An Unknowing Hero

HiccupTo celebrate the long-awaited (for me, anyways) reveal of the How to Train Your Dragon 2 teaser trailer on Friday, here’s a post on another of my heroes: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.

My favourite movie, ever since it came out, is How to Train Your Dragon. Funny thing is, I went into it thinking it wouldn’t be very good. When I came out of the theatre, I was in love with it. Even now, I still find it newly enjoyable to watch, even though I know 97% of the lines. I love the humour, the heart, and the story of the movie, but what I really love is the hero–Hiccup.

And probably the part I love most about him is the fact that he doesn’t actually try to be a hero.

Hiccup quickly realizes that he can’t kill a dragon, which was the only way he would be accepted by his father and his village, and that’s when his trouble starts. He has to pretend that he’s a true viking while protecting his dragon friend, Toothless, and that situation goes bad very quickly. And when both his father and his dragon are in danger–that’s when he unknowingly becomes a hero.

Hiccup is overall a pretty clumsy guy. He’s unpopular with the other teens and is renowned for his spectacular mess-ups. He’s not too terribly courageous or strong, he’s discouraged about his own image, and he’s not very outgoing. But he is resourceful and inventive, he’s observant and curious, and he’s a pretty smart kid. He’s also got a good heart, as he explains when he says that he saw the fear in Toothless and realized he felt the same way–and that was why he had to save him.

The thing is, as much as Hiccup wants to be accepted in the village as a big, tough viking, when he actually does something that would make him viking material, he isn’t trying at all. When he saves the captured Night Fury dragon in the forest, he isn’t trying to be heroic. When he later takes a leap of faith to rescue Toothless, and then risks his life to save his father and his friends, he isn’t doing it because he knows it will make the others like him. He’s doing it because he cares for them. He may not be particularly courageous, but he’s incredibly brave–he’ll do whatever it takes, no matter the cost.

I love that Hiccup doesn’t try to make himself anything better than what he already is. I love that he doesn’t make himself fit the viking mold. He stays true to himself and becomes a heck of a better hero than he could ever have become otherwise. Hiccup has taught me that there is absolutely no shame in not living up to someone else’s–or maybe even your own–expectations.

Dragons and Tuff

Tuffnut, Toothless, and Hookfang from How to Train Your Dragon

Sometimes I’ve wanted myself to be taller and stronger and bolder than I really am. I’ve wanted to fit a certain tough, warrior-like image that I’ve built for myself, when in reality I’m short and small. That can be discouraging, but when I see Hiccup–scrawny, trouble-prone, unpopular Hiccup–doing incredible things that I’ve never even dreamed of, I wonder if I can’t do the same. Just because a person isn’t very big or tough or outgoing doesn’t mean they can’t be a hero.

Really, you just have to find your own heroic profile. For Hiccup, it was his gentle bond with his dragon Toothless, as well as his bold, creative mind. When he stopped caring about making himself “better”, he started doing great things. That’s an inspiration that I try to keep close in my mind.

Besides loving Hiccup because he’s an effortless hero without even really knowing it, I also love a particular feature in his character design. If you look very closely, you can see a small scar on his chin that is present through the whole movie. It even stretches when he smiles. And if you look closely at Toothless, you can see some scars from the ropes that first captured him. I find it such a small detail that the animators added, but one that gives Hiccup more believability as a character.

And–bonus!–I think I could see the same scar still present in the teaser trailer for HTTYD2. If that’s the case, then I am very, very happy.

What sorts of talents do you have?

May you never try too hard to be something greater than you are, and become an unknowing hero by being true to yourself.

-Alex

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