Elsa and Ragnarok

elsa ragnarok“Thor: Ragnarok” and “Frozen” have more in common than I first realized. It’s true that Elsa and Thor have comparable powers: ice and thunder. However, in “Thor: Ragnarok,” Odin’s eldest child, and daughter, is Hela, who is ruler of the underworld. This realm is also traditionally the realm of ice, mist, fog and the Frost Giants, in Norse mythology: Niflheim. Hela is the goddess of death, but like Elsa, she also controls ice and the cold.

When Odin dies, Hela, the firstborn, becomes Queen. However, she had previously been locked away, much like Elsa. Unlike Elsa, Hela is cast as the obvious bad guy, and her coronation is not a cause for celebration. Thor defeats his sister, Hela and becomes King of Asgard, albeit as a refugee, since Ragnarok was the only thing that could destroy Hela, and Asgard was destroyed in the process.

“Thor: Ragnarok” makes me glad Elsa is a good guy – or else, “Frozen” could have taken on the same hue of “Thor: Ragnarok.” Why does Hela have to be a bad guy? Because she is female? Because Thor “has” to be the King of Asgard? Why couldn’t Hela be the Queen of Asgard? What if, like Elsa, Hela is misunderstood? Hela was written out of history, for goodness sakes; heaven knows there’s some bias. Plus, Hela was just following Odin’s orders.

I know Hela is the Norse goddess of the underworld, but what was stopping Disney from making Freya Thor’s older sister instead (and a good guy) – or just leaving the fictional birth order as it was? That way, Thor would not have to orchestrate a violent coup to gain the throne; therefore, he had to rely on Ragnarok to disturb the natural birth order.

It’s not like as if in the original myths, Thor even becomes king of Asgard. Odin is always king of Asgard. Like Zeus in Greek Mythology, who reigns until the end of Olympus, Odin reigns until the end. Thor never had the same currency he does today: he was at best a Hercules, or an Apollo. The problem is that, Odin, like Zeus, usually gets rendered as Almighty God, in the imagination of the modern day, so unless Zeus or Odin is made young (like in “Immortals”), Zeus and Odin end up as old men in the background, while some younger deity or demigod (Theseus, Hercules, Thor, Athena, Diana) runs around on Earth/Midgard.

You can have female bad guys, but compared to “Frozen,” “Thor: Ragnarok” is a step backward. I am less upset by the female villain, than the fact that the natural birth order is overturned – and it’s OK, in part, because Hela is female. Ragnarok destroys Asgard, and coincides with the overturning of the natural order: the death of the heir apparent, the firstborn.

“Ragnarok,” like “Frozen,” is the story of a Royal Family tragedy that ripples out around the entire realm. However, “Thor: Ragnarok,” as the name suggests, ends in death and destruction, while “Frozen” ends with love and restoration. “Frozen 2” should not be influenced by “Thor: Ragnarok” at all, and should instead continue in “Frozen’s” footsteps.

Hopefully, in the next Thor, we see that Hela does not actually die (it takes a lot more to kill an actual deity) and perhaps, she repents, like Loki (who was never truly a villain per se, in the original myths), and becomes an anti-hero. The whole point of mythology, is that the gods do not die: they are archetypes that are constantly resurrected or reborn. Also, the whole point of Ragnarok, is that after destruction, there is rebirth and the cycle can begin anew. Hela will be back, and Odin will be back too, like Gandalf. Surtur was reborn in the movie itself. You can’t kill the firstborn, the rightful heir to the throne (especially Odin’s firstborn); you can’t orchestrate a coup. Otherwise, Thor is no better than Loki: another usurper to the throne.

At its best, “Thor: Ragnarok” is like “King Lear” or Akira Kurosawa’s version, “Ran.” A King, (Odin), takes over many lands, through a series of brutal, bloody wars (the hidden wars of conquest Hela referred to) – but also ushers in an era of unification, peace and prosperity. The King grows old and the throne passes to the next generation. However, infighting among the King’s Children destroys the Royal Family and levels the entire kingdom. Everyone dies at the end. That’s Ragnarok. On one hand, can we really blame Hela, who was raised by a warrior and conqueror at that time? Hela’s sin was continuing to be war-like when it was time for peace.

To be fair to Thor and Hela, it seems like Thor never knew Hela existed ever, whereas Anna was always aware of Elsa’s existence and they had a bond as small kids, over building actual snowmen and snowmen Christmas cards and birthday cards for Elsa. Thus, it was easier for Thor to attempt to destroy Hela: they had no happy memories together.

However, once Hela was released, she was quite clear about who she was and who Odin was the whole time. You would think Thor would have believed her. Or vice versa, that Hela would have been nicer to Thor, her brother. The big gap is that neither were previously aware of each other’s existence and neither loved the other from the time they were small. Even Thor and his adopted brother, Loki, have childhood memories together, and thus share more of a positive bond. Thus, tragedy results between Thor and Hela. Again, the cultural references here are “King Lear” and, the film ”Ran.”

I do agree that making Hela Thor’s legitimate sister makes for more drama, than if she had been adopted from Frost Giants, like Loki. “Thor: Ragnarok” is still a relevant story, albeit a tragedy. Hela, for her part, as she was written, could have stopped being so bloodthirsty and fascistic. Hela and Elsa could have been alike, however Elsa fixed Arendelle and remains Queen of her realm. Elsa learned to love. Princess Anna loves Elsa and the realm is at peace.

I have greater appreciation for both Anna and Elsa: Elsa for not turning into a bad guy, like Hela did, after years of isolation – and Anna, for not pulling a Thor and killing her older sister. Instead, Anna saves Elsa from being killed. Siblings should be able to get along.

In closing, “Thor: Ragnarok” is basically just another retelling of “Frozen,” except it’s “Frozen” if everything had gone wrong. “Frozen 2” will be much better.

*A meta “Frozen”/”Thor: Ragnarok” parallel – in Constable Frozen’s crossfiction memes, Anna plays Thor, the younger sibling, to Elsa’s good version of Hela, the firstborn Queen. Also, in the original myths, Thor was ruddy and red-headed, like Anna, not blond, like Elsa.

frozen thoranna thorPhotos courtesy of Constable Frozen.