I’m not going to actually review any of the books. Why? Because, as I previously stated, my love for this series has gone way past the point of review. In my opinion, this series is flawless. It is the most perfect example of storytelling, and I even daresay it ranks higher than Harry Potter and Percy Jackson in the perfection scale. (I’m glad Past Me isn’t here to see that…)
Do you see the problem here? Perfection doesn’t exist. And I know that. So, to avoid further complications, I’ll just admit my opinion is very much biased and move on to what really matters here: why is the How to Train Your Dragon series so perfect to me? How could a children’s story hook me to the point of knocking all the critical sense out of my brain?
I’ll tell you.
Well, it’s more than that actually. Let’s begin from the start.
At first, when I had just started to read the series, before all the books had even been released, I was 14 years old and had a blast reading them. They were fun and witty and it was enough. I wasn’t looking for anything else, so I didn’t find anything else. At that time, I read up to the 8th book.
After a few years, three more books had been released and I was around 18 years old and decided I would reread the 8 previous books before going forward with the series. That time I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before: as I was going through a very strong phase of my coming of age process I was struck with Hiccup’s own coming of age story. Suddenly, HTTYD was about growing up and carving your own path in a world that wants you to follow everybody else.
I reread the first 8 books convinced the series would end at book 11, so I was really surprised at the realization that it was a 12 book series and that the last book wasn’t even out yet. Its release was postponed for what seemed forever (I believe the author had some health issues) and then I had to wait the translation to come out in my country (I could have bought the English version, but then the books wouldn’t match) (and yes, this is a serious issue to me, so please no judging).
This year the 12th and final book has finally been released here and so my journey started to face its end: I decided I would reread all the 11 books and then I would finally finish the series.
(Are you still with me? Hold on just a little bit longer, I’m getting to the point on a second.)
Upon this last reread, now with 21 years old, the story morphed into yet another thing.
You see, it is still fun and witty. It is still all about growing up and coming of age and carving your very own path. It’s all of those things. But now, in this moment of great changes and revolutions all over the world, it’s become also a tale about hope.
On his journey, Hiccup (and his lovely friends, I must add) learns to be himself and to accept responsibilities he didn’t think were suited for him. Most importantly, he learns that a strange and unconventional Hero like himself might be just what the world needs. In a world where greatness is believed to be achieved only through violence, a pacifist little Viking as a leader might be the only way to salvation.
Everything and almost everybody is against him, and at one point he faces a dilemma: yes, he is a pacifist and his intentions are great, but so were the ones of all the Heroes before him. Heroes come and Heroes go, but the world always goes back to its old and perverted ways. What’s the point of fighting then? Why even try if there will always be people willing to destroy everything you built and fought for?
Hiccup doesn’t give up, though. Not because he thinks his legacy will be indestructible and will last forever, but because of something his grandfather, Old Wrinkly, told him once: History is a cycle, and it goes two steps forward, but only one step back.
So, even if things deteriorate, even if peace isn’t eternal, the fact that you existed and tried your best might be enough. Maybe, just maybe, the world is a little bit a better place than it would have been if you never existed. Even if you’re small and feel weak against the enormous world, even if you think you’re useless and totally not up to the task, don’t let go. Do not ever stop moving or being who you are or doing what you think is right.
Because the thing is no one can fix everything, no matter how powerful they are. There are no universal Heroes. So we can curl up on the floor and cry (and trust me, it tempts me way too often) or we can keep moving and accept (and accepting is the hardest part, really) that being our own Heroes is just enough, and then hope our everyday little acts of heroism made the littlest difference in this world that gets madder by the minute.
As I said, hope.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this little children’s story, maybe I’m just projecting my desperate need for consolation during difficult times, but I believe that’s what books are for. All of this I just said might seem obvious, and it is, but sometimes it’s very difficult to remember hope and how important it is to keep going, especially when you turn on the TV and all you hear about is war and hunger and corruption and shootings and terrorism. It’s really overwhelming.
And the HTTYD books just did it. On a particularly difficult evening, when all of the week’s news were weighing down on me, it reminded me of hope. Better saying, it convinced me of hope. Hiccup convinced me it is possible to live your life regardless of whatever madness the cosmos is throwing at you and that your life actually matters.
Once again, and for the last time, Hope.
And that’s why, dear internet, How to Train Your Dragon is simply perfect to me.
(All the images are my own. All the books and the illustrations within are by Cressida Cowell.)
Greetings from the Fox ∞