Friday, February 10, 2012

How to Train Your Dragon

By Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon was a good, really fun movie, but after reading the book, I'm wondering how on earth the one could have inspired the other. They are nothing alike. I'll count the things that were the same:

  1. The main character is named Hiccup, and he's a scrawny weakling, son of the Viking Chief.
  2. There is a dragon named Toothless.
  3. The book culminates with the destruction of a 'gobsmackingly vast' dragon
  4. There are Viking bully kids who pick on Hiccup.
  5. Toothless sort of saves Hiccup's life in the end.

The book starts with several viking kids being instructed to sneak into the Dragon Nursery in a nearby mountain to kidnap a small sleeping dragon who will become their faithful hunting pal. Next, they have to train their dragons, and pass the initiation, which tests how well the dragons have been trained by their new masters. Hiccup, of course, picks a dragon aptly named Toothless, a dragon who isn't sleek, black, catlike and cunning – he's about the size of a lapdog, whiny, and spoiled, and he doesn't have a broken wing. There's some banishment, some repealed banishment, a little bit of dragon fighting (but not enough!), LOTS of crude humor, and a couple of notes about how to be a hero.

“The point is, I just don't see how I am ever going to become a Hero,” said Hiccup gloomily. “I am the least Heroic boy in the whole Hooligan Tribe.”
“Oh, Pshaw, this ridiculous Tribe,” fumed Old Wrinkly. “Okay, so you are not what we call a born Hero. You're not big and tough and charismatic like Snotlout. But you're just going to have to work at it. You're going to have to learn how to be a Hero the Hard Way.”

Which is good advice. And yes, in the book, Hiccup did become a Hero the Hard Way. He didn't use yelling or muscle or insults, like the dragons and Vikings surrounding him, but he used his cleverness and his concern for the welfare of others to not only save his own life, but to save the whole village. But, in comparison with the movie, I have to say I was disappointed. The plot bounced around too much and the writing was none too good and the illustrations wouldn't appeal to anyone, I'm sure. It's one of those rare and unhappy cases of The-Movie-is-Better-Than-the-Book.

There's a good review of the movie here.


  1. Yeah, isn't that just the weirdest thing when that happens? It was aaaalmost that way with The Help. There was this one random scene in The Help (the book) that was SO crude and SO gratuitous it almost ruined the rest of it. They completely left it out, which I was really thankful for.

  2. Really? How strange. It's especially strange because I'd expect that kind of thing to come out more in movies...I don't have very high expectations with film, usually. But if I watch a movie I really like, it's extra-surprising to have the book fail so miserably.

  3. I have not read the book or watched the movie. However, I may have to change that. It seems that the blogs are all abuzz with news of this story.

  4. Re: The Help - I liked both the book and the movie thoroughly. The part that is mentioned here didn't actually bother me all that much. Which I was kind of surprised by AFTER the fact because it bothered others. =D (And so then I thought I should have been bothered. Hmm.)

    Re: How to Train Your Dragon - I agree totally! We rather enjoyed the movie and so, of course, when I discovered it was based on a book I thought we might have hit the jackpot for a readaloud with Bookworm1. Alas, I discovered that was not the case. Everything you've said about this book I agree with. The movie is definitely better than the book!