How to Train Your Dragon

By Cressida Cowell [LibraryThingGoodreads]

Even though Hiccup is the son of the Viking chief, he’s scrawny and not much good at Viking-type things. All the youths in the village have to catch dragons to train, but Hiccup only manages to get a tiny one, which he accurately names Toothless. Though Hiccup has taught himself to speak Dragonese, Toothless refuses to obey him, and eventually gets Hiccup and all the other boys banished from the village. That’s when they realize a monstrous Sea Dragon has washed up on their shore. It’s up to Hiccup and Toothless to defeat the Sea Dragon, save the village, and get themselves reinstated in the village, if they can only get along long enough to do it.

Despite my love of dragons, the Cowell books didn’t look terribly interesting to me in the store. But the How to Train Your Dragon movie blew me away. I loved everything about it – the story, the animation, the characters, the complete awesomeness of having a fantastic female lead and another girl who was treated as just another kid instead of the “bad” girl to Astrid’s “good”…fabulous. Utterly fabulous. I adored it.

So I picked up the book. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much the only time that I’ve liked the movie version better than the book.

To a certain extent, this isn’t the book’s fault at all, because it’s a very different beast. And certain decisions that were made were the correct ones for the format the story was in. For example, in the book, Toothless and Hiccup talk in Dragonese, which wouldn’t work in a kids’ movie – you’re not going to have long conversations between the two main characters in subtitles when half the audience can’t read well enough to follow them. Conversely, in the movie Toothless is basically a big kitten, and his body language is utterly lovable to anyone who’s ever had a cat – but that’s not something that translates to prose.

Then, too, in the book Hiccup has a friend who’s even more pathetic than he is: Fishlegs. In the movie, Hiccup’s isolation works well. In a book series with an indefinite amount of books, it would be way too depressing. He needs at least one friend. Again, it makes total sense that the book was written that way, and the changes that were made for the movie were made to tell a different kind of story – but it was a story that I preferred.

The one thing that the movie changed that I do in fact fault the book for is the amount of (human) female characters. There’s one in the book – Hiccup’s mom – and I’m not sure she even has a line. Meanwhile, the movie has the fantastic Astrid and Ruffnut, and women seem to be just as capable warriors as men in general. Advantage: movie version, by far.

Also, a small quibble: emphasis in the book is done with all caps instead of italics. This makes it read like everyone’s screaming at you all the time, including the narration. It’s kind of stressful.

The book was decent, with cute illustrations, and I’m glad it’s a successful series. But I have no interest in picking up any more of them – just in getting the movie when it comes out on DVD. Three cupcakes. (But the movie would’ve gotten five.)

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    One Response to “How to Train Your Dragon”

    1. Hannah says:

      I read these books forever ago and I don’t remember that much about them except that they were funny.
      But if you do like dragons, I’d suggest reading the Fablehaven books. Even though i don’t think he mentions them until the third book, I really liked the way Brandon Mull portrays dragons and they’re good books to read.

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