This is an excellent animation movie and a great example of negotiation, to show even to the youngest to represent the themes related to the change of “context” (and perspective) and possible ways of creatively managing conflict situations. The young protagonist, Hiccup (son of the King of a Viking population of the deep North) becomes the cultural “mediator” between his people and their “sworn enemies”, the dragons, in order to search dialogue and coexistence that seem impossible.

The film represents a “path”, through which the protagonist shows that the solution to the “eternal” conflict does not necessarily – and inevitably – has to be clash and violence.

Hiccup, unlike other Vikings, does not fight dragons and this causes him great embarrassment at the beginning: for example he gets mocked by his friends and, above all, pitied by his father, because he’s “different from others” and unable to use force. However, what it seems to be his weakness becomes its force. He always looks for alternative solutions, he looks beyond the stereotype of dragons as sworn enemies of men, he sees something different in them, he finds a way to gain their trust. At the end this peculiar “attitude” makes him a hero for his people, the element that represents an ideal bridge between the world of men and the world of dragons, which looked unknown, therefore hostile.

Nothing is like it seems, you have to look at things with different eyes to understand different perspectives. That’s the job of the ones who have the goal to solve conflicts. It’s also important to help other people to do so, when a whole community is unable to get through appearance.

To do this, Hiccup uses empathy, which makes him grasp the mood of dragons, their feelings, their emotions. When Hiccup describes his first meeting with Dark Fury (the fastest and most mysterious among dragons, the “key to open the door” of their world), who will become his best friend, explains that he did not want to kill him (although they have the possibility), because he looked as frightened as I was. I looked at him and I saw myself. That’s the concept of identification in the other people and mutual understanding in a few words. Immerse yourself completely into empathy, and realize that other people’s feeling is the same we feel. If we become aware of our own feelings (and other people’s ones) maybe it’s easier to find an agreement, even between two deeply different creatures, just as humans and dragons.

You can find the same theme in the sequel, How to train your dragon 2 (directed by Dean Deblois): unlike the first movie, it focuses on Hiccup’s transformation into the leader of the village. The first movie represents the moment of the “illumination” about a different way of reasoning and managing the relationship with dragons, the second one represents the consolidation of Hiccup’s leadership in the village.

However, there’s also a reference to his role in the village, a role that inevitably leads him to a higher mission. In a scene of great meaning, Astrid, a young girl who has a thing for Hiccup, tells him: “only you can bring our worlds together…, so repeating once again the meaning of his leadership and the fact that he is “naturally”  a bridge between two worlds, the one of men and the one of dragons, an extraordinary case of mediator between two realities that are deeply different, and yet so close.


Stefano Cera

Buy the film


“How to Train Your Dragon“ A film Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois USA 2010

Buy the recommended book


“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute


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