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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, and his most famous quote.|
|~ King Runeard's chronologically last line, immediately after killing the Northuldran chief.|
King Runeard is the posthumous main antagonist of Disney's Frozen franchise, specifically being one of the two overarching antagonists (alongside King Westergaard) of the first film Frozen, the posthumous main antagonist of Disney's 58th full-length animated feature film Frozen II, its novelization and its manga adaptation, and the most crucial antagonist of the prequel novel Dangerous Secrets: The Story of Iduna and Agnarr.
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 were/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 denouncing Runeard for letting his fear of magic consume his mind and mold him into a ruthless tyrant.|
At first, Runeard was seemingly presented 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 the 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 façade that Runeard made up to hide his true nature as a hostile, arrogant, manipulative, bigoted, selfish, and vile tyrant who is determined to expand his power through fear and oppression and doesn't care about anyone or anything or other than his status as king. In truth, Runeard hated the Northuldrans due to their connection to magic, as he feared that magic makes people feel too powerful and could potentially threaten his power and legacy as a king. His actual motive for building the dam was to weaken the Northuldra's resources so that he could starve and force the tribe into his rule; this was evident when he murdered the Northuldra tribe chief in cold blood when the latter developed suspicions over the dam, then sparked a war against the Northuldrans in order 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 was never true because his motivations were actually selfish and one-sided: he had a fearful, paranoid belief that magic makes people think that they can defy and overthrow a monarch like him, so Runeard was only concerned about how the Northuldra and their magical ties posed a great threat, challenge, and risk to him based on his royal rank and power, not about how they could harm or threaten the welfare of the people in his kingdom. Therefore, Runeard's motive for his plot to seize control over the Northuldra through starvation was because of their ties to magic. In addition, he refused to take responsibility for his own sins and the problems in Arendelle, so he instead blamed them on magic since blaming is much easier than taking responsibility and because magic can't defend itself. As time went by, Runeard's fear of magic caused the Arendellians to carry on his xenophobic propaganda against it more and more, meaning that they started to blame their own problems on magical spirits as well just to take the easy way out. This shows that Runeard caused the Arendellians to follow in his footsteps by scapegoating magic and anyone associated with it as the source of their problems for years to come.
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 because he believed or knew 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 chief, he manipulated his entire army into believing the Northuldrans had attacked him, ordering an unwarranted offensive on the people even though the Northuldra were defending themselves and both sides wanted peace, thus causing dozens of meaningless casualties on both factions out of nothing more than his own desire for power. 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 with the spirits, he shakes his head and scowls with disgust, leaving the Northuldran Yelena to sense his hatred. It is therefore evident that Runeard loathed the entire people, and wasn't simply worried about the adults rising up to him.
It's also revealed in Dangerous Secrets that Runeard was completely neglectful, distant and abusive towards his own family as he showed little to no care, concern, or consideration over the well-being of his wife, Rita, or his young son, Agnarr. He not only did not choose to get married out of love, but he arranged to be married to Rita, who was a princess from another country, just to create a political alliance with another kingdom and to increase his own political power and status. Likewise, Runeard also only got married because he needed to legally and legitimately produce an heir to succeed him as the ruler of Arendelle. The only kindness he offered Rita was showering her in superficial materialism to placate her, but when she still sobbed and longed for her home and freedom from her claustrophobic marriage, Runeard only grew impatient with her. When Rita couldn't take it anymore and fled upon having all memories of her marriage erased by the trolls, Runeard was quick to lock up any evidence of her ever existing and banishing anyone who spoke her name.
Runeard was also psychologically abusive to Agnarr, as he berated his son for exploring the Enchanted Forest, denied him the opportunity to be a normal son, and even shamed him for crying upon telling him his mother was gone for good. It's implied that even when he was welcoming the Northuldrans, Runeard didn't have a close and loving 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: Runeard orders Agnarr to act regal and reminds him that he represents Arendelle, which hints that he only cares about Agnarr's status as his heir and the prince of Arendelle, so he wants Agnarr to act only as such (meaning he doesn't see Agnarr as his child or as a person, so he doesn't want him to act non-royally at all). After Runeard tells Agnarr to stay with Lieutenant Mattias, the latter aims to cheer Agnarr up when he feels dejected upon his father leaving him behind.
Moreover, this and Dangerous Secrets show that Agnarr is aware that Runeard had put him in Mattias's charge to avoid being responsible for his welfare and to get rid of him during discussions with the other men and the Northuldrans. During the time the Arendellians were present in the Enchanted Forest, Agnarr wandered off to explore. Runeard impatiently called him over, coldly scolded him for wandering off and being fascinated by magic (instead of showing fear towards it), then abruptly left without accepting the despondent Agnarr's apologies or saying goodbye to him (this was also their last interaction with each other). After Runeard caused the battle against the Northuldrans in the camps, Agnarr got caught in the middle of it, then was knocked out cold and injured. If Iduna hadn't saved him from the crossfire, Agnarr surely would have died, and even so, the only one who cared for Agnarr's safety was Lieutenant Mattias. Sometime after returning to Arendelle and befriending Iduna, Agnarr admits to her that he had a complicated relationship with Runeard and that he had been angry with him for a long time since he could never earn his father's approval for anything he did, no matter how much and how hard he tried. Other moments through Agnarr's perspective shows that he saw Mattias as his father-figure instead of Runeard, showing that they had the great son-father relationship that Agnarr never had with Runeard.
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 the Northuldra.
- Queen Rita † - Wife
- King Agnarr † - Son
- Queen Iduna † - Daughter-in-law
- Queen Elsa - Granddaughter
- Queen Anna - Granddaughter
- Royal Guards
- Lieutenant Mattias
- Lord Peterssen
- 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.
- 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 out Elsa's murder, Runeard succeeded in killing the Northuldran chief. Thus, Runeard serves as a 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.
- In addition, both men use marriage to increase and secure their political status and power (Runeard forces Rita to marry him to build an alliance with her home country and using that alliance to his advantage, while Hans tries to seduce Anna so he could marry her and then kill both Elsa and Anna and take over as king of Arendelle). However, Runeard succeeded in having Rita as his wife while Hans failed to have Anna to himself. Thus, Runeard also serves as an example of what Hans could’ve become if he had married Anna if not for Elsa revealing her ice powers in the ballroom.
- 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 many other characters, including:
- His son, Agnarr: both became kings of Arendelle, both feared magic which led to their lives being lost, both married a woman from a different land, and both had children of their own. However, Agnarr's fear of magic was well-intentioned because Elsa accidentally injured Anna with her ice powers due to having trouble controlling them. He genuinely cared about his family and separated Anna and Elsa from each other for their own protection. On the other hand, Runeard's fear of magic was entirely self-centered because he never wanted to take responsibility for his own problems, and instead blamed his problems on magic because it was easier and magic couldn't defend itself. Additionally, Runeard never loved his own wife and son, as he forcefully married Rita for political reasons and became impatient when she began longing for true love and freedom, and when she left Arendelle for good, he scolded Agnarr for weeping over her absence and lied to him about her being carried off by "evil spirits".
- His older granddaughter, Elsa: both are very powerful monarchs known to control their kingdom with competence while holding their senses of fear to themselves, with Elsa holding a sense of fear that her powers would grow 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 overcomes her fear and develops 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 before learning the truth of Runeard's notorious crimes. Runeard serves as an example of what Elsa could have become if she allowed her fear to consume her.
- In addition, Runeard is considered a darker reflection of Prince Hans: both are power-hungry monarchs who desired to expand their power by all means necessary, even if includes committing murder and treachery. They're 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 killed the Northuldran chief 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 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 have 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 less than two minutes of screentime. In fact, out of all the main antagonists in the Disney Animated Canon, King Runeard has the shortest amount of time on screen. This makes his actions even worse as he made this much of an impact in such a short period of time.
- The author of Dangerous Secrets, Mari Mancusi, confirmed that even if Runeard had been made aware of the law that Rita wasn't legally required to marry him, he would have ignored it and forced her to marry him regardless, showing that he was willing to deprive Rita of her basic rights just to secure his power.
- King Runeard at the Pure Evil wiki.
- King Runeard at the Disney wiki.
- King Runeard at the Frozen wiki.