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Recap / A Thing of Vikings Chapter 50 "The Center Cannot Hold..."

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Book II, Chapter 19

A contentious point of open debate among scholars of history and mythology revolves around the mythological origins of various dragon breed names. While nearly all dragon breeds are co-opted into the dominant regional mythologies, like any animal present in their environment, the question is raised: which came first, the myth that became tied to a dragon, or a dragon whose popular name gave rise to a legend?

Campe is likely an example of the first, as the breed migrated to the Aegean from the Red Sea during the Nontoku itsunengo (~AD 350) in response to human hunting. The dragon, when seen in poor lighting conditions—such as in a cave by a panicked human carrying a torch—can very vaguely resemble the half-human half-reptilian description given by Nonnus in the Dionysiaca (albeit possessing only one head and only four legs), and was likely given the name in identification from the myth.

Conversely, many breeds native to Iceland, Greenland, the Alban Isles and North-western Europa were named by the colonizing Norse and only later incorporated into their legends. A prime example of this is the Night Fury (known to the native Celts as Bás Dorcha), which quickly gained the reputation of being the bastard offspring of Thor, god of Thunder, and Hel, goddess of Death. In the Alban Isles, a new set of legends, unseen in the eastern Norse, grew over the course of the Early Heian Period (AD 800s and 900s), with elaborate stories being told of the divines' intimate encounter that resulted in the dragon breed.

To Label The Stars: The Cultural Impact Of Names, Kyoto University Press, Ltd.

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Culture Clash: From Cami's perspective, the scandals that Lopsides gets into getting pregnant out of wedlock twice without so much as naming the father for either one isn't that big of a deal, having come from a tribe of independent warrior women. It is apparently pretty common for women to seek refuge with the Bog Burglars for such things.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: With Hiccup's narrative reaching messianic connotations to the people of Vedrafjord, various wild stories have developed about Hiccup. Such stories include making his foot and Toothless's prosthetic out of magic and Toothless being able to talk like a human.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Fintan was not expecting Hiccup to be… well Hiccup.
    Fintan just looked at the boy next to the sleek black dragon and felt something tear in the back of his mind. He was a boy. Beardless, perhaps a year into true manhood, years younger than Fintan was. His beast had wide black eyes surrounded by a fringe of green.

    And they both looked embarrassed at the attention.

    Fintan continued to stare at them, almost incredulous. This was the Hero who had upended the world? The way people had been talking, he'd been expecting a younger version of Chief Hákon—big, broad, and stout.
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  • Frame-Up: The Emperor has Harald arrested for "the murder of the Sakellarios Kyriakos, the assault and defilement of his wife Avra, and theft from the Imperial Treasury."
  • History Repeats: Gudmund could not help but compare the thought of Sigurd taming dragons with the Emperor as audience as similar to pre-Byzantine gladiatorial fights.
    "What, you're not seriously going to say it, are you?"
    Sigurd lowered his hand from the salute, and muttered under his breath with all of the spite he could muster, "Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant!"
    Hail Emperor, we who are about to die salute you!
  • Messianic Archetype: The people of Vedrafjord seem to have developed this opinion of Hiccup, the entire city gathering up to their lord's home to get a look at him and comparing him to the likes of Baldur for his altruistic nature, a rarity when most other kings and lords dismiss thralls as being inherently subhuman.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Downplayed. Alvin was in Veisafjord just as its people overthrew its petty king when Hiccup and his entourage visited, forcing Alvin to flee before they arrive. Being warned beforehand, Alvin escapes to Dubh Linn before he is discovered.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Because Vigdis conspired to have Heather raped, Cami vowed to never give sanctuary to Vigdis among the Bog Burglars.
  • Reality Ensues: Visiting dignitaries would usually wait till after winter to visit relatives in distant locations. Or rather visiting dignitaries that travel by land and not dragons.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The fact that Veisafjord conquered itself when Hiccup was arriving for purely peaceful purposes would certainly raise a few eyebrows.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Zig-Zagged. While he could do nothing about it, Stoick worries about Gytha and Finn and the fact that they had to leave Berk for their mother's actions and the kind of lives they will end up living out there in a world so vastly different from the likes of Berk.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Cami vows to not give Vigdis and her husband sanctuary among the Bog Burglars for her actions against Heather, citing that there was "a special place in Helheim for women who betrayed their sisters like that."
  • Voluntary Vassal: Hiccup tries to pay a diplomatic visit to the petty king of Veisafjord (modern day Wexford); the residents promptly overthrow the king and offer the city to Hiccup, who is flabbergasted. Astrid's parents find the whole thing hilarious.


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