"In the end, Astrid realizes that she doesn't know what she wants and that's okay."
Astrid Hofferson was in a bad place when she last saw Hiccup, if the reader can remember. It was bad enough that she lost the attention of her peers and village, but she lost her place as the Most Valuable Trainee. By this point in the story, Astrid was driven into such anger and such suspicion that she had knocked down Hiccup, stepped on him, and hit him with the butt of her axe.
She'd be lying if she said that didn't relieve a little bit of her stress.
So, yes, Astrid was not in a very stable condition when she last saw Hiccup, and that stability took a further turn by the reaction of the village to her revelation of Hiccup's secret. She told them, plainly, that Hiccup was harboring a Night Fury, catering to it like a dear pet. They laughed at her.
Bear in mind, Astrid was proven right. Hiccup was up to no good. Not only did he cheat to defeat all those dragons, but he was also consorting with their generation-old enemy. He was riding on the back of a dragon—the creatures that ravaged their village time and again, the monsters that razed their crops, killed Vikings, and tore limbs from sockets.
This was the moment Astrid was waiting for.
Too bad the village didn't believe her. Astrid discovered a traitor in their midst, the bane of her last two weeks, she regained her title of best-young-Viking-warrior and the village initially chose to side with him. And why wouldn't they? Hiccup had become their cherished heir; everything the village and chief had been waiting for. How could they just turn their back on him so quickly?
The village didn't believe her and it burned Astrid's already wounded ego more than she could stand. Her resentment of Hiccup churned with indignation and loathing and she knew in that moment that she could never forgive him.
Naturally, with time and investigation, the truth came out and Astrid reveled in it.
Of course she was right.
Of course she was telling the truth.
She wouldn't lie to the village like he did. She'd never leave it, never abandon its people, like he did.
All eyes were on her. She was back on top and people were finally listening to her again. She trained harder than ever because Berk needed and she would make them recognize this. Never would they doubt her again. Never would they even think of choosing a traitor over her. Within months, Astrid was fighting back-to-back with Phlegma the Fierce, Burthair, Gobber the Belch. With Stoick the Vast.
But even when she was right, even as people went back to looking at her as the prime example of a young Viking warrior, Astrid still felt sick thinking about Hiccup. It made no sense because she had won, he was gone—months by this point—and still he would leave her mind.
He was always there, reminding her of that time he became the apple of the village's eye by trickery and deceit. Every dragon that tore through a good Viking or left a family homeless would remind Astrid that somewhere out there, Hiccup was riding one, and she would be driven by that anger.
For a while she reveled in her prowess and reputation so much that she didn't notice the increasing frequency of attacks.
It wasn't until they were attacked three nights in a row that Astrid realized something was wrong. She was sluggish by that third night. She didn't have full rotation of her shield arm after a bad burn and it cost her some broken ribs. By the next morning the Bardison children were orphaned. The Hallmans and Stengers lost their homes. The Dalgaards lost their farmland, their prize cattle, their entire livelihood.
Berk was dying. This wasn't like her parents time, or her grandparents time. This wasn't like the stories she was told as a child where dragon raids neatly played into Viking heroics. This was devastating. Astrid fought something far worse and the luster of being the Village Hero quickly waned as the pressure increased. The older generation leaned more heavily on hers as they dwindled in number and skill.
Hiccup popped up in her mind still. Far less frequently, thankfully, but still there any time she saw the chief with his heavy brow and lined cheeks. She wished she could let him go, forget him as so many villagers seemed to have done and move on, but she couldn't. Talk of him had long stopped, the pitying looks towards their chief—the whispers—all over, but Hiccup stayed in her mind because of how he looked at her. He looked at her like she had disappointed him. Her. The disappointment. It was ludicrous.
It didn't make it any less infuriating.
She wanted to see Hiccup again just to pound in his face, to show him what his precious dragons were doing to his village, and hope he felt nothing but bone-numbing remorse before she smashed in his face again.
Others Astrid's age were getting married now. Some had children. Even with the incident of attack, Berk pressed forward. Astrid spent her days and nights fighting, training, following war talks, but that didn't stop villagers from looking at her. Berk needed to hold its population more than ever. Young Vikings were trying to juggle fighting and starting families more frantically, so why couldn't she? She had been so willing to be the example until that point. In battle, Astrid led by example. Why shouldn't she do the same for life?
Because she didn't want to. She wasn't ready. She didn't think she was ready, anyway. Astrid wanted to continue being the example of her generation—it was her niche—she wanted to live up to every expectation because they needed a leader. Stoick recovered from the loss of his son but he still slipped, he struggled. Astrid could see it and she wanted to help him take the mantle but she didn't know if she could be everything Berk needed right now. There was something inside her that began to fight against maintaining that Exemplary Viking image she so vehemently crafted. Things were moving too fast for her and at the same time she felt like she wasn't moving at all.
She wanted to help Berk. She wanted to do something other than fight. She wanted to know what it was like to be a mother (and she likely never would and that's why it made her ache to see her peers experience it). She didn't want to get married.
Astrid wanted her wants to matter, but they didn't. Only Berk mattered. If she were to die (and it was very likely with the progress of the war) then she would die selfless.
Okay, so maybe she did turn the other way when Grund, a suitor, was teamed up by one too many dragons (she had her hands full anyway!). And maybe she wasn't too torn up about the survival rates of those who bothered to ask after her. All the best fighters knew her well enough to know she'd never appreciate having her hand asked after.
Only sometimes did Astrid think of Hiccup and how he left. Her stomach still twisted with anger and disgust that he left them with this (even though a part of her knew he wouldn't be much help if he had stayed). But now another part of her wondered what if she left too—what if she escaped from the pressure to marry and bear children and keep fighting—and then the sickness would return.
She couldn't. She wouldn't. She loved her village and she had a duty as a shieldmaiden and if she died fighting here, never making it any further in milestones or borders, so be it.
So Astrid continued to struggle internally: between duty, and not knowing what she wanted when she should know what she wanted (the village, it all came down to the village), and loneliness, and so much confusion, and the desire to move forward as something held her back that went deeper than discomfort.
Astrid hadn't realized how much she pulled away, how much the war had sucked her in, until Ruffnut of all people reached out to her. She let herself go a little after that, allowed those closest to her to see her insecurities, and then, a little more, the village.
She began spending her dragon-free evenings out with her friends. She learned the latest drinking games and trashed them when it came to comparing battle stories. Their jokes were morbid, the empty seats in the Meade Hall easy to ignore but, hey, they found a reason to laugh through it all. It wasn't Life with a Slice of War; it was War with a Slice of Life.
His letters came—Hiccup's—and all of Astrid's old feelings of resentment and incredulity surged upward but she had better control of her impulses now. Hiccup was offering a peace pipe, some insight to the war that they hadn't known before. Mentions of control and blame and ways to stand against the army of dragons that ravaged them far too often were embedded in his correspondence, so Astrid found it in herself to push aside personal feelings and consider them. As did the rest of Berk.
Fishlegs took up war strategy from there. He took up documentation and calculation using Hiccup's notes and suggestions, and they began to see some progress. He became as important to the village as she was and Astrid found herself spending more and more time with him because he could understand the pressure.
Berk went on dying, its land and its spirit, but by then Astrid learned to spend any free moment in jest and with friends. She ignored the few suitors left. If this would be the rest of her life—fighting, fighting, and death—she wouldn't spend it in uncomfortable situations she didn't feel ready for. She wondered, oh how she wondered—but it was better left untouched. Fishlegs started to take the real pressure now, the pressure she used to feel, and she tried to be there for him, to keep him from pulling away as she had.
Then he came back. The traitor.
Astrid knew this was coming. Through his letters, he explained the control, gave them suggestions about saving the dragons rather than outright hurting them (not that it mattered much to her when they were still the enemy), and eventually Hiccup managed to talk his way into some loose amnesty.
She was prepared for Hiccup to be welcomed back as an ally, as much as it left her feeling sour.
She wasn't prepared to confront him, alone, in that very same cove were she last saw him, just as he wasn't prepared for her.
Something had broke inside her at his face, at the familiarity of the scene, and she couldn't hold in her resentment and hate and everything she held in for the past two years. Her peers knew she wasn't Hiccup's biggest fan but then never knew why. Why he infuriated her so much. That look of disappointment he sent her. How he judged her.
She screamed at him about his betrayal and what he abandoned them to and he screamed back. She wasn't the same girl who entrusted authority to have her back in every matter, but he wasn't the same boy who would walk away from a scolding either. He felt justified in his actions and that only maddened her further. They went in circles. He carried a chip on his shoulder. She drove him out, he said. She wouldn't listen, he said. He could have handled things differently if she had just listened.
Astrid refused to accept blame. Hiccup refused to admit he was wrong.
They vented and vented until they had no words left, nearly coming to blows if it weren't for the Night Fury lurking in the shadows.
A dragon playing peacekeeper. It was nearly all she could take.
Her aggression spent, Astrid turned her back to Hiccup and left.
This time, Hiccup followed her.
Somehow he convinced her to get on the dragon. He didn't force her. He didn't give her an ultimatum. He waited for her to choose.
And Astrid was ready to take a leap of faith this time around because the war was heading in only one direction—it wouldn't be a tradition to pass on to the next generation, it was ending with her unless something different happened. She chose to get on that dragon.
Astrid's life changed that night. For the first time in a year she felt hope for her people. They had a chance. Hiccup spoke of taking dragons out of the demon's control. He spoke of taming them, riding them, using them to win the war. The more he spoke, the more Astrid felt a weight lift from her heart.
Hiccup showed her the dragons he had already saved. The Timberjack in particular, boyish and curious, had taken to her and she returned the adoration.
From there, Astrid finally started to see real progress. With her and Fishlegs at Hiccup's back, the village was willing to listen to him. They brought more of their peers to the Safe Island: the land outside of the Demon's control where they harbored rescued dragons. More and more Vikings were willing to engage with them, then ride them. Hiccup trained her in their handling and Astrid trained others. Soon, she couldn't imagine life without Chip (and Hiccup had the nerve to make fun of the name when he named his dragon Toothless).
The next time a raid happened, they fought back with dragons, and the results, what they saved, brought back festivity and light to Berk that Astrid thought she'd never taste again. Everything continued to snowball uphill and the positivity was contagious.
Her life had flipped upside-down again, but this time Astrid reveled in it. They were at the head of a revolution. She had a future again, and covering so much new ground that maybe, maybe, if she survived this, she would be able to explore life in her own time, at her own pace, and her choices would be for her benefit, not for the village's.
The Meatheads came and they thought everything would keep working out. Other tribes were impressed with the union of humans and dragons. They admired the flight and teamwork and were willing to give it a try, especially in the face of such undeniably favorable results.
And, just as Berk let their guard down, Viking nature won out.
They took him. The Meatheads took Chip, among other dragons, to find and confront the Demon themselves. Death or Glory was the Viking way, after all.
The Berkian riders left immediately to head them off. Fleets of sea-bound Hooligans followed as backup at a much slower pace.
Astrid was furious. Furious. Chip was hers and he was so young and they put him in chains. The Meatheads already made it to the Nest by the time they caught up, but that didn't deter Astrid from taking her dragon back. Their presence also didn't escape the notice of a two-thousand strong horde of dragons.
They weren't ready for the battle that came when they first pursued the Meatheads. It happened right on top of the Demon's lair. Battle on dragonback is faster, louder, than battle on foot. Astrid didn't know when the fleet of Berkians arrived but when they did more and more of the Demon's army abandoned the fight. The minds, she recalled Hiccup saying once, Human minds can protect them from Her.
Her being the Demon, who decided to emerge as her army left. She crawled out of the mountain like it was made of dirt and the image would forever be burned in Astrid's mind. She didn't know if the horror she felt was her own or collective of every Viking around her. People were screaming, scrambling, desperate to escape this unbeatable thing.
But Hiccup, more experienced in flight and by-far the fastest, took the fight elsewhere—back into the depths of the Nest.
Of that afternoon, Astrid remembered trouncing Thuggory, rescuing Chip, battling hordes of dragons, freeing them, and then waiting. Waiting for Hiccup to emerge victorious.
The Wait was one of the most painful Astrid could remember in her short life. Looking back on it, she would never be able to gauge how much time had passed. Her fingers had gone numb with the tightness of her fists, her heart pounded against her throat. She couldn't remember if she heard silence or a cacophony of dying Vikings and dragons. She just remembered the tenseness and how useless she felt because, for the first time in years, she wasn't doing all the fighting. That was the day Astrid learned that Waiting could be Worse.
Hiccup returned, of course. But unconscious, white-skinned, and on the verge of frostbite of all things.
The Demon was defeated. Astrid may have sobbed with relief. Berk would live. They would live. She could live.
They returned to Berk. A handful of loyal, or thankful, dragons followed them while the rest dispersed—presumably to restart whatever life they were taken from. Hiccup recovered, but couldn't stay. He was too restless, antsy, and had already tasted too much of Out There to ever return to a predictable life on an island.
Stoick was hurt. Astrid wanted to argue on behalf of her chief but a part of her sympathized with Hiccup. Those heinous thoughts that once entertained the notion of leaving Berk were no longer taboo. She could stay, she help rebuild Berk, try for a family and an exemplary Viking life. It all sounded nice to her, but not right for the moment. Not now.
Astrid didn't know what she wanted; she just knew what she felt. She felt like she had time. It was a feeling she could bask in for the rest of her life.
After only encountering mind-controlled dragons for the last few hundred years, Vikings realized there was much they had to relearn about the winged lizards.
Astrid heard Fishlegs was going to travel the world, re-write the scrolls on dragons, and she jumped at the opportunity to join under the title of "bodyguard". The young man would probably get himself killed otherwise—or, at the very least, miss out on haords of information if he was too scared to charter into murky waters—and Berk needed this information. How else would they further incorporate dragons into their lives as partners? Others agreed. Who better to protect their new manual author than their best fighter. The war was over; Berk could finally let Astrid go.
Astrid also didn't give Fishlegs much of a choice in the matter. She needed to leave Berk. She had to separate herself from her nearly crippling desire to please her village and find a solid understanding of what she wanted. She experienced too much war in too little time and not enough of life.
She was doing this for her.
When Astrid returned from her travels with a better understanding of the world under her belt and more experience in love, loss, and choices than most would find in an island-bound lifetime, she would step up to take over the position Hiccup never wanted.
As the Chief of Berk.
A/N: Hitchups from Astrid's view. Naturally, there's a lot I didn't mention in this little life-summary. The death of her mother. The civil war that started when she took Berk from Snotlout. The love trysts. A son, perhaps? There's lots and lots to it, but this is her side of things during Hitchups.
A rather long note from DA (feel free to skip):
Writing Hitchups was an amazing and fulfilling experience for me, though it was a story that focused mostly on Hiccup and Toothless and only touched upon the progress of the Berkians by comparison. I wanted to give all the curious people a solid layout of Astrid's journey.
First, you must understand that Astrid's character really resonated with me for the first forty minutes of the movie, and pretty much right where Hitchups started is where it stopped. Writing her was an emotional outlet for me as well as a bit of a crutch. Through Astrid I vented every insecurity and aggravation I was going through at the time: being compared to peers, feeling the pressure of completeing all these 'milestones' but never having the heart for it, wanting to keep the respect of parents/neighbors/society (when they can't well sympathize with the mentality outside their generation) but not wanting to compromise personal beliefs...
In Hitchups, Astrid was represented today's Young Adult. It's a new world and we aren't following the same 'college-marry-job-house-babies' routine the generations before us did. She would like to have kids some day but she doesn't want to get married. She wants to see more of the world without looking irresponsible. She wants all those people who admired her to continue admiring her, even though she doesn't want to follow the path they expect her to.
I think Astrid would love the Viking lifestyle until it became uncomfortable for her. And I think it would become uncomfortable for her if the war continued, escalated to obliterating proportions, and took away the pace-of-life Astrid thought she would get to maintain for the rest of her life.
Had the war just continued at it's never-ending pace, as Hiccup had hoped it would when he left, then I'm sure Astrid would have been just fine. But it didn't. She felt the pressure, she felt the crushing reality that she was likely going to die along with her village without ever experiencing anything more than war. So when it all ended, when her village was saved, she nearly cried. There were tears in her eyes and it wasn't because Hiccup lived (though she was happy about that), it was because she could live.
Phew, okay, so this A/N is about as long as the Astrid Summary. Anyway, thoughts?