Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Dragon Scales

Alright! Time to discuss the new dragon-scale armor that Hiccup and the rest of the gang are sporting in the newest promotional images for HTTYD3! However, as usual, I think I'm going to go overboard. I plan to not only discuss the armor and what I think of it but also dragon scales and dragon hide as a whole. 

So first off, I'll freely admit I was sorta shocked to see all the main cast of the next HTTYD movie wearing what looks very much like dragon skin. My first reaction was definitely negative. The only people we have seen wearing dragon hide are the hunters from the RttE series and (more notably) Drago Bludvist. It seemed almost barbaric to see our favorite dragon riders wearing the skin of their mounts, but then I looked closer. While I do we see scales on the new armor, I am pretty confident it is not dragon hide. It looks very much to me as though each of these scales has been painstakingly attached to a leather base. This is most easily seen on Astrid's armor, but you can pick it out on most every new outfit. This is still pretty unusual, but after thinking about it for a while, I have decided that I actually really like the idea of the riders wearing this new scale armor. Let me detail why.

First of all, where are these scales coming from? It certainly looks like each rider is wearing the scales of his or her mount. So, do dragons shed skin? To be honest, other than the Changewing, we have not seen a dragon show any sign of shedding huge sheets of skin. Plus, that was in the series, and I'd like to go with something more "canon". We do see several of Toothless's scales scattered around the edge of the cove when Hiccup first arrives. Hiccup picks up and inspects the glistening object, and it is quite large, about the size of his palm. Yet, when we see Toothless, there aren't any notable "bald" spots. We can't see where that scale came from, but it was one of several. I would pose to you that dragons lose scales slowly over time. Think of the scales like shark teeth. They don't come out all at once, but instead, they pop out from time to time and are rapidly replaced. This would mean collecting enough scales for a set of armor would take a fair amount of time and effort, making the new article of clothing a testament to the long hours the rider has spent with their dragon.

As far as dragon scales go, I think it is clear that having them as armor would be incredibly advantageous to a rider. I would not be surprised if the idea of using them was stolen from Drago himself, after all, he made an impressive display of the protective qualities of dragon hide:

So, the primary benefit of using dragon scales is that they would notably increase the armor's resistance to fire. If the television series got one thing right, it was showing just how many species of dragon are out there, and how aggressive some of them can be. It would be a nice for any dragon trainer to be fireproof! 

Another interesting note is that dragon scales are almost certainly very lightweight. As the dragons are all capable of flight, it stands to reason that their anatomy would do everything in its power to be as lightweight as possible. Dragons may even have hollow bones, much like birds. Whatever the case, using dragon scales instead of iron for protection makes a lot of sense!

Then the question becomes: How hard are the scales of dragons in HTTYD? One way we can guess at this is by looking and seeing what the Vikings of Berk once used to kill them. While axes, spears, and swords are all present, I would like to point out that Viking mercenaries like Stoick and Gobber preferred to use hammers and maces. It would certainly make sense to use these bludgeoning weapons if the dragons had extremely sturdy scales. After all, if their bones are hollow, a smashing blow from a mace could certainly crack bones and lead to internal bleeding. Plus, we see Stormfly deflect several sharp throwing weapons in the second film.

Now, granted, she may be doing this with her spines, but it still goes to show that the dragons of HTTYD have bodies that can produce remarkably strong defenses. We do see both darts and arrows piece these scales, but I would like to note that a fully drawn, direct shot from a longbow can penetrate iron plate armor, so at the very least the dragon scales are likely a little softer than iron, but much lighter, and much more heat resistant!

However, the final note I want to make is about what these scales represent on a potentially thematic level. Hiccup is chief now, and if you remember some of my posts concerning HTTYD2, you might recall how I discussed how Hiccup has been trying to take steps towards being more like dragon-kind. His armor from the second film looks notably dragonish, but now he has taken that to a totally different level! And it isn't just him! Now that he is chief, and now that (I assume) Valka is at his side, he has begun to lead his friends and subjects into an even deeper harmony with their magnificent, reptilian neighbors. Valka trained dragons with stunning efficiency by looking and acting like one, and I believe this is one reason why Hiccup's fire sword works so well. He's basically saying that he is one of them. Now he even is coated in their scales! Unlike a cruel dragon hunter wearing the hide of a fallen beast, Hiccup's armor would look and smell like an odd mixture of himself and Toothless. There would be no sickly smell of death or blood, no evidence of violence or cruelty, just a beautiful mosaic made potentially over years of a boy and a dragon being together. Hiccup and Toothless continue to grow more and more like one another, and yet in this film, we are going to see that tested like never before. I am both excited and terrified! 

So, what do you think of the new armor? Do you like it, or did it put you off too?

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