Disney What-Ifs: Aladdin’s daughter

So, I’ve done a lot of theorizing about various Disney character’s families, either the missing parents (Aladdin and Ariel’s moms) or extrapolating younger versions of known characters (Triton, for one), but now I will be focusing on a different branch of the family tree: children.  What would the kids of famous Disney couples look like?  Here’s my first attempt with the hypothetical offspring of Jasmine and Aladdin:

Aladdin and Jasmine offspring copy

[[Author’s note: I decided to make Aladdin’s child a girl because, for one, it’s a Disney movie and princesses sell.  Look at the sequels… Little Mermaid sequel: daughter.  Lion King sequel: daughter.  One of the few exceptions is Lady & the Tramp, which has a bunch of female puppies that look like Lady, and one Tramp-like mutt that hates his well-to-do life and goes out on the streets.  Hence, another reason I made Aladdin’s kid a girl, because I would be tempted to do something similar with her story.  Son of a street rat wanting to reject his posh life to become a street rat? I wanted to step out of the Disney trap of the recurring return-to-the-origin kind of story, as was done in Little Mermaid II, Lady & the Tramp II, and possibly some other ones I’m forgetting.

Artistic note: Layla is truly an amalgam of both Jasmine and Aladdin.  If you look carefully, you can see Aladdin’s nose, Jasmine’s body, Aladdin’s hair, Jasmine’s eyes (reshaped to more closely match Aladdin’s), Aladdin’s mouth but Jasmine’s lips, plus Aladdin’s altered hair and eyebrows.  I gave her Jasmine’s necklace as well, because I like the idea of mother passing jewelry to daughter, but the rest is hers.]]

 

Layla had an interesting childhood, growing up in the palace of Agrabah as the daughter of the Sultan.  It took her many years to realize how extraordinary her life was, and she was nearly ten years old before she even began to suspect that being entertained by a wise-cracking genie and flying around on a magic carpet were anything but normal.

But despite the very real magic that surrounded her life, Layla was more enchanted by the magic of books and stories.  She spent hours in the palace library, reading books and scrolls recounting wondrous tales of far-off places and evil sorcerers.  Her father, though often busy with his duties as sultan, would spend his spare hours indulging her love of stories with a few of his own.  When Aladdin had tried to tell her of a young street rat who married a princess and later became sultan, Layla hadn’t believed him.

Though Layla shared her father’s thirst for adventure, she had also inherited her mother’s fiery spirit.  Like Jasmine before her, Layla soon found herself chafing behind the palace walls.  By the time she entered her teenage years, she was longing to finally see the places in her books, not just read about them.  Her first escape over the walls on her father’s flying carpet went poorly; Genie had spotted her and, after a failed attempt to convince her to return home, had transformed into a World War II dogfighter and shot her down before she had even flown beyond the palace walls.  But she had seen the palace from above, the city streets of Agrabah below, and there was nothing that could stop her from attempting to see that whole new world awaiting her beyond.  After Layla’s second attempt–Carpet was no longer an option, but Abu was always open to bribes of bananas–landed her with a scolding from her father.  “The streets are not safe for a princess,” Aladdin warned.  “Trust me, I know.” Still, her father promised to take her on a tour of Agrabah soon enough.  Days turned into weeks, however, and weeks into years, and her father’s duties as sultan always delayed the trip.

For Layla’s sixteenth birthday, there was a great festival in Agrabah with royal and noble visitors from all across the land to celebrate.  Many sultans from other lands approached Aladdin and Jasmine with offers to arrange a marriage with Layla with their own sons.  They politely refused all offers, explaining that in Agrabah, a princess is allowed to marry whomever she wishes–although the offer from Sultan Achmed, who as a prince had wooed Jasmine and found himself attacked by her pet tiger instead, was less than politely refused.  Achmed’s mere presence had reminded Jasmine of the succession of suitors forced upon her by her own father and she resolved to not allow her own daughter to suffer the same.

Nonetheless, Layla found herself besieged with suitors, princes of neighboring lands all hoping for a dance or even a short conversation with the sultan’s daughter.  She was eager for their company, not because thoughts of romance had entered her mind but because of the stories they brought with them.  They told her of intrigue in their courts, of folktales and adventure stories, romances and mysteries.  One young man in particular, Malik, captured her imagination with flowery descriptions of his own palace by the sea, for Layla had never seen a body of water bigger than an oasis and longed for this new experience.  When Malik offered to take her with him, she jumped at the chance.

It was the first escape Layla ever made that had succeeded.  The palace was so full of visitors that not only Aladdin and Jasmine were distracted, but also the palace guards.  No one noticed Layla and Malik leaving–that is, except Carpet.  After some difficulty trying to get across his meaning through pantomime (and Genie trying to guess a la an elaborate game of Charades), Aladdin was off to find his daughter and bring her back.  With Carpet’s aid, Aladdin caught up with them quickly enough, finding them in the middle of the searing desert.  Aladdin’s heartfelt plea for her return and the promise of a long-awaited journey–as a family–began to work it’s magic on Layla.  However, when she told Malik that she had changed her mind, his true form was revealed.

The handsome Malik’s disguise fell away, and he revealed himself to be a creature made of fire and shadow, possessed of magic the likes of which Aladdin had not seen since the return of the sorcerer Jafar.  With a scimitar of flame, Malik was able to defeat Aladdin and kidnap Layla, taking her away upon wings of fire.

[[Side note: if this were a Disney movie, I imagine we would get to see Aladdin and Jasmine’s point of view as a side plot: Aladdin returning home defeated, explaining what he had seen in the desert.  Genie would undoubtedly do some schtick, like going through his rolodex and trying to remember why he recognized Malik’s name, with people popping out of the rolodex as he named them.  “Let’s see…M, M, M…Mark Twain…Maleficent…Mork & Mindy…” Cartoon Mork (i.e. Robin Williams): “Na-nu, na-nu.” Genie: “Ugh, I hate that guy… Oh, here it is… Malik.” Genie reveals that Malik is an ifrit, a creature of fire and shadow with magic as powerful (or more so) than a genie.  Malik and Genie have history from thousands of years ago before he ended up in the Cave of Wonders.  Genie is terrified of him, but reluctantly agrees to help Aladdin rescue Layla.  But this is Layla’s story, so we’ll be sticking to her from now on.]]

Malik took Layla far away from Agrabah to his palace by the sea.  However, it was far from the paradise he had described to her, its towers and domes fallen into near ruin.  Upon arrival, Malik revealed that he stole Layla away in order to marry her.  He has a palace and has made himself a sultan…and now he needs a bride.  They are to be married that very night.

Thinking quickly, Layla protested, “You can’t marry someone the same day you’ve met them!” “Why not?” retorted Malik.  “It’s bad luck! Don’t you know the story of the Fisherman and his Bride?” Malik: “No, and do not try to distract me with idle tales!” Layla offered him a coy shrug.  “I guess if you’re willing to suffer the same fate, then that’s fine with me…”  Just as Layla hoped, Malik demanded that she tell him the story so that he could avoid the same calamity.  When her story had ended, Malik agreed to stall the wedding until the next evening.

Layla was still a prisoner, but at least she was free enough within this ruined palace.  She combed the grounds, searching for points of weakness or any hint of an escape route.  Unfortunately, though the palace was in shambles–crumbled towers, whole rooms without roofs–the walls were tall and intact, and this time, she didn’t have a flying carpet.  Besides, if she escaped, where would she go? She had no idea where she was, and there was nothing but desert to one side and an endless sea to the other.  She might have been the only person in hundreds of miles.

During her exploration of the palace, Layla discovered a menagerie filled with exotic animals–parrots, monkeys, goats and even an elephant.  She realized after just a few moments that the elephant’s size might be just enough to give her the boost she needs over the palace walls.  However, that hope is quickly dashed as she spied the chains around the elephant’s ankles, preventing it from leaving its pen.  “Oh, you poor thing!” she exclaimed, entering the pen and tending to the animal.  “I’m not a thing!” replied the elephant.

Layla: “You can talk!”
Elephant: “Of course I can.”
Layla: “But you’re an elephant.  Elephant’s can’t talk.”
Elephant (confused): “They can’t?”
Layla: “Not as far as I know, though I do know a talking parrot…”
Elephant: “Don’t be ridiculous.  Parrots can’t talk.  At least, I don’t think they can.  My memory’s a little spotty.”
Layla grins.  “I thought an elephant never forgets…”
Elephant: “Wait, I’m an elephant?”

It turns out that the elephant’s memory was indeed not very good, and he often forgot crucial parts about his past, even the most obvious fact that he had a trunk, which tended to have a mind of its own.  The only thing he could say with confidence was that his name was Bashir and that he had been Malik’s prisoner for over a year.  From her extensive knowledge of stories and folklore, Layla has identified Malik as an ifrit, a cunning and wicked magical being, and she explained to Bashir that she’s trying to escape and promises to take him with her when she does.  “You’ll be welcome in Agrabah.”

When night fell the next day, that fateful evening when Layla was fated to wed Malik, she tried to stall with another story, this time one so long that it lasted late into the night, and Malik struggled to keep his eyes open during it.  That’s when Layla discovered Malik’s weakness: she could put him to sleep with her stories.  All of those hours in the library had paid off!  She implemented her plan right away, continuing her winding, unending tale until Malik couldn’t help but fall into a deep sleep, delaying her marriage for yet another night.

That’s how her stay at the ruined palace progressed for several weeks: Layla delaying her inevitable marriage to the ifrit with stories at night and plotting her escape during the day.  She prayed for a rescue, but she never gave up hope that she could find a way out on her own.  If only Bashir had been a camel and not an elephant, she would have braved the desert with him the instant she found an escape route.

Yet there was a light in this endless darkness: Layla had Bashir, not just a fellow prisoner trapped by Malik, but a true friend.  One day when visiting him in the menagerie, she broke down and confessed her regret at the rashness of the actions that led her here.  She has realized what wonderful, supportive parents she has always had and how foolish she had been to think she had been a prisoner under their care.  The world was such a cruel place, she realized, and they were only trying to protect her from it as long as they could.  This was the real prison.

Bashir, in turn, looked forward to Layla’s daily visits, asking her about everything imaginable in the hopes that something would spur his memories to return.  She told him stories as well, not the long, boring ones meant to trick Malik to sleep but her favorites, ones of daring swordfights, magical spells and faraway lands.

Then, the moment Layla had been waiting for arrived: Layla discovered where Malik hid his keys.  She put Malik to sleep as she always did, then stole the keys and unshackled Bashir.  As she did so, Layla explained, “I have Malik’s keys.  Tonight, we’re going to escape.” “I can’t leave,” replied Bashir.  “Why not?”  “I don’t remember.  I just know I can’t leave.” “Did Malik put an enchantment on you to prevent you from leaving?” However, Bashir doesn’t know.  Either way, Bashir decided to help Layla escape, even if he couldn’t leave himself.

As Layla opened the front gate of the palace, she found that what Bashir said was true: neither one of them would be able to leave, for Malik had created a magical barrier around the palace that alerted him to their escape.  Back in his true form of smoke and fire, Malik flew down into the main courtyard to stop them.  With his magic, Malik turned Bashir into a beetle with the intention of squashing him once and for all, but Layla flung herself between Bashir and the fiery ifrit foot, begging him not to hurt Bashir.  “I’m the one who set him free,” she explained, “and I’m the one who wanted to escape.  But I promise that if you change him back and let him go, I’ll marry you.  No tricks, no stories.”

Before Malik could agree, there was a knock at the palace door, which then swung wide to reveal Genie in a loud sportscoat and a mustache, doing a fast-talking door-to-door salesman schtick.  He managed to distract Malik for a while until at last the ifrit became suspicious, ripping off Genie’s fake mustache.  “It’s you!” Malik exclaimed, recognizing Genie from their past dealings some ten thousand years ago.  In a Ricky Ricardo impersonation, Genie shouted, “Lucy, I’m ho-ome!” just as Aladdin flew in on Carpet and Jasmine rode in upon Rajah, proud parents willing to risk their lives to rescue their daughter.

Scooping up Bashir and clutching the beetle to her chest, she decides to help her parents fight off Malik by freeing all the animals from the menagerie for a distraction.  Malik is powerful, however, and soon has bested both Aladdin and Jasmine, who must duck out of the action or risk mortal injury.  Their family is reunited though not yet safe as Malik unleashes his full power.   However, the ifrit and the genie have a face-to-face, full-on magical confrontation, Genie emerging from the fray victorious.

“Genie!” cried Layla when it was all over, laying the beetle-Bashir on the ground.  One of his frail legs looked broken from the scuffle and he was barely moving at all.  “Can you help him? Can you change him back?”

Genie offered to try his best, doing his hand-waving with his usual flair and using his magic to reverse Malik’s spell.  A warm, red glow surrounded Bashir as he began to transform, growing larger and larger.  Two of his beetle legs began to disappear as the others began enlarging, a head growing up out of the black beetle shell.  When the magic faded away and the transformation is over, Bashir is barely a quarter of his elephant’s size, with two legs instead of four and no trunk to be seen.  He is human.

“Did I pick up the wrong beetle?” Layla asks, astounded.  She studies him for a moment, then asks, “Bashir?”

The man, who had been looking at his arms, legs, and other body parts, touched his nose and suddenly shouted in alarm, “Ack! What happened to my trunk?”

“It’s is you!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him in a tender embrace. “But how?”

Bashir, whose memory slowly began to return now that Malik’s magic spell had been reversed, explained how he found Malik and was tricked into bringing him back to his palace.  “Your palace?” asks Layla.  “Then you’re a prince?”  Bashir smiles.  “I am–well, I was–the sultan.   I was young and foolish, and Malik promised to serve me and use his magic to help me rule.  Instead, he took over my palace, turned me into an elephant and proclaimed himself sultan.  And now look at it.  It’s ruined…”

“Nothing a little spitshine won’t fix,” Genie offers, using his magic to return the palace to its former glorious state, complete with a banner that says, “Welcome Home, Bashir!”

Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie gave Layla and Bashir a moment alone. “Thank you for saving me, Layla.  Without you, I might have been an elephant forever.”  He took her hands in his.  “I guess you’ll be going back to Agrabah now…”

“I guess I will,” she replied, “but what I said was true: you will be welcome in Agrabah.” She gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.  “Come and visit any time and I’ll visit you as often as I can.  Oh, and don’t forget to write.”

Bashir smiled.  “An elephant never forgets.”

 

Related stuff:
Disney What-ifs: Aladdin’s Mother
Disney Without Magic: Aladdin
Disney What-ifs: Ariel’s Mother
Disney What-ifs: Young Triton

 

Obligatory copyright notice: All characters belong to Disney, with the exception of Layla, Malik and Bashir, who are my creations.  This is a work of fan art.  No copyright infringement is intended.

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Disney What-Ifs: Aladdin’s Mother

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there (and a special shout out to mine! Love you, Mom!) In honor of our beloved mothers, here’s a tribute to a Disney mother that we never got to meet.  Unlike a lot of Disney mothers who are absent from the movies without explanation, we do get the tiniest hint of Aladdin’s mom.   We know from Aladdin that he’s a street rat, and we know he’s an orphan (“I’d blame parents except he hasn’t got ’em”).  Or is he?  We find out this is not the case in Aladdin and the King of Thieves when we meet Aladdin’s father, Cassim.

[[Can I just take a moment and try to convince you to watch this movie? No, I’m not asking you to watch Return of Jafar, unless you’re a glutton for punishment.  Granted, there are some good things about RoJ–a few decent songs, Iago’s redemption–but the plot’s convoluted, there’s two different villains (Abis Mal from the TV series and, of course, Jafar), and there’s no Robin Williams as Genie.  My advice is just skip the second movie and jump right into KoT.  All you need to know is that Iago now works with the good guys, though he’s still just as loud-mouthed and self-serving as ever.  In fact, the only mention of Jafar in the entire movie is in the opening song, saying, “Without Jafar and all his malice, everybody’s happy.  What could possibly go wrong?” That’s it. You don’t need to know how Jafar meets his end to know what’s going on here.  Plus, the songs are fantastic, it’s got John Rhys-Davies as Aladdin’s father, it’s got an entirely new plot, a decent villain, a magical object as intriguing as a genie’s lamp, plus Robin Williams back as Genie! The next time it’s out of the Disney Vault, just give it a chance.  I promise.  It’s good.  Quite possibly the only truly good Disney sequel.]]

In King of Thieves, Aladdin tells Jasmine, “My past…it’s a blank. My mother died when I was just a kid, and I never even knew my father. I have no idea where I come from.” Sad stuff, but it gets worse.  When Al finally meets up with his dad, we find out what actually happened to him all those years ago.  As Cassim tells it: “I knew exactly what I wanted for my family: the best.  I couldn’t give up and go back empty-handed. But the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years… I came back to Agrabah one night, but I couldn’t find my wife, or my son. I thought my family was lost forever. At that moment, I would have traded anything to get your mother back.” To which Aladdin responds, “We never wanted gold… We wanted you.  I wanted a father, I still do.” [[See? This movie is actually good.  It’s really a heartfelt investigation into Aladdin and his family and past.]]

From this conversation, we get a sense that, before their family broke apart, they had been happy.  There had been love between them.  We can see perhaps a glimpse into why Aladdin is such a “diamond in the rough”–it’s got to be his mother’s influence.  Let’s meet her…

Aladdin's Mom

Though Samira and her family never had much money, she felt like she was the richest person in Agrabah. She had a husband–Cassim–who worshipped the ground she walked on, who had been so infatuated with her that he had tried to convince her parents that he was a prince in order to win their favor.  It hadn’t worked, of course, but she had so adored his adventurous spirit and his winning smile that her parents eventually relented and agreed to the match.  Then, when their first son, little Aladdin, arrived, Samira’s heart leapt for joy.  She loved to watch Cassim tell Aladdin stories of far-off places and caves filled with wondrous treasure, of flying carpets and genies and sandstorms that a man could summon with a snap of his fingers.

Samira made a living taking in sewing and laundry; it didn’t earn much, but it was enough for her to live on.  Cassim helped when he could, disappearing for days on end and return with food and small gifts for her and young Aladdin.  She had long ago suspected that many of the items had been stolen, and though her conscience was heavy with the knowledge, she knew there was little she could do.  She could try to return the items, but since the punishment for thievery was having a hand cut off, it was not worth the risk of getting caught by the guards.  Instead, she did the best she could to urge Cassim to find steady work to provide for the family.  “Things will be different soon,” Cassim would say.  “I promise.” But all the promises in the world could not fill the hole in her heart left behind when Cassim went off in search of adventure and a better life for his family and never returned.

Raising a child on her own was not easy.  She had hated Cassim’s secret thefts of food for the family, but now that they were gone the money from Samira’s washing didn’t seem to stretch as far.  Aladdin was a growing boy, too, shooting up like a bean sprout every day.  It was hard to keep a belly like his full when he was always running around the streets of Agrabah, climbing up awnings like a monkey.  Aladdin was so like his father with a penchant for mischief and danger, but with a heart as big as the Sultan’s palace.  One day, she caught Aladdin stealing an apple from a merchant’s cart.  She was so ashamed by the act that she had slapped his hand away and brought him to tears right there in the middle of the marketplace.  Fortunately, Aladdin’s tears had been enough to distract the merchant and given them time to rush home before the nearby guards were alerted to the theft.

Once home, Samira scolded Aladdin, telling him how stealing was wrong and that the consequences of it were not worth the risk.  She never told Aladdin about his father, how she suspected that he had been captured and imprisoned on one of his foolish quests for gold and treasure.  She did not want her son, so like Cassim, to ever have to go down that path.

But Aladdin kept growing and eating, and even honest Samira questioned whether or not it would be so bad for young Aladdin, who had so effortlessly charmed the local ladies in town at the young age of five, to put his skills to good use and procure a little extra food for the family by whatever means necessary.  No, she told herself.  Never thievery.  Instead, Samira provided for her son the only way she could: when Aladdin’s dinner portions became bigger and bigger, Samira’s became smaller.  Aladdin was a smart boy, however, and began to notice the disparity in their portion size.  When asked about it, she would simply respond, “I’m not very hungry right now, Aladdin.  I ate while you were out playing.” Nights were always so cold in the desert, the days so hot.  Their already meager clothes began to turn to rags, and all the patches in the world weren’t enough to save them from the elements.  Samira and Aladdin would huddle together for warmth on those long, cold nights.

Hard work, long hours, cold nights, little food, ragged clothing… illness soon followed.  When Samira was too ill to work, Aladdin set out for help.  He was so young and such a charmer that he managed a few scraps for him and his mother–an apple here, a loaf of bread there–but nothing coming so close as the medicine he desperately needed.  Aladdin considered stealing what he needed, but he remembered his mother’s scolding and refrained.  Everything else he did, however, had not been enough.  Samira was gone; his mother was gone.

Aladdin was alone, just another street urchin without a family.  For a time, pity for the poor boy who had just lost his mother, combined with Aladdin’s natural charm, had earned him a meal or two.  But even the kindest of neighbors is not always so willing to take in an orphan when they already have so many mouths to feed.  But Aladdin was quick-witted and even quicker on his feet and found a way to outrun the local guards.  His mother had never wanted him to steal, but she was gone now, and he had to eat.

Still, he had inherited his mother’s kindness, her unwavering goodness.  There was never another urchin that he hadn’t tried to aid, whether it was to find them an abandoned building to use for shelter or to share his meal with them.  He never stopped dreaming, either, staring up at the palace and wondering what it would be like have everything his heart desired.  But he knew that even the Sultan himself couldn’t grant him his unspoken, secret wish: the mother he lost, that diamond in the rough.

 

Other Disney What-ifs:
Disney What-ifs: Ariel’s Mother
The Frozen Heart

 

Obligatory Copyright Notice: Aladdin, Return of Jafar, and Aladdin and the King of Thieves and characters are all owned by Disney.  The literary character Samira is my creation.  Original artwork is done by Disney, with screencaps curtesy of  disneyscreencaps.com.  Photoshopping was done by me as a work of fan art.  No copyright infringement is intended. 

The Frozen Heart

There are so many plotholes in Frozen that it drives me crazy.  (See here). Who is in charge of Arendelle between the king and queen’s deaths at sea and Elsa’s coronation? It obviously wasn’t Elsa, locked away in her room all the time.  I started thinking about this situation and realized that just a single character was needed to fill many of these holes.  This is his story.

Gustav and Nikolaus copy

Gustav wasn’t an ordinary boy.  He never felt like he belonged, even in his own family.  Sure, he loved the same stories of trolls and witches and warlocks as his older brother, Nikolaus, but his earliest memories had always been those of knowing he was different.  He didn’t have the same strawberry hair as the rest of his family;  his hair had been so blonde it was nearly white.  (His mother always called it “ice blonde”, which turned out to be only too appropriate.)

As a baby, Gustav was always too hot, kicking the blankets off of him even in the crib.  Every winter he was bundled up in thick jackets and mittens by his governess and shoved outside into the snow to play.  The instant he was out of sight of adults, however, he would strip them off and play barefoot in the snow.

In the snow was where he felt he most belonged, blowing snowflakes from his lips like kids blow bubbles.  His brother Nikolaus was jealous at first, trying to find out how young Gustav managed to pull off such a feat and demanding that he show him how he did it.  When Gustav tried the same trick indoors, the brotherly jealousy turned to fear.  “You can’t tell anyone about this,” Nikolaus warned.  “They’ll think you’re an evil warlock like in the stories.”

From then on, Nikolaus made it his personal duty to see to his brother’s safety, and to ensure that his secret was never found out.  There were endless questions and tests, trying to determine what could contain Gustav’s ever-growing powers.  After an argument between them sent a flurry of icicles hurtling from Gustav’s fingers like a dozen arrows shot from bows, Nikolaus made the connection.  Strong emotion was the key; to keep his powers under check, Gustav had to lock away his emotions.

His years as a young man were not easy.  He was never the popular one; that was always Nikolaus.  He never had to hide anything.  He never had to worry about a tiny snowstorm escaping from his lips with every uttered syllable.  Gustav began to hate the winter–not because of the weather (the cold never bothered him anyway), but because it would give away his secret.  Hot drinks would turn cold and icy the instant they touched his lips.  No hot chocolate, no hot tea, no cider.  Summer was just as bad.  It was always too hot, but fortunately his drinks were always cold–no need to use the ice the royal family bought from the ice cutters.  But summer, too, betrayed his secret.  His wintry breath would issue in smoky bursts in the summer heat just as warm breath does in winter.

He was as unlucky in love as he was in everything else.  There was only one girl that had ever meant something to him, and though he longed to touch her, to hold her hand or stroke her cheek, she always recoiled at his cold, icy touch.  His first kiss went horribly wrong–wintry breath and icy lips led to a romance frozen in its infancy.

He watched Nikolaus dance with his new wife, Ingrid, at their wedding, knowing such a future like that did not lay in store for him.  He would never marry, he knew–and he never would. The pain of a life alone so consumed him that he nearly exploded in a snowstorm right there in the ballroom.  Conceal, he repeated the mantra his brother had taught him all those years ago, don’t feel. 

From then on, he isolated himself entirely from others.   The Northern Mountain becomes his second home, a place of refuge and solitude for those times when he could no longer bear the weight of his repressed emotions within him.  There, he could release the storm inside him without revealing his secret or risking hurting anyone in the process.  He didn’t have the heart to tell Nikolaus that his solution wasn’t working, that it had never worked.  (Nikolaus was king now, and had more important things to worry about than his younger brother’s personal troubles). The more completely he buried his emotions, the more forcefully they would manifest as waves of ice from his fingertips or an icy windstorm from his chest.  But still, he continued to try, certain that if he tried hard enough, one day he could successfully control his curse.  As he left the mountain each time, he buried his heart away, never knowing that it was slowly growing colder with every passing day, destined to freeze entirely.

All of that changed when Nikolaus and Ingrid welcomed their first child, a girl they named Elsa.  As Gustav looked down into his niece’s crib for the first time, he saw the most amazing sight.  She had his same hair–ice blonde!  Suddenly, Gustav felt like part of the family for the first time in his entire life.  All of his childhood fears that he was some sort of aberrant freak, or an orphan taken in, were laid to rest at once.

He still had to make frequent trips into the mountain to release himself of the burden of his repressed emotions, if only for a time, but he always came back to visit Elsa. A surge of affection for this child so like him began to melt his frozen heart.  He didn’t think he could feel love like this anymore, and was surprised to find that there was a veritable wellspring of it ready and waiting as Nikolaus’ second child, Anna, came along.  He didn’t realize it, then, but he found his powers much easier to control when he was near his nieces.

Gustav never involved himself in affairs of state; that was his brother’s world, not his.  Nikolaus made Arendelle official trading partners with Weselton (Weasel Town, as some of the servants often called it in whispers behind their hands).  Gustav wasn’t pleased by this change, but in the intervening months Arendelle prospered, so he kept his tongue.

One winter’s morning, Gustav overheard Kai and Gerda, two of the castle servants, talking in the hallway outside his room.  “What is that girl doing in there?” Kai asks.  “She must have slept with her window open again,” notes Gerda.  “There was so much snow under the window that she was building a snowman.  Took me half an hour to mop the whole thing up…” Though they didn’t say which of the two girls had been at fault, (they were both still young and rather mischievous, even Anna who had only been talking for a few months), Gustav knows at once which room to go to.

He finds Elsa twirling her fingers and making rings of snowflakes in the air above her, Anna watching with awe and clapping her pudgy, toddler’s hands.  He doesn’t say anything–he had never overcome his fear of speaking, even among his family–but merely joins her in making snowflakes fall out of the air.  Elsa hugs her uncle, thrilled to know he shares her gift, for that’s what Elsa calls it.  He makes her promise to keep his secret, and he promises to keep hers.

After much fretting and doubt, Gustav tells his brother about Elsa’s powers.  Nikolaus is stunned–he had no idea! “Then she has the same curse as you,” the king says.  This comments stings Gustav; he had seen what joy Elsa’s powers brought her and Anna.  She had even called it a “gift.” But before the anger can rise up in him and cause his powers to manifest in retaliation, Nikolaus begs Gustav to help Elsa, to teach her to control her powers.

Gustav agrees, but he is crushed to burden Elsa with this so young.  Let her enjoy her youth before her life becomes full of secrets like his.  So, he does help Elsa, but by offering an outlet.  He can’t very well take her up into the Northern Mountain as he did when his control was on the brink of collapse.  They begin to have secret meetings–up in the tower, in the empty ballroom, behind closed doors.  For a short while a few times a week, he lets Elsa experiment with her powers, creating cyclones of snow flurries and mountains of ice.  When their time is over, Gustav makes her promise not to use her powers around anyone else.

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He is amazed as the weeks and months go by how much Elsa’s powers grow, her control as well.  Gustav even felt a change within him; his powers were easier to control when he used them more regularly.  He took fewer and fewer trips to the mountains as a result.  Maybe this was the way their powers worked, he considers.  The release wasn’t half as violent when it was done in small doses.  Furthermore, he found he was actually enjoying creating wonders out of ice with Elsa for the first time since he was a small boy.

That’s when everything changed.

Gustav returns one day from the Northern Mountain to find Nikolaus and his family gone.  A sobbing Gerda explains, “The girls were playing and–and–” Unable to finish because of tears, Kai, explains, “It’s Anna.  They’ve gone to the trolls to try and save her.” They don’t say much else about the situation, for they don’t know much more.  Gustav, however, can guess.  Elsa had broken her promise and used her powers with Anna.  She must have wanted to share what she had been practicing with her sister, and been doing so for who knew how long.

Gustav’s guilt is overwhelming.  It had been his fault.  He had let Elsa believe that her powers were a gift, not the heavy burden they were.  She was a child and he was the adult; he was responsible for not teaching her better control, or making certain that she did not harm anyone.  Even now, Anna could be paying the price for his misdeed.

When the Nikolaus and his family return, Gustav sees the mark of his folly upon his niece’s head–an ice blonde lock of hair from where Elsa’s frozen bolt had gone astray and nearly froze her sister.  She is going to be all right, and he is relieved, but his punishment is yet to begin.  Nikolaus forbids Gustav from teaching Elsa anymore, and tells him that he is going to oversee to Elsa’s education from then on.

The castle undergoes a stark change, both in appearance and policy.  The gates to the castle are barred, the windows and doors closed to outsiders.  Most of the servants are dismissed; only Kai, Gerda, and a few others are allowed to remain behind, and they are all sworn to secrecy about Elsa and her condition.

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“Anna can never know,” Nikolaus instructs, relating to them what the trolls had told him about Elsa’s powers.  “Fear will be her enemy, they said.  So she needs to control her fear.” Gustav hears the same words he had been told by his brother now spoken to Elsa: “Conceal, don’t feel.” Elsa’s gift was gone; it was a curse now, just like his. 

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The changes in the castle mean that Gustav is not as free to come and go to the Northern Mountain anymore.  But that doesn’t matter, anyway.  If the alternative would be to leave the castle permanently, he would much prefer the isolation of this empty castle if only he could be near his nieces.  Without the constant visitors, emissaries, dignitaries, and the many servants in the castle, Gustav can easily release his pent-up powers safely in a remote part of the castle.  This becomes harder and harder over the years as adventurous Anna spends her time roaming the empty halls, talking to paintings and riding her bike into the most unexpected places.  Only his own room is safe now; he locks himself away in it just as Elsa locks herself in hers.

He and Elsa grow distant, as do he and Nikolaus.  His brother has not forgiven him for what happened to Anna, and though he is not openly hostile about it, he makes it clear that a trust has been forever broken.  It’s easier for Gustav to harbor his brother’s scorn rather than his affection, anyway.  He just bottles it away like he always did: conceal, don’t feel.  His heart, once thawed, begins to freeze again.  The years pass, and they never heal the broken bond between them.  And after that terrible day, they never would.

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Neither Gustav nor Elsa attend the funeral of King Nikolaus and Queen Ingrid after their deaths at sea.  Their pain is too strong, too raw to be controlled.  Elsa’s grief explodes out of her in the isolation of her room, never knowing that a few doors down, Gustav has encased himself entirely within walls of ice in the hopes that he can shut himself off from the world.  The cold is not enough to numb himself to the pain of losing the brother whom he had turned his back on but had never stopped loving.

Gustav is a reluctant regent.  He never wanted to be king.  That was his brother’s destiny, the popular one, the normal one.  He never agreed with Nikolaus’ policies about Elsa, but he continues to keep the doors shut and locked to continue protecting their secret.  He doesn’t know what else to do.  His three-year rule as regent is uneventful, for Gustav keeps himself locked away as always, rarely taking visitors and changing none of his brother’s policies.  After all, it’s not really his throne, but Elsa’s.  He’s just keeping it warm for her until she comes of age.

Gustav anxiously awaits the day of Elsa’s coronation, not because he is excited but because it means that his responsibilities will end.  However, this sends him into a spiral of regret as he realizes that his release from the burden of a ruler with a terrible secret means that Elsa’s will now begin.  And, unlike his, her reign will not be over in just three years.  Elsa has a hard journey ahead of her, and so Gustav resolves to make it easier for her.  He risks his own discovery to make the preparations for her coronation: the bishop, tutoring Elsa on protocols, etc.  But even as much as he had helped her prepare, in the end the terror of being in front of all those people overwhelms him and he loses control of his powers.  For his own safety and that of others–most importantly, Elsa, for he doesn’t want to upset her and send her into a fit of her own at her coronation–he locks himself away in his room.

News reaches him sometime later about Elsa.  She has attacked the coronation guests, run off and created an eternal winter in Arendelle.  Despite his own fears, Gustav emerges from his room to help with damage control.  He was the regent, after all.  He finds that Prince Hans of the Southern Isles has been put in charge of Arendelle by Anna, who has gone to find Elsa and restore Arendelle to its former state.  Gustav doesn’t argue with this; he’s happier being in the background.  He helps out by taking people of the town into the castle, especially children and the elderly, passing out coats and blankets and helping the servants light every available candle, lamp and fire.  He’s still afraid of people finding out about his powers, but in such a storm, he doubts anyone will notice.  He takes to the streets rather than staying in the castle.  After all, the cold never bothered him anyway.

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He watches Hans carefully in the meantime.  It’s not that he mistrusts him exactly–not at first–but Arendelle is still his home and he is fearful of an outsider being in charge of it in such a crisis.  By this time, he has heard about his and Anna’s engagement, and understands why she chose Hans over her uncle to take charge.  It was just as impossible for Anna to coax her reclusive uncle from his room as it was to coax out Elsa, and time was of the essence.  Hans seems to be doing a good job, standing up to the Duke of Weselton and defending Arendelle’s interests. All of that changes when Anna’s horse comes back riderless.

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Hans believes Anna is in danger and makes up a party to go and find her.  The Duke of Weselton sends some of his men along, which alarms Gustav.  He’s never trusted Weselton, and he trusts the Duke even less.  More so, he doesn’t believe Anna could possibly be in any real danger, at least not from Elsa.  He takes Hans aside, wanting to go with the search party.  He knows the Northern Mountain well, and wants–no, needs–to find his family.  “No,” says Hans.  “Anna put me in charge of Arendelle, but as the former regentyou should be the one in charge of your people here until I return with Princess Anna.”

This is when Gustav starts to suspect Hans’ motives.  Shouldn’t he have meant Anna and Elsa? Wasn’t the whole point to find Elsa so they can end the winter in Arendelle? “What are your intentions toward my niece?” Gustav asks shrewdly.

“I will bring back Anna safely, I assure you, Prince Gustav,” notes Hans.  This hasn’t answered his question.  “I meant Elsa,” Gustav retorts. Hans doesn’t answer, and leaves with the rescue party.

Hans’ assurances meant very little to Gustav, even less when Hans returns not with Anna, but with Elsa in chains.  Gustav goes to the dungeon, hoping to talk to Elsa, to work with her to find a solution to the winter she created.  He doesn’t know how to stop it himself–all of his ice creations always melted on their own eventually, but her winter is getting worse–but he figures that he can help her control her emotions enough to calm the storm.  However, the guards won’t let him in to see her.  These are Arendelle’s royal guards, but they are under orders from Hans not to let anyone see the prisoner.  And since Anna, the next in line, was the one to put Hans in charge, Gustav’s position as the former regent means nothing.

Gustav goes in search of Hans in the hopes of showing him that there is another way to end this winter, but finds out that he is with Anna, who has just returned from the Northern Mountain, weak and dying.  But when Hans emerges once more, he announces that Anna is dead.

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Although Anna is dead, Hans goes on to say, they exchanged their wedding vows before the end, which means he is now the King of Arendelle.  He charges Elsa with high treason for Anna’s death, and goes to hunt her down and carry out her punishment.

At this news, Gustav is frozen–both literally and figuratively.  The tears he cries for Anna freeze on his cheeks.  To lose a beloved niece is more than one person can bear, but to lose her at the hands of an even more beloved niece? And soon, he would be losing the other one as well, doomed to die at the hand of a man whom he only met that day, who is now in charge of his kingdom? Gustav cannot control his powers any longer, and his rage and grief explode out of him in shards of ice so large and strong that they break the windows of the room where all the dignitaries are gathered, cracking the ceiling and floors and turning the entire room into an ice cavern.  The dignitaries go running for their lives, some of them screaming that Elsa must be nearby and others seeing Gustav for exactly what he is.  Nonetheless, having seen the strength of Elsa’s powers, no one wants to stick around to deal with this new threat.

Gustav, no longer afraid but full of righteous determination, sets after Hans even as the foreign prince is crossing the frozen fjord to find and kill Elsa.  Gustav avows that he is not going to lose the last of his family, no matter what Elsa may or may not have done.  He can barely see through the raging blizzard as Hans raises his sword to kill a helpless Elsa.  He cries out for her, but the storm is so loud that no one can hear him.

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But then what does he see? Anna, alive! She jumps in front of Elsa and saves her from Hans, freezing into a block of ice.  Gustav watches, horrified, from the sunken deck of one of the ice-trapped boats in the harbor as Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, saving her life at the cost of her own.  All this time Gustav thought Elsa was the powerful one, and for so much of her life he had ignored Anna and never realized that she had a power all her own.

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Gustav finds that, though his heart is breaking, it is anything but frozen.  There is no blast of ice from his fingertips, no whirlwind escaping him as there had been at Hans’ false news of her death.  His powers are completely under control despite his grief.  It’s not emotion that undermines his control, he realizes, but fear alone.  That’s why Elsa had such great control when she was a child, because she was not afraid of her gift but embraced it.  Right now, his heart was so full of love and tenderness for Anna–for both of them–that the storm inside him is finally at peace.  It’s not fear that grips him, it is loss.  Tears streak his face, and despite the cold, they do not freeze upon his cheeks.

That’s when a wondrous sight catches his eye.  The frozen Anna is slowly thawing, melting under the warmth of her sister’s final embrace.  The blizzard has calmed down now, and Gustav hears every word.  Elsa has come to the same conclusion as he, all on her own.  It’s love that can break the spell of winter over Arendelle, and with a sweep of her hands, Elsa does so.  The ice of the fjords melts and shatters, releasing the imprisoned ships.

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Gustav’s ship, its deck once just a few inches above the surface of the ice, rockets upward.  Across the way, Elsa and Anna celebrate their victory with their new-found friends.  Gustav smiles.  He’ll go and talk to them later.  For now, let them have their moment.

Meanwhile, Gustav is pondering just how to get off this ship anchored in the middle of a now-unfrozen fjord.  Maybe he’ll make a bridge entirely out of ice.  Now that he’s not afraid of his powers any longer, the possibilities are endless.  Just then, Prince Hans bobs by in the water, a nasty welt beginning to form on his face.  I guess the engagement is off, Gustav muses with a smile.

“Can you throw me a rope?” Hans asks, looking a bit helpless in his watery defeat.  Gustav sighs, and throws him a line.  Just as Hans grabs it, however, Gustav surrounds Hans with a block of ice (all but his head, of course), the rope frozen to his hands inside the ice.  Gustav finds his way back to shore (freezing the water beneath him with every step) with Hans in tow, bobbing along behind him in the waves.  It’s now summer again, but maybe this way, Hans will arrive at the Southern Isles with a cold.

Note: Gustav is a character created by me.  Everyone else in the story is actually from Frozen.  Kai and Gerda are actually named characters in the movie.  Nikolaus and Ingrid are the names I decided to give the king and queen, who have no names in the original movie.  All artwork is from the movie, with the exception of the top picture of Gustav and Nikolaus, which is some clever Photoshopping of the king to make his brother.