I have seen many a happy How to Train Your Dragon fan remark that Hiccup and Astrid demonstrate a very healthy relationship, particularly within the second movie. People are absolutely right about that. Hiccup and Astrid’s relationship extends far beyond mere hormonal romantic inclination, but includes other important facets such as the ability to tease with one another naturally, trust one another in difficult situations, confide in one another, support each other through hardships, and yet remain individuals not clingingly dependent on one another. There is a wonderful depth to their interactions that screams out in many wonderful ways.
One important facet of their relationship that I do think has been underemphasized, though, is that Hiccup and Astrid have the ability to question each other’s actions. You see it not only in Riders and Defenders of Berk, but also within both movies. It is definitely part of their relationship. Though it might mean unpleasant discussions, I find this actually to be another overall healthy element of Hiccstrid. The best of friendships butt heads, and one cannot successfully continue a bond with another person without learning how to maturely settle disagreements. Sometimes it means accepting the other’s plan even though they find it questionable. Other times it means shutting the other down from what they know to be a poor decision. Essentially, calling into question each other’s actions allows Hiccup and Astrid to keep one another on track and be the better person.
It demonstrates trust, for they trust to speak their own mind even in unpleasant situations.
It demonstrates respect to one another, for they want the other to act in a commendable manner, and they respect each other enough to typically listen to the other’s commentary.
It demonstrates a full understanding of one another, for a relationship of any sort which only recognizes someone’s positive character traits creates a dangerous blind-side to that person’s true faults and deeper personality.
And it demonstrates true care, for if you really cherish about those around you, you do not want them to make questionable, potentially harmful decisions.
Essentially, Hiccup and Astrid know when to step back and let the other proceed through with a plan they might initially question (certainly not understand), and they know when to step in and point out the problems in the other person’s actions.
I will examine the television series and two movies for these four possible scenarios of questioning the other’s judgment: Astrid letting Hiccup take the lead for a plan she questions, Hiccup letting Astrid take the lead for a plan he questions, Astrid questioning Hiccup for his actions, and Hiccup questioning Astrid for hers.
Gracious Loser, Lousy Winner: Astrid Corrects Hiccup
There are multiple instances in which Astrid calls out Hiccup’s actions - “Heather Report Part 1”, “How to Train Your Dragon Academy”, “Live and Let Fly”, and “Thawfest”, just to name a few. Oftentimes she criticizes Hiccup’s tendency to act behind Stoick’s back. in other scenarios, Astrid questions whether or not Hiccup has fully thought through situations, or if he actually has a blindspot which could cause him particular troubles later. And, in the instance of “Thawfest”, Astrid calls Hiccup out for being an utter asshole.
While I really wish Astrid had been displayed acting competitively - it is definitely in her nature, after all - I feel like there still are some important relevant character dynamics displayed in “Thawfest.” The episode focuses on tensions between the cousins, who quite canonically are not the most peaceable of relatives. Hiccup, so accustomed to receiving scorn from his peers, relishes the fact he has the opportunity to finally best Snotlout at something, and thus courses through the games gloating, bragging, and insulting.
Astrid may be a competition-oriented personality, abrasive and affrontive when someone threatens to best her, but even in HTTYD 1 when she fights to prove her and her own family’s honor in Dragon Training, she never falls so low as to directly insult and antagonize her opponents. Yeah, sure, she shouts out “expletives” angrily when Hiccup “knocked out” the Gronckle before she could approach it, and several times points her axe threatening right in Hiccup’s face demanding answers to questions - but Astrid never has planned to “rattle cages.” She lashes out against Hiccup because she is angry - maybe at him, maybe at herself, maybe at both of them - that she is not first in Dragon Training class. Even here, when she herself loses her head in the midst of competition, Astrid is not malevolently provoking Hiccup.
So if someone so competitive and aggressive as Astrid points out for Hiccup’s poor treatment of Snotlout in “Thawfest,” she definitely has a major point. She might be hypocritical in that she herself has become caught up in the competition, but she nevertheless has the complete and utter right to call out Hiccup’s own failings.
Throughout the episode, Astrid makes several remarks to Hiccup regarding his questionable actions. She handles the situation well, first simply asking Hiccup what he is doing, remarking, “Why are you letting yourself get so caught up in this?” The interesting thing is, at first she dos not outright shut Hiccup down, saying he has a point that he could quieting down Snotlout’s bragging. However, once she realizes Hiccup is treating Snotlout just as poorly as his cousin is treating him in turn, she breaches the topic again. And when Hiccup’s justification is less excusable - “He started it… when we were five”… she does not let Hiccup get away with his actions. After first trying to bring up the topic more gently, finally she speaks out, “You know what I always liked about you, Hiccup? You were always a gracious loser. Who knew you’d be such a lousy winner?”
It is true Hiccup does not immediately react positively to Astrid’s criticisms. However, their relationship is strong enough to take a hit like this, and Hiccup does consider what Astrid has to say. He does not dismiss her even though the comment stings.
The conversation where Astrid approaches Hiccup about his attitude is not pleasant. However, she realizes it is necessary. And she cares enough about Hiccup that she does not let him get away with such a poor competitive spirit. In the end, the two of them return to good terms, with Astrid proudly supporting the fact Hiccup chooses to throw the race and let Snotlout win. Hiccup makes the right decision because Astrid calls him out on it. Relationships need these difficult situations, and ultimately Hiccup and Astrid are mature enough to express their thoughts, listen to one another, and solve the problem appropriately.
Animosity Without the Dragon Root: Hiccup Corrects Astrid
Again, there are multiple instances where Hiccup tells Astrid to back down; you see similar behavior in “Fright of Passage” and “Heather Report Part 1.” On multiple occasions, Hiccup blocks Astrid from aggressively attacking one of the other teenagers, and in “Cast Out Part 1” he even physically restrains her while she screams at Snotlout. Hiccup even acts as an intermediary in “A Tale of Two Dragons”.
However, even as Hiccup strives to make Astrid and Snotlout work with each other on friendly terms in that last-mentioned episode, Astrid listens to Hiccup. She comes to his house at night expecting him to help straighten situations. Hiccup corrects her, and while Astrid balks at his suggestions to have her work together with Snotlout or even ride on Hookfang for a day, she follows through with his ideas – and in the end benefits. The tensions close between her and Snotlout, and everyone in the Dragon Training Academy can rest easier.
Thus, through both instances of Astrid correcting Hiccup or Hiccup correcting Astrid, we see the two of them try to work together to spot-check each other’s weaknesses. Through that, they can bring one another to be a better person. I am not saying that they handle situations perfectly, nor that these conversations are all that pleasant to experience, but I am saying it is incredibly important and very admirable that these two have learned to handle one another’s criticisms. It certainly allows each of them to grow, and it demonstrates that their relationship is a lot more than the friendly, fluffy side. They are a team, and they are there for each other even in the unpleasant cases.
Doing “Something Crazy”: Astrid Trusts Hiccup’s Lead
The movies display fine examples of Astrid trusting Hiccup’s lead, even when she does not know exactly Hiccup’s plans or even questions if they should be followed through. In the Cove, the night before Hiccup must enter the Kill Ring to kill a dragon before all of Berk, Astrid first calls into question Hiccup’s decision to hide the dragon’s nest from his father, exclaiming, “Hiccup, we just discovered the Dragons’ Nest. The thing we’ve been after since Vikings first sailed here. And you want to keep it a secret? To protect your pet dragon? Are you serious?”
She has a major point here. Hiccup now knows the information that could save Berk from further dragon attacks, revolutionizing the lifestyle of the Vikings. However, as soon as Hiccup, with great conviction, announces he shall indeed keep silent, Astrid respectfully asks him what they should do. And even when he tells her he has no plan yet, she continues to support him, and even at the gate of the Kill Ring only tells him, “Just make sure nothing goes wrong.”
And if you need one more great example, turn to the scene in How to Train Your Dragon 2 when Astrid and Hiccup land on Eret’s boat. Astrid stares, positively incredulous, mouth dropping, when Hiccup announces their surrender. She again calls him into question to make sure he is not insane - “How is this a plan?” - but when he assures her he knows what he is doing, Astrid does not balk again. In fact, even though she does not know Hiccup’s precise intentions, she steps on board with Hiccup. She supports him. She defends him. Backs him up! Outright tells Eret, “He can be quite persuasive.”
While at times Astrid knows to tell Hiccup to change his course of actions, she also completely understands the times to simply let him continue – even if she thinks it is crazy or potentially dangerous.
“We’ll Be Waiting”: Hiccup Trusts Astrid’s Lead
If you think Astrid is all about supporting Hiccup and not the other way around, let me point you to several episodes like “Fright of Passage” and “Heather Report Part 2.” In the latter, Hiccup is clearly very nervous about Astrid disguising herself as Heather and walking intentionally into Alvin’s clutches. Everyone knows how incredibly dangerous the task at hand is. However, while Hiccup expresses concern and the desire to shadow Astrid to ascertain her safety, he still leaves everything to her. “Just get the Book and get out of there. We’ll be waiting,” he says. He has full confidence that Astrid, somehow, will manage to complete this incredibly difficult task - even if he cannot predict what her exact course of action will be.
Furthermore, when events diverge from their initially conceived plan, Hiccup still does not doubt Astrid. Fishlegs frets that Astrid already is an hour late rendezvousing with the group, and begins to assume the worse - that Alvin unconvered her disguise. Although Fishlegs’ worries constitute a very potential threat, Hiccup, although a little nervous, responds, “Guys. She’ll be here. It’s Astrid.”
Then, when Astrid shows up with strangers, and everyone asks who those people are, Hiccup simply focuses on the relevant details - Astrid gives him the pre-planned signal, so they should follow through with the rest of their plan. Whatever reason Astrid has for bringing along two other people, Hiccup believes she has a reason, and so he goes along with it, even though he’s in the dark about the details. When he asks who they are, it is simply for information, not for doubting Astrid at all. He trusts Astrid’s lead.
And it doesn’t even end there.
Where their trust really becomes incredible is when Alvin threatens Astrid’s life, hanging her over the edge of a steep precipice. Hiccup is prepared to take any measure to save Astrid, telling Toothless, “Do it, bud,” which could even mean outright killing Alvin. However, as soon as Astrid shouts, “Hiccup, don’t shoot!” …he stops. He trusts Astrid’s judgment so much that he stops his rescue opportunity immediately. Even though he could easily question the intelligence of her choice, which very well could lead to her death, Hiccup knows Astrid’s strengths and listens to her. Note this is before he sees the Monstrous Nightmare that saves Astrid. Hiccup has no idea of knowing how Astrid could manage to save herself, yet he lets her, and through this she not only gets free from Alvin, but is able to grab the Book of Dragons as well.
Relationships are about trust. Trust means knowing when to follow another’s lead, and trust can also mean knowing you can call another person out for questionable actions without losing the other person’s support. Hiccup and Astrid healthily balance both sides to this coin. They treat each other as equal partners, recognizing that each individual has their strengths and weaknesses. If they see their partner acting upon a character flaw, they know to correct it - and the other knows to listen. And if they see their partner acting in a situation calling upon their strength, they will back the other up, even if they cannot comprehend precisely what the other intends.
For both Hiccup and Astrid have their strengths and weaknesses which makes their dynamic as a couple so complementary. Astrid is the warrior, Hiccup the plan-maker, Astrid the fighter, Hiccup the peacemaker, Astrid the bold, Hiccup the reserved. Each of these traits are incredibly important. Both Hiccup and Astrid have a healthy view accounting for both positive and negative traits of the other, and Hiccup and Astrid let the other develop those to their full potential. They can judge when the person is making a smart choice they do not understand and distinguish that from other poor decisions.
Yet again, this relationship is strong. It is deep. It is complex. It is more than cuddles and kisses. It is about recognizing and accepting all aspects of the other.