I was 14 years old when I came across a similarly aged Viking kid, just as much of a misfit as me. He lived in a world that demanded physical strength but was only intellectually strong. The girl he had a crush on didn’t hold him in much of a high regard, and he didn’t know how to talk to anyone. He spent his time with himself, applying his intelligence to get by. As an adult I’m sure it would serve as a personal attack, but back then, seeing him as a protagonist was a boon, and I couldn’t wait to see him prove himself and tell myself I would too one day. That wasn’t what primarily drew me to the character though. It was the dragons. The kid’s personality wasn’t that well defined then, but the dragons showed up right at the beginning, and despite what others thought of him, with his brain, he actually got the job done. He took down a beast of lore. And that’s what began the friendship I’d be inclined to carry in my heart forever.
So, it was in Berk that my lonely, intelligent and curious mind found a home as a teenager. With dragons, tons of lore, an amazing musical score and the most innocent and redeeming friendship at its centre, How To Train Your Dragon was an absolute gift which I remember not appreciating as much back then as I’m doing now. Maybe it took a whole trilogy to open my eyes to the truth, but Hiccup and Toothless’ journey holds a special place in my heart. Society had pitched them against each other, forcing them to stay at odds, not very different from the gaslighting experienced by the bullied to believe that they must become bullies elsewhere to have any worth. The bullying one does as a result of being bullied is basically society telling them that their survival happens at the cost of another person’s. And the bond which Hiccup and Toothless develop over the first act of the first film, acknowledges this in a very kid-friendly manner, while also showing the audience that the cycle can be broken if one chooses to define their own worth and not let societal perceptions interfere with how they treat another being.
Since I first watched HTTYD before I knew about the Myers-Briggs personality types, I didn’t know that Hiccup and I belong to the same type – INFP. You don’t often see INFPs as protagonists in pop culture. In fact, the only one that comes to mind apart from Hiccup, is 13 Reasons Why’s Clay. Hiccup obviously stood out to me but he didn’t attract me much until I went back to the movies in 2019 before the release of The Hidden World. My favourite kind of hero has always been Sherlock Holmes or Batman, and watching someone like me strutting around clumsily struck a chord with me for sure, but didn’t really endear me to Hiccup personally. What drew me to Hiccup and Toothless’ story was their bond, because somehow an INFP found solace in the very being he was told to look out for and even kill if possible. This story of redemption is what must have made the long-lasting impression on me.
And not just Hiccup’s growth in the first film, there’s a lesson in the journey that Toothless took as well. Underneath the appearance and the reputation, there was a vulnerable soul who was apprehensive as a means of protecting himself. It was later revealed he was a survivor of genocide and that makes it even clearer, why he was so hardened on the outside. He was in the position of having to trust the very species responsible for the death of every other Night Fury. This adds another layer into Hiccup’s story of redemption because he basically re-instilled some faith in Toothless by acting exactly opposite to what the dragon expected of him. And it is a great switch from the traditional villain story. Villains usually have a backstory like Toothless’ and yet Toothless is essentially a “co-hero” in the films. Their journeys are essentially about how Toothless and Hiccup together help each other towards redeeming themselves in their own eyes.
I’m yet to see the animated spin-off series, but the three films themselves provide a complete narrative of a healthy friendship, with their own definitions of boundaries and almost telepathic understanding of each other. Hiccup is the human and the rider and yet, their relationship is perfectly balanced. Apart from his original saddling of Toothless, which he did do without consent but specifically to help Toothless fly, he’s never crossed lines without checking in with Toothless. They don’t have any verbal communication and yet are a perfect example of how consent functions. All the tricks and flying modes that Hiccup experiments with, require clear approval from Toothless, and similarly, Toothless has an equal say in where they fly to, despite Hiccup holding the reins. And just because Toothless is a dragon doesn’t mean Hiccup assumes he’ll be the protector. He’s seen the vulnerable side of the dragon and always regards Toothless as a precious being who needs saving just as much as anyone else. As for Toothless, he’s the most loyal friend you could ask for, just like Hiccup, as he’s proven an endless number of times, from the first time he ran after Hiccup’s cry at the dragon killing ceremony despite ability to fly being compromised.
Despite the tragedies that they’ve been through alone and together, the two have a very light-hearted camaraderie. Most of their free time is spent flying in the skies as one, as if Hiccup is an extension of Toothless, or else just fooling around, each teasing the other. They find solace in each other’s company and know that they’ll always have a home in each other. They grow immensely during the time they spend together. Somehow an introverted Hiccup rises to the demands of his clan and takes up his father’s mantle to become a leader, and the lost dragon, the only remaining one of his kind, with an amputated tail, becomes the alpha of the clan. Neither is jealous of the other’s progress and their growth happens together. Maybe that’s why the goodbye was a bittersweet moment instead of being a sad one. They knew they’d have the memories but Toothless would be being held back which would guilt Hiccup into treating him different, as someone he owes something to, and not an equal. The best bonds come with the ability to know when to let go, as much as that hurts. And that’s precisely why Hiccup and Toothless will forever be my favourite on-screen duo.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.