Fans of Disney's 2013 animated original are no doubt overjoyed to see Elsa, Anna and Olaf on the big screen again in Frozen 2, which introduces a host of new characters, including one featured prominently in the trailers: a water horse called the Nokk.
The studio describes the Nokk as "a mythical water spirit that takes the form of a horse and uses the power of the ocean to guard the secrets of the forest." As the trailers hint, Elsa encounters the creature under the stormy seas, where it comes to play a key part in building out Frozen's mythology. But it's important to acknowledge that the Nokk is indeed an actual mythical creature in Scandinavian mythology, too.
Bearing that in mind, here are some tidbits on the Nokk that you might want to keep in mind while watching Frozen 2.
The creature is popular in folklore in Germanic countries, where it has had different names (Nix in Germany; Nicor in Dutch, Nøck in Sweden, etc.), and Frozen 2's original idea is said to be for the character to be a shapeshifter. While the creature is always depicted as a water spirit, the forms it takes varies. Some of the earliest stories to involve The Nokk depicted them as male humanoid water spirits that would lure children and women to drown in the water with their hypnotic music. Some legends have said that The Nokk can be killed by calling out their name, or by throwing steel into the water.
Other folklore regarding the creature have not been of the malevolent variety, and instead, want to grace humanity with their music. A Norwegian take on The Nokk (Fossegrim) takes the form of a beautiful young man that will teach a human to play their beautiful music if they are approached in the correct manner. Also, Romantic folklore interpreted the creature as being a sorrowful being, and their songs reflected their loneliness and despair that they could never be children of God. Several poems and stories of the 19th Century said that mankind could find salvation through feeling sympathy for The Nokk.
The design of The Nokk in Frozen 2 seems to most closely resemble an interpretation on The Nokk known as Bækhest (translated as Brook Horse). This version is indeed a horse and typically arises from rivers during foggy weather. Interestingly, this version is of the dangerous variety, as its penchant is to invite people to ride on top of it and then jump into the water to drown their mounter. The Brook Horse is one of the most popular versions of The Nokk, and has been the focus of numerous artworks made over the centuries.
Frozen 2's Nokk is not meant to be a malicious force, as the trailers suggest, it aids Elsa on her quest, instead. It's hard to place how much actual Nokk folklore acted as the catalyst towards Disney's version, but it also likely doesn't mean much for the final product. Time and time again Disney has lifted elements from existing myths and fairy tales and molded them into its own brand, so it wouldn't be surprising if the studio did just that here.
Whatever the case, Frozen II is being praised as everything a Disney fan could want and more, so we could perhaps forgive Disney for not having complete fidelity to existing folklore for its take on The Nokk.
Disney's Frozen 2 reunites directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck and producer Del Vecho with voice actors Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad. Returning musical talents include Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.