“Becoming A Hero The Hard Way”
A Love Letter To How To Train Your Dragon
‘There were dragons when I was a boy.’
When I first heard these words, read by David Tennant in the audiobook version of Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon, I had no idea how important the series would become to me. I was 18 years old and in the middle of a severe depressive episode; not the typical audience for a
comedy/adventure series which was (ostensibly) written for children. My illness had become so debilitating that I was unable to cope with reading a physical book without becoming overwhelmed. Writing also seemed an intolerable struggle and, desperately trying to rekindle the passions that
depression had stolen from me, I started listening to the aforementioned audiobook with little hope of success. Five minutes into the saga of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his fang-free dragon Toothless – I was laughing out loud for the first time in nearly two years.
Of course, no book can magically cure a mental illness and while I would never claim that How To Train Your Dragon did so for me, the stories were the first small pinpricks of light on a then-dark horizon. While the early books in the series were enjoyable escapism (vitally important when things
look bleak), as the books progressed, and Hiccup’s struggles became more internalised and difficult, another element struck a chord with me. As Hiccup himself frequently explains ‘this is a story of becoming a hero the hard way.’ I may not be a hero but I did have a battle on my hands to learn to manage my overwhelming symptoms and regain the confidence that would eventually lead to the publication of Inside Out. In Hiccup (and his excellently named best friends Fishlegs and Camicazi) I found heroes who fought for what was right, against odds the size of a dragon mountain. To me, my depression was a Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus and Hiccup and friends were the presence I needed to run that particular dragon through.
Inside Out is a very different book from How To Train Your Dragon but there are themes that overlap. The struggle of the young to heal a world that is broken, the consequences of fighting for your beliefs and somehow maintaining a sense of humour over some incredibly dark places. Though
the first draft of Inside Out was completed before I started reading the How To Train Your Dragon series, there is a very real possibility that it would never have been published had these books not been there for me when I needed them. I will be forever grateful to Cressida Cowell and the world she created for helping me through such a dark and difficult time. In the words of the Burk national anthem, featured in the books. ‘I didn’t mean to come here and I didn’t mean to stay – but I’ve lost my heart to these rainy bogs and I will never go away.’
Natalie Hibberd was born in Portsmouth and has wanted to be an author since she was two years old. She is publishing her debut novel Inside Out, independently with Matador, aged 21. Natalie was born with cerebral palsy. When she isn’t writing and reading, she enjoys singing, amateur dramatics and listening to podcasts. Natalie lives in Petersfield, Hampshire, with her parents and her assistance dog, Chloe.
Follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieHibberd
Inside Out is available in paperback and e-book on 30 November.
In a divisive world of mistrust and murder, there’s only one thing that matters growing up: you’re either in THE INSIDE OR THE OUTSIDE.
While the Insiders appear pampered and privilegedm, the Outsiders know only harsh realities. Believing themselves to be needlessly deprived of everything the Insiders have, the younger generation channel their rage into a terrorist group called The Freedom Fighters, a group intent on overthrowing the Inside at any cost. Now the Insiders must watch as the world they love collapses around them while the government resort to increasingly desperate tactics to try and contain the Outside threat. When the latest initative catapults one of the young into the heart of the war, everything is pushed to breaking point.
LOYALTIES WILL BE TESTED
LIVES WILL BE RISKED
THEIR WORLDS WILL CHANGE FOREVER
Hi there, Shelley here. I just wanted to say a big thank you to Hannah Cooper for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Natalie for writing such a thought-provoking and inspiring post. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on Tales and I am so excited to read Inside Out!