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Recap / A Thing of Vikings Chapter 23 "Changing The World"

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Book I, Chapter 23

When considering the various polymaths who have speckled history's pages, Hiccup Haddock was certainly more influential than many of his peers in this multi-talented category, with noted and far-reaching works in the economic, political, social and scientific realms. Indeed, compared to the Arabian polymath Ibn al-Haytham, who passed away shortly before Haddock's rise to prominence, Haddock's direct effects on history are immeasurably greater. This holds true even when putting aside the fact that Haddock encountered al-Haytham's writings later in life and immediately began to make use of them in some of the most earth-shattering scientific innovations of his career. However, this is exaggerated to the point where, in much of the literature on the topic, he is held up as singularly influential, a world-changer without peer in his own or any era.

What many of these historians have failed to consider is the simple facts of Haddock's life in comparison with those of other exceptional intellects—he was of the nobility, and as the first tamer of dragons, essentially sat on a treasury equal to that of the combined vaults of every contemporary European noble and royal. This meant that unlike many other polymaths throughout history, Haddock, as his own patron, needed not labor for his supper; he was able to pour significant efforts and funds into his experiments without worrying about where his next meal would come from, and could afford to share his innovations freely. Al-Haytham, in contrast, had to work as a tutor, and was once imprisoned under house arrest for ten years by the Fatimid Caliph while feigning madness to avoid punishment. While Al-Haytham spent the time imprisoned productively, writing his famous Book of Optics and other treatises on math and the sciences, the obvious question arises of what sort of innovations the man might have produced had he possessed Haddock's resources and freedoms.

This is not to discount the distractions and diversions of focus that his diplomatic accomplishments cost Haddock, as he was the chief's herald and later the chief and king himself. However, while his innovations and dragons attracted significant and intense interest from all over Europe and Asia Minor, the argument may be reduced to the point that, regardless of how many offers of alliance or marriage were made to Haddock and how many state visits he made over the course of his life, even with his complete upending of the status quo in regards to communications speeds, he still possessed idle time and resources in abundance for the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, something not available to most other polymaths in history.

The Genius Has No Clothes: An Alternate View Of Innovation, 1818

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • An Arm and a Leg: The pirates all decide to surrender when Astrid lops off Sir Henry's hand with her axe.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Hallr, the man who sold Heather into thralldom, doesn't remember her.
    Stoick: The girl claims that you took her as a thrall, and has backed up her claims strongly... Do you claim otherwise?
    Hallr: Nah. I might have. I've been raiding up and down the Eirish Sea for ten years. Taken plenty of thralls.
  • The Chains of Commanding: When Hiccup asks him how he's able to make such harsh decisions, Stoick explains that a leader has to, out of fear that the job will fall to someone less capable.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Hallr did not fear his execution the same way the other identified thrall takers did.
  • Hidden Depths: Wulfhild mentions that Eindride is usually scheming and brutal. But when asked what kind of dragon he wants Eindride starts talking like an excited schoolboy.
  • Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: The juggler at the beginning of the chapter was not only able to eat three apples while juggling them without stopping, but he managed to juggle a variety of objects, make them disappear and manage to ask various audience members to return them to him, such as a coin-purse Fishlegs finds in his vest, an apple under a hat, a green ball from someone's boot and a long strand of handkerchiefs from someone's coat pocket.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Discussed. Astrid's father talks with her that while he doesn't have anything against her being with Hiccup, he tells her that with the tribe's growing influence, it is likely that Hiccup will have to marry a foreign princess for diplomatic purposes. With that said, they have made their peace if she decides to become his concubine instead.
  • Oh, Crap!: Hallr and his men have this reaction when they find out that thrall takers are executed instead of enslaved, assuming they'll be sold as thralls where they could easily escape.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Sir Henry throws a tantrum when Hiccup and Astrid refuse to let themselves be captured.
    Sir Henry: No! No! This is all wrong! I caught you! Don't you have any honor?! Stay caught! You're my prisoner! I claim your ransom!
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Hiccup seems to be the only one that does not feel like celebrating Hallr and his crew's deaths, not having the same taste for battle and blood as the rest of the tribe.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Hooligans hate thralldom to the point that being a thrall taker is a capital offense with the punishment being death by hanging. They were willing to be lenient on the pirate attack on Hiccup and Astrid after Bladewit reminded Stoick that Hiccup appealed for leniency when Fishlegs was attacked, but the crime of thrall taking wouldn't be forgiven.
  • Wedding-Enhanced Fertility: It is right after her and Magnus' wedding does it occur to Ruffnut that she's late.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: The pirates are able to lure in Hiccup and Astrid by having one of their ships pretend to be a merchant vessel under attack.


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