More on Kristoff’s Past
Since I made this analysis about Kristoff’s past, I have done some research that could provide some further details about his backstory, particularly how Sven came into his life and why he grows up to be so cynical and bitter.
First of all, the script itself says that Kristoff is a Sami boy, and that he and the ice harvesters are wearing traditional Sami clothing. These Sami (sometimes spelled “Sámi”) people, traditionally known as Lapps in English, are the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi. This area, also known as Lapland in English, is located in Northern Europe and stretches over the far northern parts of Scandinavia, including Norway, which is the country setting of Arendelle. Other moments that provide clues to Kristoff’s Sami heritage include the following examples:
- Part of Kristoff’s clothing consists of a gákti, which is worn over his shirt and appears similar to a tunic. Being a male, Kristoff wears a gákti with a shorter “skirt” than that of a woman’s, and around it, he wears a woven belt (although some might call it a sash). The rounded appearance of Kristoff’s hat is similar to that a Four Winds hat, but it lacks the four-cornered star on the top and just has a ball of fur. His boots have curled/pointed toes like the boots worn by the Sami, and he wears large mittens like them , too
- When Kristoff cuts Sven from his reins and Anna cuts her and Kristoff free of the rope from the cliff, they use what is presumably a Sami knife.This knife has a long and wide blade with a length that ranges between 200 and 450 mm, and a handle usually made from birch.
- The best known means of livelihood in Sami culture is reindeer herding, which offers a large potential explanation on how Kristoff acquired Sven.
So since Kristoff is a Sami person, knowledge of their culture could offer opinion on his backstory. For example, I think it’s possible that he used to live in a Sami village with his parents not so far from Arendelle. I’m willing to believe that his father was an ice harvester before him, and maybe worked with other ice harvesters in collecting ice from frozen lakes in the mountains, then selling it down in Arendelle. The fact that young Kristoff wears gear that fits him perfectly, not to mention he has tools all the perfect size for him, makes me believe that if his father was an ice harvester, he was going to show Kristoff how to become one, so maybe the clothes and tools were a gift. Because Kristoff does grow up to be a good man, it is suggested that his parents raised him with love and care for the first eight years of his life.
But after Kristoff lost his parents, that’s when everything began to change for him.
After Kristoff was orphaned, he realized he needed to do something to take care of himself. This is why he starts harvesting ice at a young age; he knows he can sell ice he collects and he needs the money in order to survive. It is possible that Kristoff was orphaned fairly recently, since a boy his age could not survive too long without being cared for by adults. Additionally, if Kristoff came from a Sami tribe prior to living in the mountains, and given how young Sven is, they probably found each other around the same time that Kristoff lost his parents.
People Are No Good
Now I said it before and I’ll say it again: Kristoff’s negative opinion about people could have started as early as what we see in the beginning of the movie. When Kristoff decides try harvesting for the first time, he hopes that someone will take him in and show him their ways. But unfortunately, he ends up having to learn it on his own. None of the men acknowledge or help him in anyway; they just mind their own business and ignore Kristoff entirely.
After this, while it wasn’t shown onscreen, Kristoff possibly faced neglect from the ice harvesters in different ways over the years. They would be rude to him and tell him to go away if he went to them for guidance, they would tease him for being too small to be a real harvester like them, and/or they would ignore him with the hopes that he would eventually go away entirely (which he didn’t, of course) if they didn’t give him guidance. Because he was experiencing this kind of treatment as a child, with him being so young and inexperienced, it probably didn’t take too long for him to give up on people all together. Part of his gruff and tough personality might have even come from them, because he was trying to be a lot like them, so he just adopted the same kind of attitude.
So if Kristoff grew up being ignored or teased by the people around him, especially those who did the same work as him, then it’s no wonder he eventually came to distrust other people. It’s hard to say if he really interacted with many other people for them to harm him in any way. But by the time he became an adult, Kristoff did not take trust in people very lightly. Maybe he initially didn’t like being alone as a child, but since he was shut out by people for many years, he grew to enjoy it because he learned how to survive it and cope with it. Since people did not ever appear to really need Kristoff, he felt that he didn’t need anyone in his life, either. He gave up on people after they gave up on him first, and he refused to take anymore chances on people because he fears being ruined or emotionally hurt. When he meets new people, Kristoff acts cold and hostile instead of friendly because he believes that showing his true kind self will make him look weak. He thinks that people will walk all over him or take advantage of him, so he wants to protect himself from getting hurt.
Reindeer (and Anna) Are Better
But through any and all past bad experiences, when people ignored him, were unkind to him, or gave up on him, Sven was the only one who never did. Even in the prologue, while none of the men help Kristoff, Sven never once leaves his side. Sven licks Kristoff’s face when Kristoff gets splashed, and helps him regain his balance after Kristoff manages to snag the ice block, then nearly falls over.
A major difference between him and Anna having little human contact growing up was that, completely unlike Anna, Kristoff was never truly alone. Sven has literally been by his side for years and stuck by him through thick and thin. Anna did not have a companion like that for herself, not even from the adults in her castle. And since there are so many trolls that make up his family, I think it’s safe to say that Kristoff was never alone in the way that Anna was as they grew up.
Sven proved his loyalty and love for Kristoff many times, hence why he created “Reindeers Are Better than People.” Even though he would act grumpy and cranky towards other people, the fact that Kristoff was shown love by Sven and the trolls and he loved them in return, this proved that he is just as capable of loving and caring for a human being.
And because of Anna, Kristoff begins to let down his mental walls of hostility and opens up to her, probably far more than he ever has to a human, let alone a human girl. Her optimism is just what he needs to balance his realistic nature, and while he may still believe that not all people are good, Kristoff possibly believes that Anna is the best person he has ever known.