King Runeard's dam was in some way a serious constraint on their way of life if not an outright existential threat. They were aware it had been intended to be such, and they were essentially at war with Arendelle.

Whether or not they were aware that there were populated areas downstream (perhaps the lost Arendelle soldiers told them), they had ample justification to destroy it. In fact given that the stakes could not be higher for them (they had killed the king after all) they could reasonably believe that their only chance of survival was to destroy Arendelle.

As animists with an intimate and direct relationship with the forces of nature, they might have been able to get the rock giants to destroy it for them simply by asking. If not, someone could have done what Anna did: stand near the dam and provoke them into throwing rocks.

Out of universe, the dam had to be there because the plot hinges on a bold, sacrificial, not-counting-the-cost (if not somewhat reckless) action by one of Runeard's descendants, righting a past wrong by destroying the dam. But in universe it seems the Northuldrans were easily capable of doing so themselves. It seems odd that they didn't. Is there a known reason for that?

  • They don't seem especially knowledgeable about these sorts of things, but they were certainly not keen to commit genocide
    – Valorum
    Dec 13, 2019 at 20:53
  • 1
    If there are spoilers, you need to put them behind a spoiler tag >! rather than telling people in the title that there are spoilers.
    – Valorum
    Dec 14, 2019 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


Because the Arendelle soldiers are protecting it.

The Northuldra and the Arendelle soldiers are locked in a protracted state of stalemate, unwilling to fight each other, but deeply mistrustful of each other. Note that the soldiers, when they realise that Anna is planning to break the dam, immediately go to defend it, so they obviously understand the stakes and are taking the time and effort to keep watch on it.

Anna: We need to break down the barrier. This is the way to break the fog and free the forest.

Matthias: [Blocking her path with two soldiers] But we took an oath to protect Arendelle at all costs.

It's likely that the Northuldra don't have the capacity to rapidly damage such a large structure with their stone-age level of technology and any attempt to do so with brute strength or over a prolonged period using fire would provoke a fatal conflict with the soldiers, desperate to protect their city downstream.

As to why they didn't use the Earth Spirits, it probably just didn't occur to them. We learn that these monsters never come into the glade and the Northuldra are deathly afraid of going near them for fear of being splatted. The idea of using them as a tool to damage the dam is the sort of thing that only a crazy person (or a Disney Princess with Grade-A Plot Armour) would attempt.

  • 1
    It seems strange that it didn't occur to them: I'm guessing most people thought of the rock giants as soon as it became apparent the dam had to go.
    – Batperson
    Dec 13, 2019 at 21:59
  • It probably did occur to them, they likely just didn't think there was any way to leverage the giants. Anna had to have them follow her and run onto the wall of the dam, and she needed the co-operation of the Arendelle soldiers. If a Northuldran had tried the same thing, they would have found themselves trapped between the giants and the soldiers and swiftly dealt with, and then presumably the soldiers would have led the giants away from the dam. Any such attempt might have also convinced the soldiers to retaliate, to prevent future attempts.
    – delinear
    Dec 17, 2019 at 10:05

I believe that the flashback that Elsa experiences in the ice cave provides an explanation. In that flashback, the Northuldra leader is murdered immediately after informing/complaining to Elsa's grandfather about the dam's effect. It appears that he might have been killed precisely because he discovered that fact, i.e. to silence him so he wouldn't share this with the rest of his nation. Otherwise, the execution just doesn't make sense as a strategic move - why not bide his time and trap the entire nation in a genocide rather than executing the leader right in front of everyone else? Runeard took drastic action - he knew that the facts would get out quickly unless their custodian was rapidly dealt with.

So, what happened was that the Northuldra knew they were at war because they saw their leader die by Runeard's sword, but they didn't know why this had happened other than general ill-will and/or warmongering intent on the part of Arendelle. Knowledge of the dam's interference with the region's magic died with the Northuldra leader, exactly as Runeard intended.

  • 2
    It seems clear that is exactly why Runeard kills him. But the Northuldra leader realised the dam's effects and inferred the real motive, others would too. Runeard knows what the dam will do, presumably using the ordinary common sense available to anybody in that world. Anna figures it out pretty quickly too.
    – Batperson
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:08
  • It would have been very inconvenient for Runeard if his plan was exposed while he was still in the forest with the Northuldrans but he likely didn't need or expect it to be secret longer than that.
    – Batperson
    Dec 13, 2019 at 22:15
  • @Batperson still though, the Northuldra could destroy the dam. IMHO the critical issue here is the knowledge of how the dam affects the local magic. It's like a spy film - sometimes the disk with the names of the double agents is more important than just killing "another" enemy soldier. Dec 16, 2019 at 18:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.