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Runeard built a dam for the Northuldra tribe and presented it as a gift to them. In this he had an ulterior motive, but to achieve it the dam had to plausibly seem like something beneficial that they would want.

However the Northuldra are nomads who get most of their protein, clothing and other things they need from reindeer. They don't practice agriculture and we don't see them fishing. It's hard to see how a dam could actually be expected to serve a useful purpose to them. Yet Runeard clearly expected them to think it would. What benefit did he expect them to see in it?

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The Northuldrans live in a forest bounded on its Northern side by a high mountain wall. Before the dam was put into place, the river ran over a waterfall and directly through their forest, cutting it into two and diminishing the amount of land available to graze their reindeer.

By building a dam and diverting the river's course around the forest, the Northuldrans gain a significant amount of free land and no longer have to make crossings from one side of the river to the other.

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Obviously the dam represents a substantial benefit to them, albeit at the cost of angering the spirits and harming the balance of nature.


The film's Official Deluxe Novelisation concurs with this.

To demonstrate their goodwill and friendship the Arandellians built a mighty dam in the enchanted forest. They placed it on the river that flowed into the ArenFjord, the deep blue body of water upon which Arandelle Castle had been built. The dam connected all the lands and made it easier for the Northuldra and their reindeer to roam.

Interestingly, the latest tie-in novel (Frozen 2: Dangerous Secrets: The Story of Iduna and Agnarr) suggests that the Northuldra weren't actually that keen on the dam, and may simply have accepted it as a gift from a pushy (and clearly more advanced) neighbour.

They’d come to us years ago with an offer of peace and goodwill, promising to build a mighty dam to help us water our reindeer and keep our land fertile and fresh. I didn’t really understand the whole thing, and I wasn’t sure our elders were completely sold on the idea at first. But in the end, they came to an agreement and the dam was built. That day we would feast together to mark this new alliance between our people and theirs.
It was a day to dance and sing and celebrate the beauty of the forest.

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  • That's a great answer. I wonder if it sheds a different light on Anna's actions later on, as if the geography is as you describe then you would expect the floodwaters to go through the forest, putting the Northuldran's lands in danger as well as Arendelle. Seems that didn't actually happen though.
    – Batperson
    Dec 16, 2019 at 22:31
  • @Batperson - I'm assuming it would temporarily turn their forest into a flood plain
    – Valorum
    Dec 16, 2019 at 22:52
  • Perhaps before arriving at Arendelle, Elsa had to make a very quick stop at the Enchanted Forest. And then suggested to Anna to bring a team of engineers next time.
    – Batperson
    Dec 16, 2019 at 23:17
  • seems you were correct in assuming the forest would be inundated along with Arendelle. We know the Arendelle soldiers accepted Anna's decision only with great reluctance. There is no indication she ever consulted with the Northuldrans!
    – Batperson
    Jan 20, 2020 at 0:23

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