While the Age of Vikings seems to span a long time in history, it only lasted about 300 years or some twenty generations, from the ninth to twelfth centuries AD or CE. By his own admission in his introduction to the original 'How to Train Your Dragon' film, Hiccup's village had already existed for over a third of that time span by the time he came on the scene. But given his later admission that he was, "the first Viking in three hundred years who wouldn't kill a dragon," the end of the age that he and his people had known was fast approaching.
To those born and raised in North America, things seem to have long been the way we have known them, and would seem to go right on being that way, pretty much forever—or at least as far as we can conceive of. But older folks, and people who have lived in other parts of the world, will tell you that things may not eventually be as they are now. Empires and the seemingly invincible can fall. Lifestyles and beliefs that seem so lasting and permanent can be swept away by others.
So through the eyes of a man and his dragon, conceived by author Cressida Cowell and brought to the screen by writer/directors Dean DuBlois and Chris Sanders and the team of DreamWorks Animation, and following on from the story already told in How To Tame A Heart elsewhere on this site, what would it be like to witness, to even live through, the end of one age, one way of life, and the dawn of another?
Fury was roaring in our household.
Toothless was right beside her, providing what comfort he could, as Astrid was having me help her at Fury's tail. While Fury initially didn't really want the boys around, Astrid convinced her, through Eric translating, that she needed at least Eric around so she and Fury could understand each other. And wherever Eric went, so did Little Toothless.
"Push, Fury! Push!" Astrid coached as the tip of what seemed like a fairly large and slick ovoid began to emerge from under the base of Fury's tail.
Eric grunted intensely, and Fury just nodded back as she grimaced while looking at nothing in particular. Fury roared again, but then relaxed for a moment, breathing hard and looking at Eric while emitting a fairly complex series of grunts.
"She says thank you," Eric relayed, "that you are making it so much easier than it was the first time when she was alone. She's even grateful I'm here now. But Mommy, was having me born this painful for you?"
"Ohh yes," Astrid assured. "But tell her to start pushing again. The faster we get it out of her, the sooner she can rest, and the better she will feel."
"Is she pushing a baby out?" Eric then asked.
"No, it's looking like a large egg," Astrid replied. "It must be very uncomfortable for her where it is, so tell her to push again."
"So that's their word for 'egg'," Eric realized. "She was telling me it wasn't a dragon yet."
Eric then relayed Astrid's instructions through another series of grunts. Fury nodded and resumed straining to push. Toothless could only look on with sadness as Fury roared with effort and pain again. Astrid gently supported the egg from underneath as Fury continued to push it out with great effort.
"Hiccup, take over holding the egg here, would you?" Astrid now asked me. "We don't want it just hitting the floor as it comes out. This is taking longer than I expected. Poor Fury must be in terrible pain. I'm gonna see if she wants more mead tea here. This egg may come out suddenly though. Just hold it gently for the moment, but don't let it hit the floor."
"Okay," I replied. "But don't you think Little Toothless' egg hit the ground when it came out?"
"What if she delivered it in a bed of grass?" Astrid said somewhat pointedly. "We're family. We're helping her. Hold the egg."
"Yes, midwife!" I replied smartly, but with a slight smile.
"I'm sorry, my love," Astrid replied with a kiss as I took over holding the egg as it continued to slowly emerge from Fury. "I've given birth myself, and will again before long, actually. I know what Fury is feeling, and I just want to do everything we can to make things good for her, okay?"
"Go, make her feel better," I warmly encouraged as Astrid now got up and walked towards Fury's head.
I heard Fury roar again, this time finishing with whimpers of pain. Her body convulsed as she tried to push more.
"Come on Fury," I then heard Astrid encourage from the front. "Just a little bit more. Want some tea?"
I heard a bucket hit the floor and spill.
"Okay, I understand, no tea," Astrid empathized. "You're wanting a nudge though, huh? Someone who knows what it's like, to ride it out with you? I'm right here Fury. I will hold you tight, and Toothless will nudge you, too. Come here close, Toothless. Let's help Fury push together one last time here. Push, Fury, now!"
"The wide part of the egg is close to coming out now," I reported.
I looked forward to see Astrid embracing Fury's head, with Toothless nudging from the side. All of them had their eyes closed in fierce concentration and effort.
"Push again, Fury!" Astrid instructed. "Harder!"
Fury roared and pushed again. Her body shuddered intensely. But as she shifted her hind legs, the unthinkable happened . . . the egg shattered in my hands and a dark, fetal dragon and its surrounding protective egg yolk fell over my arms and onto the floor.
"The egg's shattered!" I yelled.
Astrid leaped up, dashed over to the cooking area and grabbed the washtub.
"Hiccup, Eric, put everything into here!" Astrid urgently ordered. "Yolk, the baby, everything! NOW!"
We three humans carefully but desperately gathered up the tiny limp dragon and contents of the egg into the washtub. Fury looked back and began moaning in sadness.
"We are not losing this baby!" Astrid affirmed. "Eric, tell her that!"
Eric stopped what he was doing and grunted and gestured to Fury. Toothless answered back.
"He says, 'Thank you,'" Eric translated. "They are very grateful, and love us."
"Okay," Astrid sighed as we had gathered the last of the yolk into the tub around and over the baby dragon. Fortunately, the dragon was still completely covered by its yolk.
Astrid then flung her arms around me and hugged me tightly. "Gods," she said, "help me to know what to do here. Help me save this baby in our family . . . please."
"Astrid, you know what to do here," I gently affirmed to her. "Remember what you once told me? Think, then do."
"Hiccup, I love you," Astrid tearfully sighed.
"I know," I assured. "Let's save this baby."
"Gods, thank you for my wonderful husband," Astrid sighed as she pressed her forehead against mine, "and for speaking through him."
Astrid then looked at the tiny dragon for a second, gathering her thoughts.
"Keep it warm," she instinctively decided. "Let's move the tub by the fire."
Astrid and I moved the tub by the cooking fire as Fury and Toothless looked on with almost a helpless sadness in their eyes.
"Okay," Astrid thought out loud. "Egg yolks go bad with warmth and exposure to the air. So, we need to seal it all—keep it warm, but not expose it to the air . . ."
"Sheep!" I interjected. "A sheepskin can be tailored to be about the same size as the egg. There are a couple sheepskins being tanned nearby right now."
"We sew it closed again," Astrid readily agreed, "put the dragon and the yolk into it, and let it hatch in time. Eric, ask Fury how long it takes a dragon to come out of an egg."
Eric dutifully translated Astrid's question, and Fury, a little surprised, answered back with a series of grunts, while looking upwards, as if to the sky.
"Three or four moons," Eric translated.
"Did you mean nights?" Astrid asked back.
"No," our son countered. "Full moon to full moon—moons."
"You mean months?" Astrid now asked in almost shock.
"I guess so," Eric replied reluctantly.
"Ohh gods. I don't know if we can do this—keep it alive that long," Astrid now tearfully realized.
I brought my wife close beside me and embraced her. "I didn't think we could save Toothless once, but we did," I said as I kissed her. "Miracle and her mother need us to do the same here."
"Miracle, huh?" Astrid tearfully smiled at me.
"Yep," I replied. "I saw it's a girl while I moved her into the washtub, and as long as Fury's okay with it."
"All dragons have basically the same slit underneath," my wife replied. "But let's go with it. Eric . . ."
"I'm asking!" our son assured as he began to translate. Fury and Toothless tearfully sighed together as they heard our request and suggestion in their language. Fury answered with a few soft grunts as she looked at us.
"She says, 'Save Miracle, if you can,'" Eric conveyed.
"I'll be right back with a whole sheepskin and tools," I assured getting up. "Eric, I need you to come with me and carry a bucket of pine tar back here, okay?"
"I'll get some more chicken eggs, so that we're not short on yolk here," Astrid decided as she got up, too. "Miracle's good for the moment here, and thank the gods, she's even kicking a little."
— — — — —
Eric and I quickly returned with the sheepskin, tools and pine tar, and Astrid came back with a large basket of chicken eggs. I quickly went to work sewing up most of the sheepskin hide and sealing the seams with pine tar.
"Okay," I sighed. "It's time to put Miracle and her yolk in, and then seal the sheepskin up tight around it all to eliminate any air. Let's transfer some of the yolk, and then Miracle."
Bowl by bowl, we transferred the precious, life-giving yolk from the washtub into the sheepskin 'egg'. I had never looked at egg yolk that way before, and honestly didn't know if I could ever in good conscience eat a cooked egg again after this experience! Finally, it came time to transfer Miracle herself over.
"Careful," Astrid urged as she and I worked together. "We have to keep that little cord and sack with the baby here."
Tiny Miracle fit within my two hands as I lifted her out of the washtub, as Astrid lifted her cord and sack out beside her. Her wings and legs were just beginning to form, and the dragon was hardly moving, but she was moving. There was life within her. For an instant, I allowed myself to be awed that such a tiny, helpless creature could one day become a mighty, fearsome Night Fury.
Fury and Toothless moved close beside us, wanting to catch a glimpse of their daughter, as Little Toothless looked on as well. Fury murmured to Eric as she looked with tears upon her small child.
"She asks to bond with Miracle," Eric relayed, "to give her strength and life."
"Astrid, stay with me here," I encouraged as I carefully twisted around cradling little Miracle in my hands, as Astrid kept Miracle's cord and sack right next to her.
"Tell Fury to hurry," I instructed. "We can't keep Miracle in the air like this for long."
Eric quickly emitted some grunts in translation, while Astrid and I carefully brought tiny Miracle to the tip of Fury's snout, ensuring that they touched.
"Please, gods," I said closing my eyes in tears, "give this child of ours strength and life. Help us to save her. Don't take this precious gift you've given away from us."
I heard Eric translating my prayer for the Furies. Fury grunted back, her eyes still closed, nudging her baby.
"She says, 'Live, my child. Spirit of all, protect,'" Eric relayed.
"So let it be," Astrid tearfully smiled as we all looked at the newest member of our family.
Fury emerged from the nudge with her daughter and grunted some more as she looked at the tiny dragon.
"She says to please put Miracle in the new egg now," Eric translated.
"See you in a few moons, Miracle," I said as Astrid and I now carefully immersed her in the yolk again inside the sheepskin. We then added the last few bowls of yolk left in the washtub, before I quickly drew the neck of the sheepskin closed, making sure no air was inside, and then proceeded to bind it tightly shut with a leather strap while Astrid held it. Finally, I sealed the opening over with a brush of pine tar.
"Well," I sighed at last, "I think you can return the chicken eggs now."
"We'll have some for breakfast," Astrid suggested. "But then again, after this, maybe not."
"You're reading my mind," I noted, allowing myself a subtle smile.
"Don't I always?" she quipped, smiling now as well.
Fury then emitted a series of grunts and murmurs towards us, gesturing at the sheepskin egg at times, even gently nudging it with her snout at one point.
"She says normally she lays on the egg, in a bed," Eric conveyed. "But she can't lie on this egg. We must keep it warm though, and she wants to keep touching it."
"Among dragons and birds," Astrid noted, "I think we call it a 'nest' instead of a bed. But let's settle the egg here close to the fire instead of at our family sleeping area. We'll surround it with sheepskins. Eric, you can tell Fury to lie down beside her egg when we get it set up here. And my love," she then said, looking at me, "it's back to split shifts through the night now, to keep that fire going, and that egg warm."
"Just as summer was about to get good outside, oh well," I smiled. "But you're getting decent rest. You're due to give birth to our baby, soon, too."
"Would you write me more of those letters as I sleep that you used to when we did this for Toothless?" she smiled as we both sat back and relaxed from our labours for a moment.
"Absolutely," I assured her with a kiss. "But let's finish getting the egg set up here."
— — — — —
Soon, we had a sheepskin nest built around Miracle's new egg near the fire, adjusting it as Fury settled in beside the egg to make sure her body was nestled close against it. Fury then spread her right wing, wrapping it protectively around the sheepskin egg, emitting a series of grunts and murmurs as she looked at the egg.
"She says the egg is a little too warm, and to let the fire go down some for now," Eric translated. "She'll keep it right by covering it with her wing, and taking her wing away sometimes. Keeping it right is important though."
"Well, I'll cover the fire with pots, and some fish," Astrid decided. "It's dinner time for the rest of us."
"Oh," Eric remembered, "Fury told me she doesn't eat while she watches the egg. Spirit feeds her as she thinks to the baby and prays for it in the egg. She can't leave the egg during this time."
"Eric, please translate here," Astrid requested as she knelt down in front of Fury's head. "Fury, you're not alone in the wilderness anymore. We will feed you if you want. But if you want to honour your tradition, be fed by Spirit, think and pray with Miracle, we will respect that and not eat in front of you. But I have to cook here, alright?"
Fury grunted back as soon as Eric finished translating.
"She says, 'Thank you'," Eric relayed. "She wants to be fed by Spirit for now, as she already owes Spirit for you saving Miracle. She will not be moving much, and does not need much to eat. She says to please cook, and please feed Toothless and Little Toothless. She will let you know if she wants fish, too."
Toothless now added some grunts of his own as he settled beside his mate.
"Toothless says he won't be eating either," Eric translated. "Oh, oh . . . they're arguing," he noted as Fury now grunted, almost barked back at Toothless, while he shook his head. "Fury is telling Toothless to eat, that he needs to protect and fly for our family, but she does not. Toothless isn't agreeing."
"Guys . . . guys!" Astrid interjected among the two gently arguing Furies. "What does love say to do among you? What does Spirit tell you both to do, for each other now?"
Toothless and Fury now looked at each other as Eric relayed Astrid's questions. They each grunted a little.
"They never thought like that before," Eric translated.
"Love is seeing things from your mate's view," Astrid suggested. "Fury, if Toothless wants to support you by being fed by Spirit, too—allow him to, at least sometimes. Toothless, if Fury wants you to eat to maintain your strength so you can protect our family, honour her request, sometimes as well. This time is new for each of you. No Furies have ever done what you're doing now together. Just do it agreeing with each other somehow, and this will be good, even wonderful. Miracle needs you both to help her live, and the best way to do that, is to love each other."
Eric struggled to finish translating Astrid's monologue with them. "Mom, that's a lot to tell them!" he said. "They talk simpler. Try and keep what you say simple, too!"
"Sorry, Eric," Astrid smiled as she laid a hand warmly on his head. "I'll try."
Toothless then emitted some gentle grunts as he looked lovingly at Fury.
"He's telling her he will eat tomorrow, for her," Eric noted. "But tonight, he will be fed by Spirit, along with Fury . . . for Miracle."
Fury now gratefully nudged her head against Toothless, and together they curled carefully, but even closer around their daughter's new sheepskin egg. Toothless then proceeded to slowly and gently lick and wash one side of Fury's head and neck. She just sighed in deep pleasure at his attention now.
"That's it," Astrid encouraged as she looked at both of them.
Inspired by what Toothless was doing for his mate, I now drew up behind mine as she went back to work at a cooking table. I didn't say a thing as I now began licking Astrid's neck as well.
"Ohh, husband," she sighed very appreciatively. My wife just set the knife down that she was chopping vegetables with as I drew my arms around her very pregnant midsection. She turned her head and we kissed with a deep, slow, but simmering passion.
I sensed we were being watched though. While I continued sensually kissing Astrid, I opened an eye, and sure enough, not only were Toothless and Fury watching us warmly as they nestled close to each other, but Little Toothless was, too, and Eric was trying not to, with some embarrassment.
When I looked back, I saw my wife casting a glance in their direction as well as we kissed. We then gently finished with a couple more light kisses as we looked at each other.
"You're getting good at family displays of affection and romance," Astrid complimented, " . . . verrry good."
Little Toothless—who was getting less and less 'little' almost by the day now—grunted at his parents. Toothless turned and gently grunted at his son. Little Toothless replied with a few grunts as he seemed to now nod or acknowledge Toothless, almost with a look of pride.
"Well," Astrid wondered, "does Little Toothless want to eat with us, or join his parents in being fed by Spirit tonight?"
"He just asked his dad," Eric reported. "But Toothless is encouraging him to eat with us, and to even be the family's guardian tonight. Little Toothless has just accepted. He will eat with us."
Little Toothless now interjected, grunting a few times to Eric.
"He says he wants to share roast fish with us tonight," our son noted, "so his mom and dad won't be distracted from being fed by Spirit. They don't really like roast fish, but he's beginning to."
"Figures," my wife smiled. "You like their raw fish, he likes our cooked fish!"
"Mommy, will Miracle be okay?" our son now asked.
Astrid leaned against me as a look of uncertainty came over her.
"I hope so," she replied. "But honestly, we can't be sure. But Miracle has both her parents loving and praying for her this time, and all the rest of us, too."
"The best way to help Miracle," I added, "is to just see her coming through this, and really joining our family. I felt her, I held her. She wants to live, with us. Just think of her being strong, and playing with us, you even feeding her little herring—and in just three or four moons, she'll be doing just that, with us, okay?"
"Thanks, Dad," Eric said, seeming to feel much better. "Little Toothless and me, we're the family guardians tonight. So we'll be outside on the steps, watching. Call us for dinner though," he added as he and Little Toothless went outside.
"We will, guardians," my wife smiled as we began to roast fish together. "You really think Miracle will pull through?" she then asked me though. "And be doing all those things with us?"
"Yeah, I basically do," I decided. "But you know, if she doesn't . . . maybe she will have at least been able to sample life with us, to experience it even a little, through our thoughts about living happily with her in our lives."
Astrid just turned and embraced me very tightly. "That is a beautiful idea, my love," she tearfully admired as she rested her head against my shoulder and neck. "Here's to Miracle . . . with us."
— — — — —
Before long the fish were roasted and the vegetables were cooked, and we quietly left a now dozing Fury and Toothless to have our dinner on the opposite side of the house in the family sleeping area. Soon, the boys seemed tired and ready for bed. Astrid and I hauled our mattress down from the loft, and set it up next to theirs.
"I'll take the first watch here," my wife offered. "I'm feeling pretty awake here, and I know how you tend to doze after meals."
"Astrid . . ." I mildly tried to object.
"Lay down and I'll rub you off to sleep," Astrid gently directed, "just like I used to the last time we did this."
"You doing okay?" I asked as sort of a heart-to-heart check-in with her.
My wife now just lay down with me and held me tightly as I took her into my arms as well. "Too much has gone on today," she sighed.
"You wanna tell me about it?" I invited.
"You shouldn't have done this," Astrid softly warned, " . . . asked me that question, took me into your arms, soothed my worries. You're putting me right to sleep here. My worries were the thing keeping me awake."
"Rest, Astrid," I encouraged. "I'll stoke the fire one more time here, and then keep watch. That should last it through the night though. Fury can keep the egg at a constant temperature by covering it with her wing."
"Nope," my wife said. "I'll come with you."
I smiled as Astrid and I helped each other to our feet and we went over to check on the fire. We looked behind us as we stoked the fire together, and sure enough, Fury and Toothless each had a watchful eye open.
My wife and I turned and knelt down in front of Miracle's sheepskin egg. We each carefully laid a hand on it.
"I'm guessing it needs to be kept just this warm," Astrid quietly surmised, "for three to four months."
She and I just looked at the egg silently for a moment, as well as at Fury and Toothless as they looked at us.
"I just feel so sorry for Fury and Toothless," my wife then quietly sighed. "They finally get to experience a birth together, the first Fury couple to ever do so . . . and this is what happens."
"This was the right place for it to happen," I softly replied. "Plus, look how close they are. You think they're ever gonna look at either each other, or their children, the same way again? They're doing alright. Let's get some sleep . . . at least one of us."
We got up and quietly let Fury and Toothless resume sleeping themselves. My wife and I were met though by both our boys who were now out of bed.
"What are you guys doing up?" Astrid quietly asked.
"Little Toothless is prepared to stay up and watch the fire," Eric informed us. "He will wake us if it goes down. It's his duty as family guardian tonight, because the family needs it, and they take being guardian very seriously. He invites both of you, and even me, to go to sleep now."
Astrid and I both smiled and knelt down in front of Little Toothless.
"Thank you," I accepted to him. "Our family is very proud of you. We know you will guard us, and especially your sister, Miracle, very well tonight."
The young dragon gave us a look of grateful satisfaction, and simply gestured with his head, inviting us to go and sleep.
"You can stay up with him, if you want to," I offered to Eric.
"I'll be taking over for him when he gets tired later," he explained.
"Gee, make us feel guilty," Astrid sighed. "I'll stay up. I can do it."
"When a dragon protects you at night, you make him feel bad if you stay awake," Eric noted, " . . . like you don't trust him to do his job. Toothless named him guardian. We can't take that away from him now. Mom, Dad, sleep."
"I'm glad we have you around to tell us these things," I quietly said. "Who knows how much I used to misunderstand, or even insult Toothless, until you came along, Eric."
"Toothless told me he got used to your ways, Dad," Eric replied. "He said you misunderstood him a lot, but that you got it . . . eventually."
"Let's go to bed, Son," I sighed as Astrid tried to stifle her laughter.
She was still quietly laughing as we settled into bed together and she took off my leg rig as I changed into my softer night tunic.
"It's that funny, is it?" I asked.
"I'm sorry," Astrid giggled. "But thinking how Toothless probably used to sigh and roll his eyes at you . . . I just can't help it."
"I saw him sigh and roll his eyes once over you punching me after your first ride with him," I remembered.
"He was probably doing that wondering why you were taking that from me," she teased. "But truce, okay?"
"Truce," I accepted, as I also accepted her into my arms under our quilt. "But your truces always seem to come right after you've slipped in a point, pin, or jab . . . wonder why that is?" I now teased, as I also nestled up close to her from behind in bed and kissed her ear.
"Okay, any last point you want to make?" she offered as she turned her head now and looked at me. "I am wide open to you."
"Can't think of a one, now," I sighed as we both smiled and giggled together. "You've completely disarmed me again."
Astrid just gave me a long, sensuous kiss as she now lay on her back and I held her from the side.
"Something bothering you?" I asked, sensing something wasn't quite right within her.
"You're getting good about sensing things with me, too," Astrid admired as I lazily stroked her hair with my free hand. "This is the second problem birth in our village in recent days. At least the mother and child lived this time . . . so far."
"Astrid," I gently empathized as I moved to hold her closer and gently soothe and rock her. "It will be alright. Our baby will be delivered fine. Nothing out of the ordinary will happen. It'll be just like last time. Even you've told me first births are usually the most difficult, and that they just get easier subsequent times."
"I'm sorry," Astrid whispered as she buried her head for comfort against my neck and shoulder. "You're right. I shouldn't be allowing my mind to dwell there. But there's something else, too. Our ships have been coming back with reports that things are changing down south. More and more merchants down in Dane lands and Francia won't trade with our crews anymore, saying we're 'heathen' or 'pagans'—like there's something wrong or bad with us now. Some other Viking clans and kingdoms are even falling to what are being described as 'Christian' invaders and conquerors. New kings are taking over. A ship just returned this morning with a report that even the Prince of Stormgolt is now nervous.
"The world around us is changing, Hiccup," my wife whispered quietly in my ear so as not to alarm our children. "Something in me is causing me to fear for our children, the dragons, everything we value . . . our way of life."
I didn't have a ready answer for her this time.
"We will do what's right . . . for all of us," I finally said.
Astrid just sadly looked at me, and then quietly nestled close against me and tried to go to sleep.
Now I was the one who couldn't sleep as I stared up at the ceiling above me, and began wondering what kind of world and life we were bringing our children into . . . what we were saving Miracle for.