The first time I read the book “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the famous Jungian analyst and powerful cantadora (storyteller), I remained astounded at the quality of guidance we get from folktales, and the level of my ignorance in understanding and using their priceless advice. Gradually, I realized that although our intellect takes the tale’s plot at literal value, the psyche invariably translates the elements and designs into a much deeper-seated wisdom and, if let free, it uses this wisdom to enrich our already acute power of intuition. Ever since, I search into the nooks and corners of every story, looking for the details I might have missed, the messages I overlooked, and the growth of the tale’s main characters who, on the surface, may look raw and simplistic, deep down though they are profound and complete. As I proceed, I steadily delve deeper into my own psyche, recording my observations, perceptions, and insights to comprehend this subtle development that comes through further reading and, above all, conscious living.
Frozen has turned out to be one of my favorite tales, even though it is rather new and cannot be considered a classic. My first memory includes only the joy I felt watching the movie in the cinema with my nephews during a Christmas holiday in Athens. I think I spent more time gazing at the glow on their peach-fresh faces, and the excitement, which was almost tangible, in their transfixed eyes, rather than paying attention to the movie. However, when I watched it again later – an avid animation-film lover that I am – I began to dig beyond the surface of the story, highlighting one by one my personal understandings and interpretations.
The unification process
Often, the various characters in a tale represent the multifaceted aspects of the psyche of just one person. So, even though Frozen seems to be about the love between two sisters, for me, it is about the love and unification between the two parts of the same woman’s psyche: the magical, wild one, and the sweet, innocent one. In the story, these two parts were separated at a very young, tender age – as we frequently observe in real life as well. This led to such a great alienation that magic turned into threat, and innocence into naivety. In psychology, I have often heard these two parts referred to as the “madonna /whore” elements within the woman, where the “madonna” side is the sweet, tender one which, however, often turns into a suffocating and rather boring motherly figure, and the “whore” side is the wild, independent woman who refuses to compromise with a conventional life but, on the other hand, is often unable to bring balance or apply boundaries, and, thus, is frequently alone. It is only through an act of true love – the love that we give abundantly to all elements of our psyche – that the broken parts can be unified once again and a woman can be whole and happy, bringing joy and prosperity to the people around her.
The dangers of love
The destructive split in the movie, the source of all future challenges, originates from the family – which may represent tradition and society as well – and is due to ignorance, deep love, and similarly deep fear. The parental attention, the social norms, and the influence of tradition are indeed the fertile soil from which any newborn girl sprouts and is nourished in the first years of her life. As time passes, though, her inherent magical wildness is frequently misunderstood and dreaded. The parents in Frozen – albeit loving and tender – are unable to comprehend and accept Elsa’s powers and, thus, remain weak in front of their daughter’s skills. They cover her hands in gloves, confine her in a room, and ultimately separate her from her own self (sister) and even life. Love, if weak and unwise, can be dangerous, for it often camouflages our fears, cultivating guilt, more anxiety and greater despair. Learning to love is ultimately a life project and, I believe, this epitomizes the deeper story of the movie.
A journey never made in isolation
This voyage towards true love initially focuses – and should focus – on learning to treasure and care for one’s self. Without the unification of the psyche and sincere affection towards one’s unique gifts, no further development is possible. Elsa and Anna need to reconnect. However, this journey is never made in isolation. It is quite indicative that the confinement imposed in the story by the parents as a protective measure, kept everything stagnant – except for the uncontrolled growth of Elsa’s magical powers, Anna’s naivety, and both girls’ fear and loneliness. The parents’ death – the typical starting point of initiation towards adulthood and wisdom in most tales – is the catalyst that forces the doors of the palace open. People arrive for the first time, Anna twirls and somersaults, Elsa gets out of her room. It is this interaction with other people that finally pushes the two girls into the hero’s journey and defines their transformation. Elsa cannot hide her powers anymore and in an act of momentary anger – which, though, feels so refreshing and liberating – runs into the wilderness, enjoying, for once, the strength of her potential. Anna, on the other hand, soon reveals that her naivety, bred during the years of isolation, makes her an easy prey for Hans. None of the two sisters has proper boundaries, for none really knows herself. It is only through interaction with other people, good or bad, that they uncover the unchartered sides of themselves. Similarly, in our lives, the people who surround us – the ones we meet for a moment and the ones we spend years together as friends, partners, or relatives; the ones who hurt us and the one who protect us – land as secondary characters in our story only to help us delve deeper into our own secrets. Austere protection and isolation – physical, emotional, or spiritual – are often overrated, mainly due to fear of the unknown. It is, though, this “Unknown” that will mold us into the person we are supposed to be.
The power of anger
In the movie, it is a moment of anger during the coronation ceremony that indicates the turning point, when, finally, some of the tension that has been building in the palace and within the two heroines after years of suppression and alienation starts to be released. Anger has a destructive quality and is often censored and concealed. Still, in cases we have been deprived of a part of ourselves, anger is necessary to move to the next level, for, it is this emotion the one that can push on the surface our subdued need for self-respect. Hence, although this is Elsa’s darkest moment – a moment of selfishness and resentment – it is reinforced by the most beautiful song of the movie, ultimately turning it into the most memorable scene. The message is subtle, yet, brilliant. It reminded me of a similarly ingenious scene in the movie Inside Out: it is Anger the one that breaks the glass of the HQ tower for the wandering Sadness and Joy to find their way back to the “control room.” Only afterwards, is the little girl allowed to go through her emotions, acknowledge them and accept them, before finding happiness again.
The sacred incantation
Although anger is often transformational and necessary, it can be highly catastrophic. Our daily lives are filled with examples where anger, justifiable as he might be, gets stuck in a vicious cycle and, instead of turning into a catalyst leading towards a better state of being, remains pernicious and perilous. It is no surprise that, in the movie, anger comes to Elsa who holds magic in her hands, because magic – like anger – can be creative but also harmful, if not balanced. Balance comes in the story through Anna: the personification of the feminine sweetness, gentleness, and innocence. Anna never gives up on Elsa, even for a moment, and it is finally her own act of love that breaks the spell and brings harmony and joy. Similarly, it is this divine side of every woman that is called upon to heal the wounds of the world and set the solid basis for a blissful future. This is the sacred incantation of the universe, the inconspicuous quality destined to alleviate pain and soothe fear, the ultimate Holy Grail.
The importance of maturity
Still, even Anna must go through her own transformational journey. Her tenderness remains intact throughout the movie; however, she changes from a naïve little girl to a confident, strong woman, and it is exactly this maturity that gives her the healing power. Naivety and conformism – often confused with innocence – have never been desired qualities in any tale; every woman, including famous archetypal characters like Snow White and Cinderella, have paid dearly for their naivety until the moment they managed to take their fate into their own hands.
I still enjoy Frozen frequently, in search of all those details that are not consciously registered but turn a simple story into something thorough and meaningful. Each time, I marvel at the amount of collective wisdom that led to the creation of something as beautiful, and I give thanks to the Divine Providence’ support which constantly fills in the gaps of what we have not yet deciphered, to keep the psyche’s growth solid and uninterrupted throughout the centuries.
Photo credits: unknown