Hiccup takes an item from Stoick’s chests of belongings—grandma’s kitchen book.
|They were fortunate to have Bucket. Right after the ice broke, he had predicted a lasting storm so fierce all on Berk must stay inside. The Hooligan tribe stocked up on everything they could, and the deluge struck. The rain fell in sheets, while the wind howled. Stoick could not see an armslength in front of him, and if he fell outside, rescue would be impossible.
Instead, he brought in armloads of wood, set buckets out to collect water, and ordered Hiccup to stay inside. His son, no idiot, planted himself beside the fire pit while Stoick risked the wrath of the elements.
His five-year-old son was taking his third day of confinement well; he ran in circles to burn off energy and chattered much of the time, but only broke one item and kept the whinging to a minimum. Hiccup had been restless, but there was no blaming him—Stoick was antsy as well.
Stoick looked around, searching for Hiccup. He wasn’t behind the central fire pit, or under the sturdy oak table across from it, or hiding beneath the long Chieftain’s cape. Hiccup’s room was empty; when Stoick located his son, he held back a chuckle.
Hiccup sat, legs crossed, on the floor of Stoick’s sleeping chamber, his eyes fixed on the three items before him—the chests.
Those chests fascinated Hiccup. They contained items and oddments from Stoick’s life, many of them personal. The lockpicks from Chieftess Stealth were in there, as was the belt his sister had made him, both gifts for his seventh birthday. Stoick kept his Thawfest medals in the one chest, and his son had examined and worn them multiple times. They were a rare treat, and Hiccup was not permitted to open or explore them without permission.
His son scooted forward, and Stoick said “Hiccup.” There was no admonishment in his voice, but when Hiccup faced his father, guilt was written on his face. “Which chest did you mean to open?”
“You were planning on opening one; do not say otherwise. That is a lie, and lying...” Stoick waited.
“Is not permitted. We do not lie.” Hiccup recited the rule. “I know, it’s just your chests...they need to be opened. They have stuff that wants to come out and see something else.” Hiccup used an earnest tone. “They’re lonely.”
“I see. I suspect they are also bored.” Hiccup nodded. “So, which one do you think is the loneliest?”
Hiccup pointed to the leftmost trunk, and Stoick said, “I can open it if you want to see inside. You may ask to have one item, but I must approve it first. Deal?”
Stoick knelt before the wooden chest. The hasp no longer aligned properly, and he pushed the lid sideways to open it. He slipped his fingers underneath and flipped the lid.
Stoick had not opened this one in years, and the contents surprised him. There was no order to the hodgepodge. Stoick saw his father’s pipe and his pouch for tobacco, half the rock he split with his head, a stick-and-dice game he had won from Mogadon when he was ten. Stoick had kept his first training weapon, tiny compared to his current sword, but the greatest treasure he had possessed for roughly three years. The scattershot record of Stoick’s childhood entranced Hiccup, who stared at the contents with reverence.
“Aye. Your dad was a boy once, as you are.” He pulled the training sword from the chest. “Grandpapa presented this to me when I was four, younger than you are now. It was made for me, and I did not have to share it with anyone. It was the first treasure I owned.” He handed it to his son, who looked back and forth between the weapon and his dad, unable to accept his massive father had ever been that small.
“You were four? This thing is old, Dad.” Hiccup’s squeezed his body between Stoick and the trunk, and pointed at another object. “What’s that?”
Stoick replaced the sword, and removed a small ball. “This is a marble. It is made out of something called glass...” They continued like that for some time, Stoick explaining an item, Hiccup handling it, and Stoick returning it to the box. Hiccup spotted something in the jumble, and fished it out, then handed it to Stoick.
It was a book, well used, though clearly tended for. He took it from Hiccup, and felt it shift in his hand. The plain cloth cover held two volumes, the second one thinner than the first. Combined, they were a thumbslength high.
“What’s inside?” Hiccup leaned forward, intent, but Stoick could not tell Hiccup—he did not recognize it.
“I do not know. We must look inside and puzzle it out. Lift the cover, son.” Hiccup opened the book, and Stoick spotted a childish scrawl. This book belongs to Ragweed Snorrison.
“This, Hiccup, is a special thing, and a treasure for our family. Do you know who Grandma Ragna is?”
“She was Uncle Spite’s mom, and your mom, ‘cause Grandpapa married her. That’s why you’re brothers.” Hiccup cocked his head, questioning.
“Aye. She—Grandma Ragna—received this book when she was seven. Girls get their first women’s tools then, and every girl gets her kitchen book, and uses it lifelong.
“Everything you need to know about food is in here. You can find instructions for washing dishes, cutting up apples, and carrying full plates. There are recipes, but it tells a woman many other things, such as what types of wild foods are safe to eat, and how to butcher livestock. There are drink recipes, directions on beekeeping, and advice on what to plant in your garden.“ Hiccup was rapt as Stoick listed the contents of the book. “It teaches how to make mead and ale and cider. There are instructions to make medicines and poultices.“
“That’s a lot. Can I see it, please?”
“If you are gentle with it. This can never be replaced, but I think Grandma Ragna would be pleased you like it. She enjoyed feeding people.”
“Thanks, Dad. I think I’m gonna like this book.”
§ § §
Stoick was reading for enjoyment. It was a rare event—most of his reading was related to his job as Chief, the remainder of it letters and a few bedtime stories—
and Stoick was making the most of it.
Hiccup leaned against the fire pit, with a bed fur draped around him. The book had him captivated, and Stoick heard him murmur as he read.
“‘To begin the day, draw a bucket of water. Water is us-ful...useful...for many things. You can clean with it, and make stews...’”
“‘A large bowl is needed in every kitchen. It is good for mixing foods, like flour...’”
“‘When working, wear your apron.’”
Hiccup’s voice held confidence. After a few stumbles over words like “kitchen,” and some assistance from Stoick, he began reading at a decent clip. Afi Hofferson stated Stoick’s son did not read, but immersed himself in words, and instructing him on other languages would thrill the lad. He reads well above his age, and understands each word, Chief. Storybooks aren’t enough, and if you don’t begin him on another tongue, he’ll start studying the Dragon Manual. Stoick had laughed, and Afi advised the Chief to have Hiccup read to him. Stoick asked for a tale from the storybook. After Hiccup finished the tale, Stoick announced his son was ready to learn Latin, a statement immediately followed by no, you are not studying Norman until later.
Nonetheless, Hiccup’s absorption in the mysteries of food preparation kept him occupied. He enjoyed learning, and Stoick’s efforts to keep them fed did not extend beyond a half dozen dishes that varied only in their ingredients. Stoick’s work was the tribe, and cooking an additional task. He enjoyed feeding them, but did not focus on domestic things. That was Valka’s place, and Stoick was no substitute for Hiccup’s mother. Stoick shook himself out of his reverie to check on Hiccup.
He began with an interrogative. “Hiccup. Are you warm enough?” His son nodded, and kept reading.
“‘Always keep your kitchen clean, and put things away when done with them. When prep-arr-ing a meal...’”
“Preparing, Hiccup. That is the correct pronunciation.” Stoick had offered few corrections, but three syllable words presented a struggle.
“Thanks, Dad. ‘When preparing a meal, you must know where all the foods you need are kept. These foods are called Ingrid-eye...’”
“‘Ingredients.’” Hiccup licked his finger and turned the page.
“Son. You have not moved for a long time. Do you need to run off energy?” Stoick received a head shake. “You will not sleep tonight if you do not exercise.”
“Uh-huh. ‘A dirty kitchen taints food. Eating tainted food can cause privy sickness for more than a day.’” Hiccup shuddered. “Eww.”
“Stoick, weary of conversing with the top of his son’s head, placed his finger in the center of the page. “Please give me the book.
Hiccup looked up, “Are you gonna put it back? I’ve been really careful with it.” Hiccup proffered the item for inspection.
Stoick eyed the volumes. No mishandling was evident—he would give Hiccup the benefit of the doubt.
“I will set it aside. Continue to behave and you may have it again. Right now is Haddock time.” Stoick put the book on an upper shelf. “What do you wish to do with Dad?”
“I want to go swimming.” Hiccup’s eyes contained an impish light. “Then we can go fishing, and hike.”
“Pick something possible, or we will be forced to skip Haddock time today.” Hiccup tilted his head, thinking.
“I wanted to do a kindness for you, because you like fishing so much. I am striving to be good for my Dad.”
“Offering something I cannot have is teasing. Too much teasing is unkind, so you cannot use that argument. Provide a better answer—you have to the count of fifteen.”Hiccup pondered the problem, then brightened.
“I don’t really want those things, but I wanted to make you laugh. Us going fishing is funny.”
“All right, you gave a good answer. So, what do we choose?” Hiccup and he were done with Arguing, and his son enjoyed circling around his final answer—the argument was only part one. “I can select for us.”
“No. Haddock time us for both of us, and having you choose is...uneven.” Hiccup decided on Reasoning, and it was an acceptable answer, made better by the use of “uneven” in place of “unfair.” “You asked me to pick something, and taking it back is wrong. It’s like breaking a promise, and not true? Honest,” he corrected himself, “it’s not honest. You’re supposed to be truthful.” Stoick nodded.
“Why must I be truthful? Other people lie and break promises. What makes me different, son?” Hiccup considered the question for longer this time.
“You’re the Chief and if you do something wrong, everybody else can. You walk in front and they follow behind you, so you have to be right.” That was more insightful than usual.
“Precisely so, Hiccup. The chief must always do what is right. You gave an excellent answer.” His son, startled by the expansive praise, gave a bashful smile.
“Thanks, Dad.” Hiccup climbed into Stoick’s lap; using his father as a stepping stone, he boosted himself onto the table. Hiccup settled in front of his dad, with his legs dangling off the edge. “Let’s talk.”
§ § §
The conversation had been wide ranging: the kitchen book, storm damage, favorite foods, the stink of wet sheep, how to hold a sword, the kitchen book, if there’s a way to make the fire pit portable, the size of Stoick’s armor and the Chieftain’s cape, if Hiccup might have the cape for a bed fur—no, you may not—and the kitchen book. As a guide to what was on the boy’s mind, conversations gave insight. Food, warmth, weather, and safety came up repeatedly this time. He planned to ask his son to help prepare nattmal, combining food and warmth into one event. Extra time spent with Dad was safety, and a few reassurances about being inside away from the storm ought to settle his concerns. He had not told his son a Grandpapa story recently; Hiccup loved hearing about Stoick’s parents, and tonight Stoick would recount another tale from his early life.
Years of leading his tribe gave Stoick experience with strategy, and he used his skills to manage Hiccup, though Gobber claimed seeing to the tribe was the simpler task. The point was moot; Stoick’s son washed and scrubbed the carrots with diligence, then lined them up by size for him. The boy’s sense of order probably drew him into the book: rules and measurements were Hiccup’s world, as was making things.
Hiccup found answers to questions he never knew he had, and Stoick anticipated a future of answering more “Why?” questions.