Saul Rosenthal, PhD

Boston Area Health Psychologist

I was lucky enough to attend an early viewing of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. I watched with a real mixture of responses; sad that it is the last movie in the trilogy, excited to see how the filmmakers deal with some of my favorite characters, blown away by the amazing look of the film. I left the movie with the urge to write about it. Not a review, which would be two words: SEE IT! Rather, I found myself mulling over the parallels between Hiccup’s and Toothless’s journey and our own development from childhood to adulthood. The curse of my decades trying to understand what makes us tick!

First, I, along with my daughter, have a long history with How to Train Your Dragon. We started with the books. I picked up the first and read it to her as part of my not-so-covert attempt to raise her with stories that were both atypical for girls and that I would enjoy. And enjoy them we did. Cressida Cowell draws you in with goofy characters and fantastic storytelling. Of course, Vikings and dragons right away make it worthwhile. But her real gift is allowing the characters to grow more complex, to face dilemmas without clear or simple answers, and to make mistakes. Good characters do bad things and bad characters do good things. Over the course of twelve novels (and a few companion books), Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III grows from a scrawny boy who does not have a place in the Viking world into a true leader and the conduit from one age to the next. Toothless grows from a tiny, naughty, vain, and sub-par dragon into a brave, someday-to-be Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus and one of the important King’s Lost Things (he insists the most important) that will unite the Vikings under a single leader. The films, while very different from the books, chart a similar evolution for both characters.

I can’t help but look back across the story and see parallels in how we develop as people. I think this is the “Hero’s Journey,” which narrates the growth of an individual through a series of crises. The protagonist transforms into a hero by discovering hidden strengths and developing new talents. By the end, they are fundamentally changed. Older, wiser, and perhaps sadder.


February 3rd, 2019

Posted In: Development, Movies, Television, and Theater