“How to Train Your Dragon”, by Cressida Cowell


There were dragons when I was a boy.
There were great, grim, sky dragons that nested on the clifftops like gigantic scary birds. Little, brown, scuttly dragons that hunted down the mice and rats in well-organized packs. Preposterously huge Sea Dragons that were twenty times as big as the Big Blue Whale and who killed for the fun of it.
You will have to take my word for it, for the dragons are disappearing so fast they may soon become extinct.
Nobody knows what is happening. They are crawling back into the sea from whence they came, leaving not a bone, not a fang, in the earth for the men of the future to remember them by.

How to Train Your Dragon“How to train your dragon” begins With the above words. This is a book written by Hiccup and translated into english by Cressida Cowell. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, this is his official hereditary title, is son of Stoick the Vast, the fearsome chief of the Vikings who live on Berk island. The chief is big and strong, but certainly not known for his intelligence. Hiccup on the other hand, has a resourceful mind, but lacks in muscles. That’s how Hiccup becomes a target of bullying. Snotlout and Dogsbreath, the two bullies, got their eyes on Fishlegs too, who has also small frame like our protagonist… eh.. I meant like the author of this book.

Small or big, all the young Vikings must pass a test, an initiation ceremony, to prove that they have the right to belong to the tribe, now that they are not little kids anymore. They must catch a dragon! Gobber the Belch is the soldier in charge of teaching Initiation. And now is the time that they will enter a cave full of sleeping dragon, immersed in deep hibernation, and each of them must catch a dragon.

Dragons this size are normally fairly harmless to man, but in these numbers they will set upon you like piranhas … So… you will walk QUIETLY through the cave and each boy will steal ONE sleeping dragon.

Of course the story won’t follow such an easy path. Hiccup will catch a small dragon who is the fear and terror of little fishes. Nothing to do with the terrifying-looking, flame-red Fireworm, who belong to the Monstrous Nightmare kind, that Snotlout caught. And if that wasn’t enough Snotlout gave to Hiccup’s dragon the derisive nickname Toothless.

Hiccup feels it is impossible to train Toothless. Even Fishlegs with his ordinary little dragon seems to have accomplished something. But Toothless refuses to learn anything. All Vikings follow the Golden Rule of Dragon- Training: “YELL AT IT! (the louder the better)”. And this one liner golden rule is the only books about dragons that exists! Toothless ignores yelling at him. Hiccup makes a list and starts his persistent efforts. Gratitude? Dragons don’t show gratitude and Hiccup’s coaxing were of no use. Fear? Yelling? These look like motives but Hiccup cannot do these. Greed? Vanity? Revenge? These might work. And the last on that list, that Hiccup wants to avoid at all cost is silly jokes and riddling talk. Hiccup will try these only when he is too desperate. The days of training pass and the day of the initiation arrives.

I shall begin by inspecting you and your animals, as if you were warriors about to go into battle. I shall introduce you to the watching members of the Tribes you hope to enter. Then the Test will begin. You will demonstrate how you have asserted yourselves over these wild creatures and tamed them by the sheer force of your Heroic Personalities.”You will start by performing the basic commands of ‘go’, ‘stay’ and ‘fetch’. You will end by ordering your reptile to hunt fish for you, as your forefathers have done before you.

In the beginning everything seemed to go, more or less, well. But a dramatic plot twist follows. All the dragons are making fun of Toothless – if you thought that bullies don’t mess with dragons then you were wrong. In his anger he began nudging and biting the rest contestants and can you believe it? The greatest dragon fight of all times started! Each boy yelled, screamed to his dragon to stop, just to be ignored. Gobber the Belch decided to intervene before any worse happened. Alas! The Initiation has finished and none of the young Vikings could join the tribe. The Viking laws are strict and clear: “Heroes of Exiles”.

The Elders of the Tribes consulted in the traditional Elder Huddle, but the law is the law and the decision is, in reality, already taken. But a terrible storm is about to start and Stoick the Vast announces that the ceremony of exile is postponed for the next morning. It ‘s one thing to exile them and it’s a different thing to send them to certain death in the raging sea. Hiccup stands up and complains “What kind of father thinks his stupid Laws are more important than his own son? And what kind of stupid Tribe is this anyway, that it can’t just have ordinary people in it?” But nobody seems to understand how their betrayed offsprings felt.

The storm awoke a terrible monster, which reputation is lost in the mists of time. Two monsters to be precise.

The first Dragon was enough to give you nightmares.
The second Dragon was enough to give your nightmares nightmares.
Imagine an animal about twenty times as large as a Tyrannosaurus Rex. More like a mountain than a living creature — a great, glistening, evil mountain. He was so encrusted with barnacles he looked like he was wearing a kind of jeweled armor but, where the little crustaceans and the coral couldn’t get a grip, in the joints and crannies of him, you could see his true color. A glorious, dark green, it was the color of the ocean itself.
He was awake now, and he had coughed up the last thing he had eaten, the Standard of the Eighth Legion, with its pathetic ribbons still flying bravely. He was using it as a toothpick and the eagle was proving very useful for teasing out those irritating little pieces of flesh that get stuck between your twenty-foot back teeth.

Cressida Cowell manages to send some messages, and being a little didactic, without becoming tedious. She touches issues that trouble the minds of kids and teens, like bullying and being accepted as you are. “How to Train Your Dragon” is also a book that shows it is worthwhile to choose the road of virtue despite the obstacles and adversities. As Hiccup notes “This is the story of becoming a Hero the Hard Way”, because in the end hero is the one who does the right thing.

This magnificent book for kids was published by Hodder Children’s Books on March 2003 and was published in Greek by Patakis Publications in December 2005. It is worth noting that there is a movie adaptation, also titled “How to Train Your Dragon” by DreamWorks. The book and the movie are both remarkable, each for different reasons. We are confident that young readers and moviegoers will enjoy them and will take some valuable life lessons!


The synopsis at the back of the book:

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was an awesome sword-fighter, a dragon-whisperer and the greatest Viking Hero who ever lived. But it wasn’t always like that.

In fact, in the beginning, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was the most put upon Viking you’d ever seen. Not loud enough to make himself heard at dinner with his father, Stoick the Vast; not hard enough to beat his chief rival, Snotlout, at Bashyball, the number one school sport and CERTAINLY not stupid enough to go into a cave full of dragons to find a pet… It’s time for Hiccup to learn how to be a Hero.

How to Train Your Dragon – 2010 (Movie Review)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 2014 (Movie Review)