Mmmh so I still wonder how the other dragons who are not on Berk know that Toothless is the alpha. I guess that puzzled me the most. Do they sense it somehow? Berk dragons saw the battle with the Alpha so they recognized Toothless. But how about others? I would have thought they wouldn't know or listen so easily as Toothless doesnt have the mind Co troller abilities...
I’ve always been curious about how dragons “figure out” that Toothless is the alpha as well. In The Serpent’s Heir, unfamiliar sea dragons pay tribute to their new alpha by providing Toothless with fish. How can they tell and recognize that this random Night Fury is their greatest leader at the top of the draconic hierarchy?
There are several possible ways that I can think of for how dragons understand that Toothless is the alpha. Each of these explanations have different pros and cons.
1. Draconic communication (ex: body language) plays a role in how the dragons can detect Toothless’ presence. Specifically, unfamiliar dragons could get their cues from dragons that already know Toothless. When we see the sea dragons pay tribute to Toothless, it’s to note that Toothless isn’t alone; he’s flying with other dragons who could be paying him heed with notable body cues. The sea dragons would pick up this body language and realize that Toothless is being adhered to with great respect that is only given to the alpha dragon. Thus, Toothless is alpha.
I’m not too big of a fan of this idea. It seems like there are a lot of holes in this idea… or it’s not solid enough that it still has holes. To give a few examples of insufficiencies or questions we might ask:
The sea dragons had loads of fish by the time they appeared to Toothless. While they could have been hunting silently for a long while between when they first saw Toothless and when they offered the fish, it almost seems like that process would have taken longer than we see in the panels, had that been the case. They might have had to be collecting the fish beforehand for their new alpha rather than spontaneously fishing once they see the body language. It also seems as though body language cues and even scent communication might not be enough for dragons to pay heed to Toothless; dragons somehow instinctively know that the alpha deserves huge respect when they first meet it (see how Toothless responds to the Bewilderbeast in HTTYD 2), but I don’t think subtle body language cues would be enough to convey that level of deference and respect. Also, the dragons Toothless flies with are his long-term companions - those that would be most likely to be “informal” and comfortable around him!
So, while this is one idea, I admit I am not sold on it myself.
Now, another possibility:
2. All dragons have some extent of a mental link. Not all of them are capable of the control techniques we see in dragons like the Bewilderbeast or Red Death, but all of them have some hive mind awareness. If this is the case, then a hive mind awareness would be aware when leadership switches. Then, dragons which have not previously seen Toothless would know beforehand that this Night Fury dragon is their new highest authority.
I don’t know how I feel about dragons being this mentally connected, but it does seem to have fewer explanation holes than the other suggestion.
In truth, we don’t really know how the dragons can detect that Toothless is alpha. But creatures work in monumentally diverse and fascinating ways. Communication between different species is complex and covers so many different forms, from chemical communication to sound to visuals to touch to… well, so many options! The dragons might have senses we don’t have, and they surely experience the world differently than humans do. So all we can do is make some wild speculations for now, I think.