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|“||Magic makes people feel too powerful... too entitled. It makes them think they can defy the will of a king!||„|
|~ King Runeard revealing his true nature while expressing his reason for distrusting the Northuldran people.|
|“||They will come in celebration, and then, we will know their size and strength.||„|
|~ King Runeard presumably preparing for his attack against the Northuldrans.|
King Runeard is the posthumous overarching antagonist of Disney's Frozen franchise. specifically being the posthumous overarching antagonist of the first film Frozen, and the posthumous main antagonist of Disney's 58th full-length animated feature film Frozen II.
He was the founder and first King of Arendelle, the husband of Queen Rita, the father of King Agnarr, the father-in-law of Queen Iduna, and the paternal grandfather of Elsa and Anna. As opposed to his aforementioned family who are benevolent rulers, Runeard was a ruthless tyrant who plotted to neutralize the Northuldran people out of fear of their association with magic.
|“||That is NOT what magic does! That's just your fear! Fear is what can't be trusted!||„|
|~ Elsa furiously denouncing Runeard for letting his fear of magic consume his mind and mold him into a ruthless tyrant.|
At first, Runeard was seemingly presented out as a benevolent and peaceful ruler as he welcomed the Northuldrans and built up a dam to act as a bridge of peace between both Northuldra and Arendelle; even his son Agnarr and his granddaughters Elsa and Anna revered and idolized him as the great founder of Arendelle.
However, this was all a facade that Runeard made up to hide his true nature as a hostile, arrogant, manipulative, racist, and selfish tyrant who is determined to expand his power through fear and oppression and who does not care about anything other than his status as King. It also turns out that Runeard hated the Northuldrans due to their connection to magic, as he feared that magic makes people too powerful and potentially threaten his legacy as a king. It also turns out that he only built the dam in order to weaken Northuldra's resources so that he could starve and force the Northuldrans into his rule; this was evident when he murdered the Northuldran tribe leader for developing suspicions over the dam before sparking a war against the Northuldrans to cover his tracks. One could argue that a part of Runeard genuinely feared the destruction of his people at the hands of the Northuldra, but this fear was rooted in nothing but his twisted, racist views, and did nothing to excuse his actions.
Eerily, Runeard seemed to harbor a resentment for the Northuldrans much deeper than that of sensible worry, as he saw fit to deceive his own men, possibly believing that they would never tolerate or advocate the full extent of his intentions. He let only his second-in-command know of the dam's real oppressive function, and after murdering the Northuldrans' unarmed leader, he manipulated his entire army into believing the Northuldrans had attacked him, ordering an unwarranted offensive on the people and causing casualties on both factions. It is likely that Runeard realized he could not ensnare the Northuldrans in his lies forever, and thus moved his plans to the next and more extreme step. The novelization of the movie unveils more of Runeard's deep-rooted spite: Even as he looks at Northuldran children simply playing, he shakes his head and scowls with disgust, leaving the Northuldran Yelena to sense his hatred. It's therefore evident that Runeard loathed the entire people, and wasn't simply worried about the adults rising up to him.
It also apparent that Runeard was quite neglectful towards his family as he showed little to no concern or consideration over the well-being of his young son, who was present in the camps during the battle against the Northuldrans. If Iduna hadn't saved him from the crossfire, Agnarr would've been surely killed, and even so the only one who cared for Agnarr's safety was Lieutenant Mattias. It's evident that even before that, Runeard didn't have a good relationship with Agnarr, given that the only time they are seen interacting onscreen, Runeard just coldly ordered Agnarr to stand tall in his posture, indicating that he intended to mold Agnarr into a ruthless king like himself. The novelization of the movie substantiates this relationship, as it falls on Lieutenant Mattias to cheer Agnarr up when he feels laid aside by his father; Moreover, Agnarr is shown to be aware that Runeard had put Agnarr in Mattias's charge as a way to get rid of him during discussions with the other men and the Northuldrans.
In the end, Runeard's arrogance and prejudice proved to be his downfall as the war that he instigated against the Northuldrans led to him falling to his death on a cliff and causing the angered spirits to cast a curse on the Enchanted Forest for decades. Upon learning the truth, Elsa and Anna were left heartbroken and appalled by their grandfather's heinous crimes, furiously abandoning all respect they had for him by destroying the dam to end the curse and bring true peace to both Arendelle and Northuldra.
Years prior to the events of the film, Runeard created the Kingdom of Arendelle and became its first King. At some point, he married a woman named Rita, who became Arendelle's first Queen. She gave birth to their son Prince Agnarr. It's unknown what happened later to Rita, but it seems that she passed away, possibly when giving birth to Agnarr. According to the 2019 tie-in novel Frozen: Forest of Shadows, Runeard oversaw the construction of the modern Arendelle Castle when Agnarr was just a boy.
When Agnarr was 14 years old, the tribe of Northuldra, who lived in the Enchanted Forest north of Arendelle in harmony with the elemental spirits who also resided there, made peace with Runeard and his kingdom, with Runeard and his men frequently meeting with them because of this. He also gets his men to build up a dam in the Enchanted Forest near a fjord, supposedly designed to help the Northuldran people and bring prosperity to their land.
Betrayal and Death
|“||That dam wasn't a gift of peace. It was a trick.||„|
|~ Anna realized that her grandfather tricked the Northuldrans into building a dam as a gift of peace.|
However, in truth, Runeard actually feared and despised the Northuldrans, believing that their association with magic made them too entitled and that they could potentially threaten his power as king. It also turns out that the dam was only created to weaken Northuldra's resources so that Runeard could subjugate them to his rule. This was shown when he ordered his second-in-command to bring in Arendelle's grand army to speed things up and prepare for an imminent attack; even when his second-in-command wisely pointed out that the Northuldrans aren't distrustful in nature, Runeard arrogantly refused to heed his advice as he still despised magic.
When the Northuldran leader saw that the dam is weakening the land's resources instead of strengthening them, he confronted Runeard, who declared that they would discuss this in private and find a solution while having tea at the fjord, a proposal that the Northuldran leader agreed upon. However, this was just a ruse to let the Northuldran leader's guard down as Runeard wields his sword and kills the Northuldran leader from behind. To cover his tracks, Runeard claimed to his army that the Northuldrans attacked him, and a battle broke out between the Arendellian soldiers and the Northuldran people, resulting a number of casualties between both sides. Eventually, during the fight, Runeard was driven to a cliff and fell to his death, along with the Northuldran that he was trying to strike down. The spirits of the Enchanted Forest, enraged by the fighting, cursed the forest by enveloping it in a powerful mist that would keep anyone from leaving or entering, trapping the Northuldran people and Arendellian soldiers inside. Prince Agnarr managed to escape the mist with the help of a Northuldran girl named Iduna, whom he would later marry upon inheriting the throne of Arendelle, thus becoming the new King and Queen.
The foul lies propogated by Runeard against the Northuldrans carried over into the Arendellian kingdom, as the novelizations evince. For decades, the citizens of the kingdom would consider it a mercy that the dam and mist both served to cordon the Northuldrans off from their people, thinking they were malicious and would attack them again if given the chance.
In the following years, Runeard posthumously became a grandfather after Agnarr and Iduna gave birth to Elsa and Anna. Due to Iduna's selfless act during Runeard's attack, the elemental spirits rewarded Elsa with ice powers. Years later, King Agnarr would tell Elsa and Anna about the story of the Enchanted Forest, unaware that his father had actually started the conflict that sealed it off from the world in the first place. Upon learning about Elsa's powers, King Agnarr and Queen Iduna sailed off to find a mystical river called the Ahtohallan that holds all explanations of the past in hopes seeking answers to Elsa's powers. However, both Agnarr and Iduna perished to their deaths in a shipwreck caused by a violent storm, leaving a distraught Elsa to take over as the new Queen of Arendelle.
|“||Arendelle has no future until we make this right! King Runeard betrayed everyone! (Lieutenant Mattias: How do you know that?) My sister gave her life for the truth. Please... before we lose anyone else.||„|
|~ Anna tells Lieutenant Mattias and his soldiers the truth about Runeard's heinous crimes.|
It has been 3 years following Elsa's coronation and the defeat of Prince Hans, the Duke of Weselton and his thugs. However, the stakes changed when Elsa, upon hearing the call of a mysterious voice and accidentally awakening the elemental spirits, travels to the Enchanted Forest alongside her sister Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven. Foreshadowing what was to come, whilst fighting the Wind Spirit, later named Gale, Elsa was met with the vague glimpses of the past that showed Runeard roaring in rage as his sword fell down on something veiled by the fog. Then, as Elsa was face to face with her grandfather, she saw Runeard coldly glower at whomever he attacked, stating: "For Arendelle." After taming the Wind Spirit, they met the trapped Northuldran people (led by their tribe leader Yelana) and Arendellian soldiers (led by Runeard's former lieutenant Destin Mattias), learning of her mother's heritage and encountering the different elemental spirits in the process. Explaining of her parents' heritage, Elsa was able to arrange a truce between the Northuldrans and Arendellian soldiers. While travelling towards the Ahtohallan, Elsa, Anna and Olaf discover Agnarr and Iduna's shipwreck, realizing that they had perished trying to reach the Ahtohallan themselves and find answers about Elsa's powers. Believing that her powers are the reason why both Agnarr and Iduna died, a guilty Elsa forces Anna and Olaf away and seeks out the river by herself. Upon reaching it, Elsa finds out about the true origin of her powers and that she herself is one of the spirits because of it. Gazing at moments of the past, Elsa finds one revealing that Runeard was responsible for the forest's curse by creating the dam, killing the Northuldran leader, and instigating the war against the Northuldrans, all due to his fear and hatred of magic. Outraged to learn that her late grandfather was really a ruthless tyrant who allowed his own fear and hatred to consume his mind over trusting others, Elsa furiously denounces Runeard for his actions and sends the information to Anna before freezing as a result of venturing into the most dangerous part of Ahtohallan.
While trying to find a way out of the cave she and Olaf had become trapped in, Anna receives Elsa's message in the form of an ice sculpture of Runeard about to murder the unarmed Northuldran leader. Realizing the atrocious scoundrel their grandfather truly was and seeing that Olaf has faded away due to Elsa's fate, a mournful Anna concludes that the dam must be destroyed to end the curse and the war, despite being informed earlier by Kristoff that doing so would also cause a flood through the fjord that would sink down Arendelle. Upon escaping the caves, Anna provokes the Earth Spirits into chasing her to the dam and explains the truth to Mattias and the Arendellian soldiers about Runeard's heinous crimes. Realizing their mistake for following a despicable tyrant, Mattias and the Arendellian soldiers signaled the Earth Spirits to destroy the dam with boulders. Though the destruction of the dam lifts the mist from the Forest and saves both Elsa and Olaf for good, a giant flood heads down the fjord to sink Arendelle, but Elsa uses her powers to divert the flood, saving Arendelle in the process.
With the curse finally lifted, Elsa decides to remain in the Enchanted Forest as its new protector while abdicating the throne to Anna, thus bringing true peace to both Arendelle and Northuldra and ending Runeard's dreadful legacy for good.
- King Runeard is one of the rare sequel villains to actually appear in the Disney Animated Canon, the others are Percival C. McLeach from The Rescuers Down Under, Firebird from Fantasia 2000 and Arthur from Ralph Breaks the Internet.
- Despite being the successor in the second film of the series and already being dead by the time the story takes place, King Runeard is more evil than Prince Hans (the main antagonist of the first film). This is because while Hans posed a genuine threat towards Anna and Elsa, he did so because of his tragic past of being tormented by his abusive father and his sadistic brothers, whereas King Runeard betrayed and tried to enslave the Northuldrans solely out of spite and fear that they could threaten his power. Even Elsa and Anna showed nothing but sheer disgust towards Runeard after learning the truth about his notorious actions, finding their grandfather to be far more despicable than Hans.
- Ironically, the scene in which the snowy manifestation of King Runeard killing the leader of the Northuldrans with his sword bears a resemblance to the scene from the first film where Hans tried to kill Elsa in the same manner. Coincidentally, both did so out of fear and despise against their victims. The difference is that while Hans failed to carry on Elsa's murder, Runeard succeeded in killing the Northuldran leader. Thus, Runeard may serve as a more darker example of what Hans could have easily become if he had succeeded in killing both sisters and been crowned King of Arendelle in the first film.
- King Runeard is the Greater-Scope Villain of the Frozen franchise as his heinous actions against the Northuldran people not only led to the main events of Frozen II, but also to the events of the first film. Given Iduna's selfless act of saving Agnarr from the battle which Runeard started, the elemental spirits gave Elsa her ice powers, which caused her to accidentally unleash them and allowed both Prince Hans and the Duke of Weselton to turn Arendelle against her in the original film; while the construction of the dam caused the Northuldrans to resent the Arendellians until Anna and Elsa managed to destroy the dam so they could be released from their imprisonment in the forest.
- King Runeard is the first main antagonist of a Disney animated film to be a completely posthumous character, since he had been long dead by the time the film's events take place while his actions plague the protagonists in the present.
- Likewise, King Runeard is the first and only main antagonist in the Disney Animated Canon who didn't face the heroes or make any contact with them or any other characters in the series.
- King Runeard is considered a dark reflection to his granddaughter Queen Elsa: both are very powerful monarchs known to control their kingdom with competence while holding their senses of fear to themselves (Elsa holding a sense of fear that her powers would go out of control and threaten everyone she cared for, and Runeard holding a sense of fear that magic itself would be a threat to his kingdom). However, unlike Elsa (who overcame her fear and developed a trust toward others closest to her), Runeard allowed his fear to cloud his judgement over the trust of others; even Elsa coldly points this out after learning the truth of Runeard's notorious crimes. Runeard serves as an example of what Elsa would become if she allowed her fear to consume her.
- In addition, King Runeard would be considered a darker reflection of Prince Hans: both are selfish monarchs who desired to expand their power by all means necessary, even if includes committing murder and treachery. They are also known to put up a facade of kindness and generosity to hide their true nature and gain the trust of others for their own benefit. However, unlike Hans (who is revealed to have sympathetic qualities due to being tormented by his wicked father and brothers during his tragic childhood), Runeard is far more despicable as he is mainly out for the sake of gaining more power for himself.
- King Runeard is the only Frozen character with a body count as his battle caused several casualties for both Northuldrans and Arendellians, while he himself on-screen killed the Northuldran leader and dragged another Northuldran with him off a steep cliff to his death.
- King Runeard was entirely omitted from pre-release merchandise (except for the Junior novelization, which came out a week before the movie), hereunder the official storybook versions of the movie (all of which ended with the vague explanation that Elsa "found the truth" and nothing more), to shroud anything to do with his true role in the story to the theorizers. When Jeremy Sisto attended the premiere, many knew nothing of the character he was voicing.
- Runeard's plot of constructing a dam to greatly damage the Northuldran people is likely based on the real-life controversy in the 1960s-1970s, when the Nordic government proposed plans of building a hydro-power dam, which would've flooded villages and areas belonging to the indigenous Sámi people (on whom the Northuldrans are based).
- Despite being the main antagonist, King Runeard only had 2 minutes of screentime. In fact, out of all the main antagonists in the Disney Animated Canon, King Runeard has the smallest amount of screentime. This makes his actions even worse as he made this much of an impact in such a short period of time.