Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Fishlegs’s Journey

Acknowledged and Unacknowledged Stigma in the How to Train Your Dragon Book Series

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2018), 12, (3), 353–368.

Abstract

In a best-selling book series by Cressida Cowell, Fishlegs is a Viking runt—a weak baby cast on the oceans for the gods to decide his fate. He is skinny, has asthma and eczema, wears broken glasses, and is clumsy. On screen, he is non-disabled (though overweight), and appears with several likeable characters who have prosthetic limbs, including the anti-hero Hiccup; the villain Alvin is now non-disabled. In later books, Cowell utilizes notions of the marked body and stigma as prisoners are branded with an S-shaped “Slavemark.” When Hiccup’s mark is discovered he is rejected by his tribe, but later his S-shaped brand becomes a “Dragonmark” and rousing rhetoric from Hiccup and his mother has similarities to reclamation words and acts within the disability rights movement. Although the writer makes a liberal case for the inclusion of “outsiders” and a strong case to end the stigma of slavery, the true outsider status of the impaired Fishlegs and Alvin is ignored.

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Nichols, Cath