Because I've read one too many fanfics that are far too hard on the people of Berk and make Hiccup weepy over it. These are vikings. The kind of people I grew up with. My ancestors. A little respect would be nice.
Failure To Communicate
This is Berk. It's nine tenths rock and one ten even more rock. The people who live here tend to be just like those rocks, hard, cold, and silent right up until they're trying to kill something. A few months ago that 'something' included dragons. Now they're a welcome part of the community.
The transition wasn't quite that simple, of course. Gobber lost his job, the dragons were almost banished a few times, and I lost a leg and was briefly disowned by my own father. But it all turned out fine. Gobber has a new job, the dragons are still here, and it's not like half of Berk isn't already missing a limb or two.
Being disowned? Well, yeah, that hurt, maybe more than losing my leg, though I was unconscious for most of that, so I can't say for certain. But that's over and done with. Dad apologized, I apologized, everything's right with the world.
I just get the occasional nightmare, no big.
Okay, so I maybe take Toothless on late night flights even when he'd rather be sleeping, which is kinda funny since Night Furies are supposed to be most active at, well, night. Maybe I took the whole thing with the father-son portrait a little too hard.
A lot too hard. I wasn't lying when I told Dad I had to do it for myself, but I wouldn't have had to do it for myself if I hadn't taken everything the wrong way. For one thing, it turned out Dad didn't know what the painting was going to look like until the unveiling, either.
I didn't fully realize how badly I misinterpreted everything until Dad and I went to Bucket to commission a new one.
"But I put everything into that painting! I spent hours making sure every line spoke to the soul. What did I do wrong?!"
"Nothing, Bucket." Dad, excuse me, Stoick the Vast, gripped Bucket's shoulders before the slightly smaller viking could collapse into a blubbering mess.
Anyone who tells you that vikings don't cry is either lying or delusional. While we don't normally talk about emotions we express them with all the pleasant subtlety of a hammer to the face.
Anyway, back to what Dad was trying to say.
"The painting is fine, one of your best works, we just feel it doesn't quite show the real Hiccup."
Bucket went from crushing despair to profound confusion in a heartbeat. "It doesn't?" He looked between me and the painting enough times that I was starting to think that dragon may have taken his eyes rather than his brain. "He's the pride of Berk, isn't he?"
"He's leader of the Dragon Academy, isn't he?"
Dad started to sound a little annoyed. "Yes, Bucket."
"He saved us from the Outcast invasion, didn't he?"
I'm not sure how long Dad would've let this go on, but I had enough. "Yes, Bucket! Can you please get to the point?"
That might not have been the best thing to say, as Bucket almost seemed to shrink to my size, his fingers dancing against the hook at the end of his right arm and his eyes darting all over the place. It's pretty easy to forget that Bucket's almost more sensitive than Fishlegs and doesn't have the brains (literally) to understand, well, most things.
"I was just trying to show what you're like under, um, this."
"You just gestured to all of me." I narrowed my eyes at him. Dear Odin, this was getting old.
Dad engulfed one of my alleged shoulders with his right hand while keeping his left on Bucket's. "I think what he's trying to say is that he and the rest of Berk see you as a hero, son, and he wanted to be sure future generations saw that as well."
"Really?" Bucket cocked his head, looking confused again. "Was that what I was trying to say? It sounds good."
Dad removed his hand from Bucket's shoulder so he could pinch the bridge of his nose. "Yes, Bucket, and it was a valiant effort, but Hiccup isn't that kind of hero or that kind of viking." He smiled down at me and, remember what I said about not talking about emotions? Yeah, I can't really describe what it feels like when Dad smiles at me like that, just that I could almost believe I looked like that ridiculous painting when he did. "He's the most brilliant mind Berk has ever seen."
So, anyway, that got cleared up and Bucket painted a new portrait. Gotta say, Dad turned out better in this one, too. Maybe the goofy grin didn't quite fit his name, but I think Bucket was letting a little of what Stoick the Vast looks like on the inside leak out just like he'd been trying to do with me the first time.
Do I still get nightmares about Dad disowning me? Yeah, sometimes. And Snotlout sometimes treats me the same way he did on the first day of dragon training, back when we were learning how to kill them instead of ride them. Fishlegs isn't as terrified to speak up as he used to be but he's still the most timid of us even though he keeps trying to pretend he's a normal viking. Honestly, I think he'd make a better skald. He'd be the first Berk's had in a hundred years.
The point is, people don't change overnight. I know Dad's proud of me. It took fifteen years but we're finally starting to talk to each other instead of at each other. Sometimes. When Dad isn't busy being chief, which, honestly, is just about every waking minute of the day. But it's still progress!
I learned something disturbing about myself today. I learned something just as disturbing about Snotlout at the same time. I can be just as big a jerk as Snotlout and he can be even more desperate to prove himself than me.
Yesterday was the race to determine the winner of the Thawfest Games. I wasn't close enough to hear everything Spitelout said to his son, but it sounded angry. Granted, we're vikings, most of what we say sounds angry, especially if you happen to be a Jorgensen. Even for vikings the Jorgensens tend to be rather abrasive. Annoying. Arrogant. I could probably come up with a few more before getting to words starting with 'b.' Needless to say, they aren't particularly well liked. Respected, yes, Snotlout wasn't lying about his family winning every Thawfest Game in generations and some of Berk's best warriors were Jorgensens. The latter is probably why my aunt, may she feast forever in Valhalla, married Spitelout's brother, who died before I was born and whose name I don't particularly care to remember.
Though, come to think of it, that makes Snotlout and me cousins. Yeeegh. Probably best not to think about that.
Where was I? Right, Spitelout and Snotlout. I don't know if Spitelout's respect for his son would really have depended on winning a race but it was pretty clear Snotlout thought so. After everything I've done to prove my worth to Dad, and dragging everyone else along for the ride, I wasn't willing to make Snotlout find out if he was right.
I won't say I didn't have my doubts. Dad seemed proud of me but he didn't know I threw the race. For all he or (hopefully) anyone else knew, Toothless's new tailfin malfunctioned.
Turned out Astrid figured it out, she's a lot smarter than most people give her credit for and she knows me far too well. She approved so I felt a lot better about it. After all, she had called me out on my poor sportsmanship earlier.
But what if I hadn't thrown the race? Yeah, Spitelout seemed pretty upset when I started winning points and Snotlout was freaking out during the last leg of the race but that didn't mean Spitelout would do anything bad if Snotlout lost, right? Spitelout was probably just ticked off that Snotlout was losing to me. Fifteen years of being the village screw-up doesn't just disappear because I'm suddenly, well, not a screw-up.
What? I'm viking enough to admit my own mistakes. Trying to swing a sword longer than my entire body was not only stupid it was almost lethal. To more than one person. And, in retrospect, trying to weaponize the large torches in the center of the village probably wouldn't have worked too well even if I had told someone before hand. I was trying too hard to earn something I already had but couldn't see.
To me it looks like Snotlout might be the same way. If I had won maybe Snotlout would've found out that his father still respected him anyway. Assuming Snotlout didn't collapse into a panicky ball of nerves or have Hookfang fly him off the edge of the world the moment I passed the finish line. That last one in particular probably wouldn't have ended well. Trust me on this one. I have experience running away from home. Worry tends to look a lot like frenzied rage coming from vikings.
No. I probably made the right decision.
I felt these two episodes deserved a little further expansion, especially the second one. Hiccup did his best under the circumstances. If he'd said anything, publicly or privately, it would only embarrass Snotlout and could have made things worse between father and son. Snotlout would be seen, at least by some people, as a wimp who couldn't take a little hard encouragement. We're talking about a culture where a father can teach his son to swim by using death threats. (Granted, that was Gobber's father, so who knows how normal he was, but still.) And, let's face it, Hiccup was letting his first ever win in an organized competition go straight to his head.