(Or perhaps you’ve already met?)
Toothless is quite possibly my favorite dragon in cinema – and it all started with some excellent storytelling. In the movie, dragons are hated for the amount of destruction they wreak upon this tiny Viking village. We find out fairly early on how many different ways Vikings have supposedly been killed by dragons. And there are all sorts of different types they’ve battled over the years – and they’re pretty well documented… all except for one: the night fury. No one has ever really seen one, but they are regarded as the single most dangerous breed of dragon in existence.
When we finally do meet the dragon, he is injured and angry, but not malicious like we had come to expect. His act of mercy gives a young boy the courage he needs to seek the dragon out and befriend it. Although certainly dangerous, the night fury is anything but evil. With an initial standoffish yet curious nature, Toothless essentially has the mannerisms of a giant house cat (much to my delight – what’s not to love?). This major perspective switch leads the young boy to consider that maybe not all dragons are as evil as they seem.
I love the mystery and the buildup surrounding the night fury breed, but the contrast between those theories and the actual creature was my favorite part of this plot. Setting up expectations right away gives you the opportunity to shatter them later on and really surprise people. It’s called a “reveal,” and it’s one of my favorite writing tools. I’m sure it’s part of the reason why How to Train Your Dragon is one of my favorite movies (it also has a great plot, loads of wonder and excitement, relatable characters, humor, and plenty of adventure). If the book I’m writing does any of these half as well, I will be in good shape.
At this point, I’ve seen the movie but have not had a chance to read the books (apparently there’s also a television series). I hear they’re all quite different from one another, but worthwhile all the same. Here’s a link to one of my favorite reviewers who’s looked into all three: The Unlikely Librarian.