Will you see Elsa save her kingdom again?
In theaters now, “Frozen 2” is the sequel to “Frozen,” Disney’s 2013 animated feature.
In “Frozen,” young Queen Elsa of Arendelle can magically create and control ice and snow. Afraid of her powers, she retreats to an ice palace, plunging Arendelle into permanent winter.
Elsa’s younger sister, Anna, tries to persuade Elsa to return to her throne. In the end of the film, Elsa accidentally freezes her sister solid when Anna leaps between her and wicked Prince Hans, who’s trying to kill Elsa. Through true sisterly love, Elsa revives Anna and Arendelle is saved.
Elsa is a Germanic short form of biblical saint’s name Elizabeth, which is Hebrew for “my God is an oath.”
The first famous Elsa was also a fictional princess. Around 1200, German knight Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote “Parzival.” This epic poem includes the story of Lohengrin, Parzival’s son. When the Duke of Brabant leaves his throne to daughter Elsa, Lohengrin arrives in a boat pulled by a swan, promising to defend Elsa’s reign if she never asks his name. He weds Elsa. They rule Brabant for years until she finally asks the forbidden question, when he glides away in the swan boat.
In 1850, Richard Wagner turned the tale into the opera “Lohengrin,” famous for its bridal march (“Here Comes the Bride”).
Wagner’s opera switched Elsa from a nickname for Elizabeth into a separate given name all over Europe.
The 1850 United States census included 1,169 Elsas. Elsa was still mostly a nickname.
Immigration increased the number of Elsas and established it as a separate name. On Social Security’s yearly lists, Elsa peaked at 215th in 1890.
Though Elsa then fell off, it enjoyed some revival in the 1950s, partly inspired by English actress Elsa Lanchester (1902-86). Today most remembered for 1935’s “The Bride of Frankenstein,” Lanchester got Oscar nods for Best Supporting Actress in 1949 for “Come to the Stable” and 1957 for “Witness for the Prosecution.” In 1957, Elsa peaked again at 520th.
Joy Adamson’s bestseller “Born Free” (1960) told how she and her husband, George, raised orphaned lion cub Elsa in Kenya and reintroduced her to the wild. The 1966 hit film “Born Free” also led to a minor bump-up in Elsas.
Elsa sank to 999th in 1998. It then rose as an alternative for names like Ella and Tessa, ranking 526th in 2013, which possibly helped “Frozen” screenwriters think Elsa would be a great choice for Arendelle’s queen.
After “Frozen” was released, newborn Elsas more than doubled in 2014, ranking the name 286th, but that was a flash in the pan. By 2018, Elsa plummeted to 888th, a startling reversal.
Part of that is due to “Elsagate,” a scandal in which YouTube videos tagged “child-friendly” put Elsa and other animated characters into sexual and violent scenes.
Elsa may also be the victim of the character’s huge success. “Frozen” was the fastest-selling video release ever, in both DVD and digital. Elsa is used to sell everything from lamps and Legos to pillows and piggy banks.
Names completely identified with one celebrity, such as Madonna and Oprah, are avoided for newborns. Elsa is an animated character with that sort of one-name fame, making parents reluctant to saddle daughters with it. Will “Frozen 2” reverse that? We’ll have to wait another year to see.