Following the death of their previous leader at the hands of King Runeard, Yelena rose as the new head of the Northuldra. As her reign began after the Northuldra and Arendellian war, thirty-four years of Yelana’s rule took place in a time in which the Enchanted Forest was encapsulated by an impenetrable mist. Alongside the imprisoned Northuldra were a small group of Arendellian guards, led by Lieutenant Mattias. As neither side knew who truly instigated the war that resulted in the forest’s curse, Yelena was wary of the Arendellians and had a longstanding rivalry with Mattias. The two sides were nevertheless forced to live in a stalemate.
Role in the film
Yelena first appears when the Northuldra and Arendellians confront Elsa and her party. Honeymaren commands Anna to lower her weapon, to which Mattias responds by ordering Honeymaren to lower her own. Yelana steps in, questioning Mattias’s tone, much to the latter’s annoyance. Elsa uses her magic to protect herself and her friends, which shocks Yelana and Mattias. They learn from Olaf that Elsa and Anna are Arendellian royalty. Yelana questions why nature would reward a person of Arendelle with magic, with Mattias believing it may be to make up for the actions of the Northuldra. Yelana defends her people, claiming that they never would have attacked first. Elsa explains that her mission may save the forest, but Yelana is hesitant to trust her as Northuldra only trusts nature.
Just then, the Fire Spirit sets the forest ablaze, prompting Yelana to evacuate her people. However, Elsa is able to tame the spirit with her ice magic, much to the shock of Yelana and the others. She then learns that Elsa and Anna’s mother, Queen Iduna, was Northuldran. The Northuldra are happy to welcome Elsa and Anna as a member of their tribe, with Yelana leading the ceremony. Elsa promises to free the forest, but is unable to continue her journey at night as the Earth Giants are roaming. Yelana nevertheless allows Anna, Elsa, and their friends to stay with their tribe until morning. When the Earth Giants approach the Northuldran camp—much to Yelana’s confusion—Elsa decides to leave immediately so not to attract the spirits. Anna and Olaf joins her, leaving Kristoff and Sven behind.
The next day, Yelana walks in on Kristoff’s proposal meant for Anna (which she declines). She informs him that the princess and queen had left, and advises him not to follow as they were long gone by that point. Nevertheless, she awkwardly invites Kristoff to join the Northuldra on their travels to the west.
Following these events, Elsa discovers the truth behind the Northuldran and Arendellian war—learning that it was instigated by King Runeard, who plotted to colonize the Northuldra and drain their magic with a dam that was built in the forest. Anna uses the strength of the Earth Giants to destroy the dam, thus lifting the forest’s curse. Yelana and Mattias are together when the forest is finally freed. They both recount how long they’ve been trapped, before walking out into the open world with their arms linked, symbolizing the end of their feud and the start of their friendship. Shortly after, Elsa returns and relays the events of her journey to Yelana and Honeymaren. Honeymaren invites Elsa to stay with the Northuldra in the forest, to which she agrees.