03 January 2019

The Wandering Reindeer

Frozen’s land of Arendelle is not specifically within any of the borders of Norway, now or in ages past, but it does owe much of its aesthetic to inspirations from Norway. Culture, food, patterns, architecture, textiles, landscapes, and even mythology are all present in the sisters’ story. When it came to finding a home for Anna, Elsa, and all of their friends, Norway in Epcot’s World Showcase seemed like as good a place as any to bring the fictional land to life. With the inclusion of Frozen came an attraction, as well as a new home for a character meet and greet and a new shop, The Wandering Reindeer.

While the season of celebrating reindeer may have just ended, they’re celebrated year round in the Norway pavilion. If you’ve ever made your way into the shop filled to the brim with Frozen merchandise, you’ve probably wondered what the scrolling text above the shelf displays means. Well, you’ve wondered that if you’re like me. If you’re like most people you’re trying to get out of the store spending as little as possible on Frozen merchandise for your child. Since I’m not fluent in Norwegian, or in the language of Arendelle, which I assume is Norwegian, I used the best, if fallible, tool available to me, Google Translate.

Even before that, however, there are some context clues that we can observe. For one, the shop’s name, The Wandering Reindeer, and the fact that there is a reindeer present in the artwork on the shelf just before the text gives us some indication that the brief passage has something to do with reindeer. This line of logic is absolutely true and leads us straight into the message, “Overgangsriten for alle unge reinsdyr var ‘Vårflyttingen,’ en lang vandring til utkanten av kongeriket for å skue nordlysef og vise respekt for de nordlige skytsånde.

Here’s where translating through Google Translate, and a handful of other translation tools for verification, comes in handy. The passage we are given is, “The rite of passage for all young reindeer was ‘Vårflyttingen,’ a long walk to the outskirts of the kingdom to view the northern lights and show respect for the northern sky.” “Vårflyttingen” feels like a proper name, and as such, doesn’t want to translate very well. The best term I could come up with for it was “Spring Movement,” which is fine, but Vårflyttingen just sounds better if you ask me.

As for the rest of the message, it all makes perfect sense given the reverence the people of Arendelle have for the sky and nature as a whole. Since reindeer are known to roam freely in herds, and the store appears to be the story of one reindeer, it would be logical to assume that the story of The Wandering Reindeer is, in fact, the tale of a young reindeer who ventures off on his own rite of passage to view and pay respects to the lights and sky. In fact, even the imagery present in the center of the shop’s sign outside seems to illustrate this precise action.

Regardless of your interest in Frozen or reindeer or northern lights, it’s nice to see a blending of folktales and real world phenomenon meshing with the world of Arendelle. Even if it takes a translator to get the whole picture.

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