Dreamworks’ final installment of How to Train a Dragon holds a surprising twist–a mature perspective on marriage. The story picks up some time after the second episode where Hiccup’s father has died leaving Hiccup as the chief, albeit a reluctant one. Berk, his island hometown, is facing some serious issues–they don’t have space for all the dragons Hiccup keeps rescuing and they are a well-known location to all the dragon hunters out there. In the midst of this, Hiccup is also being pressured to finally wed Astrid, who states they aren’t ready for that step. In addition, Hiccup’s mother and others hint that Hiccup is too dependent on Toothless.
In fact, it is this dependence that becomes the overriding theme of the movie. Hiccup’s relationship with Toothless is threatened, however, when Toothless finally finds a female of his species. Throughout the movie, Toothless is torn between his desire to be with a mate and his love for Hiccup. Hiccup, on the other hand, must acknowledge Toothless’s needs apart from him and find out who he is without a dragon to depend on.
In the end, Hiccup makes the hard choice and releases Toothless to go be with his mate. It is at this point that Hiccup himself is finally ready to be the leader he was meant to be and to marry Astrid. The final scenes show he and Astrid, older and with children of their own, journeying to see Toothless, who also has young ones of his own.
Some important biblical views of marriage were communicated in this film:
1. There should be no other stronger commitments.
As long as Hiccup and Toothless were a pair, they were unable to commit to another. We see this clearly with Toothless who had to consistently choose between being with Hiccup and pursuing a relationship with the female dragon. Hiccup himself was not ready to make the commitment to Astrid until he was no longer bound to Toothless.
True marriage is a merging of lives. In this sense, there should be no other commitments or relationships that would detract from it. Genesis 2:24 (ESV) states, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This is a commitment unlike other commitments. There is a sense that something, someone, new is being created that is not like what was there before. This means that even the binding and foundational relationships like those of family and parents are diminished in the new relationship.
2. Marriage consists of speaking into each other.
In a crisis moment in the film and Hiccup is facing his biggest challenge, he is frozen by his insecurity and indecisiveness. At this moment, Hiccup’s mother nudges Astrid and says, “Go speak to him. He will listen to you.” Astrid comes alongside him and speaks the words that he needs to hear. Her words are ones of truth (she acknowledges his weaknesses) but also words of empowerment. As one who truly sees him, her words help him re-see the situation. No longer distracted by his own insecurities, Hiccup is able to use her message as a lens that pulls things into focus.
A good marriage encourages this kind of moment. The voice of your spouse should be the most important voice in your life, apart from God. In a healthy relationship, this voice is one that is realistic but also encouraging. Because spouses know each other in the most vulnerable ways and moments, there is a lot of power in these words. Therefore, it is important to be careful. Our words need to be truthful but with the purpose of bringing growth.
3. Marriage is best when we embrace adulthood and release childhood things.
Though Hiccup doesn’t realize it until the very end, dragons are a part of his childhood world. Between stories from his father who was obsessed with dragons even down to his stuffed dragon toy seen in one of his flashbacks, dragons ruled Hiccup’s childhood years. He carries this fascination into adulthood by transforming Berk into a dragon paradise and, when challenged, envisioning a place where they could live safely together without other selfish humans’ interference. At an important point, with Astrid’s help, he realizes that he is forcing his vision both upon the people of Berk and on the dragons, regardless of whether or not this was good for either of them. When he releases the dragons to do what is best for them, he finally releases his idea of a dragon utopia birthed in his growing up years. It is not until he does this that he is ready to fully take on the responsibility of leading his people and starting a family.
Many who are afraid of marriage fear the responsibility of adulthood. They prefer instead to hold onto the pleasures of childhood either in interests or in refusing to move out on their own. Scared to take the steps into adulthood, they are frozen. They are no longer children but they are not living as adults.
There are times when we have to do the hard things in order to become the men and women we were created to be. Sometimes this means giving up childish ways, no matter how much it hurts. When speaking of the responsibility of love, Paul explains, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13: 11 ESV).
While marriage isn’t the only step into adulthood, it is an important one because it signifies a moment when you are thinking of someone other than yourself. This becomes especially important if and when children come into your lives.
Where are you now?
Those reading this are invariably in different stages of life. Some of you are on the precipice of adulthood and are perhaps fearful. I will not deny that life is hard, but it is real. Living in a fantasyland, while appearing to be safer, will cause more torment than just taking the steps towards adulthood. Hiccup was more sure of himself and experienced more peace once he made the hard decisions and grew up.
When Hiccup says goodbye to Toothless, it didn’t just hurt in the moment of the decision. His pain would be carried throughout his life. However, just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s bad. Doing hard things means carrying weight and responsibilities that are uncomfortable. The good news is that, just like with our physical bodies, we can grow stronger. What seemed an impossible load at first can, over time and with the help of God, become not so difficult. In fact, if having to choose between fear (and letting it rule) and pain, it is always better to choose pain. Fear stunts you in the same way drugs stunt you–by keeping you from fully engaging in life. Pain is hard but it is here that we find room for growth that we can’t always foresee.
Marriage is one of those hard things. It is a great responsibility because of the impact it has on many lives (your spouse, potential children, and even family and friends). It is not something to be taken lightly.
May we all be like Hiccup and make the decisions that move us forward in life, freeing us to be more than what we could be on our own. If it includes marriage, let us do it with eyes open and with hearts fully invested.