Book III, Chapter 14
"Why didn't you?"
That's what she asked me.
"Because I looked at him and I saw myself."
Toothless was every bit as frightened as I was. Here we were, two kids, both of us still growing up, pushed into a war because our elders told us that was how things were, how they had been, since man and dragon first fought and killed each other.
When she asked, first I said that I couldn't kill a dragon, but then I realized that I wouldn't. Three hundred years and I was the first Viking who wouldn't kill a dragon.
I was the first to ride one, though.
We were the first to look at the cycle of 'they kill us, we kill them, back and forth until everyone is scarred and dead' and say 'no.'
I looked at him and I saw myself. Someone who had grown up with this, who had been told that it was fight or die, who was scared out of his mind at what the other would do. Who, when he had the chance to kill, chose not to.
I've thought about that choice a lot, especially over the last few years. So many people are afraid of usof mefor what I might do to them. Because that's what they would do, or that's what others would do, and why should I be any different? Or what my kids might do after me.
I don't know if I can look at them and see myself, but that doesn't matter. Because, when it came down to it, in that moment, I looked at someone that I had been told for my whole life was a monster, was the enemy and who had to be killed without mercy. "Extremely dangerous, kill on sight." I looked at him and I said
And I broke the cycle with that choice. I cut the ropes that bound himropes I had put thereand I set him free. And I could have died.
But I didn't.
Because Toothless made the same choice as he saw me make.
We were both scared kids, not even really adults yet, and we made that choice.
And that's what I'm going to keep on doing, making that same choice, over and over and over, and seeing who I can get to come with me this time. And if they try to kill me, I'll stop them but I'll give them a chance first.
I have to.
Because to break the cycle of fear, someone has to stand up and show trust. Even if they don't deserve it. Maybe especially if they don't. Because they might be caught in that cycle and have no one to trust.
After all, I was told that a dragon always goes for the kill.
Except when they don't. Because Toothless had been told that a Viking always goes for the kill.
Except when I didn't.
Since then, there have been people who slapped my hand away and forced me to defend myself and my people. More than I want to count. I've killed thousands of people, man and dragon, defending my people. Tens of thousands. But I give them a chance to change the path that they've set themselves. I have to.
Sometimes they change.
And how could I live with myself if I didn't give them the same chance as I gave my best friend?
— From the journal of Hiccup Haddock, AD 1045
Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:
- Adorkable: When visiting the University of Dar al-Hikmah in Cairo, Hiccup and Fishlegs were amazed at the books they discovered, and when a librarian informed them that, for a nominal fee, their scribes would provide them with copies of any books they wanted, they were like kids in a candy store. Hiccup indicated that they would probably have half of the books in the academy copied and shipped back to Berk.
- Bad Boss: Toothless muses that so many dragons chose to come back to Berk after the defeat of the Green Death (known to the dragons as 'Fire-Hunger') only because it was such a cruel Alpha that they felt virtually any kind of authority had to be better than it, and even then the new arrangement only worked because 'Fire-Hunger' was so bad and so many walkers were willing to try and be better 'masters' to the dragons.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: While not evil Vladimir cannot understand why the Hooligans just accepted dragons after having been at war with them for so long.
- Kaiju: The old nest lord of the Cretan nest, described as having been almost half as large as the Green Death.
- Legend Fades to Myth: The Berkians discover a dragon nest whose Alpha was a nine-headed dragon that Fishlegs speculates was the origin of the myth of the Hydra that was fought by Heracles in Classical Mythology, particularly since eight of its heads were cut off while the ninth was crushed.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sigurd still holds this belief despite having been exiled, shown when he immediately orders that all slaves in his new territories be freed once he learns of their existence despite the potential challenges this will present to running his territories.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Kerr meets a monk who has this opinion in regards to Stoick.King Stoick, for all that he is a pagan, is supposedly as just and true as Our Lord would have all leaders of men be.