How to train your dragon 2, Mindanao context

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014


AS THE Holy Month of Ramadhan of the Muslims is just few days from now, I decided to write a light article for this week. I know that once Ramadhan steps in, Muslims will be fasting during the day and spend more time praying, meditating, and helping those who are in need. And I will be writing more about Islam and the Muslims in Mindanao in a more serious discussion.

During the Father's Day, my friend (Jeremy Simons), a fellow peace advocate, informed me about the recent movie that he watched with his kids. The movie was entitled, “How to train your dragon 2”.

For those who didn’t get to watch the part 1 and 2, briefly let’s discuss the background of the movie.

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The movie is produced by DreamWorks Animation. It is a sequel of the first movie, How to train your dragon (2010). Its main plot is about the world of dragons and Vikings. Part One is a story of a Viking chief’s son, Hiccup, who must capture a dragon in order to mark his passage to manhood and prove his worth to his people. It is a process most culture has in order for a man or a woman to earn their stripes in the community. Interesting in the story is that instead of capturing one, Hiccup tamed a dragon called Toothless, a young Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus also known as Black Night Fury. To make the story short, the two worked hand in hand and saved their village from danger.

Part Two is about the current situation of their village. Five years have passed since Hiccup and Toothless united the dragons and Vikings of Berk (name of their village). Hiccup likes to explore the other islands and unmapped territories. During one of their adventures, the pair discovered a secret cave that houses hundreds of wild dragons and a mysterious dragon rider who turns out to be Hiccup’s long-lost mother, Valka. Hiccup and Toothless then find themselves at the center of a battle to protect Berk from a power-hungry warrior named Drago.

After my family and I watched the movie, we usually analyze and reflect, what lesson/lessons did we learn from the story? Surprisingly, we were able to discuss three major points.

Father-son relationship: Despite his physical shortcomings, Hiccup does his best to succeed as a Viking. He is smart and is constantly creating inventions for him and his village. At first, however, Hiccup is almost obsessed with proving himself to the rest of his tribe to be a strong Viking. He often doesn't think things through and is more determined to gain the recognition of his peers than he is heedful of others' orders, often causing problems for the rest of the tribe, and himself.

At the start, Hiccup is an embarrassment to his father, Stoick the Vast, the chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe. Because of his physical appearance, he has a hard time to wield traditional Viking weapons and therefore unable to kill a Dragon like the rest of his village. Thus, he was seen by his father as more useful to work as an assistant to Gobber the Belch, the village Blacksmith.

Stoick, as the chief of their village (Berk), wants to prepare his son to be the next in line to become chief. However, the two seem to be complete opposites of each other: whereas Stoick is large, strong, brawny, and the best dragon fighter in the village, Hiccup is lanky, weak, brainy, and perhaps the worst dragon fighter on the island. Their relationship is strained because of these differences

With this father-son relationship, it is normal for Stoick to be very protective of his son. He is at first reluctant to send Hiccup to dragon training for fear that he will be killed. But this all changed when he became a rider of a dragon and a trainor of Toothless. Stoick becomes proud of Hiccup when he hears of Hiccup's success in dragon training and is elated to finally have something in common with his son, although his attempt at conversation with his awkward son ended in failure. He was seen by Hiccup having so much expectation in becoming his successor in line. Still, like any father has problems in communicating with their sons, Stoick proved to Hiccup how much he loved him in the end.

"Orang Besar" history and context in Southeast Asia: The word Orang Besar is taken from Malay which means Orang (person) and Besar (big). Orang can mark purely social distinctions - orang besar, the big man of power. This notion about "big man" is also very much connected with what we have here in Mindanao which is the word "datu". Pre-islamic period concept of datuism shows the part of human nature of having leaders, chiefs, or strong man in a community or village. In the movie, Hiccup and his family hold the lineage of the datuship in their village. Thus, they have the responsibility of serving and protecting their people.

Alpha Male factor: Interesting to note in the movie that is related to the big man factor is the Alpha Male dragon. In almost every community and institutions, there is the Alpha male or female leader. He or she leads the group. If we relate this to the real world, the Alpha in the movie may refer to political or religious leaders that some of us blindly follow. However, the movie taught my kids that the best Alpha is someone who builds trusts, empowers people, and creates a strong bond of loyalty and respect. This is how interreligious dialogue in action can become very significant.

The story may be simple but we can truly learn a lesson from it about humankind’s nature of compassion and transformative leadership. As we Muslims are getting ready for Ramadhan, may we train our own inner self to be more compassionate to our fellow Muslims and non-Muslims.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 25, 2014.

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