How to Train Your Dragon: What Hiccup and Toothless Mean to Me

…I looked at him, and I saw myself.

I know this is what Hiccup felt when he saw Toothless, but it’s an apt description for how I felt as well. I looked at Hiccup, and I saw myself.

15-16 years old, same age as Hiccup, I was at the beginning of a pretty horrible 5-6 years. I was sitting on my bed checking out this movie, How To Train Your Dragon, that everyone seemed so excited about. If I liked it, I’d show my family.

And I saw him. I saw a boy, an adorable boy. A boy who felt out of place in his world that only valued things he was not able to achieve. He didn’t know who to be, how to be. He was lost.

baby hiccup

But I also saw what lay beneath the surface, hidden below the aching loneliness and insecurity. A deep gentleness, his art speaks of that. A thinker, a planner, an inventer. And a friend.

The key to why How to Train Your Dragon is so special is not because there are dragons. Not because of the animation (which is breathtaking). Not because of the voice cast. Not even because of the amazing music. Music that I have listened to over and over again, sometimes during the hardest or emptiest moments of my life because it gave me hope and courage.

No, the key to How To Train Your Dragon is relationship.

That is the sole foundation, the common thread, the stone upon which the story is built.

Fierce Toothless

How to Train Your Dragon is the story of a remarkable friendship that not only shapes two remarkable individuals but also changes the course of the world’s history.

I felt like I was drinking from the fountain of youth during the scene where Hiccup and Toothless first bond. The colors, the movement, the soul! The connection of two characters who find not only belonging with one another but healing as well. It was so beautiful it made my heart thirst.

I was in tears when Toothless and Hiccup flew for the first time. Yes, of course, the music is triumphant, but they are free. So free. Out there in that wild wind and ever-changing and alive sky. That moment captured things in my heart that had been burning for as long as I could remember.

At that time in my life, like Hiccup, I wanted to run away. I felt trapped by my circumstances, by the strife in my family, by my own body as crushing anxiety caused terrifying symptoms to exhibit themselves. School became this heavy burden that I felt inadequate to bear. I wanted to leave, to find purpose and adventure somewhere else!

That was 6 years ago. In the time in between, somewhat like Hiccup, I have lost a parent through a divorce and the climax of decades of pain. I’ve had my world turned on its ear countless times. I’ve had to grow from child to woman under some very difficult circumstances.

And yet…I’ve learned to soar.

Flying Toothless

I always wanted to be free. As a child and teenager, I used to have these dreams where I found a stretch of rolling green hills. I knew that those hills ran on and on and on, into the wide open space of the West, into mountains and big skies. In the dreams, I would take off running into that world, nothing but me and miles of freedom. I could leave my problems behind me.

Running away. It would have been easy for Hiccup to jump onto Toothless’ back and take off into the sunset, never to return. He could have become a dragon-person like his mother, living apart from the human world. It was too hard to bring change, too hard to go against the grain. Too hard.

Hiccup does consider running away, but he is halted by the future love of his life, Astrid (a love story that deserves more attention on another day). Astrid has a way of calling the man out of Hiccup when no one else can. Not just the Man, the Chief.

hiccstrid

For that is who Hiccup is meant to be, he is meant to be a chief. A king, a leader, a pillar of strength for his people. This is who he is destined to be. Who people need him to be. 

Valka (Hiccup’s mother) had a very similar heart to her son, but she lacked his courage and determination. She lacked his hope. Valka never chose to return to her family and village, thus robbing them of the life and change she could have brought.

I had/have people who needed me to. I too have a destiny. And that destiny does not come in the solitude of those rolling green hills of my dreams. Hiccup finds freedom right where he is at, and because he stays and steps into the responsibility of who he was made to be…

he changes the world forever.

hiccup haddock III

I did too. I stayed. It felt like death sometimes, but I stayed. No, I hadn’t actually been planning on hopping on a plane to run away, but I was toying with the idea of running away in my heart. Checking out. Leaving it all behind to set off on a “grand adventure”.

Oh, what I would have missed. I might have missed changing the world forever. 

I’m free now. I have found the freedom I was looking for in the Heart of My King, My Abba Father. This thirst for the wild, alive skies? The rolling green hills? The adventures? He put those things inside of me, and now I know I do not have to run away to find them, I just have to run to Him.

I also found myself, in Him, in His freedom, in my relationship with Jesus and the relationships I built, I found me.

I’m a lot like Hiccup. I’m a peacemaker, a strategist, a warrior, an artist, a thinker, a friend…and a leader who thrives on connection.

Hiccup is the kind of leader that I aspire to be. He does not lead out of a desire for control, he leads to make a difference. People are drawn to Hiccup because he lifts them up, he brings fresh ideas and purpose to the table, and he draws the best out of everyone around him. Hiccup is a redeemer, he gives second chances and forgiveness willingly.

hiccup a warrior

We get to observe this type of leadership more so in Dragons: Race to the Edge the series on Netflix that takes place between HTTYD 1 and HTTYD 2. If you have not watched this series, I highly recommend it. It’s in this series that we watch Hiccup go from being a boy to becoming a man. A king!

You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon.

His mother is right. Hiccup is a noble leader with a fierce and gentle heart. It’s a long and often painful road that leads him to become who he was meant to be. I can relate to that. If I had known what my life held for me I don’t know if I would have gotten in line. 😉

But I’m here now. I’m me. And I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for the relationships and connections that upheld me to this point…just like Hiccup and Toothless.

Hiccup and Toothless were two broken people who needed each other to fly. The strength of their friendship as they walked through those hard years together is what enables both of them to walk their own respective paths when the time comes.

God is everything to me. He’s the air I breathe, the dreams I have, the plans I make, the colors I love, the gifts I carry, the bright future I walk into. My mom and siblings have stuck by me through thick and thin, and we have held each other up in the dark of night and the light of day. I have a wonderful group of friends who I have laughed and cried with over the years. My circle is ever expanding, my ability to influence for truth and love is ever-growing.

I love my life. I love my story, even the ugly parts. Because the person I was destined to be is beautiful and I am going to change this world.

Taming Toothless

Hiccup and Toothless began their story together as youths, but they part ways as kings.

I feel as if I have grown up with Hiccup. I have been inspired and encouraged by this oh-so-human character and his oh-so-human best friend and the story of them facing life together. Like Hiccup and Toothless, I began this story as a youth, I am parting from this story as a queen.

However, unlike Hiccup and Toothless, my story is just beginning.

My relationship and connection with this story, with these characters has changed me. I am so sad to be saying goodbye, but I am so grateful for the journey. How To Train Your Dragon was and still is a powerful influence for good in my life.

One last battle. One last journey. A friendship to last a lifetime. See you at the movies.

hiccup and toothless, kings

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The Need for a Sparring Partner- Part 2

Sparring partners can come in many forms. They can be good friends and allies. They are often love interests. Many sparring partners actually come in the form of villains who, by adding negative pressure, force the hero to get stronger. A sparring partner can also come in the form of a setting or circumstance.

Here are a few examples of good sparring partners.

Love Interest Sparring Partners

Han Solo and Princess Leia

There is no question that Han’s interest in Leia opened the door for him to reveal his big heart and put it out on his sleeve. Han’s drive to fight for Leia, Luke, and the Rebellion pushed him to greater things and more selflessness than ever before.

Leia’s love for Han opened up places in her heart that she had carefully shielded. She is a more well-rounded person because of him.

Image result for han solo leia gifs

And let us all just recognize the masterpiece that are Han and Leia’s verbal exchanges. I think some of the most legendary film dialogue ever written takes place in The Empire Strikes Back.

Finn and Rey

In the course of just a few days, Finn goes from being a frightened Stormtrooper to charging fearlessly into Starkiller Base and dueling with a Dark Side warrior. Finn makes this incredible 180 turnaround because of one person: Rey. Rey simply being who she is pushes Finn to desire to be better, to be more. And that mighty person is exactly what he becomes.

Likewise, Finn touches Rey’s heart by being the first person in her life who has shown her concern, care, and friendship. His choices regarding her make a huge impact on her chosen direction. Finn was a catalyst in Rey’s life that helped move her down the path she is destined for.

Barry Allen and Iris West 

I wish I had time to cover everything I have to say on the subject of West-Allen. I promise you, there is a juicy article in the works.

Barry Allen has been in love with Iris West since forever. Iris has always believed in Barry, even when he didn’t believe in himself. The combination of these two is dynamite.

Barry runs faster, punches harder, and doesn’t give up because he knows that Iris believes in him. She is his inspiration as well as his home.

Iris has always been inspired by Barry, she has always believed in him, even before he became the Flash. Her relationship with Barry throughout the years has helped shape her into a compassionate and mighty person who makes things happen. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind to Barry, even when he doesn’t want to listen.

Like I said, dynamite.

Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter

*Sigh*, we’ve lived this story so many times and it always hurts. But it still wows me.

Steve Rogers immediately saw the strength, dignity, and heart in Peggy Carter. She was everything he could have ever dreamed for in a woman. Knowing her made him want to be better all the time. He carries a picture of her in his compass because Peggy is his true north, his guide, even after her death her words and heart still reach him at his core.

Peggy Carter was almost instantaneously impacted by Steve Rogers. She fell in love with him on Day 1 and his memory inspired pretty much her entire life. She felt that no one, including her, could ever hope to be everything that Steve was. Keeping him in mind, Peggy lived a legendary life that inspired others.

Best Friends

Steve and Bucky

They are with each other “To the end of the line.” 

Growing up, Bucky kept Steve alive. He never failed to have Steve’s back. He took punches, fought battles, and held his friend up through anything. Knowing that scrawny kid from Brooklyn with the massive heart made Bucky into the best friend everyone dreams of. He is a total hero. Without Bucky, there never would have been Captain America

Steve had the best friend in the world, one he could always depend on. When Steve thought he lost Bucky, he kept going with Bucky still sitting in his heart. The knowledge of who Bucky was and the sacrifices he willingly made hugely impacted Steve’s life choices. Later on, when Steve learned Bucky wasn’t actually dead but now a brainwashed assassin, Steve didn’t write his friend off. He walked through fire and ice to save his friend, without hesitation.

Hiccup and Toothless

Hiccup Haddock began to come into his own as soon as he met Toothless. While Hiccup already had many unrecognized talents and abilities, he never had a reason to bring them forward until he met his dragon. Toothless made Hiccup grow into a selfless leader who is constantly improving. Hiccup never settles or stays stagnant, he is always improving, always growing.

Bonding with Hiccup pushed Toothless beyond the bounds of ordinary dragons. Toothless was already an extraordinary dragon, but his great love for Hiccup has pushed him to do things that go even against his own biological instinct. The greatest example of this is when he challenges the Alpha Bewilderbeast in order to protect Hiccup.

Hiccup and Toothless are stronger together, they inspire and push each other to greater heights all the time.

Woody and Buzz

Despite a rough beginning, Woody and Buzz have a friendship that real life people are jealous of. While Woody at first felt threatened by Buzz’s strong presence, he has since grown to appreciate and lean on this brave little space ranger’s shoulder. Woody helped Buzz face reality, learn resourcefulness, and taught him the joy of being a child’s toy.

Buzz is Woody’s backbone. When Woody needs support, Buzz is there. When Woody can’t lead the other toys, Buzz steps up to the plate. When Woody forgets who he is and what being a toy means, Buzz is there to remind him. Great friends remind each other who they are when one has forgotten.

Woody and Buzz make each other better, they fill each other out and made one heck of a team.

Enemies

Flash and Reverse Flash

Run, Barry, run!

Eobard Thawne (aka Harrison Wells/The Reverse Flash) is a top example of a how a villain can be an excellent sparring partner.

Thawne is incredibly layered and complex because he has been the friend, mentor, villain, and created circumstances that have all shaped Barry and forced him to become better. Thawne is constantly moving around and changing up his strategy to manipulate Barry’s actions. That being said, everything that Thawne has done has still made Barry faster, stronger, and smarter.

 

Barry continually overcomes obstacles and springs back up. Whenever Thawne thinks he has won, or at least stolen something from Barry, the strength of Barry’s will and heart still carry the day. Thawne continually has to change and evolve his strategy because he just can’t seem to take a good Barry down.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader

There are dozens of articles waiting to happen regarding the Skywalker family. I’ll try to keep it simple here for now.

Luke Skywalker came onto the scene as a whiny kid who had raw talent and Force abilities. And he was in WAY OVER HIS HEAD. Still, he had a enough mentoring in the form of Obi-Wan to jump-start his Jedi career. He also adopted his own personal enemy, the scary guy known as Darth Vader.

Luke was driven to conquer Vader for multiple reasons. He knew Vader to be the villain that destroyed his father (whom Luke worships), Vader killed his mentor (Obi-Wan), and Luke knows that in order to become a powerful Jedi, defeating Vader is his primary concern.

This drive to defeat Vader pushes Luke to train. His time spent on Dagobah was all geared towards his impending confrontation with Vader. Mentally, and physically, Luke was preparing himself for the sole goal of defeating Vader. And then, SURPRISE!

This was a huge moment for Luke’s character. Everything could have fallen apart right here, but lucky for us Luke was smart enough to fall down a ventilation shaft and get the heck outta there.

By the sixth movie, Luke’s goal and drive was to win his father back. He was calm, focused, and frighteningly strong. He faced down Vader and the Emperor without fear. He declared himself to be a true Jedi and confirmed his belief in the good left in Anakin Skywalker. Because of his back and forth battle with Vader, emotionally, physically, and mentally, Luke walks out of Return of the Jedi a total superstar.

 

Darth Vader was trapped. He was evil, he hated the Emperor, and he hated himself. But he was too weak to do anything about it. Until he met Luke.

“The Force is strong with this one.” He becomes obsessed with tracking Luke down and bringing Luke over to his side to join him and overthrow the Emperor.

But that Luke is just too darned determined! He’s slippery, he has good friends who have his back, and Luke is surprisingly strong. Vader has to keep thinking outside of the carbonite chamber in order to track Luke down.

He tries to play the “I’m your Daddy, I know you have Daddy issues” card and his kid purposely falls down a ventilation shaft to get away.

Luke awakens something in Vader. He awakens whatever is left of Anakin that is buried inside of this dark Sith lord.

Vader is in awe of this kid, his kid, who keeps popping back up and just getting stronger all the time. Vader is at war within himself, the Dark and Light side are both tugging at him. One side is his enslaved mind to his Master, and on the other side is his love and admiration for his son.

Luke’s faithfulness and strength are strong enough to make Darth Vader shake himself out of years of darkness and slavery, and overcome the evil that is both himself and the Emperor.

If Luke had never been forced to face Vader, he wouldn’t be so strong. And if Luke hadn’t been so strong, Vader never would have returned to being Anakin. That right there is a showcase of the great power of a excellent sparring partner.

Vader and Luke were sparring partners from the very beginning, even though the nature of their interaction with each other evolved and changed throughout the story.

Setting/Circumstance

Mars and Mark Watney

The Martian has to be one of the best films I have ever seen. It was man vs. Mars wrapped up in a dramatic, yet lighthearted and educational package..

There is no villain in The Martian, but there is an antagonist, and one heck of a sparring partner: Mars.

An inanimate object, a thing with no mind, will, or emotions still takes on the role of the opposition. In order to stay alive, Mark Watney has to essentially beat Mars. He has to out-think, out-math, out-science, out-wit, and out-mental Mars.

Mars proves to be a pretty tough sparring partner. It constantly throws things Mark’s way that almost kill him.

Mark jumps through hoops, solves seemingly impossible equations, and comes up with gadgets and gizmos that would make MacGyver weep. Mark also grows very mentally strong during this ordeal. While he faces heartache, loneliness, despair, and fear, he never gives up.

The Mark Watney who went into space with his buddies is not the same Mark Watney that comes back to earth. He has conquered the unimaginable and come out victorious.

Mark still has an affection for Mars. Even though just about every aspect of Mars was trying to kill him on a regular basis, Mark appreciated the beauty and wonder of Mars. Mars was practically became a character in its own right.

Mark’s character sparred with Mars and he grew exponentially. Those watching Mark grew. Mark’s goal to stay in the match (stay alive) with Mars created a ripple effect that went all the way down to earth. Thousands of people were effected and made stronger by the match with Mars.

Jurassic Park Movies- Man Vs. Nature

Yet another series that I have so much to say on, but now is not the time.

The Jurassic Park films are an amazing example of using setting/circumstance as a sparring partner. I put the dinosaurs into the category of setting because the dinosaurs are not dangerous for any emotional or personal reason. This takes the soul and emotion out of the situation, fitting it more into the category of an emotionless setting or circumstance rather than an emotionally-driven character.

While there are human villains in these films, those humans and their effective harm pale in comparison to the dinosaurs and the damage they cause.

Yes, a dinosaur is a living creature, but it is a creature without a spirit and soul. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are merely behaving out of their instincts, making them less personal, but no-less deadly. This of course was changed in Jurassic World, when the Indominus Rex began to rampage beyond the need for food or defense, but instead merely for sport.

The characters in the first 3 Jurassic films often go into the situation with wide-eyes and little wisdom.

It doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are pretty well out-matched and they are going to have to adapt and learn fast if they want to live.

The ones who make it out do so because their characters had a growth spurt. They learned to stop underestimating these animals. They learn the animals’ strengths and weaknesses.

The animals also change and adapt. The velociraptors in particular. They experience new circumstances, absorb the information, and then adapt to the new situation. More than any other dinosaur species in this movie series, the velociraptors prove that they are not stagnant and will continue to change and grow. That makes them ever-increasingly difficult to defeat.

This is an incredibly unique set-up, one where an animal is the human’s great sparring partner/enemy, but the non-emotional creature is also learning and growing because of the human’s involvement.

*****

The need for good sparring partners is vital for any story, be it a film, a book, or your real life. I draw a lot from studying these interactions on screen, and I hope now you can too.

What type of sparring partners do you enjoy the most? Villains and heroes? Love interests? Best friends? Setting/circumstance? What are some of your favorite sparring partners on screen? Do you have great real life sparring partners that help you grow and mature?

I’d love to hear your stories and your opinions. Share what you love, I want to know what you think.

And if you missed my previous article, you can find it here.