- “You see, the dam will weaken their lands, so they will have to turn to me.”
- ―King Runeard explaining his plot to eliminate the Northuldra using the dam[src]
Runeard's Dam is a vital object in Disney's 2019 animated feature film Frozen II. It was constructed in the Enchanted Forest during the reign of Arendellian King Runeard and remained there for over thirty-four years until it was finally destroyed by the Earth Giants.
Over thirty years into the past, King Runeard and the Arendellians made peace with the Northuldra, a northern tribe that resided in the Enchanted Forest alongside the elemental spirits of air, fire, water, and earth. In honor of the alliance, Runeard commissioned the construction of a dam and presented it as a gift of peace to the Northuldra with designs of bringing prosperity to their land.
What no one knew was that Runeard secretly feared, hated, and distrusted the Northuldra because they followed magic, something he saw as a threat and competition to his own royal status and power. His true purpose for building the dam was to weaken the forest and starve the tribe of their resources, which would force them to turn to Runeard in their desperation.
When the dam was completed, the Northuldrans and the Arendellians, which included Runeard, his son Prince Agnarr, their royal guards, and citizens of the kingdom, held a gathering in the forest to celebrate their union. But while the majority of both groups of people celebrated, the tribe leader consulted Runeard about the dam, as he realized the harm it was causing to the forest rather than the promised good. Runeard offered to listen to what he had to say in private, suggesting they meet on the fjord and have tea. The leader agreed, but once the two men were alone together, Runeard murdered him. To cover up his crime, Runeard subsequently started a war between the Arendellians and the Northuldrans, during which he fell off a cliff to his death while fighting a tribe member. The spirits became enraged by the fighting and turned their magic against everyone. Agnarr witnessed the battle before him, including his father falling off the cliff, and was knocked unconscious immediately afterwards. Shortly after he was rescued by a Northuldran girl named Iduna, an impenetrable mist covered the forest, which prevented anyone from entering or leaving.
For the next thirty-four years, the forest and everyone inside it remained trapped by the mist until the truth about the conflict was finally discovered by Runeard's granddaughters, Elsa and Anna, and the dam was finally destroyed, which lifted the mist.
Role in the film
The dam first appears in the prologue during the story of the Enchanted Forest that Agnarr tells Anna and Elsa. He describes it as a "mighty dam" that Runeard had built to strengthen the forest's waters, and that it was presented as a gift of peace to the Northuldra, unaware that his father had it built for a more sinister purpose. Upon listening to her father explain the size of the dam, Anna exclaims, "That's a big gift of peace!"
Years later, when Elsa awakens the spirits, Arendelle is stripped of its natural elements, forcing the Arendellians to evacuate to the cliffs. Shortly afterwards, Pabbie and the other trolls arrive. Pabbie conjures up images in the sky as he explains what he can see regarding how the forest's past ties to Arendelle, during which he explains to Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff that the spirits are still angered over the past conflict. As he explains what he can see, the first image that appears in Pabbie's visions is one of the dam, suggesting it has something to do with the conflict.
After Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff arrive at the forest along with Olaf and Sven, Anna and Kristoff's exploration takes them to a cliff where they see the dam still standing in the distance. Anna notes that it appeared in Pabbie's visions, but neither she nor Kristoff understand why. Kristoff notes that the dam is still in good shape, then explains to Anna that if it broke, it would release a monstrous tidal wave that would wash away everything on the fjord. Anna expresses worry at this, since Arendelle is on that very fjord, but Kristoff tries to assure her that nothing will happen to their kingdom.
When Elsa goes to Ahtohallan to seek answers about the past, she uncovers memories in the form of snowy ice figures, including those of Runeard. She discovers his bigotry and fear towards magic and his scheme to destroy the Northuldra using the dam, which he confesses only to his second-in-command officer. When the figures of the men leave the main chamber of memories, Elsa follows them down a flight of stairs until she comes to a precipice, which is located above the bottom layer of the river. Though she can no longer sees the figures, she hears Runeard continue to explain his scheme and what he plans to do during the upcoming union celebration. As he talks, Elsa sees visual images of the Northuldra and Arendellians approaching each other, with the former group walking across the dam to meet the latter group. Elsa jumps down into the cavern in order to uncover what led to the conflict, but because she is in the deepest and most dangerous part of the river, she slowly begins to freeze. She sees the figure of the Northuldra leader confronting Runeard about the dam's harmful effects, with Runeard suggesting they meet in private on the fjord. When Elsa sees Runeard approach the seated leader from behind and murder him, she freezes faster than before, but before she is completely encased in ice, she sends a message of her discovery to Anna. Her message is in the form of an ice statue, which depicts Runeard sneaking up behind the unarmed tribe leader with his sword raised and about to deliver the killing strike.
From the statue, Anna realizes that the dam was actually part of a ruse that Runeard had to eliminate the Northuldra, and that it must be broken in order to free the forest and restore peace to Arendelle. The following morning, she awakens the Earth Giants and encourages them to follow her. As she lures them towards the dam, Lieutenant Mattias and his soldiers stand guard upon Anna's arrival. She explains to them that the dam must fall in order to lift the mist, then reveals Runeard's treachery towards both the Northuldra and the Arendellians. The soldiers relent to Anna's orders and hit their shields with their swords to draw the giants closer. When the giants are close enough, Anna runs out on to the dam and goads them to throw their boulders to break it, which they do. The breaking of the dam thaws Elsa and causes the released massive wave to head down the fjord towards Arendelle, but Elsa hurriedly rides the Nokk back to Arendelle and creates a giant wall of ice, diverting the wave and saving the kingdom.
The dam's destruction finally puts an end to what remained of Runeard's evil reign, and with the truth revealed, a true union of peace is finally formed between the Arendellians and the Northuldra.
- In “Some Things Never Change”, when Anna sings “like an old stone wall that will never fall”, a piece of a stone wall on which Olaf is walking falls, foreshadowing the falling of the dam.