Spoilers: Entire movie!
Special Thanks: To all the artists in the "Fandom Guide" section! ^_^
Well, you know, we’ve seen it all before…
Nothing’s really “original” anymore, and just about every book you open, every movie you see, every television show you tune into…it will remind you of something else, or have that sense of familiarity to it. Because surely, every story there ever will be has been written before, and each new one is just a slightly different version of another. And boy, How to Train Your Dragon may be one of the least “original” movies ever created.
Yep. It’s a total cliché storm in every meaning of the word. You’ve got the outcast main character who comes to be accepted in the end. Uh, we’ve seen that before. The Ugly Duckling, anyone? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? A boy and his animal best friend? I think we’re all getting a little sick of the “boy and his dog” thing. A long, tiring war that the main character finally comes to end? We’ve seen this all before.
But, I would be lying if I said I thought How to Train Your Dragon was a bad film. In fact, I think it’s much the opposite. To me, it’s not really about the originality; what’s important is the execution. And to put it simply, the way this film is executed is nothing short of brilliant.
I mean, yeah. Watching it, you kinda already know what’s gonna happen next, and how it’s gonna end. It’s pretty predictable. It’s familiar, cliché. But the movie adds a feeling of “freshness” to it all with its amazing cast of colourful, likable characters, a gorgeous score and beautiful art direction. And most importantly, the film’s got heart. The familiar, cliché scenes you’ve all seen before? In this movie, they’re drenched in true, utter heart and sincerity, and you can’t help but fall in love with the beauty of it all. By the time the movie ends, you care very little that it was so predictable and you’ve seen it all before. It just touches you. And that’s what’s important, neh?
I admit that I wasn’t too keen on How to Train Your Dragon when I first saw the trailers for it in the theatre just before watching The Princess and the Frog. Another Dreamworks movie? I didn’t think much of it. Fast-forward nearly a year later, and I caught a glimpse of the film’s amazing score, done by John Powell. It was instant love. You can bet it’s now one of my favorite soundtracks. I thought, “Well, surely a film with such epic music can’t be bad, right?”
I watched it. I loved it. It’s easily one of my favorite movies of all time. By now, I’m sure I’ve seen it more times than I can really keep track of. And, probably most importantly here, I’ve just fallen in love with the way that relationships were portrayed and written in this film.
Indeed, the film is very much based around relationships. The relationship of main character Hiccup and the dragon, Toothless, the relationship between Hiccup and his father, and finally, the relationship between Astrid and Hiccup are the centerpieces of the movie.
Ah! And this brings us to Hiccup/Astrid. It’s the most obvious couple in the world of obvious couples, and the thing you know’s gotta happen in some way by the time the credits roll. Cliché, familiar, and just something we’ve all seen before. But if I must say so myself…the execution of it is simply lovingly done; so much so that it just kinda grows on you.
Well, now, we can’t have a couple without characters! So, who exactly are these Hiccup and Astrid peoples?
“I’m more of an old-fashioned, “take it out with an axe and then lop its head off” kind of girl.”
I’ll begin with Astrid. And what a character she is! But I’ll start with the obvious; yes, this girl clearly has, “I’m the love interest!” written all over her face. After just seeing the trailers you could tell this chick was gonna be the typical romantic interest of the hero. But even with the stereotypical-like nature of her role, the actual character of Astrid is rather intriguing.
The key to understanding Astrid, though, is to understand her ambitions and motives, summed up beautifully in this lovely bit from the movie’s commentary:
“She’s a strong character, a smart character. Of all the kids, of all the teenagers, we decided that she would be the most capable and the most serious about what she’s doing. I think the other ones are not quite as serious about this whole thing, but she’s deadly serious. We even had a little back-story that we wrote a long time ago that explained most of the kids’ position, but she had this seriousness from being a little girl. All she wanted to do was this whole dragon fighting thing.”
I don’t think I can stress the importance of this to Astrid. Her entire world is this dream of fighting dragons and carrying on the tradition with honor. She’s the kind of little kid you can see training for hours and hours to one day reach her goal. Really, to her, this was everything.
And the film is able to portray this realistically and in a way that makes her a relatable, sympathetic character. For one thing, Astrid wants this dream badly, but instead of making her seem like a cold, inhuman person, the movie lets the viewers know that as anyone else, she’s also a bit scared of going to carry it out and nervous for the future (her “no turning back” upon entering the dragon training camp, for example). She has her insecurities, and the film lets us know this; her fears of not being number one (as shown when Hiccup starts performing better than her), her fears of making a mistake (her criticism of her somersault dive, her “this time, for sure” mumbles before facing off against Hiccup), her fears of the future. This in itself makes her more than a cardboard cutout of a character, in my opinion. It shows to the audience that this girl isn’t some perfect goddess without any real emotions, but that’s she flawed, human, and has her problems like anyone else. She may seem like the cliché love-interest tough girl, but the movie blesses her with an actual personality and true feelings that make her so much more than this.
One thing that I personally find great about Astrid is that she is indeed a strong female character. She kicks the most ass out of Hiccup’s little group of friends, and in any relationship, she is sure to be the one wearing the pants. That’s not to say she’s ashamed of her gender, though; she knows she’s a girl and she’s proud, flaunting her femininity in the ways she knows how. Additionally, despite her bitchy fits when people don’t take something as seriously as she thinks they should, she has a strong sense of devotion and heroism—she won’t back away from protecting someone, even if she’s pissed off at them.
Finally, this girl embodies the desire of just about everyone in their teenage years—that desire to be accepted, and to be loved. She wants to be a great dragon-slayer for many reasons, but one of them is of course for acceptance. Maybe this is obvious, but I find it to be pretty important to not only her character, but also her and Hiccup’s relationship. And speaking of Hiccup, let’s get to talking about that guy!
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III:
“I just want to be one of you guys…”
Ah, our main character. You know, the typical, skinny, nerdy guy who just wants to be accepted. In a word, he’s a loser. But quite an endearing, lovable loser, of course.
He has the stupidest names of stupid names, and is a dork among his fellow Vikings who spends his time making nifty machines instead of swinging an axe all around. He’s the son of the chief of the tribe—Stoick the Vast—but don’t assume that means he gets any respect, because he certainly doesn’t. He’s teased and considered a nuisance to his entire village, with the adults happily going on a journey that could cost them their lives if it meant not having to watch over the guy. But he doesn’t really get too down about all this. He instead uses a very dry, snarky sense of humour to brighten up his days.
Hiccup can be considered the most cliché, familiar sort of hero you’ve ever seen. Cuz, we’ve just seen this all before. Nerdy, outcast hero? Yep. A loser? Yep. Brainy rather than brawny, in a society that cares way more for the brawn? Mmm-hmmm. But again, the execution of this guy is great. The way he is able to develop through his relationships with other characters is beautifully done, and he proves himself to be a rather sympathetic, relatable character.
One of the most important things about Hiccup, in my opinion, is that he’s an incredibly shallow guy when the film starts. Unlike Astrid, who sincerely wants to dragon-hunt for honour and to take up her place among her people, Hiccup just wants to kill dragons for superficial reasons: to get a girlfriend, to get noticed, to stop getting teased. He could care less for helping his village and doing the honourable thing. He just wants the glory of killing a dragon, which is why he specifically goes after the one that doesn’t even steal the village’s food—the Night Fury—because it’s never been seen before, is shrouded in mystery, and killing that one would provide him with the most benefits.
This is so important to me because, well, I think we’ve all been there before. Where we just want so badly to stop being so lonely and so much of an outcast that it doesn’t even matter if we care about what we’re doing, so long as it gets us what we want most of all—acceptance. The writers didn’t try to make Hiccup a perfect, always-heroic hero—they made him flawed, and rather selfish, just like all of us can be at times. This is especially endearing when he loses this bit of selfishness as the end draws near and decides to do what he considers right, even if it may make him an even bigger outcast than before.
Some have accused Hiccup of being “bland”, and maybe this is true. He’s not the most exciting guy to be around. He can be annoying. But he’s quirky, gawky, and that dry sense of humor he’s got? It’s cute and funny. The guy’s also got a great curiosity to him, like a little kid, and you can’t help but fall in love with that. And when you take into account that he’s really just trying so hard to be accepted, you really do just feel for him. Especially since he doesn’t sit around and cry about it, but try to be funny and put his situation in a nicer light.
A way of describing this guy simply? He’s a cliché, yep, but he’s done right. A lovingly executed, typical “hero” character that you really just love to love.
Astcup, er…Hicrid…? Whatever this pairing’s called…
As I’ve mentioned, this pairing is pretty cliché and non-original. It may even send viewers into an annoyed, “This again?” sort of sigh. But at the same time, it plays with the typicality of the pair, and is executed in such an interesting way that after some time, I didn’t even mind that it was so obvious, cliché, and well…not-fresh.
Why? How? Well…
The film makes it clear right away in the breathtaking “This is Berk” opening scene that Hiccup, well, has a thing for Astrid. Things are exploding, dragons are attacking, fire is splaying everywhere and the music is rising in Celtic epicness. And then, just for a second, it all slows down, violins start up, and there she is—Astrid. Hiccup’s eyes go wide in awe as he watches, completely lost in her.
“And…Astrid!” He sighs in the opening narration.
The scene is very much overdone, to the most humourous effect. In a crowd, audiences will likely chuckle and smile at the ridiculous scene, thinking, “well, they’re definitely gonna get together in the end”. And in this vein, I’d like to point out that, well…clichés don’t have to be a horrible abomination! This scene points out right away that though this is so not original, it’s endearing, and we as audiences do enjoy seeing it in some way or another.
But it also makes one wonder about a more serious issue that this scene brings up. Why does Hiccup like Astrid so much? Is it just because she’s pretty? Is the film promoting superficial and shallow relationships?
My short answer is no. As this is only the beginning of the film, I rather have to say that of course our main is a little shallow and silly and likes only the pretty girls. We can definitely all be that way sometimes! But I’d like to point out that another reason he likes her so much is because she embodies so much of what he wants to be—she’s a great warrior, respected by her peers, and not seen as the total sham of the village. One reason I’d say he’s so attracted to her is that if she would accept him, then surely everyone would. If she would so much look at him, it would mean he was worth something. Is this still a pretty selfish reason for liking her? Well, yeah. But as the movie goes on, things change it up a bit.
We’ll get to that later.
The scene can also make one wonder a bit, of course, about how Astrid feels about Hiccup. While Hiccup clearly has a crush on Astrid, does she feel the same way about him? Well, no, probably not. But, there are hints early on that she doesn’t think badly of him, at least at first. See, after ruining the village and claiming he had slain a Night Fury, the other teenagers tease and make fun of him…
“Quite the performance,” Tuffnut laughs haughtily as his sister cackles.
“I’ve never seen anyone mess up that badly. That helped.” Snotlout adds mockingly.
Even Fishlegs had a big grin on his face at Hiccup’s goof-up. Astrid, meanwhile, looked troubled. She watched with concerned eyes as he walked past the group with his head down, muttering sarcastic replies to their comments.
“Thank you, thank you, I was trying…” he mumbles.
Of course, this may all be nothing, but I think there’s some significance to this. Particularly, I pay attention to the last thing that Hiccup says—“I was trying”. Astrid, remember, is a very serious, hard-worker, and dedicates her life to trying her best to slay dragons. While the other teens just laughed and made fun of Hiccup for his efforts, Astrid likely felt pity for him because he was trying so hard, just as she does, but he failed. The important thing, though, to her, was that he was taking it seriously. So, she didn’t feel right making fun of that—she likely realized that maybe that could have been her.
Also, though the scene was cut, the “An Axe to Grind” deleted scene hints at some more of this. Astrid had an interest in what Hiccup was doing to try to destroy dragons, curiously looking into his weird machines and devices designed to take dragons down; she doesn’t even make fun of him or call him a liar when he claims he shot down a Night Fury but it got away. She appreciates his efforts and that he’s taking it seriously, even if she’d do things a bit differently herself.
In any case, I feel it can be said that Astrid had no interest in romantic relations in the start of the film, judging by her seriousness for dragon-slaying and her annoyance and constant ignoring of Snotlout’s flirting with her. She likely put dragon-killing above everything, and didn’t even think about love. Though, as the film goes on, things change up a bit…
We’ll also get to that later.
So, the film goes on. Stoick and Gobber have a heartfelt talk about Hiccup,
is strong enough to make the decision not to kill a dragon, and then he’s booted off to dragon training. In terms of this shipping, Astrid treats Hiccup with total contempt, which, understandably, can make the viewers a bit upset with her and this pairing. She’s so rude to him!
My interpretation is that this girl is, again, very serious about what she does. While I’d say she feels pity for Hiccup because it’s not like he’s trying to suck, by this point in the story, she probably feels that he needs to be trying harder, and not be such a goof. She’s annoyed that he doesn’t seem concerned with his failures, and doesn’t seem to be trying to get better. She later blows off reading the dragon manual with him because while she feels sorry for him, she’s not about to spend time with the guy—she has better things to do, like practice more (particularly that somersault dive she messed up?) While it perhaps seemed cold, I feel she would have reacted the same way to any of the teenagers.
Astrid’s treatment towards Hiccup is probably the “worst” in their day with the Deadly Nadder. Hiccup is absorbed in talking with Gobber about Night Furies, while the Nadder was pouncing about the stage in a frenzy, knocking over walls and being a general pain. It ends up that Astrid topples right on top of Hiccup, and though he tries to act, she ends up taking the Nadder out and then turns to him, giving him probably the most important little speech in regards to her character:
“Is this some kind of a joke to you?! Our parents’ war is about to become ours. Figure out which side you’re on.”
At this, the same applies; Astrid’s so very serious about all this, and the fact that Hiccup seemingly isn’t makes her incredibly angry. I’d also like to point out that while Astrid doesn’t want anyone to get hurt (she seemed worried that she and Hiccup would be hurt if she didn’t do anything near the end of this segment), she definitely puts this dream of hers above basically all else. She could care less about love, flirting, I’d argue even friends. When Snotlout missed with his axe, she was quick to run off and do what she had to do. She’s very much “business first”, and she doesn’t waste time being sweet about things that she doesn’t agree with.
Of course, this is probably one of the more important scenes with this couple, with the other teens even teasing the two about it (“love on the battlefield!”), but what I think is interesting is that both Hiccup and Astrid here don’t even seem very phased by the “romantic” implications. Hiccup, I’d argue, stops seeing Astrid just as “that pretty, kickass girl” by this point, and treats her words and feelings with respect. Simply look at his downcast face after she lectures him—he wasn’t ignoring her because she was pretty, or just goggling her; no, he was respecting what she thought, and seriously contemplating it himself. He wasn’t gazing at her with awe like in the beginning, but seeing her as a person and more than a pretty “prize” to be won.
Now, I’d like to point out that Astrid is no heartless bitch, and while she puts her dream above even herself, it’s not like she doesn’t have concern for others. I’d say that she, at first, didn’t really care of friends or love, but just to be regarded as a great warrior and be good at what she does, yet she shows signs of a “protective” sort of personality, and tries her best to protect those around her. In the aforementioned incident with her and Snotlout when he missed the Nadder with his axe, for example, she runs off to, in a sense, “save” him as she realized he couldn’t save her. One interesting scene between Hiccup and Astrid that shows a bit of this “protective” side is when Gobber speaks of how he lost his hand and foot, and how getting the tails of dragons renders them unable to fly, which provokes Hiccup to leave the campfire without eating his fish. Astrid is curious and perhaps troubled at his uneaten dinner, and stands up to watch him go in awe. I’d argue she was a bit concerned for him here; as much as she was annoyed with him, she definitely didn’t want him to get hurt or go hungry. Also, Hiccup hadn’t done anything “impressive” in the ring yet, so she had no reason to be suspicious of him at this point—meaning that her looking after him was something completely out of a sort of concern for him.
Yet, it seems that Astrid is almost ashamed of these concerns for others; she turns away regretfully after the dinner scene, and she seems to shake herself out of it in the beginning after Hiccup screwed up. I think it can be assumed she thinks of this protective nature as “unprofessional”, and that when she feels in such ways, she must think more on her goal.
Aaaand, moving on, we get to the cutesy, river-dance montage where Hiccup uses what he learns from Toothless in the ring and becomes beloved by everyone. Well…everyone except Astrid. This is where her contempt changes to downright jealousy. And why? Simple. She’s trying so hard, putting so much effort into dragon-slaying (just look at the way she flings that axe around!), and…Hiccup, of all people, Hiccup, who’s a goof and doesn’t seem to be trying very hard at all, is getting all the glory and the success! She gets rather bitter—why was he doing so well, and why was he beating her? Surely there has to be a secret of some sort, there’s no way anyone could get that good…! She grows suspicious, jealous, angry, but I also think she’s mostly incredibly upset at the whole thing. Was all her effort for naught, if some guy could just goof around and do better than she did?
I think it’s also important to note that Hiccup is considerably sorry for Astrid when he beats her in dragon training. He knows, by this point, that she’s trying her hardest and doing her best, and he feels bad for beating her—for knowing secrets that she doesn’t. Once he wins, he doesn’t look to see how proud his father his, something I find very important considering how much his father’s acceptance means to him, but instead looks scared and sorrowfully to Astrid—I’d say putting her feelings above his own there. Of course, it wasn’t just for Astrid, but the sake of the dragons as well, but I think it points out how much more he was caring for Astrid as a person and how he was contemplating her feelings, as opposed to before, when he just…goggled at her.
Now, it’s the confrontation scene, and one of the most hilarious (and probably my favourite) scenes with these two. Astrid demands that Hiccup spill the beans, and though he tries to slither his way out of it, Toothless is revealed and the truth is out. What I find most interesting about this, though, is that even though Astrid is pissed off, jealous, and so upset with Hiccup at this moment, she still jumps to protect him when Toothless reveals himself, showing that she truly doesn’t want him to get hurt, no matter what.
Woo, and on to the cheesy dragon flight scene!! A lot of people aren’t too particularly fond of this scene, and admittedly, it does come off as a little forced and well, super extremely cheesy. (But c’mon, the good music makes up for it, right?) But while I do wish this scene had more time and focus on it, I find it incredibly beautiful, heartfelt, and think it does well in portraying the relationship between these two characters. And especially, I think it does well in showing a change in Astrid’s situation.
This scene essentially lets the viewers know just how strangled by her ambitions and dreams Astrid is. She let that seriousness towards her goal take over her life; so much so that she was neglecting herself, friends, love, and seemingly being ashamed at signs of affection. Her intense seriousness towards it all destroyed the idea of looking at something with an open mind, and thinking with her heart rather than her mind.
When she first gets launched into the tree and climbs angrily upon Toothless, she thinks it’s all ridiculous, stupid and that she should be shoving an axe into that dragon’s head. Her thoughts are only furthered when he behaves like rodeo horse and flings her all around. But, put into this state of panic, she lets go. Spinning in the sky, it didn’t matter if she ever became a great dragon-slayer or not, it didn’t matter if she wasn’t number one, it didn’t matter if she messed up, it didn’t matter what others thought of her…so she grabs hold of Hiccup and begs it all to stop—not speaking as the harsh, business-first, serious Astrid, but as herself, an upset girl who just had her dreams crushed.
“OK! I am sorry! I’m sorry! Just get me off this thing.” She cries, clutching Hiccup, not trying at all to sound tough, but just as she felt inside, not even caring what anyone thought of it.
And WHAM! The flight calms, everything suddenly becomes beautiful, and the magic starts. Yeah, it’s just “seeing a bunch of pretty clouds”, but it’s also a lot more than that. What does flying represent? Independence. An escape. Freedom. Through this, this beautifully crafted scene represents a world away from the bounds of society—a world that the only one human had known before, Hiccup. Up there, Astrid didn’t have to look strong or tough or brave…she could just be herself, and fall into the dream-like world around her. Up there, there wasn’t any worry that she couldn’t be the best warrior; no, she could just be free, and away from that deadly serious nature she had before.
What makes it so incredibly special, to me, is that Hiccup is actively sharing this world with Astrid. This world of flying and being in the sky is a secret that brought him so much happiness and ease, and he lets her in on it. It’s their secret at that moment. Astrid, of course, must realize this; she gives Hiccup a gentle squeeze as a sort of “thank you”. For, surely, no one had freed her from the chains of her choking seriousness before.
I don’t think words can really describe the impact of this scene. Astrid is able to see things in a different way, look at the world in a new light, and be freed from what held her down, all due to Hiccup. It brings a sense of understanding between the two because they both now know of the “truth”, and as such, everything suddenly makes sense. Astrid stops treating Hiccup with jealousy and contempt, but with a soft kindness; she “gets” him now, and she’s not afraid to show affection anymore. She’s no longer so locked up into her dream that she forgets to show that she loves, or covers up her concerns. And while I’d argue that Hiccup was giving her respect and courtesy before, now she gives it to him. She stops seeing him then as someone who blocks her path, but as an equal, and she works with him to make their society better. She still, of course, being Astrid, argues with him (“To protect your pet dragon? Are you serious?”), but just by listening to the tone of his voice, seeing his expression, she can understand him and just how much he’s been through.
In the darkened night, she throws him a little punch. "That's for kidnapping me," she says. And then they share their first kiss. "That's for...everything else."
All the rest of the scenes with these two play off of the very important “cheesy dragon flight” scene. That scene opened Astrid’s eyes, and with it, brought Hiccup and Astrid closer together. She was able to let go, be free, and together they share a secret that no one else knew of. When Hiccup’s efforts at changing his society fail, Astrid is the only one that can talk sense into him—she was the only other person who knew what he knew, saw what he saw, and the only one truly capable of understanding him in that moment. In his Heroic BSOD, she plays with him in a way that only Astrid could do, but she is able to say just what he needed to hear, and get his butt into action. The scene just shows the spark and chemistry between them so well, and how much they really suit each other:
Astrid: It’s a mess. You must feel horrible. You’ve lost everything: your father, your tribe, your best friend.
Hiccup: Thank you, for summing that up. *pause* Why couldn’t I have killed that dragon when I found him in the woods? Would have been better, for everyone.
Astrid: Yep. The rest of us would have done it. So why didn’t you? Why didn’t you?
Hiccup: I don’t know. I couldn’t.
Astrid: That’s not an answer.
Hiccup: Why is this so important to you all of a sudden?
Astrid: Because I want to remember what you say right now.
Hiccup: Oh for the love of... I was a coward. I was weak. I wouldn’t kill a dragon.
Astrid: You said “wouldn’t” that time.
Hiccup: Whatever! I wouldn’t! Three hundred years, and I’m the first Viking who wouldn’t kill a dragon!
Astrid: First to ride one, though. So…?
Hiccup: I wouldn’t kill him because he looked as frightened as I was. I looked at him, and I saw myself.
Astrid: I bet he’s really frightened now. What are you going to do about it?
Hiccup: Eh, probably something stupid.
Astrid: Good, but you’ve already done that.
Hiccup: Then something crazy.
Astrid: That’s more like it.
Astrid, though free from that awful seriousness that had choked her before, is still very much Astrid. She’s tough, she’s strong, clever, and she’s not going to sweet-talk anyone. She plays along with Hiccup, and through this is able to get him to come to the right decision.
And by now, there’s really not much more to say about these two. Astrid’s gotten to a point where she’s no longer so serious about everything that she forgets to live, have fun, and love. Hiccup’s gotten past superficiality and respects Astrid as she is, not just as a pretty object. So, the battle rages on, the climax comes and falls, and then Astrid and Hiccup share one final kiss…
“I could get used to this…”
What more can I say? This couple’s cheesy as can be, but through corny dragon rides and a pair of wonderfully developed characters, I can hardly find it in me to be bothered by it. Oh, and Astrid wears the pants in this one—and who doesn’t love that? ;)
The fandom for this movie is pretty large, and there are so many nice pieces featuring these two that I can’t even hope to provide a good list of all the great ones, but here’s a small tidbit of what I’d recommend:
Hiccup and Astrid by MidoriEyes
Fired Up—Hiccup x Astrid by xxMeMoRiEzxx
Hiccup and Astrid Color by 44lol
Hiccup Astrid kiss by NikyNever
Hiccup and Astrid by NautilusL2
Hiccup loves Astrid comic part 1, part 2, part 3, bonus image by secondlina
Whooaaahhhuuummm by selene231
Astrid and Hiccup by gegina
And a few groups with nice fics/art:
Thanks for reading!!