I’ve previously written about the subtextual Jewishness of Frozen. Here I want to extend the analysis to include the new installment which has just dropped. Jewish actors Idina Menzel and Josh Gad reprise their roles as Elsa and Olaf respectively to which we can now add Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Iduna. Where in Frozen, it was the characters who personified Jewishness, in Frozen II it is in the use of symbolism.
Hearing a voice in her head, calling her to action, Elsa travels to the north where she encounters fire that burns but does not consume. Elsa’s journey resembles that of the biblical prophet Moses, who wanders into the wilderness where he hears a voice emanating from a burning bush. Elsa learns that her calling is to liberate her people from a curse and she does so by releasing a flood of biblical proportions that cleanses her people of the sins of their past.
Like the Passover Haggadah that recounts the story of Exodus, four is a recurrent theme in the new film. There are four humanoids — Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff — who journey together to the Enchanted Forest which is demarcated by four standing stones. Four is a resonant number in Judaism — think of the four matriarchs or the four sons and the four cups of wine of the Passover Seder.
But it also stands for the four layers of interpretation known as PaRDeS which, itself, means orchard (or maybe ‘forest’) into which four rabbis journeyed and came back transformed in some way. ‘Transformation’ is a key theme of Frozen II.
To return to the standing stones or monoliths, each one represents an element: earth, wind, fire and water but on one the Hebrew letter ‘shin’, denoting one of the Hebrew names for God, can clearly be seen. Monoliths have cultic significance, being erected in biblical Canaan wherever God was worshipped.
While on their journey, our four heroes encounter giants made from stone. They resemble the Watchers from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, based on the fallen angels, the Nephilim. These stone giants also recall the mythical monsters made from clay known as golems.
Finally, Elsa finds her true place. Being in Arendelle, Elsa is “never fully comfortable in her skin (and) she was always a little awkward,” says Idina Menzel. Maybe that’s because Arendelle sounds a bit like ‘Aryan-dell’ or ‘valley of the Aryans’.