You don’t have to like the idea of making a dragon your personal home pet, but if you wish to become a Viking, strap on a sword and get ready to catch a dragon.
In 214 pages, Cressida Cowell’s “How to Train Your Dragon” reads like a bedtime story and inspired the beloved animated film by Dreamworks that tells the tale of a boy and his pet dragon.
First, I’d better mention the movie version heads in a completely different direction from the original story, and that’s OK. Still, the story of a heroic Viking who wasn’t really meant to be a Viking will surely inspire you to do something heroic as well.
Our little hero, the smallish boy with the long name of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, is one of the sweetest protagonists in literature who plays the role of reluctant hero. He is likeable because he is less inclined toward glory. I see him as a mirror character of Bilbo Baggins; he’s a selfless, modest and kind kid just trying to stumble along in doing what’s right.
Hiccup is not the archetypal Viking. He is, rather, a near useless, skin-and-bone of a boy who must find and train a dragon or forever be exiled from the tribe of Hooligan.
The 18 boys in training must first catch a dragon, which is located conveniently in the dragon nursery, 100 feet up the Wild Dragon Cliffs. I should have known the misbehaved boys couldn’t leave the dragon cavern quietly, and without further warning, Hiccup bravely and cleverly leads the group to jump off the cliff to safety. They barely escape the clutches of the angry, awoken dragons, which I could easily imagine playing out on the big screen.
From then on, it is simply a matter of training their captive dragons before the initiation ceremony. One small thing, though: A hungry Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus (more of a mountain than a creature) washes up on the beach after a storm ready to eat everyone on the island. In what I though was a hilarious riot to get the monster to leave, Hiccup’s tribe storms to the cliffs to yell at the monster to simply go away.
Now, most dragons can be tamed with a good, strong voice, which is something that Hiccup lacks. So Hiccup uses his wits to find another way to train his dragon, Toothless, not only to remain a part of the tribe, but also to rid the island of the monster on the beach.
It’s enjoyable to see Hiccup’s little moments of triumph when he realizes there is still one last thing he can do. When it comes to his father, he would do just about anything to prove his Viking-worthiness to the one person who believes in him.
The fantasy world Hiccup and his friends inhabit is absorbed with places as fantastic and incredible as they are treacherous. My favorite kind of dragons are the blood-thirsty-no-mercy-killing-machine dragons who are equipped with weapons even worse than a breath of fire. However, I don’t think the Hooligan tribe, including Hiccup, acted as terrified as they should have of these horrifying creatures—just another stubborn Viking quality I guess.
On the other hand, the little dragons that can argue, pick a fight, pick on others, pick their noses, smirk, laugh, snort, show off, play with their masters, and play with each other just stole my heart. They give the occasional helping hand (or claw) in a crisis the humans can’t seem to solve on their own. In fact, I’d describe these dragons as misbehaved little puppies. They are tyrants, but they are loyal tyrants.
I absolutely love the relationship Hiccup has with Toothless because it’s more than just master and beast; it’s one of two companions who stick together through thick and thin—through ridicule from the tribe on their size and conquering the beasts that threaten them.
Age doesn’t matter when it comes to reading this heart-warming story. Dragon lovers, parents of dragon lovers, and soon-to-be dragon lovers all have a thing or two to take away from Cowell’s imagination: Friendship is worth fighting for, and the courage to be different goes a long way.