There are so many stories within How To Train Your Dragon. How can I possibly choose just one?
Chapter 1 - Gothi
None in the village could remember a time when Gothi was not the tribe elder. Even Mildew, as old and decrepit as he was, could just barely recall seeing her with wisps of pale yellow in her hair before those were overwhelmed by ancient white. Even her true name was lost, 'Gothi' indicated her role as priestess and diviner, and even that wasn't quite correct. She had seen the birth of everyone living within the village and presided over too many deaths to count.
Many people feared the uncertain future but not her. Not because she could read it in bones and finger nails, but because she had lived long enough to see the inevitable conclusion.
Berk was dying.
Dragons came in greater numbers every year. The winters grew harsher and the growing time shorter. Children came less frequently and many of them died before their naming day. Those who survived were strong but stunted in height. If nothing changed, the dragons would claim Berk as their own in a generation, maybe two.
Thus, it came as no surprise when frantic voices called for her a month before the chief and his wife were expecting their first born child. It seemed every soul in the village, alive or not, crowded around the chief's house in barely restrained panic. All moved aside in reverence for the elder.
The babe was born on a winter night at the cusp of the first true rainstorm heralding that year's thaw. Gothi had not seen such a tiny infant in decades, certainly not one so determined to make his presence known to the entire island.
The new mother, Valka, if Gothi remembered right (there had been so many over the years), gazed at the wailing, coughing child in her arms. "He's so small." Her voice came out as barely a breath, every inch of her had to be completely spent from the long labor.
"Aye, but he has a voice to rival Thor himself." Exhaustion and relief warred with swelling pride on the young chief's face. "He'll grow."
Gothi didn't have the energy to reprimand him for making such pronouncements. She moved more out of habit than conscious thought for the bag holding her divination tools.
Valka saw her and tightened her grip on the new life that had been entrusted to her. "No. No, please. I don't want to know."
The blacksmith hobbled closer to the bed. "Val, come on, it's tradition."
"I don't care!" The poor girl was almost in tears. "I already... Please, I don't want to see his death laid out before me."
"He won't die!" The chief's voice shook the rafters before his gaze softened on his wife. "He won't." That gaze turned pleading as he turned to Gothi. "He won't."
Gothi made several gestures and shook her staff, the one mode of communication she had since her youth and a ritual that called for the sacrifice of her tongue.
"Eh..." The blacksmith, Gobber, perhaps, squinted at her before translating. "She says she needs to examine the wee babe, regardless, to make sure he's healthy and pick any medicines he might need."
Valka allowed this, though she remained tense, particularly as the old woman examined her babe's tiny pink tongue. The child, in contrast, calmed under Gothi's wrinkled fingers. Small and frail with lungs that sounded a little too full, Gothi normally would not have put much effort into him, chief's son or not. She had seen far too many cradle deaths to expect this one to see another winter.
And yet, another part of her, one not so withered by time and tragedy, itched to cast his runes.
She gave detailed instructions on the care of this child then motioned for the men to follow her outside. With the birth fluids long dry and the general expectation that such a tiny thing would not live long, the rocky path leading down from the front door lay deserted.
"So, now what? Ow!" Gobber rubbed the side of his head where Gothi had hit him with her staff. "You aren't seriously going to tell his fortune from out here, are you? Can you even do that?"
Gothi rolled her eyes and arranged her tools, letting her actions speak for her. With eyes closed she swirled the bowl of runes between her hands. Then she cast them out and opened her eyes.
The pattern spread before her on the stone step made her doubt her abilities for the first time since her youth.
"What does it say?" The chief leaned closer, his huge bulk blocking the light from the doorway. "My son, he'll grow up strong. A warrior."
Gothi sent him back with a glare and a warning shake of her staff. Gobber gripped his one good hand over the chief's shoulder in an attempt at reassurance.
"Look, whatever it says, at least Val came out all right."
"And so will my son!" The chief rounded on his friend in a rage as dark and firy as his hair. "He's strong. He'll live. He has to."
Gothi's attention returned to the runes. There had to be a mistake here. She took out a handful of knuckle bones and tossed them to one side, checking them while the two men argued and slipped them quickly back into her pouch.
She tried a couple more things in quick succession before confirming that her first casting was correct. After scooping the runes safely away she gave each man a good hit to get their attention. Then she went about the task of sketching out the parts she felt could safely be relayed to others.
Gobber frowned at her markings, apparently as confused as she had initially been. "Well, good news, he's gonna live."
"Haha! I knew it!"
"And he'll be a great, eh, tree. OW! Protector. He'll be a great protector." Gobber rubbed his head. "Still looks like a tree." He flinched at the staff Gothi held up in warning. "But he'll face many challenges and dangers before then."
If the chief beamed any brighter he'd have been mistaken for the sun. "That's my boy! He's a Haddock, for sure. Thank you, elder. Thank you so much. I've got to tell Val. This is wonderful! HA!"
Gothi and Gobber shared a look. Obviously the last part hadn't sunk in yet. Gobber offered to walk the old woman home but she waved him off. She had much to consider in what she hadn't told.
Loss and self-sacrifice had been prominent alongside his role as protector. Another cluster spoke of something even more ominous.
That boy, for good or ill, would end the Dragon War.
Did anyone else notice that even as adults our dragon riders are shorter than the average Hooligan? All except Hiccup, that is, who ends up being able to look his father straight in the... chin. But considering Stoick the Vast is officially 6'9" that's doing pretty good. Anyway, most of this is the result of me wondering how much Gothi would know considering her stated divination abilities.
Also, while the series does refer to her as Gothi as if that's her name, technically it's a title referring to a priest who's also a chieftain. A female would be gyothja. Not that a cartoon marketed towards kids is likely to be historically accurate. Let's assume that Berk has been isolated for a very long time and the meaning of certain terms as been corrupted.
(Youth is relative. Stoick is thirty, so most people wouldn't consider him young. To Gothi, everyone is young.)