Frozen by Circumstance, Not by Choice

Elizabeth Mitchell as Ingrid in a Promotional shot for Once Upon A Time
Copyright Disney ABC Studios

Once upon a time there was a show on ABC called Once Upon a Time (OUAT) that was just wrapping its third season. The show about redemption, families, and finding hope had grown quite a following for taking fairy tales and giving them new twists. 

Meanwhile, a little film by the name of Frozen was released by Disney and had captured the entire world’s affections. Little girls wanted to dress as either Princess Anna or Queen Elsa. Children’s clothing had images of Olaf and Sven, and you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Elsa’s theme “Let It Go” blasted through a speaker. The film was marketed as a retelling of the Danish fairy tale “The Snow Queen” and focused on two sisters. One of the sisters had magical abilities and was forced to hide them, and the other had none.

These two Disney properties would collide. As a result, one of the more interesting OUAT characters would be given life through an amazing portrayal by Elizabeth Mitchell. A character which, if left in the wrong hands, could have become campy and one-dimensional. Instead, with the layers brought to her through Mitchell’s performance, she was given depth which made her more of a victim of circumstance.

Ingrid (Elizabeth Mitchell) hands off an Ice cream in a scene from Once Upon A Time.
Copyright Disney ABC Studios

When introduced, Ingrid was innocently running an ice cream parlor, Any Given Sundae, in the middle of Storybrooke Main Street. There really wasn’t an idea as to who she was, and why would there be? For all anyone knew she was just one more person that was transported by Regina’s original Dark Curse. The townspeople didn’t begin to take notice until Elsa had to defend the fact that while she may be known for enormous snow monsters, she had nothing to do with the giant ice barrier that now found itself placed around the town, or with Marian (Robin’s wife) suddenly being struck with a freezing curse causing her to slowly die. 

The twisted thing is that Ingrid created these situations in order to show Elsa that people strongly fear those that they don’t understand. She herself was very familiar with seeing people’s fears turn into acts of aggression.

As a child, her own powers began to show after she and her sisters were kidnapped. Like most children afraid of getting in trouble, the three of them decided to keep it a secret from everyone, including their own father. Grownups, above all, would most likely act in fear of Ingrid’s powers and send her away, or worse…kill her. 

Instead, Ingrid grew up with an internalized fear over her magical gift and a constant struggle to keep it hidden. This fear would lead Ingrid to making decisions that would ultimately tear her bond with her sisters apart and set her on a course of revenge, when really all she wanted was acceptance.

“The family that you have, they may love you but they also fear you.” ~ Ingrid (OUAT S4E7)

The reason no one ever knew about Ingrid or her powers was because Gerda (the youngest of the three sisters, and Anna and Elsa’s mother) had Arendelle’s memory wiped after Ingrid accidentally murdered their other sister, Helga. Well, the viewers knew it was an accident, but Gerda’s inner fear got the best of her when she stumbled onto Ingrid holding a frozen Helga. She proceeded to call her a monster, trap her in an urn, and hide her away in hopes that no one would ever find her. 

It was pretty incompetent not taking the time to fully uncover what happened. Also, the decision to erase both of your sisters from existence (because if people found out it would “tear the kingdom apart”) is really not promising when years later your own daughter will have these same powers. In doing this, Gerda became the catalyst for Ingrid’s hatred towards those without magic because ultimately, your own family will toss you away the moment you’re shown to be a danger to anyone. 

Gerda (Pascale Hutton) shockingly comes across Ingrid (Elizabeth Mitchell) upset in a scene from Once Upon A Time.
Copyright Disney ABC Studios

She spent years trapped in that urn with the last image in her head being her sister calling her a monster. When she’s released she discovers that her niece is in a similar place to her, magic born and with a sister who has none. To her, Anna is a ticking time bomb who will one day stumble across Elsa in a bad predicament and make the call that she’s dangerous. Honestly, why wouldn’t she think that? It happened to her.

Instead of waiting for that shoe to drop, she takes it upon herself to show Elsa Anna’s true nature through the curse of “Shattered Sight.” Yet, it’s not really her true nature when the point of “Shattered Sight” is to drop the filter of our consciousness. 

Everyone has hateful things they sometimes wish to say, but who we really are depends on what we choose to say. “Shattered Sight” takes that option away, so all those inner fears that we choose to ignore become our truths. What Ingrid refuses to understand is that everyone has fears of things they don’t know, but they don’t always act on them. 

Ingrid constantly relives that moment of being placed into the urn, and doesn’t want that for Elsa.

She wants to create a world where she can have a family that is accepting, and the same. One where they don’t have to live with fear and can openly practice their magic. Everything about her centers on longing for acceptance.

“Family is not blood. It is a bond far stronger than mere genetics. Elsa and I are your real family because we’re the only ones like you.” ~ Ingrid (OUAT S4E7)

Part of Ingrid’s depth comes from her nurturing nature. Even when she is in the midst of her plan for releasing “Shattered Sight” onto Storybrooke, the second Emma or Elsa is around she goes into protector mode. Especially with Emma.

Emma may have been part of a prophecy given to her that reveals her final fate, but Ingrid finds herself forming a tight bond with her, long before the events of Storybrooke. She finds her way to our world and becomes Emma’s foster mother. The foster mother aspect of Ingrid was one that I truly took to heart since I also spent time in the system while growing up. Up to this point Emma was being shipped around from home to home. When she arrives in Ingrid’s hands she has lost trust with people. She puts up a tough act but really, she’s scared and lonely. 

Ingrid (Elizabeth Mitchell) and young Emma (Abby Ross) share a hug in a scene from Once Upon A Time.
Copyright Disney ABC Studios

The pair of them are basically two lonely souls that take comfort in one another while bonding about getting revenge on a bully, and hot chocolate. It’s pure happiness watching Ingrid be the first mother-like figure for Emma, and Emma finding trust in adults again. For a moment, that seems like enough, especially once Ingrid offers to adopt her. But, Emma’s magic hasn’t come along and she is slated to be “The Savior,” so Ingrid decides to throw caution to the wind and attempts to force Emma to enact her magic.

Just so we’re all clear, playing chicken with a car to scare the person into using magic is totally not cool. It really was more of Ingrid’s impatience getting the best of her, which sadly tears apart that amazing bond between her and Emma. It’s tragic to see months of happiness end because Ingrid ultimately couldn’t be happy unless they were the same, in other words magic folk.

Most villains in OUAT had pretty selfish plans that usually meant taking over Storybrooke and then the rest of the non-magical world these characters found themselves in. For most of them, their motivation was power and control. Ingrid’s wasn’t. She didn’t want to control Storybrooke. She really couldn’t have cared less about it. What she wanted was acceptance and family.

It had also become a custom on the series that by the end of the “villain’s arc” that villain would eventually be killed. I had hoped differently for Ingrid since I never saw her as a pure villain, but a lost soul. Sadly, that was not the case. She did manage to find solace once Anna had revealed a long lost letter that Gerda had written, in which Gerda expressed her regret for her actions toward Ingrid. Ingrid was finally able to “let it go”—all that hate that she had sat with for years in that urn. The constant replaying of being called a monster by the last person she ever thought would betray her. It all was released with the knowledge that Gerda had ultimately realized her own wrongdoing, and wanted to correct it. In an act of love for her entire family, both blood and those she held dear for years (Emma), Ingrid sacrificed herself to stop “Shattered Sight.”

Ingrid (Elizabeth Mitchell) is slowly fading away in a scene from Once Upon A Time
Copyright Disney ABC Studio

Ingrid ultimately is a character I hold in high regard. To me she was the Frozen arc. Sorry Anna and Elsa, you still have my love in the films. Yet when it comes to OUAT, each episode would air and my priority was immediately Ingrid. Everything that motivated her came from a feeling I know all too well. That feeling of wanting a family that loves you because the one you were ultimately given had betrayed you.

Which means Emma Swan, when you are to talk about Ingrid in other seasons you do not forget the history you shared with her! You do not call her “The Snow Queen,” you call her “Ingrid”! You know her name, and it should be known by all!

Written by Katie Bienvenue

Katie is a writer, cosplayer, craftswoman, and Barista. When she isn't talking about Chainmaille she is usually found discussing some television series, film, or how to properly make one's latte.

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