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Literature: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon is a successful, long-running children's book series written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell. It follows the adventures of the son of a Viking chief, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, as he struggles to keep control of his dragon and become a respected member of the Hairy Hooligan tribe.

Better than it sounds, it's got witty humor, Genre savviness, Lampshade Hanging, clever dialogue and Getting Crap Past the Radar. Thus, teens and adults have found a good read in them.

The books in the series include:
  1. How to Train Your Dragon
  2. How to Be a Pirate
  3. How to Speak Dragonese
  4. How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse
  5. How to Twist a Dragon's Tale
  6. A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons
  7. How to Ride a Dragon's Storm
  8. How to Break a Dragon's Heart
  9. How to Steal a Dragon's Sword
  10. How to Seize a Dragon's Jewel
  11. How to Betray a Dragon's Hero

More books are likely to come, though it is hinted that the series is reaching its close. There is also a Spin-Off called How to Train Your Viking, which takes place between the second and third books told in Toothless's point of view. Hiccup and his father Stoick the Vast actually made their first appearance in a picture book called Hiccup: The Viking Who Was Seasick, essentially making it a prequel to the main series. No dragons in that one, though.

It was recently given an incredibly successful film adaption by DreamWorks Animation, with ex-Disney animator Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) at the director's helm. It is largely an In Name Only adaptation, but most characters retain their book names. Here's the trailer. Trope page for the film is here.

Oh, and the audiobooks are narrated by David Tennant.

Needs More Love!

Characters from the book include:

  • Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third - The son of the Viking Chieftain of the Hairy Hooligans. Although weedy and ordinary-looking, he's extremely intelligent and the Only Sane Man.
    • Toothless - Hiccup's dragon, named for his lack of teeth. He is very fussy and disobedient.
  • Fishlegs - Hiccup's Deadpan Snarker best friend and an even more pathetic Viking than Hiccup. He's got a limp, poor vision, numerous allergies, and is easily scared.
    • Horrorcow - Fishlegs' dragon. Docile and a vegetarian, she sleeps a lot.
  • Snotface Snotlout - Second-in-line for the chief's throne and Hiccup's cousin, Snotlout is everything a Viking SHOULD be. He frequently tries to get rid of Hiccup so he may one day become the chief. He succeeds in Book 9, courtesy of Alvin.
    • Fireworm - Snotlout's dragon. A brutal killer and easily provoked. She's every bit as smug and mean-spirited as Snotface.
  • Stoick the Vast - The current Viking chief. Is a caring father but is dense and quick-tempered.
  • Gobber the Belch - The head teacher of the Viking Initiation Program and the Pirate Initiation Program.
  • Camicazi - Heiress to the throne of the Bog Burglars, Camicazi is a violent Viking girl who fights first and asks questions later. Friends with Hiccup and Fishlegs.
    • Stormfly - Camicazi's dragon. A rare breed, she's a constant fibber and turns purple when she lies. One of the only dragons to speak Norse.

Tropes for the Books include:

  • The Ace: Humungously Hotshot The Hero. He's good at everything (except singing). Deconstructed slightly and played for laughs when several members of the tribe, mainly Stoick, dislike him because he's better at everything than they are.
  • Action Girl: Camicazi.
    • If we can infer anything from her and Bertha's description, what she says, and the letter to Stoick from her, the entire Bog Burglar tribe somehow seems to be made up completely of women.
  • Affably Evil: The Green Death.
  • A God Am I: Ziggerastica, the tiny nanodragon, believes himself to be the center of the universe. However, due to his uncanny abilities, including being able to come when called, no matter how far away, makes you wonder...
  • Alliterative Name: Too many to count. There's just about everything from names ("Hiccup Horrendous Haddock" the Third) to a good portion of the Viking Tribes ("Bog Burglars") to even the names of celebrations ("Thor'sday Thursday"). Also, the text itself is FILLED with alliterations - strings of five or six words starting with the same sound are not uncommon. It's especially obvious in the audiobook version of the series.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The kids have tamed dragons, and Camicazi even has one which speaks some Norse... But mermaids are just fairy tales that can't possibly be real.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Some of the names fall into this, such as "Humungously Hotshot the Hero". Abbreviated: "Humungous".
  • An Axe to Grind: Norbert the Nutjob's fricking huge axe.
  • Ax-Crazy: Norbert the Nutjob is perhaps the best example in fiction.
  • Badass: Several of the different breeds of dragon. Namely the Sharkworms and the Saber-Toothed Driver Dragons.
    • Not just the dragons. Many of the human characters would count, as so, so many are incredibly skilled fighters.
      • Hiccup in particular, as he ((spoiler: won the free-for-all swordfighting competition; trained a Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus, an untrainable species, to be so loyal to him that it overcame red rage; and killed two mountain-sized dragons, by blowing up one and electrocuting the other)).
  • Badass Adorable: Camicazi and Ziggerastica.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Mostly averted. None of the characters are actually that pretty, with the exception of Humungously Hotshot the Hero, and Alvin, who seems to be getting uglier each book.
  • Berserk Button: In How to Be a Pirate, Fishlegs discovers that he's a berserker. When he catches a cold in How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse, he sometimes involuntarily went berserk.
  • Big Bad: Usually Alvin the Treacherous. Also: The Green Death, Norbert the Nutjob and Furious.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Viking tribes seem to made entirely out of boisterous bruisers.
  • Brick Joke: In one of the last remaining chapters of the original novel How to Train Your Dragon, Stoick is furious over a book by Professor Yobbish called How to Train Your Dragon that is only one page describing that the best way to train dragons is to "yell at them" he declares that he is going to send Yobbish a strongly worded letter. The letter, poorly spelled, shows up as a picture prefacing the Epilogue.
  • Cain and Abel: Subverted with Stoick and his brother Baggybum the Beerbelly. While they initially butt heads over whose son would make a better ruler, when things get rough they stand back to back.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In the first book, Hiccup calls out Stoick for banishing all of the Initiates and placing the Law over the life of his own son.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Norbert's flying machine, in How To Ride A Dragon's Storm.
  • Child Prodigy / Teen Genius: Hiccup, at least compared to everyone else. His friends are smarter than the average Viking but are more of a case of Only Sane Man.
  • Cool Sword: The Stormblade.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Inverted here. By breaking up Humongous Hotshot and Valhallarama so she would marry Stoick the Vast instead, Alvin inadvertently helped bring Hiccup into existence. Karma's a bitch, isn't it?
  • Darker and Edgier: How to Twist a Dragon's Tale ventured into this territory quite a few times, but it gets back to normal in A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons.
    • How to Steal a Dragon's Sword is considerably darker than the previous light-hearted books. Everyone turn their backs on Hiccup when his slavemark is revealed when Snotlout threw a rock to the helmet and had believed that they should have abandoned Hiccup. Stoick was banished. Alvin the Treacherous ruled as King of the Wilderwest and made Snotlout the new Hooligan chief.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Fishlegs is a definite candidate.
    Fishlegs: Oh, how I wish I had a nice smart Bardiguard all of my very own, to chuck rocks at me, and send me unarmed into one-to-one combat with teenage psychopaths.
    • Hiccup dabbles in it several times, as do most of the dragons.
  • Denser and Wackier / Lighter and Softer: After The Film of the Book was released, the books took a major shift in terms of cover art and art direction in general, making the covers more cartoony. The dragon profile pages also became simpler, instead describing only "disobedience" and "attack", "defense" and "speed". The actual content of the stories, however, has not suffered from this, fortunately.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Hiccup. He saves the day several times and Snotlout usually gets credit for it all.
  • Dumb Muscle: Most of the adult Vikings in the story, actually.
    • ...As well as several of the younger tribe members.
    • And the Driller Dragons.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus. They're constantly described as being big as cliffs and hills, and their smallest teeth are 8ft long.
  • Eyeless Face
  • Fail O'Suckyname: Quite a few characters, although Fishlegs, Baggybum the Beerbelly, Clueless, Lardtummy Low-Watt, and Loudmouth the Gouty are some of the worst.
  • Fictional Document: There is a book in How to Train Your Dragon that literally shares the title.
    • Hell with it, there's also the book How to Speak Dragonese WITHIN the book of the same title. And A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons in A Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons.
    • There's also the letter Grimbeard the Ghastly wrote to "his heir", more commonly known as Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.
  • Evil Matriarch: Excellinor the Witch, mother of Alvin the Treacherous. When her son becomes King she seems to be leading him.
  • Gag Boobs: Big-Boobied Bertha. Jesus Christ.
  • Gainaxing: Book 7 gives us a scene of this with Big-Boobied Bertha.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Not even a legitimate attempt to get it past the radar. Apparently, the Dragonese word for "poo" is "crappa". The word for "toilet" is "crapspot".
    • Everything about "Big-Boobied Bertha". Yeah.
    • They used the word "hell" once, in How To Cheat A Dragon's Curse. Not normally a big deal in most literature, but it's notable when it's in a book written for 8-12 year olds.
    • Berk is a British slang word meaning idiot/Jerkass, derived from Berkshire Hunt, which is cockney rhyming slang for Country Matters.
  • Gigantic Adults Tiny Babies: Toothless is a young Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus, given time, he will grow to the size of a mountain.
  • Hate Dodecahedron: The blood feud table:
    • The Outcasts are feuding with everyone because of an attitude problem.
    • The Bog Burglars are feuding with the Hooligans because of theft, the Rashem Oiks because somebody knocked over Bertha's pint, The Hysterics because Bertha sat on the chief's dragon, The Visithugs because Bertha laughed at Visithug axework, and The Ugli-Thugs because of sheep-rustling.
    • The Hooligans are in feud with the Meatheads because Stoick beat Mogadon in a arm-wrestling contest.
    • The Meatheads are in feud with the Rashem Oiks because they just don't like each other.
    • The Hysterics are in feud with the Visithugs because an arm-wrestling contest went a little too far, and with the Ugli-Thugs because Ugli-Thugs are nasty pieces of work.
    • The Rashem Oiks and Ugli-Thugs are feuding because... who are you looking at, sunshine?
      • Yes, some of these are very sensitive - particularly Bog Burglars vs Rashem Oiks and Bog Burglars vs Visithugs (in that order).
  • Growing Up Sucks: The prologue to one of the later books in the series apologises for the Cerebus Syndrome the reader is about to hit, but points out that the books are ultimately about growing up and the difficulties that entails. They then point out that even the (assumed child) reader is going to become an adult, whether they like it or not. The tone of the prologue makes it clear that the narrator believes that everyone would avoid growing up if they could.
  • Heel-Face Revolving Door: Snotlout.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Hiccup does, as do Camicazi, Stoick, Snotlout, Humongously Hotshot, and Valhallerama.
  • Homage: The end of How to Cheat a Dragon's curse resembles the ending of Gilgamesh.
  • Horny Vikings: This takes place amidst several fictional Viking tribes, such as the Hairy Hooligans, Murderous Meatheads, and Bog Burglars.
  • Horsing Around: Toothless, in a non-horse example.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Dragons seem to do this, with some enjoying snacking on nanodragons (enjoyed by humans and dragons alike) and the Green Death eating his smaller companions when they get washed ashore.
    • The Outcast Tribe does this but only with the chief of a village and his heir.
  • Improvised Weapon: A rather strange example of this trope occurs in How To Twist A Dragon's Tale. When Alvin the Treacherous is about to do away with Hiccup, once and for all, Hiccup bursts into song. This surprises Alvin so much that Hiccup can wriggle out of his grasp. Soon, the second example of this trope occurs when he and his friends start using items from Fishlegs's duffel bag to fight Alvin.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Obviously.
  • Instructional Title
  • Jerk Ass: All untamed dragons. Human examples: Snotlout, his dragon and his cronies.
  • Jerk Jock: Snotlout.
  • Large Ham: Gobber and Stoick the Vast.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse. Hiccup spends much of the book on a quest to save Fishlegs, who, according to Old Wrinkly, the soothsayer, is dying from the bite of a poisonous dragon. Guess who had really been bitten.
  • Lava Surfing: Done in How to Twist a Dragon's Tale.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Isn't Fate artistic?"
  • Meaningful Name: Dogsbreath the Duhbrain, Alvin the Treacherous, Big-Boobied Bertha, Norbert the Nutjob, Humungously Hotshot the Hero, Stoick the Vast, and, of course, Toothless.
  • Missing Mom: Valhallarama, Hiccup's mother. She briefly appears in How To Train your Dragon...only to promptly disappear for a couple of books, until it's revealed she's off questing.
  • Monster of the Week: Each book introduces a new and deadly dragon.
  • Excellinor the Witch, mother of Alvin the Treacherous, is able to make her son King of the Wilderwest through her scheming.
  • Mysterious Past: Most notably Alvin the Treacherous, but several other characters have mysterious pasts as well.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: A name like Norbert the Nutjob is a pretty good tipoff to what the character's actually like.
    • Alvin the Treacherous.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Sharkworms, which are dragons that resemble hammerhead sharks with legs and wings.
    • Saber-Toothed Driver Dragons.
  • Only Sane Man: Hiccup, as well as Fishlegs and Old Wrinkly when they're around.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The majority of the dragons in this series are either small and trainable or monstrously huge and primeval. Not to mention, the author comes up with her own breeds of dragons.
  • Prophecy Twist: at the end of How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Vikings, obviously.
  • Rebellious Princess: Camicazi to her mother. (She's technically the heir to her tribe, so this counts.)
  • Scary Librarian: The Hairy Scary Librarian.
  • Screwthe Rules Im Doing Whats Right: Hiccup, in How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse. He disobeys his father, the Chief, to save Fishlegs.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Snotlout does this at the start of How to Train Your Dragon.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the first book, there were 10 Viking students for the Hairy Hooligans. Somehow in the next book this number got raised to 12 and has been that way ever since.
    • New ones joined, then.
  • Smug Snake: Snotlout and his dragon, Fireworm.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Happened twice in the first book; Fishlegs does one in the beginning ...actually four, waking all the dragons in the dragon nursery and necessitating a hasty escape and the Green Death does one at the end. Because he swallowed Hiccup, Toothless flies up his nostril and causes him to sneeze him out.
  • Speech Impediment: Toothless stutters a lot.
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: Hiccup has trained himself to hold a dragon's gaze. He even does this with a three-headed dragon in book 10, although who actually wins is open to debate.
  • Status Quo Is God: Doesn't matter what kind of spectacular feats Hiccup has performed, by the beginning of the next book, he's back to being everyone else's Butt Monkey.
  • Staying Alive: Alvin the Treacherous. He keeps cheating death again and again and again...losing bits and pieces of himself each time. Lampshaded several times.
  • Sticky Fingers: Camicazi and possibly her entire tribe.
  • Stripperiffic: Gobber's standard outfit, which consists of a sleeveless bellybutton showing shirt and hairy short-shorts.
  • Stylistic Suck: The drawings within the book.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Vikings are great, big and muscly, but they don't have a lot going on in the brains department, which means Hiccup and Fishlegs are usually the only sane men around.
  • Talking Animal: Stormfly can speak Norse, and pretty much all of the dragons can talk (though only Hiccup is fluent enough in Dragonese to understand them).
  • Toilet Humour: No less than once a book, sometimes with illustrations. Thankfully it gets less gross as the series goes on.
  • The Chosen One: Grimbeard the Ghastly states in a letter that his heir would be the one to uncover his massive treasure. Which is Hiccup.
    • Well Hiccup was his great-great grandson.
  • The Scottish Trope: The Vegetable That Must Not Be Named, aka a potato.
  • Tomboy: Camicazi.
  • Tsundere: Camicazi, to an extent.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Alvin the Treacherous, all the time.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The dragons are this, and they're proud of it. Eventually they admit that they're hardly ever grateful.
  • Urine Trouble: Toothless in the first book. In the kitchen, on Hiccup's hands and down his shirt ... except with poo.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Norbert has one at the end of the 7th book.
  • Weapon of Choice: Hiccup and Camicazi both wield swords.
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