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My Heart is FROZEN with Nerd Rage!

News Flash: Elsa is Not Cryokinetic!

Image by Greg Dean of
A Frozen article, really? Yes, REALLY! As I was planning my next Raising Nerds article about watching movies with my boys, something kept bugging me. Frozen is a great film with great songs, but it is a movie that has a lie throughout the entire thing. What exactly am I talking about? It is simple, really: Queen Elsa is not cryokinetic, she is essokinetic!

Before I can explain why, it is important for you to know the difference between the two powers. Cryokinesis is the ability to control ice, snow, and other forms of frozen water. Essokinesis is the ability to create, change, destroy, or even alter reality just by thinking about it; "while weaker users are limited to what is already considered "real", stronger ones can make changes from nothing. Depending on the power of an essokinetic reality warper, they may alter something as tangible as physics to something inconceivable like logic." (  Did I watch the same movie as you? How can I claim that Elsa has the ability to manipulate reality? The evidence for my claim is littered throughout the film and, once you stop thinking of her powers as cryokinetic in nature, you’ll understand completely.

First, let’s just get it out of the way: Elsa is a mutant. She was born with her powers and, since Disney owns Marvel, there is no problem with them using her that way. I can hear everyone complaining now that if she really was an essokinetic, then why didn’t she do other things early on? Elsa was probably the only mutant her parents had ever come across so it makes sense that everyone around her assumed that the first thing she ever did with her powers was what her powers were. She probably did some snow or ice manifestation at a very young age and from that point on her parents told her that her powers were that way. This is not a far stretch since A) she had the worst parents in the world and B) her parents repeatedly got things wrong and were only in the movie for one song. There is precedent for this, especially in Marvel, as with Rogue and Spider-Man. Both characters learned later in life that their abilities were much stronger than originally thought. In Rogue’s case, her own fear of her powers is what prevented her from fully realizing what she could do. How is that any different from Elsa’s situation?

The biggest example in the movie of her powers being essokinetic is, of course, with Olaf. On a whim, Elsa brings to life a small snowman that has thoughts, personality, memories, dreams, wishes, and desires. If that wasn’t enough, Olaf’s arms are made of wood and yet the life that Elsa gave to him extends to those limbs as well. Using even the most generous description of cryokinesis you cannot explain this! There must be something more! The other strikingly obvious example is when Elsa gives Olaf a small flurry to keep him “alive” during summer. Since the average outside air temperature is nowhere near cold enough to sustain it, the flurry must be instantly cooling the air to below freezing as he walks around. Olaf should be a walking natural disaster! Don’t let him near your crops or livestock, if you want them to survive! But, the reality is that the flurry is just a visual Elsa creates for her subconscious to justify Olaf surviving during summer. Olaf lives and will only live as long as he remains within the range of Elsa’s vast influence.

The second major example of her powers being essokinetic is the damage to the land of Arendelle, simply for the fact that there is none. Her entire kingdom is flash frozen in a matter of seconds, but no crops die, no livestock die, and no people die. In fact, outside revealing the true character of many of those involved, there is little to no impact from the events of the movie at all. When the ice and snow are removed, everything is back to normal. The ships that were sunk or stuck in the ice were completely unharmed. She even raises one boat right underneath her, Anna, Hans, and Kristoff at the very second she removes the ice and not one of them gets wet. To believe she executed that perfectly because she now had the power to love is a bit naïve. It makes far more sense that she wanted everything to return to normal and that she subconsciously used her power to set everything right.

Elsa’s miraculous wardrobe change is another example of her essokinesis at work. The argument for this scene claims she swapped her reserved coronation gown for the extravagant dress made from some combination of snow and ice crystals. Since we know cold doesn’t faze her, she likely doesn’t realize the effect this would have on people around her. In order for her dress to keep from melting in the sun or her shoes from melting on the hot ground, she would need to keep the air temperature in her immediate vicinity below freezing. This would cause the same issues and dangers that Olaf running around would cause. A much simpler explanation for all of this is she simply created new clothing out of cloth instead of ice. This way, there would be no risk of endangering people around her and no risk of accidently loosing concentration and her clothes melting.

This discussion would not be complete without noting how cryokinesis is supposed to work. For every other character that uses cryokinesis they are able to form snow or ice by instantly decreasing the temperature of ambient water vapor in the immediate environment. The reason I don’t think this is what happened in Frozen is due to the scale. I don’t believe for a minute that there was enough ambient water vapor in the air to create all of the snow and ice Elsa makes throughout the film. Of course, she had her chance, given that the kingdom is a port city. She could have used water from the sea to make some of the ice or snow but that doesn’t happen. We are not shown any water being removed from sea, nor do we see the any difference in the sea level. Instead of using cryokinesis to generate the snow and ice like every other cryokinetic ever created, she manifested the snow and ice out of nothing. Her misunderstanding of the true nature of her powers caused her to create the snow and ice out of thin air rather than converting the moisture in the area. Evidence in the movie also suggests that even as she was creating all of this snow and ice she was still subconsciously protecting her kingdom. How many water pipes broke? How many roofs caved in from the weight of snow and ice? All of the snow and ice that she created acted according to her will, to protect her and let her escape, but do as little harm to her people as possible.

All of that said, Frozen is a great film. Disney was trying to put their spin on the fairytale of the Snow Queen but did something much bigger in the end. Was it always their intent to make Elsa more than a cryokinetic? Was this Disney’s way of dropping hints for a sequal in which Elsa’s full powers come to light? Whatever Disney’s reasons were, if we want to raise the next generation of children with a healthy understanding of how super powers really work, we cannot stand for this kind of laziness and misrepresentation!

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