Gobber looks to have Hiccup safe
The Apprentice, draft two
Hiccup loves being in the smithy and with Gobber. It’s a place that soothes and cheers and provides balm on those days he struggles. When he’s apprenticed there, it’s like a dream come true. Right after he walks in, Gobber gives an apron. He begins his first day with Gobber stating he’s glad Hiccup’s there and that he can become a good smith, just what Hiccup wants to hear. But Gobber begins telling him he’s going to have to work hard and do whatever work he’s told to do until told to stop. Hiccup’s still eager and willing to begin, even after Gobber tells him to stop talking and listen. But when Gobber tells him to fetch coal, he’s crestfallen. No using tools, no smithing, just...a chore. Gobber tells him all the work must get done, and Hiccup accepts that.
Gobber has an underlying strategy. Hiccup, like any other apprentice, must learn to do what he’s told, not fight the orders, and wait for Gobber’s teaching. Hiccup is a magnet for trouble, and if he’s going to work there, he needs to have good habits that keep him safe. Gobber expects him to learn the necessity of structure. Without the structure, Hiccup can’t do anything more mentally challenging, like study tools or work with them. Hiccup is unused to firm demands on his time for hours at a go, and Gobber must break him to the job. Hiccup has to learn to have everything available. He needs to look at things, see the work waiting for him, and tackle it. Hiccup’s not simply watching Gobber work anymore; Hiccup’s change in status means he has to work. Learning the smithy inside out, and the basic tasks required to keep it going is a major goal.
It is not Gobber’s only goal. Hiccup is restless. Gobber plans to work him hard from the beginning, forcing him to slow down so he doesn’t burn out. Slowing down ought to reduce accidents and help him pace himself. Hiccup needs to discover the misery of racing through the day, only to crawl home, exhausted and sore. Hiccup will slow down, once Gobber suggests it. The boy may be raw, but he isn’t stupid. Gobber will let him learn to be steady and control his restlessness.
The work is tedious; Gobber knows this, but doesn’t keep Hiccup from doing it, either. He expects Hiccup to manage and continually teaches him fundamentals. Repeatedly, Hiccup hears “always wear your apron,” “without the coal, nothing gets made,” and “the smithy must be prepared to begin the day.”
All of this feeds into a bigger goal. Hiccup must learn patience. He must contain himself and learn to wait. He doesn’t really grasp that he needs to simply work. Right now, Hiccup’s attitude is he will do what’s asked until he can do a real blacksmith’s work. Hiccup’s work isn’t work for him, it’s just something to do until something better—learning smithing—begins. Each word, each task, each expectation of Gobber’s is shaped carefully. He’s teaching Hiccup, but also pushing him to reach a point where he can see what he needs to accept. He wants to make Hiccup understand that his work is what makes Hiccup an apprentice, not his desire to learn ahead of Gobber’s plan.
Hiccup is eager to learn, and Gobber doesn’t want to stifle that. He wants Hiccup to get beyond discouragement and disappointment. He wants to reach the beginning of anger and stubbornness, the place where Hiccup believes Gobber doesn’t care and is breaking his promise to teach him everything he knows about smithing. Then Gobber can act, and reach that point where he can, by action and instruction, allow Hiccup to figure it out. After that, he will wait for the result of Hiccup’s thinking. And maybe Hiccup will be able to take real ownership of his work and place in the forge.
Gobber is shrewder than he appears and knows Hiccup better than anyone, even Stoick. This is why he requires Stoick to stay out of Gobber’s methods before accepting Hiccup into an apprenticeship. Both Haddocks are stubborn and somewhat set in their thinking, and Gobber must have unquestioned control of the situation to progress with Hiccup. If he can accomplish this, perhaps it will help both of them. If not, at least Hiccup will benefit. So, no real downside.
§ § §
Gobber stood in the forge, hammering out slag from the metal before him. He struck the iron in a rhythm, and reviewed his observations. Hiccup was nearly five, clever with his hands and quick to smile. Good natured and willing to please, the lad was always, always trying to help.
Hiccup meant well. He tried to do things for others, as his dad did. The Chief’s job is to look after the tribe, and one day Hiccup would be Chief. So he wanted to help the tribe now.
Hiccup, undersized and scrawny, believed he could do work meant for seven or eight year old children. He dropped loads too heavy for his arms and spilled water he was trying to carry.
and most of the villagers were weary of having him underfoot. Most, if pressed, would admit the situation was no one’s fault, but no one wanted responsibility for Stoick’s boy any longer. No one wanted to deny Stoick the assistance he needed, but minding Hiccup was exhausting and frustrating. The boy never stayed still, never stopped talking, and never listened. He fell in holes, spilled wash water, and scattered chickens. Resentment was growing against the youngster, and the current stalemate was stretched to a breaking point.
Gobber had been watching Hiccup since he was born almost five years ago, and knew more about the tyke than anyone on Berk. Gobber was like an uncle to the boy, fond of his good nature and philosophical about of situation they were in when Hiccup was involved. Few of the women tasked with minding Hiccup liked the duty—his ready smile and desire to help were clear—but the Chief was a widower and refusing to help Stoick the Vast mind his son was challenging. The workload increased as he grew, and he caused trouble all the time. easy to read; he didn’t know how to hide his feelings or lie to folk.
He wanted to please, especially his father, Stoick. Hiccup wanted to be his dad; Stoick the Vast was impressive in size and strength of purpose, and Hiccup believed he was godlike.