I found the 2010 movie “How to Train Your Dragon,” starring Jay Baruchel as the hapless Hiccup, endlessly droll, inventive, touching and visually inviting. So I got myself a copy of the book upon which the film is based.
Sort of. Kind of.
Cressida Cowell’s 2004 book has the same title as the movie. It also features a hapless Hiccup who, in the course of an adventure, discovers his inner hero. Hiccup has a pet dragon whom he names Toothless. (But this Toothless, unlike his cinematic counterpart, is tiny, selfish and irritating.) The names and personalities of many of the secondary figures are the same — Hiccup’s father (Stoick the Vast), mentor (Gobber the Belch) and a couple of classmates (Snotlout and Fishlegs). Oh, and there’s also a big test that Hiccup and his friends have to face.
But, basically, the movie tells a much different story of Hiccup as an odd kid who, nonetheless, has this inventive bent which he puts to good use in helping Toothless regain his power of flight and, ultimately, saving Hiccup’s village.
That said, the book, in telling its own adventure, is fun, droll and inventive.
Here, Hiccup’s special skill is his ability to talk Dragonese which, on the page, is shown with a semi-Gothic typeface. Cowell never explains how Hiccup obtained this skill (although maybe she does so in one of the eight sequels that have been published). But it gives individual dragons more of a personality than they have in the movie — other than Toothless, of course.
The book’s illustrations are distinctively crude, as if a 10-year-old had drawn them. Generally effective, often funny, but a bit too crude for my taste. (Maybe I’m not totally a 10-year-old boy at heart.)
As in the movie, the book ends very satisfactorily with Hiccup and Toothless triumphing over a very, very, very large dragon.
If I were really a 10-year-old, I’d gobble the other eight books up.
Instead, I think I’ll watch the movie again.
Patrick T. Reardon