While amputees work in almost every field, even in such demanding jobs as police officers, soldiers, and firefighters, one has now gone far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. The Viking Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III—or simply Hiccup—is the protector of dragons threatened by extinction from a powerful dragon-hunting villain.
In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the recently released final episode of the animated fantasy action trilogy, Hiccup fights to protect his pet dragon, Toothless, and other dragons from the tyrannical Grimmel, who threatens to destroy everything Hiccup loves. Hiccup, who lost his left leg in Part 2 of the trilogy and uses a prosthesis, is now the chieftain of the isle of Berk, where humans and dragons who were once enemies live together in a mutually beneficial relationship.
The computer-animated film was produced by DreamWorks Animation and portrays a world of beautiful scenery, Vikings, flying dragons, and an evil villain and his army with a mixture of humor and drama.
“I took my 12-year-old and my 4-year-old to see the movie and, no surprise, it is awesome,” says Peggy Chenoweth, a below-knee amputee, founder of www.amputeemommy.com, and co-founder of the Amp’d podcast and website (www.ampdlife.org).
Reports in the news suggest that many amputees and others agree. The film is doing extremely well at the box office and is garnering generally good reviews (www.rottentomatoes.com/m/how_to_train_your_dragon_the_hidden_world).
“As a mom who also happens to be an amputee, I appreciate that limb loss is being portrayed as a part of life without being the defining characteristic,” Chenoweth says. “Far too often, a character’s limb loss plays out one of three ways: the amputee either becomes a villain (Captain Hook), the individual becomes either destitute or drug addicted and ultimately needs saving (Lt. Dan), or eventually the amputation is somehow forgotten and essentially written out of the story altogether (Arizona from Grey’s Anatomy). With Hiccup, the prosthesis is part of the character, just like it is part of my life. But his prosthesis does not define his life, just as it does not define mine. Who would have thought one of the most accurate portrayals of life with a prosthesis would come from an animated movie!”
Hiccup (along with Toothless) is the hero of the movie, and his amputation doesn’t slow him down at all, says Andrea Spridgen, editor in chief of Amplitude and The O&P EDGE. She also notes that not only is Hiccup an amputee, but so is Toothless, who lost part of his tail when Hiccup initially caught him in his net in the first movie of the series.
“We loved how Hiccup built a prosthetic tail fin for his friend and reciprocated the support and unconditional acceptance that Toothless has offered throughout the trilogy,” says Chenoweth. “The fact that both friends were now amputees strengthened their bond.”
The gruff and curmudgeonly, but kindhearted, Gobber is another character with limb loss. Adept at many tasks through the use of various prosthetic arm attachments, he is a warrior, blacksmith, saddle maker, carpenter, whittler, inventor, and even a doctor and dentist for dragons.
“I’m an upper-limb prosthetist and I love watching to see which arm attachment Gobber is wearing,” says Marjorie Tulloch. “Sometimes it’s a hook, sometimes a hand or a fork. Love it!”
Like many viewers, Chenoweth’s 12-year-old son, Robby, grew up with the series. “We’re big Dragon fans,” says Chenoweth. “Again, we all loved that the amputations and prosthetics were part of the characters without defining their presence.”
Be sure to check out How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World soon before its theatrical run ends and see for yourself whether or not it succeeds in its portrayal of amputees.