Niina Niskanen

Jan 12, 2023

The Sámi in "Frozen" (Part 2)

An interview with Niina Niskanen

New Books Network 2023

The traditional folklore and animistic beliefs of the Sámi, the Indigenous nomadic peoples of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, are under-studied and their cultural significance rarely acknowledged, even in the Scandinavian countries where Sámi traditions have intermingled with mainstream ones. The spread of Christianity and the influence of Christian missionaries in the Scandinavian north have especially distorted and shaped the reception and transmission of Sámi religious beliefs and practices in the modern era. The traditional Sámi religion recently gained widespread attention and reconsideration from a somewhat unexpected source, however, thanks to the incorporation of elements of Sámi folklore in Walt Disney Animation Studios' Frozen movie series. In this episode, artist and folklorist Niina Niskanen joins me to discuss her research into Sámi religious systems, folklore and oral culture, the cultural impacts of Sámi beliefs on mainstream Scandinavian society, how Sámi folklore traditions are represented in mass media, and how pop culture artifacts like Disney's Frozen have prompted a resurgence of interest in Sámi folklore and introduced Sámi culture to a new audience.

This episode is part two of a two-part series looking at the Sámi in Disney's Frozen movies; part one, focusing on the making of Frozen II, can be listened to here.

Music in this episode: Desert City by Kevin MacLeod. License.

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Maggie Freeman

Maggie Freeman is a PhD student in the School of Architecture at MIT. She researches uses of architecture by nomadic peoples and historical interactions of nomads and empires, with a focus on the modern Middle East.

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