Summarizing part 1, Stoick is overprotective (in HTTYD 1) and that overprotectiveness has limited Hiccup from:
- Being able to connect well with other people in the village, which is important to any leader (future or current)
- Prevented the development of his already incredible aptitude for leadership and invention.
- (Potentially, this protectiveness could be the reason Hiccup has less muscle than many of his peers since Stoick doesn’t want Hiccup to be around heavy objects)
Interestingly, these three things that Stoick has limited Hiccup from becoming early in the series are the three things that Stoick seems to want most for Hiccup–connection/respect from people, leadership aptitude, and physical strength. However, because Stoick cannot see how Hiccup might be able to achieve those things in his own way, Stoick tries to force Hiccup to achieve them on his terms–example, their deal (”you walk like us, talk like us, you think like us” (Stoick, HTTYD1).
When Stoick leaves, and Hiccup is just beginning to experience his freedom, Hiccup experience his first confrontation with an expectation of responsibility. Where does it come from? Who? You might ask… is it Gobber? No. Is it Toothless? Not really. Toothless doesn’t expect Hiccup to come back for him or anything else after he’s freed. So who?
It’s Astrid. Let me explain.
As Hiccup and crew begin their training, and maybe even before that, Snotlout and the twins tease Hiccup endlessly; Astrid looking on at him with frustration; and Fishlegs looks between crew and Hiccup with fear. Fishlegs is definitely Hiccup’s friend in HTTYD1, but is afraid of being bullied and maybe afraid of Stoick finding out how Snotlout and the twins treat Hiccup since we know that despite how rough Stoick treats Hiccup he is ultimately very protective and his roughness is out of love (and hope that it will toughen Hiccup up). Snotlout and twins seem to be aggressive because they think they can do so without repercussions, after all, Hiccup is not one to retaliate with his position as Stoic’s son, he is physically smaller, and is not well liked by their parents/adults in town. Astrid is different though.
Sure, she’s out for some glory in the training ring, but she also protects him, telling him to get down, and even putting herself in front of Hiccup when Stormfly comes racing towards them. She could have hidden with the others, and she had been up until that point. But with Hiccup laying down, she jumps in front of him and even draws Stormfly way from him and the others as a means of protection. Then she says to Hiccup, “Is this some kind of a joke to you? Our parents’ war is about to become ours! Figure out which side you’re on.” It’s the first time he’s been spoken to like that in the movie thus far (close to 30 minutes in), and the words show that she expects something of him. Even his father doesn’t seem to expect something from him. Stoick wants something, but doesn’t expect it–Astrid does though.
I think it’s because she recognizes that Hiccup will be the chief one day, probably soon since it doesn’t look like people live very long fighting dragon’s in their society (I mean, we only see one elderly person in the movie, Gothi). There is some merit to this idea as Astrid is the first to question Hiccup in the scene I just described, she’s the only one in the recruited group to notices his absence, and be really focused on why/how he changed while others are just willing to happily accept it as him finally coming into his own as what they think a chief’s son is like. Astrid is only truly aggressive towards him when she catches him alone in the forest, something she is sure to know that Stoick wouldn’t like.
Next time, she follows him into the forest when he is set to run away and we can see that her guard is up as she integrates him. She walks in front of him and around him, examining the surroundings for danger. The two times she gets him down on the ground is when he gets in front of her. She says it’s for the lies and everything else, but it also seems to be protective–she’s bigger than him and knows she’s the better fighter. She’s keeping him from hurting himself even if it means pushing him back and down. Emphasizing this, at least in my mind, is when she notices Toothless, she immediately knocks them down to hide him from view. As we hear Toothless leaping rocks toward them, she gets up screaming at Hiccup to run while she gets in front of him and makes to swing.
When Hiccup stops her and clearly shows a kinship with the dragon, she looks at him as if he’s lost his mind, and to her–maybe he has. She races toward the village, probably on the way to tell Stoick about the dragon. Hiccup+Toothless stop her, and he asks her to listen to him. Instead of ignoring him, which she could have done, she does (and their magical date begins).
At the end of the magical date, when they learn about the dragons’ nest and the Red Death, Astrid says that they need to race back and tell the others about immediately. Hiccup tells her not to, and Astrid asks him if he’s choosing the dragon over his people. Hiccup, with the face of a stern leader (which we can recognize as similar to his father’s determined look) says yes, he is choosing Toothless over the village.
For a moment, Astrid’s face falls. It is one of shock, fear, and disbelief. When he turns from her, it’s not completely away. She can see half of him, and we can see the look on his face. He’s determined and thoughtful in this moment. She continues looking at him, and he eyes scan his body language before returning to his face. Then she asks what are we going to do? Emphasis on we. It is a very brief moment but tells us a lot about Astrid and Hiccup’s relationship–not as lovers, but as leaders. Astrid, from the moment we see her first, is shown to be an unofficial leader of their peers, but even so, she’s followed Hiccup into the woods and is now going to follow him down this unknown path where a dragons life is placed above sharing information the village has longed for over generations.
For Astrid, this not a moment of friendship or love, it is a moment of choice. Do I follow tradition or follow the new path presented? Tradition says we kill all dragons–tradition says the current chief decides. But Hiccup presents a new path. He’s not like his father, he’s making a different choice and thinking about how to build a new path, one which lets the dragons–their enemies–live…
She chooses Hiccup to follow Hiccup. Why? Because he’s not black and white. He says he wants to find a path that lets both the enemy and the people he leads live.
This choice is reaffirmed when they are standing alone at the cliff tops looking down at those that are going back to find the nest. She alone is at his side, and she asks what he’ll do now that he’s lost everything and everyone he’s ever known. Will he cower? Or will he rise–he asks her why it’s important to her to know why he didn’t kill the dragon when he could have (when anyone else would have). She answers, “Because I want to remember what you say right now.”
Hiccup answers that he looked at the dragon and saw himself–listing fear as what he saw but recalling that scene, fear was not the only thing we saw. Toothless’ expression was one of someone trapped, resigned to his fate, and hopeless. Hiccup, in freeing Toothless, inspired something else in Toothless and himself. Astrid sees this in Hiccup. Sees him change before he eyes and race off to save Toothless. And what does she do? She follows him.
Astrid chose Hiccup as her leader and, by extension, those that follow her will have to follow him too. It’s this choice that allows her to becomes his second in command. Not because she’s pretty or aggressive or his girlfriend/crush. It’s because she’s smart, loyal, and trusts him.
Summarizing what I’ve formulated in this part of the analysis when given freedom, Hiccup is shown to excel. As he excels, he grows into someone fit to lead and gains the first of his loyal (human) companions–Astrid. In gaining Astrid’s faith as a leader, the others begin to follow him too.
Part 1 | Part 3 (not up yet)