Special Thanks to A Thing Of Vikings On Tumblr Who Proofread This Piece And Who I Consider Co-Author In This For His Additions
So here we are, with the tenth anniversary of a great movie that has come and gone. Thanks to this year being a leap year, the main character?s birthday is this Saturday, February 29th. It is remarkable that we made it this far, beginning from a small film that has attained the level of a cult classic in the years since.
I love How To Train Your Dragon. The movie and books have made me a better writer, and thanks to them I found and joined a great community. There are dead character jokes, fanfics about talking dragons, and lots of wonderful art.
With that being said, I?m not a fan of the entire franchise. There are moments that are uncomfortable at best, actively bad at worst. And that?s part of why I?m not watching the newest holiday special. It?s the principle of the matter.
What Is How To Train Your Dragon?
How to Train Your Dragon, or HTTYD, is a book series by Cressida Cowell, which was then adapted to a film franchise by Dreamworks. Both pieces of media stand on their own, but they share the same broad strokes, with both focusing on an alternative history where the Vikings that lived in Scotland had dragons. The differences lie in tone and scope.
In both settings, the main character is named Hiccup; he?s a small outcast boy, whose father is the head of the tribe. Book Hiccup is a child who is too smart for his surroundings. Where every Viking seeks dangerous ventures for ?Victory or death!? he tries to think. He has to step up to the plate when a crisis threatens his home, the boggy island of Berk. His dragon is a toothless runt, whom he creatively names Toothless. Hiccup later gains a flying dragon, a formerly enslaved beast called the Windwalker. Windwalker at first seems not impressive, but he is loyal to Hiccup to the bitter end. The dragons of the setting are both wild and tame, and vary in their outlook.
Movie Hiccup, in contrast to his book counterpart, is a bratty teenager who courts death when every other Viking wants him to be sensible and stay inside when there are dragons flying about stealing food from the village. He sasses his father who points out he lost Berk?s winter food supply during the dragon raid in the opening scene. In this setting, Hiccup tames the first dragon, a Night Fury, one of the most elusive and dangerous ones, while the rest are wild. Against all odds, he and the film?s version of Toothless ? so named because he has retractable teeth ? become friends and end up bringing peace between humans and dragons.
As the books went on, Hiccup found himself having to do more than just simply survive the challenges thrown at him by Vikings and dragons. He had to identify societal problems which his people had inherited from terrible ancestors, and also identify how to correct them.
The past isn?t the only threat; Hiccup is also prophesied to bring about the end of the dragons. He is rightly horrified about the prospect. Even so, destiny calls. His solution, upon reaching an elderly age and having spent his lifetime fighting to bring peace, is to push the dragons into hiding, away from the humans who would exploit them.
Book Toothless also starts off as a brat. He is entitled, spoiled and selfish and yet, when Hiccup needs help, he?s always there for his human. Toothless leaves on his own terms, when they?ve grown old together.
Movie Hiccup spends most of his media franchise trying to revolutionize Berk with dragon training. He makes breakthroughs in sports, food production, and defenses. Toothless?s bond with him becomes stronger even when they face the worst catastrophes. They make friends out of foes or blast the others out of the water.
Movie Toothless doesn?t have book Toothless?s cattiness. He?s brave, fierce and playful. Also he makes it clear that Hiccup is his number one priority. Or so it seemed until the third movie.
I have a lot of issues with the plot and structure of the third film, The Hidden World, namely that it undid the bond between Hiccup and Toothless. Six years is not a friendship of a lifetime, despite the claims of the promotional materials. When Hiccup sends the dragons into hiding, he is still a young man who could save them, and indeed, just had, with the destruction of a major dragon-hunter fleet. I called nonsense on this. The decision made no sense in the context of the film.
The dragons leaving also made no sense after two movies and two series building the bond between Hiccup and Toothless as friends who are there for each other.We see this strongly in the first movie, boy and dragon work together to fly in tandem. As Hiccup brings fish and tail fin prosthetics to replace the tail fin that the dragon lost, Toothless educates Hiccup on boundaries. The dragon is wild and prickly, but also has a soft side. He won?t let the boy touch him until he dances around the dragon?s drawings in the dirt. It takes work and building up trust for Toothless to let Hiccup cuddle him. The more they fail to take off from the ground, the stronger their bond grows, to the point where Toothless dives into a fiery explosion to save his human.
The Nitty Gritty
The third movie is the finale of the film franchise. In the year since the second film, Hiccup has been freeing dragons from an attacking army. In response, the generals of that army hire a bounty hunter named Grimmel the Ghastly. Grimmel attempts to weaken Hiccup by releasing a potential mate for Toothless, a sleek and glittery rendition of the Night Fury, dubbed a ?Light Fury? by Hiccup?s girlfriend Astrid, in the hopes that Toothless? bond with Hiccup weakens? and it works.
Here is the thing from my perspective; Hiccup dating Astrid didn?t break up him and Toothless. It shouldn?t be a case of a dragon being too wild and skittish for Hiccup to stand aside. I call nonsense that Toothless would leave as he does mid-movie to court the Light Fury, much less abandon Hiccup, his friend of six years, for what amounts to the woman he has just met.
Furthermore, Grimmel isn?t a plausibly threatening foe to me. He is presented as being a master planner, but his intellect is strictly informed. In one scene, he is talking to the warlords on where Hiccup and his tribe might have fled to, and ends up making the right decision for the wrong reasons, and his initial attacks amount to high-risk, low- reward probes that let Hiccup and the tribe know that he?s coming and can penetrate their defenses. On his second attempt, he literally walks into a trap, and only his trump card of enslaved attack-dragons saves him. And worst of all, he gets what he wants: a world free of dragons. After he?s defeated, Hiccup tells Toothless to take all the dragons into hiding and they only see each other again ten years later.
For those reasons and more, I personally chose not to watch the new holiday special which takes cues from the third movie. It means that world happened, one where the dragons leave, and I oppose that on principle. Hiccup and Toothless belong together, a ?friendship to last a lifetime?, forged in a small cove between two individuals who had once viewed each other as mortal enemies, a forbidden friendship that we were promised ?changed the world forever.? I can?t accept a world where they don?t part until Hiccup is well into old age.
In another world, the third movie never happened. We have the books which make the farewells more plausible. I will always love the franchise but I don?t accept this conclusion. Meanwhile, the Netflix series is a whole other discussion on what they did right and what they did wrong and I?ll do that later this week.
Hiccup?s birthday is this Saturday and I hope to make one short post a week. We?ll see where this deep dive goes for 2020.