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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, paranoid tyrant who plotted to neutralize the Northuldra 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 Northuldra people and built up a dam to act as a bridge of peace between the tribe 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 obsessed with expanding his power and doesn't care about anyone or anything other than himself, his position as king, and the power and authority it gave him. In truth, Runeard hated the Northuldra due to them being connected 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 paranoid, xenophobic belief that magic makes people think that they can defy and overthrow a monarch like him, so he was only concerned about how the Northuldra and their magical ties posed a great competition, challenge, and risk to his kingship, 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 relations with the forest's magical spirits, which he wanted to cut off. In addition, he refused to take responsibility for his own sins and the problems in Arendelle, and 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 xenophobia caused the Arendellians to carry on his 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 Northuldra 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 Northuldra's unarmed chief, he manipulated his entire army into believing the Northuldra 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 to protect his power. It is likely that Runeard realized he could not ensnare the Northuldra 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 and wanted a child 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 grew depressed out of longing for her home and freedom from her claustrophobic marriage, Runeard only grew impatient and annoyed with her. When Rita couldn't take it anymore and fled upon having all memories of her marriage erased by Pabbie, the leader of 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 the then five-year-old Agnarr for crying upon telling him that Rita was gone for good. It's implied that even when he was welcoming the Northuldra, Runeard didn't have a close and loving relationship with his son, given that the only time they are seen interacting onscreen, Runeard just coolly 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, hinting that he only cares about Agnarr's status as his heir and the prince of Arendelle, and thus 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 Northuldra. During the time the Arendellians were present in the Enchanted Forest, Agnarr wandered off to explore. Soon afterwards, Runeard impatiently called Agnarr 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 and Runeard had a complicated relationship, 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 in Dangerous Secrets reveal that he saw Mattias as his father figure, and wished he had been his father instead of Runeard, showing that the two 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 Northuldra 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 bringing a true union of peace between 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
- Northuldran Chief
- Unnamed Northuldran
- Arendellian parents
- "Loved ones" (according to Agnarr)
- Iduna's adoptive family (implied)
- 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 snowy ice statue that depicts Runeard about to murder the Northuldra chief in cold blood with his sword bears a strong resemblance to the scene from the first film, where Hans tries to kill Elsa in the same manner. The difference is that while Hans failed to kill Elsa, Runeard succeeded in killing the Northuldra chief. Thus, Runeard serves as what Hans could have easily become if he had killed both Anna and Elsa and become king of Arendelle
- In addition, both men attempt to use marriage to increase and secure their political status and power: Runeard arranges for Rita to marry him to build an alliance with her home country and use that alliance to his advantage, while Hans tries to seduce and marry Anna so he can kill Elsa and take over as king of Arendelle with Anna as his queen. However, while Runeard succeeded in marrying Rita (even though she ultimately leaves him due to his cruelty and abuse), Hans failed to have Anna as his wife. Thus, Runeard also serves as an example of what Hans could have 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 Northuldra not only led to the main events of Frozen II, but also to the events of Frozen.
- However, the other Greater-Scope Villain of the franchise is King Westergaard, who influenced the events of the 2013 film, Frozen and the 2015 tie-in novel A Frozen Heart, by tormenting Hans and making him the villain he became.
- King Runeard is the first villain in a Disney animated feature to die since King Candy in Wreck-It Ralph, seven years prior.
- King Runeard is the first main antagonist in the Disney canon to be a completely posthumous character, since he had been long dead by the time the film's main events take place. He is also one of the few main antagonists to affect the flow of the story from the very beginning of the film: when Agnarr tells his story in the prologue, the flashback shows that Runeard's actions had trapped the Northuldra and Arendellian soldiers in the forest 18 years ago, then they later plague the protagonists in the present day, when 16 more years have passed since the battle.
- Likewise, Runeard is the first and only main antagonist in said canon who doesn't face, interact, or make any contact with the main protagonists or any other major characters in the films.
- He is the third such villain to be biologically related to the main protagonists, after Scar (who is Simba's uncle by way of being Mufasa's brother) and Hades (who is Hercules's uncle by way of being Zeus's brother).
- 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 them losing their lives, and both married a woman from a different land with whom they had children. However, Agnarr was able to accept Elsa’s magic and still love her as his daughter and a person, rather than simply as his heir, along with his other daughter Anna and wife Iduna, both of whom he also genuinely loved. The fear of magic he had was well-intentioned because Elsa accidentally injured Anna with her ice powers due to having trouble controlling them. Agnarr was also determined to protect his daughters, which he did by separating them and trying to help Elsa learn to control her magic to prevent further accidents. On the other hand, Runeard’s fear of magic was entirely self-centered because he viewed it as a threat, but only to himself rather than the people in his kingdom. He blamed all of his problems, including those that happened in Arendelle, on magic because he never wanted to accept responsibility and took the easy way out by blaming magic since magic cannot defend itself. Additionally, Runeard never even loved Rita and Agnarr and only saw them as assets to his status and Arendelle based on their own royal positions. He forcefully married Rita to create an alliance with her kingdom and increase his power and rank, then later became annoyed and impatient with her when she grew sad over missing her home and yearning for freedom. When Rita left Arendelle for good, Runeard scolded Agnarr for weeping over her absence and lied to him about her being carried off by “evil spirits”. He subsequently assigned Lieutenant Mattias to be Agnarr’s official guard so he wouldn’t have to be responsibility for Agnarr’s well-being himself. Runeard serves as an example of what Agnarr could have become if not for the influence of his mother, Mattias, and Iduna.
- His older granddaughter, Elsa: both are very powerful monarchs known to control their kingdom with competence while holding a deep-rooted fear of magic, with Elsa fearing her powers would harm people and Runeard fearing magic would be a threat to his kingdom. However, while Elsa feared her powers for selfless reasons, Runeard feared magic for selfish reasons. Elsa believed that she would harm innocent people, especially her family, with her magic if she lost control, but gradually learned to overcome her fear and learn to trust herself and others. Runeard feared magic only for himself rather than for his people, seeing it as a risk, challenge, and competition to his royal status and power. His fear twisted into paranoia, hatred, and bigotry, which clouded and corrupted his judgment over trusting people if they were magical or had magical ties; even Elsa coldly points this out before learning the truth of Runeard's notorious crimes. This makes Runeard serve as an example of what Elsa could have become if she allowed her fear to consume her.
- His youngest granddaughter, Anna: both are rulers of Arendelle who lost or were disconnected from a family member due to magic (specifically, the trolls’ magic), with Runeard having lost Rita after she fled upon having her memories of him erased by Pabbie, and Anna growing up separated from Elsa after accidentally being injured by her, which later caused Pabbie to alter Anna’s memories to help conceal Elsa’s powers. Years later, the girls lose their parents when Agnarr and Iduna try to find Ahtohallan. However, despite their separation, Anna still loved Elsa and yearned to reconnect with her. When Elsa’s powers were revealed, Anna held no spite, fear, or bigotry towards her sister and her powers, and instead sought to help her. But Runeard held a great amount of wrath, xenophobia, and bigotry towards magic and anyone with ties to magic, with one of his reasons being because he blamed it for Rita leaving him (he presumably somehow figured out that Rita had her memories erased). This made him gradually distrust people or beings who had anything to do with magic and stubbornly refuse to ever give them a chance. Therefore, Runeard serves as the kind of person Anna would have become if she gave up on Elsa and learned to develop prejudice and fear towards magic.
- In addition, Runeard is a darker reflection of Prince Hans: both are power-hungry monarchs who desired to expand their power by all means necessary, even if it 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 the Northuldra and Arendellians, while he himself killed the Northuldran chief (offscreen) and dragged another Northuldran with him off a steep cliff to his death.
- King Runeard was entirely omitted from pre-release storybook merchandise (except for the junior novelization, which came out a week before the movie). As a result, these books ended with a vague explanation that Elsa "found the truth" and little else in order to cover up his true role in the story. When Jeremy Sisto attended the premiere, not only was it the first time Runeard's actor was revealed to the public, but many people knew nothing about 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, Runeard is only on screen for less than two minutes. In fact, out of all the main antagonists in the Disney canon, he has the shortest amount of screentime. This makes his actions even worse, since he makes such a huge impact on the story 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.