Frozen 2 introduces the legend of the Fifth Spirit, but since the legend existed before Elsa was born, she can’t have been the first Fifth Spirit.
In Frozen 2, Elsa learns that she is the Fifth Spirit of the Enchanted Forest, but Elsa can’t have been the first one to hold that power. Her powers actually come from ancient magic and were not born into existence when she was.
As explained in the sequel, Frozen 2’s Fifth Spirit is a bridge between the human and magical worlds. This bridge is necessary to restore balance and lift the curse placed on the Enchanted Forest, so a voice calls out to Elsa – the only one who has the power to save the forest. The reason Elsa was born with her ice powers was to become the Fifth Spirit and save the Enchanted Forest. Elsa follows The Voice, first to the Enchanted Forest where she learns of the Northuldra legend of the Fifth Spirit. Then, The Voice continues calling Elsa until she reaches Ahtohallan, where she hopes to meet the Fifth Spirit, but instead learns that she herself is the Fifth Spirit and thus has a purpose to fulfill.
The curse on the forest was placed because of the dam that Arendelle built, but this isn’t known until Elsa becomes the Fifth Spirit and discovers the truth at Ahtohallan. Frozen 2’s central conflict answers one of the biggest questions from Frozen: Where did Elsa get her powers? But by answering this question in the form of a legend that predates Elsa’s birth, Frozen 2 makes it clear that Elsa could not have been the first Fifth Spirit.
Elsa Fifth Spirit Twist Explained
According to the Northuldra legend, the Fifth Spirit is a bridge between humans and magic. The Fifth Spirit is mentioned only a handful of times in Frozen 2, with the entire legend being explained in one line by Honeymaren: “There is a fifth spirit. It’s said to be a bridge between us and the magic of nature.” Though no more detail is given about the Fifth Spirit’s origins or purpose in Frozen 2, the Fifth Spirit is likely meant to bring balance between worlds
As the name Fifth Spirit implies, there are other forest spirits – representing air, water, fire, and earth – that each interacts with Elsa and responds to something innate in her. She calms, tames, and befriends each one as she connects with nature and feels a familiarity among the magic in the Enchanted Forest and Ahtohallan. When Elsa enters Ahtohallan during Frozen 2’s “Show Yourself” sequence, she unlocks her full power and steps into her role as the Fifth Spirit, finally gaining the sense of belonging that she had been missing. Though Frozen 2 answers a question that Elsa has been asking her whole life, it’s still not clear whether Elsa has been the Fifth Spirit since she was born or only became the Fifth Spirit at Ahtohallan.
After breaking the curse on the Enchanted Forest, Elsa decides to abdicate the Arendellian throne and move to the Enchanted Forest. This is where Elsa feels like she truly belongs because she is the Fifth Spirit, meant to live in harmony with the other four spirits and maintain peace between magic and humans.
The Fifth Spirit Was A Northuldra Legend Before Elsa
In Frozen 2, the Fifth Spirit was a Northuldra legend long before Elsa was born. Elsa could not have been the first Fifth Spirit or no such legend would have existed. When Elsa and Anna first meet the Northuldra, Yelena remarks that Elsa’s scarf is from one of their oldest families and the pattern on Elsa’s scarf is the snowflake-like symbol of the five spirits, meaning the Fifth Spirit legend was an established part of Northuldra belief.
The Fifth Spirit is a fictional legend, so the vague explanation that exists in Frozen 2 is likely the extent of Fifth Spirit canon. Though the Northuldra are based on the Sámi people – an indigenous population that resides in northern Europe – who do believe in spirits of nature, the Fifth Spirit described in Frozen 2 is not itself a traditional Sámi belief, nor is Ahtohallan. Because the Fifth Spirit is an invention of Disney – and unless Frozen 3 clearly states otherwise – there are a number of theories that could explain why Elsa is a Fifth Spirit, but not the first.
Elsa Isn’t The First Fifth Spirit
The Fifth Spirit and Ahtohallan are legends so ancient that they had become mythical to the Northuldra. Since both legends are proven to be real in Frozen 2, it’s safe to assume that there must have been another Fifth Spirit at some point in the past – whether many generations before Elsa or only one.
Some have already theorized that Elsa’s magical powers were passed on from her mother, but if Iduna had magical powers, then it’s possible that she was a Fifth Spirit, too. Even though Agnarr says that the Northuldra were not magical people, Iduna can hear and respond to The Voice, which is something that only she and Elsa appear to do. When Elsa arrives at Ahtohallan, she learns that her mother is The Voice – a fact that is confirmed in Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2. Fifth Spirits are the only ones who can hear the voice and the ones who become The Voice when their mortal body dies and the Fifth Spirit passes on to their child, explaining why Elsa only began hearing the call as an adult after Iduna’s death.
Why The Fifth Spirit Only Returns In Frozen 2
Before Elsa, it’s possible there hadn’t been a Fifth Spirit for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Fifth Spirit could, in fact, be an extremely rare event, only returning when needed most and acting as an avatar for the ancient power. Because the Northuldra had already been living in harmony with the forest spirits for so long, there simply wasn’t a need for the Fifth Spirit to balance humanity with nature, but the actions of the Arendellians in upsetting that balance brought the need to light. The Fifth Spirit is impermanent, which could also suggest why Elsa’s power is ice. The symbolism of ice melting away and being seasonal, while the other elements are more permanent. Like ice, Elsa as the Fifth Spirit is only needed when there is cause for her to rebalance nature.
Frozen 2 is a very different film from Frozen, both in story and presentation, and Frozen 2 raised as many questions about magic and Elsa’s powers as it answered. Some fans have criticized Frozen’s magic system for having such ill-defined rules and others believe that the retconning of Iduna’s heritage made the sequel feel contrived. On the other hand, its progressive nature, mature themes – and song that almost makes up for sidelining Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) – made many fans love Frozen 2 just as much as Frozen.