Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III: A Progressive Hero
How To Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) is Dreamworks Animation’s most popular franchise so far and captivates audiences by blending innovation and creativity into a fast flying film. It has an engaging cast, refreshing dry humor, and colorful, larger than life beasts. All these action-packed aspects somewhat anticlimatically revolve around Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Berk’s Viking nobody. He is the failure of the village with no Viking prowess or, in their view, any redeemable qualities. As his mentor, Gobber so delicately puts it, “Stop being all of you!” But as the story progresses, Hiccup’s curiosity gets the best of him and he begins to learn more about the dragons that attack his village. He ends up saving Berk by breaking the status quo, befriending a rare Night Fury, Toothless, and learning to fly him. Even though everyone thinks he is useless, this Viking nobody becomes a hero and shows that a brave heart can make up for any other shortcomings. Hiccup has characteristics that make him unique from other conventional heroes and an exceptional example of a progressive thinker for his time.
One of the first things that makes Hiccup stand-out from the typical image of a hero is his appearance; he does not have a stature or presence that particularly screams “manly.” Hiccup is short, lanky, weak, and contrasts his ethnicity’s lauded muscular, athletic characteristics. As Hiccup artfully states while imitating his father, “Excuse me, barmaid! I’m afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side. This here, this is a talking fish-bone!” Berk immediately labels Hiccup as “other” because he does not possess the body image of the other Vikings. In the second movie, it is revealed Hiccup’s stature is caused by his premature birth, which cut his development short and resulted in his weak frame. But this does not stop him from saving the day. Actually, it is because Hiccup lacks a profound physical physique that he is able to pull through and defend his people from the dragons. Instead of focusing on his weaknesses, he focuses on his strength, one that has never been seen as a strength in the Viking community: his wit.
Hiccup can definitely be classified as a “brains over brawn” hero since, as previously stated, he has no brawn. But Hiccup does have a stand-out quality; he has the ability to think differently from everyone in Berk. A true embodiment of the power of innovation, Hiccup is not a dragon killer but an engineer. In the first movie, he studies a wild beast and trains it using his logic and his knack for inventing. This feat takes a lot of thought, preparation and, to get close to what is known as a deadly creature, courage. Without these traits, life in Berk would have stayed the same and most of the village would have been destroyed when they attacked the Red Death’s nest in the first movie. Hiccup’s innovations and outside perspective changed life on Berk and, as a result, saved countless lives from being lost in the unjust war against dragons. He may not have the strength and looks of Superman or Captain America, but Hiccup still has the power and determination to do what is right and get the job done.
Another aspect that makes Hiccup different from other heroes is that he does not fight. The Vikings, ironically, have a pacifist hero. He is never gung-ho about the idea of fighting to win; he always tries to negotiate peace first. This turns out to be one of his downsides in the second movie and eventually leads him to trouble when he realizes that “men who kill without reason cannot be reasoned with.” Still, his pacifism and compassion are his most admirable traits and are what lead him to empathizing with the dragons, understanding them, and becoming a dragon master. Hiccup is not aggressive like Thor, the hero and god his people worship, and only fights when he has to, hoping his words will do more damage than Toothless’ fireballs.
Arguably the most important characteristic that makes Hiccup a progressive, inspiring hero is the fact that he is not a healthy young male. He is disabled; he walks on a peg leg, similar to how Toothless flies with a prosthetic tail flap. How often do you see disabled heroes? Luke Skywalker does lose his hand but gets a robotic one to replace it that functions just like the real thing. This is not the case for Hiccup after he loses the lower part of his leg; the limited technology in his village can’t supply him with an anatomic duplicate. After his amputation, he is given a metal stub which, even after he updates it, causes him to limp and hobble when he walks. The primitive metal leg makes it easy for him to slip on ice (not necessarily useful in a Nordic village) and sometimes get caught in his riding saddle.
Still, Hiccup is a great example that, no matter the physical obstacles, anyone can be a hero. He is the Oscar Pistorius of Berk (minus the murder allegations). He does not let his disability define him or stop him from succeeding. Hiccup actually pays little mind to it in the entirety of the second film, even going so far as to joking about his leg when explaining the situation to his mother. No matter their imperfections, Hiccup and Toothless fly better than all the rest, showing once again that it is not physical prowess that makes a hero. It is skill, dedication, and personal drive make good men great.
HTTYD is a franchise that teaches many lessons, but the most prominent one is Hiccup’s success story as he rises above adversity and stays true to himself and his beliefs, no matter the societal pressures. This little Viking that could proves that defeating the villain and protecting what’s important doesn’t take looks, strength, or power; always striving to do the right thing is what makes Hiccup a hero. His choice to negotiate instead of wage war, to build tools instead of weapons, and, most progressively for his village, his choice to save the dragons instead of kill them make this newly crowned Chief of Berk a reformer of his time that brings peace and shatters traditional Viking values. Hiccup matures into a leader without changing what he fundamentally believes, a trait that anyone could look up to in a hero. If little, puny Hiccup can pull through and save the day, then surely anybody can, which is precisely why he is such an inspiring hero for all who know his story.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
The first one was one of the greatest animated movies of all time. I didn’t think the trailers to the sequel looked that great, but reviews are saying otherwise.
Just saw 2nd one last night, pretty great! I liked it more than the original it had more character development with Hiccup, his relationship with Toothless, and overall the story and humor were great. The visuals my GOD! I think there is no longer a difference between studios visual wise, I think were at a point where Dreamworks, Pixar, and Disney all have equally amazing visuals and it comes down to who can write, the better stories, and who has the better characters.
Such great character development, story, animation heart in the original film. And its a bloody animated movie. I cannot wait to see the second one. Hiccup looks like he went full badass in between the two.
The movies are EPIC. I laughed, cried, and cheered as an adult in the movie theater. All characters are well developed.
An animated movie where the characters actually grow!? What witch craft is this?
Very well written article! I absolutely loved Hiccup’s character growth in the second film, I wonder if they will make a third film about Toothless.
Hi Jermac! I def know they’re making a third film! The director said he wouldn’t take on the HTTYD project unless he could make it a trilogy. I’m excited to see what it’s about in 2016!
Great article! I was a huge fan of Hiccup in the first film. I’m a big fan of the brains over brawn hero. I’ll be sure to check out the sequel sometime soon!
The dragon and Hiccup seem to serve as a foil to each other.
I enjoyed your article very much! Character development seems like it is becoming more and more prevalent in animated movies, as these movies can have characters that don’t fit traditional molds.
The sequel pleased me just as much and stayed true to Hiccup’s heroic authenticity. Enjoyable read!
The first one shocked me at how good it was, the main character is great.
Looks like animated films are making a comeback in terms of quality. Frozen, Lego Movie…
The character development and story helped drive the franchise forward in the right direction, and once again the scoring by John Powell is superb! Loved it.
I liked the paradox between the main villain and hiccup. They both suffered tragedies from dragons and ended up being two completely different people on opoposite ends of the spectrum.
How to Train Your Dragon is my favorite animated film of all time and it’s also right up there in my favorite films, animated or otherwise, of all time.
I honestly think the second movie is a true masterpiece.
For me, how to train your dragon was the first non Pixar movie to really compete with Pixar. In some ways, it’s better then average Pixar movie
I like what they’ve done with these movies, but I hope they start pulling from the books more. Alvin would be a great villain for movie #3.
I love how you included his whole name in the title–the alliteration, length, and strong adjective display exactly what expectations Hiccup has to live up to! The first instinct for vikings tougher than him is to bully him or make him stay behind but he discovers who he is and what makes him special. He has the ability to see a new perspective. I like how you talk about the role Hiccup plays in being a hero and proving a hero doesn’t have to have Thor’s muscles. As you say “always striving to do the right thing is what makes Hiccup a hero.” And that’s a darn good lesson to teach.
I loved HTTYPD and I think the fact that Hiccup is such an original hero character was one of the reasons why it is such a good film. His character reminds me of Mike Wazowski in Monsters Inc. In the second film you see how desperately he wants to be a scarer even though he’s not the typical ‘scary’ monster. In the end Mike discovers that he is something better, he’s not scary, he’s fearless. Like you pointed out about Hiccup, he’s more of a ‘brains over brawn’ character. A perfect example of how animated films from Disney and dreamworks can provide fresh perspectives and alternative viewpoints on life.
I’ve never watched the second movie, however this article has encouraged me to do so as soon as my next paycheck comes in! I really found the fact that the protagonist in this movie is handicapped. As an avid comic reader, many disabled other minority groups are rarely depicted as front running characters in movies and if they are, they are usually changed to fit the superhero mold. As opposed to making the characters look stronger, it makes them seem weaker that they had to augment themselves in order to keep up. Hiccup, on the contrary, seems to have found strength in his weakness to overcome what the naturally stronger characters could not. Awesome!
I’ve never watched the second movie, however this article has encouraged me to do so as soon as my next paycheck comes in! I really found the fact that the protagonist in this movie is handicapped. As an avid comic reader, many disabled other minority groups are rarely depicted as front running characters in movies and if they are, they are usually changed to fit the superhero mold. As opposed to making the characters look stronger, it makes them seem weaker that they had to augment themselves in order to keep up. Hiccup, on the contrary, seems to have found strength in his weakness to overcome what the naturally stronger characters could not. That’s the kind of character society should be exposed to, it’s very refreshing.
Really glad you wrote about this. I love How to Train Your Dragon so much and Hiccup is a great hero who should be recognized as such.
You should have mentioned his progression throughout the entire franchise like the shorts and TV series.
Hiccup has always been one of my favorite characters because he’s not an overtly masculine hero. His arc seems to be a validation of difference, because like you stated, it is because of his differences that he succeeds. I love his development and the fact that he succeeds not in spite of his lack of traditionally masculine qualities, but because of them.