A Must-Have: How to Train Your Dragon Toys

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Image courtesy: Playmobil

Fans of DreamWorks Dragons now have a new reason to rejoice – they can have Hiccup and Toothless perched upon their desks while reading and pretend they are Vikings alongside the duo in Berk! How? Well, Playmobil has come out with a brand new line of toys based on our favorite characters, which look as realistic (if not more) as the TV series and/or movies.

All you’ve got to do is to get your hands on one of those impressive blue boxes and assemble the pieces. The DIY assembly isn’t a tedious task at all; in fact, it is super exciting to, say, snap on Toothless’ wings or set up the 145-piece village of Berk, replete with a concealed trapdoor, cute mini dragons and majestic-looking statues with hidden treasures.

Hiccup, Astrid and even Drago the villain are included amongst other Vikings with their dragons in the extremely well-designed sets. The attention that has been given to detail is immense, which is evident in the likeness of these physical characters to their movie and Netflix counterparts. Pirate ships, flame darts, flight shields, battle helmets, fire blasts from Toothless and wonderfully illuminated LEDs glowing on his back spikes – these are just a few of the reasons why a DreamWorks Dragons lover should own these sets. Can’t wait to get my hands on them myself!

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How to Make a Simple Toothless Halloween Costume

Since Toothless became such a loved character all around the world, I’ve come across several parents of newborns dressing up their babies for their first Halloween as Toothless, on the basis of the literal meaning of the word – without teeth. And why not? After all, Toothless is a cute, friendly dragon – and needless to say, one of the major stars of the How to Train Your Dragon series.

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Pinata” by arqgalindo is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here’s how you can make a simple Toothless Halloween costume for kids at home. Get hold of a plain black body suit, sweatshirt or better still, a hoodie for your little one that is just slightly big for her. You would also require a roll or two of black, green, red and white felt (for the body and wings, eyes, tongue and center of the eyes respectively). Sew on two big black felt ears accompanied with two smaller ones on the hoodie cap, such that each side’s ear comprises of a bigger and a smaller part, both representing parts of one whole ear. This will somewhat resemble the structure of Toothless’ natural ear. Cut out the two green felt eye pieces in the shape of oval eyes and sew them on below the ears. A good idea would be to stuff in some cotton to give the eyes a protruding look.

Make sure the green eye pieces are big enough, as you’ll have to follow them up with smaller black and still smaller white pieces within the eye for that ‘glint’. The smallest white pieces that make up the center of the eyes can also be stuck on instead of painstakingly stitching them. Next, measure out the length from your child’s underarm to her wrist and cut out an equivalent piece of black felt. Create a webbed look at the bottom of it, sewing the non-webbed part on to the lower side of each sleeve.

The tail could simply be cotton stuffed into a rectangular piece of felt and sewn on at the bottom. A simpler and longer tail could also be made by gluing a number of discarded toilet paper rolls together and then sewing them into a piece of felt such that they trail behind, dragging a little on the ground for added effect. Don’t forget to add a red webbed felt piece at one end of Toothless’ tail… Remember the missing left side of the Night Fury’s tail fin, the prosthetic one Hiccup constructed and replaced himself so Toothless and him could glide over the seas in perfect sync with each other?

Another simpler and quicker alternative for a Toothless costume which does not involve sewing could work like this: On an oversized black hoodie, glue on 2 black felt wings on either side of the back. Similarly for the eyes – if you’re in a hurry or short on time, do away with the sewing and simply use fabric glue instead. Black felt spikes glued all the way from the top of the cape to the bottom of the tail look realistic enough and are super-easy to do. For added effect, cut out spikey white teeth from thick cardboard or white felt and glue them on the underside of the hoodie.

And thus arises the question which comes up in my mind every now and then: Toothless has menacing teeth.  Retractable yes, but when Hiccup met him for the first time, he was greeted by a mouthful of not-so-welcoming set of teeth. The next time they met, there seemed to be no teeth at all – just gums. In this case, our beloved protagonist could have just gone ahead and named his dragon Tooth-full and not Tooth-less. Wotsay?

Last but not the least, have a look at this video of my favorite scene of Hiccup and Toothless – their expressions are just so adorable!

The Harry Potter Dragons – Part II

In the last post here, we talked about the wild Common Welsh Green and the Chinese Fireball dragons. These formidable creatures were faced by Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum, the first two champions of the Triwizard tournament. But for Harry Potter fans like me, the more interesting ones are those faced by our very own Hogwarts champions – Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter.

  1. Swedish Short-Snout

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Image courtesy: Weasyl

While the book says this dragon is silvery blue in color, the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire shows it in a yellowish hue. As the name goes, the Swedish Short-Snout is believed to be a native of Sweden, with an average length of about 22 feet. It prefers to live in its natural habitat of wild and uninhabited mountain areas.

Long and pointed horns along with an extremely hot yet beautiful (from afar, of course!) blue flame are its characteristic features. Cedric Diggory decides to use Transfiguration – turning an object into something else altogether – to divert its attention. He transfigured a rock into a dog and managed to momentarily divert the Short-Snout’s attention, but then got a bit burnt in the process of retrieving the golden egg, costing him points.

  1. Hungarian Horntail

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Image courtesy: Wikia

According to Charlie Weasley who studies dragons in Romania: “I don’t envy the one who gets the Horntail. Vicious thing. It’s back end’s as dangerous as its front.” It was but obvious that our protagonist would have to face this most vicious of all the four dragons. And Harry Potter did precisely that.

An over-sized lizard with black scales and yellow eyes, the Hungarian Horntail is known for its deadly tail with protruding spikes. With a flame that can reach close to fifty feet, this dragon could prove to be lethal in most cases. The gravity of the situation can be gauged by Hagrid, the dragon lover calling it: ‘a right nasty piece of work’. The Summoning Charm worked perfectly for Harry and got him his broomstick to get past the dragon to its egg. His quidditch skills also helped a great deal in tricky maneuvers.

Given a choice, which dragon would you pick to get past safely? I would any day prefer virtual pets or even real pets over dragons of any shape, size or kind!

 

The Harry Potter Dragons – Part I

It is only fitting that we talk about Harry Potter when September 1 is upon us. What’s more, it’s not just any September 1; we are talking about the September 1, 2017. The closing lines in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows say: “The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” September 1, 2017 is the post-nineteen years date that Rowling was talking about. The new generation of Potters, Weasleys and Malfoys are now on their way to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for their official entry into the magical wizarding world.

Since our blog is about people meeting dragons, let’s talk about the four ferocious creatures which exist in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book of the series. We’ve talked about friendly dragons in story books, School of Dragons with dragon riders and sun-eating solar eclipse dragons in the past. But these dragons in the Potter books seem to be more ferocious than the entire lot of the others put together.

Here are the first two dragons faced by two of the champions of the Triwizard Tournament.

  1. Common Welsh Green

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Image courtesy: Wikia

When Harry surprisedly asked Ron to confirm that there weren’t any wild dragons in Britain, he replied: “Of course there are. Common Welsh Green and Hebridean Blacks. The Ministry of Magic has a job hushing them up, I can tell you. Our lot have to keep putting spells on Muggles who’ve spotted them, to make them forget.”

A native of Wales, this relatively subdued, two-horned breed of dragons has a surprisingly melodious roar and emits fire in narrow jets when angered. It enjoys eating sheep and other smaller mammals. This was the Common Welsh Green dragon Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons faced for her first task in the Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts. She put the beast into a partial trance of sorts in order to retrieve the golden egg. In the process, the fire-breathing dragon snored, resulting in the hem of her robes catching fire.

  1. Chinese Fireball

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Image courtesy: Wikia

Popularly known as the Lion Dragon and native to China, the Chinese Fireball is characterized by a rich scarlet skin with smooth scales along with yellow blazing eyes. Viktor Krum from Durmstrang had to face this creature as a part of his task to get past the dragon and steal the golden egg. He decided to temporarily blind the dragon using a conjunctivitis curse. In the process, the dragon ended up crushing some of its own eggs, due to which Krum lost a couple of points.

With protruding eyes, golden spikes around the head and face and flaming nostrils, this Fireball gets its name from the large mushroom-shaped ball of fire it emits when annoyed. The story goes that it is also fond of eating mammals similar to the Common Welsh Green, preferably humans and pigs. Needless to say, the gigantic creature weighing between two and four tons is a force to reckon with.

For those of you who aren’t very familiar with the storyline, in a nutshell here’s what the Triwizard Tournament was all about. In the next post, we’ll talk about the remaining two dragons faced by the Hogwarts champions at the Tournament.

The Sun-Eating Dragon is On Its Way

On August 21 this year, the sun-eating dragon will make its appearance. And the spectacle is bound to be frightening, beautiful or frightening beautiful; depends on how you choose to look at it.

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Eclipse” by Buddy_Nath is licensed under CC by 2.0

The word ‘eclipse’ has its origins in the Greek word meaning ‘abandonment’. Come solar eclipse, and the sun suddenly abandons the earth – light begins to fade, a disc of pure blackness slides across the face of the sun and the birds stop chirping altogether. In the early days, the ancient Chinese would bang on pots and drums and create a clamor, apparently to frighten away the dragon that ‘ate the sun’. Astrophysicist David Dearborn rightly noted: “In many ways it makes sense that eclipses would be seen as bad omens. For most early cultures, the sun was seen as a life-giver, something that was there every day, so something that blots out the sun was a terribly bad event, filled with foreboding.”

In a total solar eclipse like the one that is occurring this August, looking directly at the sun is akin to looking at moonlight. But beware – the rays can remain dangerously bright even though they may appear faint, so one should use special eclipse glasses while observing the sun.

From the point of view of science, this is what will happen in the total solar eclipse – the moon will pass between the earth and the sun and for about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, blocking out all or part of the sun. According to Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate: “These cosmic moments where nature speaks to us in an emotional way, sometimes come loud, like thunderstorms, storms, hurricanes and earthquakes, but this one… will be silent. Day will turn into night and back again.”

 

The Land of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Welcome to ‘How to Train Your Dragon land’ at Motiongate theme park in the heart of Dubai! If the pictures and videos doing the rounds are anything to go by, then this exciting space is as magical as the movie characters and their Viking escapades.

‘Camp Viking’ is an interactive playground within the DreamWorks section of the park wherein kids can run amok, armed with crawl nets, water guns and other dragon training tools. Then there’s a suspended in the air, inverted roller coaster of sorts with twisting seats called ‘Dragon Gliders’ stationed above the village of Berk replete with scenery befitting the Viking village, which, in the words of the makers themselves, is ‘storytelling through the use of technology at its very best’.

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Image courtesy: TravellerCzech

Last but not the least, the third major attraction is the gondola-shaped ride called ‘The Swinging Viking’. With this, you can embark on a hijacking adventure with the mischievous twins Ruffnut and Tuffnut, and hold the ship to ransom. This is as real to the reel story as it can get; rest assured, we all know where we are heading to for our family holiday in the next vacation!

Pet Dragons, Anyone?

Last weekend, my son had a declaration to make on the dinner table to the entire family. His best pal in the neighborhood had a pet dragon (apparently), and so he couldn’t for the life of him figure out why he wasn’t allowed pets of any kind, dragons or otherwise. We’ve had a strict ‘no pets’ policy at our place since the beginning, due to various factors. However, as the little tyke said, it was high time we ‘changed our policy’. As for me, I was more interested in what type of ‘dragon’ the neighborhood friend had as a pet.

When I first heard of it, I was pretty sure it must be one of the following: either a dragon toy car or animal which could be pulled by a rope behind you (we played with these types of rope toy steam engines back as a kid), a tortoise which looked like a dragon (since I couldn’t imagine any other domesticated pet which would resemble a dragon even remotely), one of the dragon-like animals from the pet games that are the rage with children of all ages these days, or simply a non-existent, make-believe creature which held pride of place only in their imaginations. Little did I know that the ‘dragon’ being referred to was actually a real pet. What’s more, it was a dragon, in the literal sense of the word. A bearded dragon at that.

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Image courtesy: Shieldsink

For those of you who still didn’t get it, let me throw some more light on the neighborhood dragon pet. I did some research on the creature and here’s the gist of it all. A bearded dragon is nothing but a lizard species. These ‘beardies’, as they are lovingly called (though why in this whole wide world would someone refer to lizards lovingly at all escapes me), are supposed to be low-maintenance, easy-to-nurture pets, especially for kids. Originating from the Australian subcontinent, they get their names from the flat spines on their throat area.

Reasons why bearded dragons are ideal for a pet, according to the neighborhood mum who, I now learnt, was also averse to pets of any shape or size till the recent past: First and foremost, they stay awake when humans do and sleep at night, unlike certain other species of lizards. Two, they are known to live for at least a good 8-10 years, under normal circumstances. Three (which was a very important factor for her kid while choosing his pet), they come in a variety of colors – brown, red, yellow, orange. All in all, they are hardy yet docile creatures which are good for the purpose of companionship (which I assume meant that if you just wished to say no to your child for a high-maintenance puppy, go for this bearded dragon).

I admit I’m still not fully convinced welcoming a beardie or anything else within the four walls of my house. One, I don’t think a pet lizard is cute from any angle whatsoever. Two, I’m convinced that my son will simply grow bored of his pet sooner rather than later and then the responsibility of looking after it will automatically be transferred to his lizard-fearing mum. Last but not the least, there are tons of things I would rather do instead of looking lovingly into the eyes of a supposedly adorable lizard.

Thankfully, there are lots of like-minded people like me out there. For instance, have a look at this article which talks about destruction and pets combined. Amen.

Dragons Now Race To The Top!

Friends, dragon lovers, countrymen… Lend me your ears!  Season 4 of DreamWorks’ spin-off series ‘Race to the Edge’ is out now, and has turned out to be even more glorious than expected. What’s more, the show boasts of a whopping 17 per cent share of children’s viewership in its debut month itself!

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Image courtesy: How To Train Your Dragon

What’s so exciting about the new season? Well, a couple of instances:

  • The action sequences set in the gorgeously scenic dragon-inhabited islands are seamless, to say the least. Be it skimming the ocean surfaces on their dragons, mid-air spins to escape dragon hunter arrows or just working about on their dwelling place, each scene holds so much fine detailing in it. A feast for the senses.
  • A coming-of-age tale if there ever was one. The characters are their usual selves, albeit a bit more grown up and mature versions of themselves (especially Hiccup, who demonstrates a newfound sense of responsibility and leadership in certain situations). Trials and tribulations come and go, and our characters give it all they’ve got.
  • A complete package is what this season of Dragons is – action and humor, friendships and enmities, challenges and responsibilities. Perhaps this is what makes it an ideal watch for all age groups, not just kids alone.

I’m in a bit of a quandary though; the previous season had the at times annoying, pompous Snotlout as my favorite dragon rider. However, this season it seems the ‘Nut’ twins are vying for my affection, Tuffnut in particular. Just can’t do without him and his ‘Chicken’!

3 Popular Dragon Story Books for Kids

Kids (and adults like me) have always loved dragons. Be it in books, cartoons, games, movies or anywhere else, dragons have somehow always held a charm that is impossible to go unnoticed. It may be hard to believe but we are such a staunch dragon-loving family that we have hand-made dragon eyes of all shapes, sizes and colors, both ferocious as well as friendly, peeking out at us from various corners of our home – the refrigerator magnets, on the doors of the wardrobe in the kids’ room and even a menacing pair on the door of their room proclaiming: ‘Enter at your own risk!’

Let’s talk about three popular dragon story books for kids which my kids are big fans of as well.

How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

First and foremost on the list has to be the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The story narrates the transformation of the quiet, thoughtful son of the village chief into an extraordinary Viking hero. Those who have watched the DreamWorks movies based on the story may not find it exactly like the movie but it makes for a captivating read nonetheless. And yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III might sound like a scary character, but in the story he is the exact opposite of ‘horrendous’ – polite, kind, modest, ever ready to help. The places they explore are dangerous at times but then the Hiccup gang provides a wonderful sense of comic relief to the story, both in the book and the movies.

The Reluctant Dragon (by Kenneth Grahame)

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Image courtesy: Usborne Books at Home

Funny, cute and whimsical – this sums up the story of The Reluctant Dragon. Colorful illustrations make this picture book a hit with young audiences. The English might be a little old world for today’s kids – after all, this classic was published way back in the year 1938 – but the story remains evergreen till date. A dragon who loves poetry becomes friends with a young boy. However, the townsfolk are of the view that a dragon is a dragon and deserves to be slayed, come what may. Now it is up to the young friend of our friendly dragon to come up with a plan to save his life from the people out to destroy him. The Walt Disney movie based on the book was released as an American live action and animated film in 1941.

Eragon (by Christopher Paolini)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Who knew that a polished, blue-colored stone found in the forest would bring forth something that is nothing short of extraordinary – a dragon hatchling? Along with it come all sorts of hitherto unknown magic, accompanied with dangerous enemies, including an extremely evil king. Call it fiction, fantasy, adventure or simply an amalgamation of all three, but as the story of Eragon unfolds, one is left waiting eagerly to find out what happens next as you turn the pages. The movie based on the novel came out back in 2006, an enjoyable adventure flick which the entire family can watch for movie nights at home together.

Wish to add to this list?

Good News & Bad News for Dragon Lovers

Well, for all you dragon lovers out there, we’ve got both good news and bad news. To make you feel better in the end, here’s the bad news first. The release date of How to Train Your Dragon 3, earlier slated for 2018, has been pushed back yet again to March 1, 2019 (which, we admit, is a long time away *sob*). Notwithstanding the fact that the third movie in the series is bound to be a tearjerker of sorts, with our beloved Toothless being drawn away from his best friend and master in addition to our hero having to take some extremely difficult decisions in order to save mankind, this ‘culmination of Hiccup’s coming of age’ is undoubtedly something all of us are eager to watch.

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Image courtesy: PasteMagazine

Now, for the good news – to assuage your sadness, here’s what you should do. Come February 15, just visit the stands and pick up the brand new graphic novel called How to Train Your Dragon: The Serpent’s Heir. The best part? Its story begins right where the second film ended, so you can perhaps make do for now with the gripping tale of how Hiccup and the gang encounter a new enemy with a deadly dragon on an earthquake-plagued island. Rest assured, if the news pieces doing the rounds are anything to go by, the graphic story turns as thrilling as the films as you eventually turn the pages. Definitely some spectacular fire-breathing action in the offing!