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Reblogged from kingofthewilderwest  87 notes

Hiccup and Snotlout, Uneasy Opposites

kingofthewilderwest:

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By far one of my favorite relationships in both the books and the DreamWorks HTTYD worlds is that between the cousins Hiccup and Snotlout. Not only are they each separately some of my favorite characters, but the manner in which their personalities clash makes for a wonderful tangle.

After all, Hiccup and Snotlout are two very different flavors of Vikings – Hiccup the intellect, Snotlout the Viking warrior type. These notable differences certainly create interesting interactions between the cousins. Their responses to one another highlight their differences, and it is what makes them sometimes be baffled by each other, be outright frustrated with each other, or… most touchingly… respectful of one another. Interactions suggest there might be some internal jealousy within Snotlout’s mental framework of Hiccup, while Snotlout clearly gets under Hiccup’s skin more than any of the other Vikings.

But, at the same time, for all their differences and dysnfunctionalities, they can and do respect and care for each other.

Two Different Viking Flavors

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Even though there is limited interaction time between Snotlout and Hiccup in the beginning movie (just a few incidences in which Snotlout is rude to Hiccup), screen time for each individual nevertheless highlights noticeably stark differences between Snotlout’s temperament and Hiccup’s. Each Viking contains his own strengths and weaknesses, each of which are basically the opposite of his cousin’s.

Snotlout is in many aspects what a Viking “should be” during those dragon-fighting days. His mind centers around fighting dragons.  For instance, he says a number of hilarious war-oriented quotes such as, “Why read words when you can just kill the stuff the words tell you stuff about?” and later, “You guys read, I’ll go kill stuff.” Snotlout does not need to think through the situation; he acts by the stereotype, which is killing dragons, and he is quite comfortable in that environment.

That could not be more different than Hiccup, whose presence in Dragon Training is marked by cringing at dragon blasts. He cannot even harm a dragon when it is roped down, defenseless, right in front of him. Hiccup is the exact opposite of the warrior type – a “talking fishbone” rather than a boy with “beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side.” Instead, Hiccup is the revolutionary boy outside status quo who questions the Vikings’ system for attacking dragons… and changes it. Snotlout unquestioningly fights the enemy. Hiccup befriends it.

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But there is even more beyond this difference in Hiccup and Snotlout, and we see it vividly in Berk’s next era. Now both Hiccup and Snotlout are dragon lovers, but still just as much contrasting characters. Hiccup is bookish but Snotlout is action-impulsive, Hiccup laconic but Snotlout boisterous and boastful, Snotlout dysfunctional with dragons but Hiccup a training master, Hiccup a leader but Snotlout independent, Snotlout the poster child Viking but Hiccup incapable of fitting that mold.

These differences have significant implications for the interactions between Hiccup and Snotlout. The most obvious interaction is the two of them bickering. Hiccup and Snotlout are not even subtle when they get on each other’s nerves. “Go suck rocks.” “You what this is? The size of your brain.” “Right where you belong… down at my feet.” “That’s it, keep talking Snotlout, as your family’s winning streak goes up in smoke just like your Rings of Deadly Fire.” “You wanna touch one of my metals, just to see how it feels to be a winner?”

However, what could be taken as straightforward conflict really is complicated. Snotlout and Hiccup actually have very different dispositions and responses toward each other. Namely, what we see is that Hiccup has little patience with Snotlout, whereas sometimes it appears as though Snotlout might have an internal jealousy of his cousin.

The Question of Jealousy

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It is interesting to think that Snotlout could be jealous toward Hiccup considering the first HTTYD movie. After all, in that movie, Snotlout has many of the traits that Hiccup wants to have, rather than vice versa. Although not explicitly mentioned in the first movie, or even directly suggested in any manner, you might be able to venture a guess that Hiccup at some point in his life felt jealous toward Snotlout simply because of this. Hiccup expresses to Gobber that, “I just want to be one of you guys” – essentially that Hiccup wants to be a prototypical Viking – strong, muscle-driven, and dragon-fighting. And, of all the Viking teenagers, Snotlout exhibits all these qualities quite strongly – not as much as Astrid, perhaps, but still fairly noticeably. If Hiccup were more like Snotlout, Stoick probably would not have scowled so disappointedly at his son. Hiccup would not have been so “different” and difficult to relate to, and father and son probably would have gotten a long better during Hiccup’s teenaged years.

Thus, while these speculations not at all verifiable from material within the first movie, they could be decent motivation for Hiccup to have been jealous of Snotlout in some capacity. 

The thing is, that even under the hypothetical idea that Hiccup could have felt that way toward Snotlout, Hiccup regardless changed. He finally stood up in the Kill Ring and announced, “I’m not one of them.” Not one of the Vikings like Snotlout. And while Hiccup continues on to struggle about being different – it’s one of the reasons he’s hesitant to be chief, since he considers his father’s Vikingly-like approach the role model epitomizing that position – in a number of aspects, following HTTYD 1, Hiccup quits chasing after being someone he is not (and when he does, it’s to impress his father). Hiccup certainly does not look at Snotlout as being an ideal Viking within Riders and Defenders of Berk.

Instead, because Snotlout is different from Hiccup, he most notably finds the boy exasperating and obnoxious.

Then there’s the Snotlout side to this equation.

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Snotlout might seem incredibly dismissive at times toward Hiccup, suggesting a disdainful attitude toward his cousin rather than one of jealousy. That probably is true as of the first How to Train Your Dragon movie. The very first line Snotlout says is a rather rude bullying remark, “You know, I have never seen someone mess up so badly.” Even during the television series, Snotlout makes a lot of derisive remarks. “You’re supposed to put a lot of muscle into it. Oops, I forgot. You can’t!”

The thing is, I feel like most of these comments are cover-ups for what it seems Snotlout actually feels toward Hiccup.

Consider, for instance, Snotlout’s comment in “Defiant One”: “What kind of dragon takes a man’s biscuit? You know, his bad manners are a reflection on you.” This fault-finding is a little extreme considering that everyone knows Snotlout cannot control Hookfang’s temperament worth anything. But because Hiccup is good at controlling his dragon, Snotlout takes every single opportunity he can to nitpick Hiccup’s little failures.

And it just keeps going. Withing “Defiant One” and multiple times within “Fright of Passage,” Snotlout even brings up the very touchy, inappropriate topic of Hiccup maiming Toothless’s tail. During “Best in Show” when Hiccup demonstrates a very sophisticated rescue maneuver, Snotlout criticizes it as not being actually rescue-oriented. Fishlegs argues that cover fire is very useful during a rescue mission, but Snotlout, not wanting to admit Hiccup’s strength, instead jibes, “Hey Fishlegs, need help getting your nose out of Hiccup’s ass?”

This disrespect comes from a source, and I feel like it’s not just that Snotlout dislikes Hiccup. Though he calls Hiccup an embarrassment to his clan in “Thawfest,” that doesn’t fully explain Snotlout’s disposition toward Hiccup.

It’s because he respects him. In “We Are Family Part 1” Snotlout first says that meeting in the cove to practice dragon calls is stupid, but later admits “That was pretty cool” once Hiccup successfully calls Toothless into the clearing. But where it gets more obvious is in “Defiant One” and “The Flight Stuff.”

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In “The Flight Stuff,” Snotlout lists off everyone’s faults, and can identify even the shortcomings of the girl he tries to flirt with. However, as soon as Snotlout comes to Hiccup, he appears at a loss of what to say. Part of that is Hiccup glaring at Snotlout, but part of it also seems to be that Snotlout does not know what criticism to make against Hiccup… even though there are plenty of things he could say. This suggests Snotlout actually thinks rather highly of Hiccup on the inside.

Then there also is the argument scene in “Defiant One.” At this point, Snotlout is so fed up with Hiccup he generates quite a few complaints about his cousin, calling Hiccup “weak” and “smug”, amongst a host of other things. He then mockingly mimes Hiccup, saying, ‘Hiccup’s so smart. Hiccup’s so brave. He killed the Red Death. He trained the dragons. He’s got the metal leg.’ “

There are so many things going on here, such as Hiccup rudely pointing out that he’s better at generating ideas than Snotlout, the two cousins firing blame and criticisms off one another, and… Snotlout’s remark that once more suggests envy seeps into the back of his mind. What is bothering Snotlout is “everything the leg is attached to.”

You could say that Snotlout is simply being derisive when he lists off all of Hiccup’s traits, mockingly miming what Hiccup thinks of himself rather than what Snotlout feels. He does, after all, call Hiccup “smug”  the previous line. However, note that nothing which Snotlout says is false. He’s correctly identifying many of Hiccup’s strengths. Thus, part of the problem is how Hiccup in turn treats Snotlout, but part of it could also be, as I see it, a bit of envy.

Quick Anecdote Regarding the Novels

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I recognize there are alternate interpretations to be made about these events that would not suggest Snotlout is envious of Hiccup, but I really think there could be something to it. It’s certainly interesting to consider as a part of their character dynamics. On top of it creating a realistic and cohesive narrative of the DreamWorks franchise’s canon, it creates strong parallels toward the book series. And while DreamWorks has certainly diverged from book canon extensively, the heart of the interactions between characters remains pretty solid.

Especially between Hiccup and Snotlout.

Snotlout is Hiccup’s biggest bully in the books, and treats Hiccup similarly derisively throughout the first movie. Snotlout and Hiccup do indeed get on one another’s bad sides more than Hiccup does with any other Viking in his peer group. Snotlout tries to undermine Hiccup’s specialness as the chief’s son and place of authority by either taking Hiccup’s leadership task away from him in the books, or outright balking and disobeying in Riders and Defenders of Berk. And the reason why Snotlout is so rude, so condescending, and so dismissive toward Hiccup in the books is, as we find out in “How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero”… due to some internal insecurities about himself and jealousy toward Stoick’s son.

I greatly appreciate that the dynamics between Hiccup and Snotlout stay in the same character between the original novels and the DreamWorks franchise. The real main difference, honestly, is that Snotlout is an antagonist in the books, but simply antagonistic in the movies.

Shutting Snotlout Down

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While Snotlout responds to Hiccup’s differences by jibes, trying to hide up some of the jealousy he quite likely feels toward his cousin, Hiccup’s responses mainly are to shut Snotlout down. Snotlout gets under his skin more than any other character in the television show, causing Hiccup to snap rather harshly at his cousin, make a number of rude or sarcastic remarks toward him, and even in a couple instances directly shout at him. Hiccup raises his voice heatedly at Snotlout in “Cast Out Part 1”, “Thawfest,” and “Defiant One.” In comparison, the only other teen Hiccup raises his voice to is Astrid – just once – in “Heather Report Part 1.” Even the twins, as annoying as they are to Hiccup, have never made him lose his temper and snap back at them in an extensive targeted conversation.

Snotlout is wholly unique in this aspect and thus irritates Hiccup the most out of all the teenagers on Berk. Not just anyone can incite Hiccup’s temper. Hiccup is usually about rolling his eyes and making dry remarks, not outright heated exchanges. Yet when it comes to “Thawfest,” Hiccup wants to best his cousin, in a way getting back for all the humiliation he has felt in the past. Hiccup wants to shut Snotlout’s bragging rights down… and even “rattle cages”. Each cousin starts to fire off insults highlighting their strengths and the other’s incompetence – Snotlout boasting how he’s always won and that Hiccup is “too slow… as always,” whereas Hiccup is quick to point out Snotlout’s inferior intelligence.

The entire point of the competition becomes Hiccup wanting to best Snotlout at what Snotlout has always succeeded, and shutting down his cousin from years of bragging about Hiccup’s small size and areas of incompetence. 

They bring out each other’s worst. They’re downright mean. It’s everywhere in their insults, and even body language - throwing hands up in the air, glaring, pointing accusingly, and in the case of Snotlout, frequently shoving Hiccup aside.

You can see Hiccup stopping Snotlout in other smaller occasions as well beyond the enormous cousin rivalry within “Thawfest.” Hiccup frequently impatiently shouts “Snotlout!” when his cousin starts to make an unfavorable remark. Elsewhere, when Snotlout and Astrid are bickering with each other, Hiccup only calls Snotlout out for not paying attention.

Leader and Listener

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A further complication to add to Hiccup and Snotlout’s relationship is that Hiccup is Snotlout’s “superior” as the Dragon Academy’s.  Both of them know Snotlout is supposed to take orders from Hiccup in dragon-related manners, but he often directly defies them. 

This disobedience places Hiccup in the very difficult role of needing to sometimes discipline Snotlout. However, because he considers Snotlout a peer – or even a “friend” via “A Tale of Two Dragons” – Hiccup does not enjoy making such decisions.  n fact, both times that Hiccup needs to deal with Snotlout’s disobedience, he has to talk to his father about what to do. I discuss more about how Hiccup has to handle these situations in a separate analysis.

Grudging Respect

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Snotlout and Hiccup might frequently bicker, yet some of the most memorable incidences between the two of them demonstrate a deeper respect and more complex dimension to their relationship. Usually respect is implicitly suggested in conversation rather than explicitly declared, but it is meaningful nonetheless.

Though Snotlout, for instance, frequently brags of his strengths, sometimes he also acknowledges his actual incapacity to complete a task alone. Interestingly, this usually occurs when another important someone – Hookfang – is in danger (such as in both “Viking for Hire” and “Race to Fireworm Island”). Snotlout, knowing Hiccup’s capacity to handle dragons, frantically enlists his cousin’s help. Suddenly, what he once directly scoffed Hiccup for in less urgent circumstances, becomes a point where he acknowledges those traits as a strength. His outward mockery is stripped away, and is internal grudging acknowledgement of Hiccup’s strengths is manifested.

And Hiccup never rudely denies Snotlout. He straight-away delves into the situation for a solution. Hiccup tries to learn why Hookfang is agitated in “Viking for Fire,” and he gets everyone extensively involved in trying to cure Hookfang in “Race to Fireworm Island.” So easily, Hiccup could have been rude and said something along the lines of “I told you so,” or “You got yourself into this mess.” But the point is, when situations truly matter, Hiccup genuinely cares about Snotlout’s problelms.

Snotlout likewise helps Hiccup willing in “Defiant One” after he is captured by Alvin and the Outcasts. In fact, that is not the only time he saves Hiccup from the Outcasts. And in these moments, Hiccup and Snotlout become a team genuinely looking out for one another. They end this episode full of camaraderie excited at how they worked together.

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What I find one of the most single touching scenes where the cousins actually directly acknowledge each other is at the end of “Cast Out Part 2.” Hiccup and Snotlout both recognize where they erred, where the other erred… but also where the other succeeded. The hand-shake is making up for the earlier training incident in the first part of the episode, and giving a direct, sincere acknowledgement of the other’s greatness.

And it touches both of them. You can see the genuity in Hiccup’s eyes and how touched Snotlout is when Hiccup holds out his hand.

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The relationship between Snotlout and Hiccup is rocky at best. Bitterness frequently causes the cousins to belittle and insult each other, to disregard each other, and sometimes to outright fight. Nevertheless, there are many touching aspects to the two of them, too. They learn to work together. To respect one another. Excitedly exclaim, “We kicked butt - together!”

Shake hands to show their true, kindhearted intent.