this spin of the mythological Nokk isn’t looking to drown or eat anyone.
Giants in Norse folklore are called Jötunns, but to use the term “giants” can be a little misleading. The stature of Jötunns can vary, some being very tall, average human height, or rather small. Jötunns are said to be the oldest beings in existence, endowed with special powers like super strength and immortality and representing nature and chaos. Their depictions in the myths and legends are a mix of civil interactions and war.
Rock giants can’t hold a candle to our favorite Jötunn, Loki, so it’s understandable why Disney Animation created its own spin on the mythological creature. In the first film, Elsa created a grouchy ice giant called Marshmallow, but Frozen 2 promises a whole new type of giants. We have little information about the rock-like giants in Frozen 2, but going by the trailers, though, it appears that any giants in Arendelle won’t be friendly, at least towards our protagonists.
Frozen and its sequel follows the proud Disney tradition of taking inspiration from old fairy tales and creating something different. Yet, people sometimes forget where their favorite Disney films originated from. Learning about the original, sometimes grimmer, fairy tales of our favorite Disney movies and characters can make them more interesting and nuanced, allowing us to better appreciate how much work and imagination it takes to retell a story in a new way.
What is your favorite mythological creature in Disney films? Let us know!
For More Information
- Solomon, Charles. The Art of Frozen. San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 2013.
- Andrew McKay. “Creatures in Norse Mythology.” Life in Norway, 19 July 2018, https://www.lifeinnorway.net/creatures-in-norse-mythology/. Accessed 01 November 2019.