How Elsa compensated for a total lack of physical contact with others
As humans we often find comfort in the physical contact of others. When we’re scared or upset, a reassuring hug from those who love us can help to calm us and ease our fears. But at a young age, Elsa no longer felt safe touching anyone. She was deathly afraid that she might seriously harm or even kill anyone who came in contact with her - and Elsa was most concerned about those who she loved the most - her family.
In the scene below, Elsa is 12 years old. This is the first time in Frozen that we see Elsa avoid contact with someone - in this case her father. The first time I saw this scene I was stunned, and based on her reaction the queen was stunned as well. Initially it appeared that she was afraid of her father, but Elsa immediately makes it clear that she is actually afraid of hurting her father. This is so sad, because Elsa clearly needs a hug in this scene, but from her perspective that’s no longer an option.
For the next nine years of her life, this creates an unnatural conflict within Elsa, which she refers to during the First Time in Forever reprise as “the storm inside of me”. Taken in this context the scene below is much more meaningful, since Elsa’s first words for Olaf include “I like warm hugs”.
So how then does Elsa resolve this conflict between her innate need for physical contact with others, and her inability to touch anyone? What does she do at those times in her life when she needs comfort from someone else - when she’s scared, lonely or worried - or even when she mourns the death of her parents? Since she’s left with no other option, Elsa “hugs” herself.
And it makes the scene below even more heartbreaking, since Elsa’s first physical contact with anyone after nine years is with her now frozen sister.
After all of this, it’s obvious that Elsa would appreciate “warm hugs” more than anyone - even Olaf.
Merelsa AU: “I never knew what I was capable of… what we’re capable of. Together.”
In which Merida follows Elsa after the young Queen runs away, but instead of trying to make her come home, the two travel the mountains and valleys together until Elsa makes the decision on her own to return to Arendelle.