Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Dancing and the Dreaming ~ a Viking love song

NOTICE: This post relies heavily on the story found within the movie How to Train Your Dragon 2, and no effort has been made to ensure its readability for those not familiar with HtTYD and HtTYD2. Those who have not seen both movies will not be able to fully appreciate the subject of this post, and those who read this post before watching HtTYD2 will lose a great deal of the impact of the featured scene when they do watch it. If you have not yet seen this excellent movie, it would be wise to do so before reading the remainder of this post. I highly recommend the movie. You need to see it. You will love it. Go watch it. Now. This post will still be here when you get back. :)

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Ah, hello again. Have you seen it? Good. You may now continue reading. :)

I recently had the opportunity to watch How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the theater. Contrary to my expectations, it was not a disgrace to the first, and (unlike so many sequels) it did not act as a pathetic parasite to the success of the original; in fact, it far exceeded the first movie in several regards! Though there were many excellent portions of the story, one of the most beautiful scenes is the one in which Stoick and Valka (Hiccup's father and mother) are finally reunited after a separation of nearly twenty years.

To give a bit of the background story: twenty years before the events depicted in HtTYD2, Valka had been carried away by a dragon, leaving her husband and baby boy in Berk to mourn her loss. She was taken to a far-off location where she lived among the dragons, rescued the injured, observed them, made friends with them, and learned to appreciate their incredible capabilities. In all this time, Valka did not return to her home and family. Apparently she believed Stoick and the people of Berk to be incapable of seeing a need for peace, and thought that they would all just be better off without her.

Meanwhile, Stoick continued in his role as chief of Berk and raised his son Hiccup. In the events portrayed in HtTYD, Stoick went through a change of view that resulted in the peaceful incorporation of dragons into everyday life. He never forgot his beloved wife Val; though he believed her to be dead and had no hope of meeting her again, he cherished her memory and remembered her fondly.

At the beginning of this particular scene in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Stoick has made his way to the dragon sanctuary in order to find his son and take him back home to Berk. He has no thought of finding anyone here except Hiccup, and perhaps a villain or two. Valka, on the other hand, knows that Stoick is alive and well; furthermore, she can hear him coming around the corner and is expecting to meet him momentarily.

Valka begins in a position of defensive isolation, standing aloof in the center of the frozen cavern. She knows that she has wronged her husband by staying away from him for all these years.  She realizes that she did not fulfill her role as a mother to their son. She expects Stoick to be bitter, angry, blustering, irate, questioning, resentful.

But what is Stoick's first action upon seeing his long-lost wife? He walks slowly towards her in amazement... gazes into her eyes with love and tenderness shining from his... gently touches her face, and whispers "you're as beautiful as on the day I lost you."
Val's face softens from defiance and fear to humility and peace, and a silent tear slides down her cheek as she realizes that she is finally where she belongs.

The next portion of the reunion scene takes place a few moments afterwards, in the warmer environment of a home-like room in which Valka is preparing a meal for her newly-arrived guests. Her cooking does not entirely succeed, as she is rather preoccupied by her happiness at suddenly being with Stoick again. He, meanwhile, is entirely oblivious to all but the sight of his beloved Val, so unexpectedly restored to him once more.

As though in a second courtship, Stoick softly whistles a tune for his bride. The melody is that of a Viking love song, one which they used to sing together many years before. Val pauses, stands still in recognition, and listens intently as her husband begins to sing their song to her.
"I'll swim and sail on savage seas/with ne'er a fear of drowning/And gladly ride the waves of life/if you will marry me.
No scorching sun nor freezing cold/will stop me on my journey/If you will promise me your heart -"
It is an enchanting tune and a beautiful song, complete with Viking-style expressions of love and devotion. Stoick's voice fades away; he is overcome by emotion, unable to continue. Valka completes the stanza in a tone of voice that seems to be remembering a distant dream, as she indicates that she still does and will "love him to eternity." Val continues the song with the maiden's reply to the declaration of love, now in a voice that is increasingly expressive of gladsome belonging:
"My dearest one, my darling dear/your mighty words astound me/But I've no need of mighty deeds/when I feel your arms around me."

Their mutual affection declared, Stoick and Val sing the next section of musical dialogue. Here, the man declares his desire to bestow beautiful things on his dear one and to protect her from all harm, while the maiden protests that she truly wants nothing more than to be with her love, always and forevermore.

With a change of key and increase of tempo, in a burst of joyous enthusiasm both Stoick and Val sing the final two verses in unison, smiling, spinning, laughing, and dancing all the while - "To love, to kiss, to sweetly hold/for the dancing and the dreaming/Through all life's toils and delights/I'll keep your love beside me. I'll swim and sail on savage seas/with ne'er a fear of drowning/And gladly ride the waves of life/if you will marry me!"

Upon the completion of their special song, Stoick asks Val to return to their home, to again be his bride, to share the remainder of their lives together. With her eyes full of joy (mingled somewhat with wonderment, her face expressing "can this indeed be true?"), she gladly accepts - and the reunited family begins their new life together!

I absolutely love this scene! It portrays the humbling of hearts, the healing of hurts, the rededication of a previously pledged commitment, and the restoration of a relationship that had been severed. It also depicts a beautiful romance between a husband and wife still thoroughly in love with and devoted to each other. It is not a scene to be commonly found in movies, which gives it all the more value.

I'm not even going to attempt to analyze the music itself. It defies description such as in my power.
How can a single melody be so gently beautiful and thrillingly enthusiastic? The melody is simply captivating,
and the instruments on which it is played are absolutely delightful. You'll just have to listen to this one for yourself!
(Though of course you already have - assuming you've watched the movie!)

The "video" above will play Track 11 from the How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack by John Powell,
appropriately titled "The Dancing and the Dreaming".

Lyrics are included below (minus Gobber's interruptions, hee hee);
Stoick's parts are in red, Val's in blue, and the duo in purple.
I’ll swim and sail on savage seas
With ne’er a fear of drowning
And gladly ride the waves of life
If you will marry me 

No scorching sun nor freezing cold
Will stop me on my journey
If you will promise me your heart
And love me for eternity

My dearest one, my darling dear
Your mighty words astound me
But I’ve no need of mighty deeds
When I feel your arms around me

But I would bring you rings of gold
I’d even sing you poetry
And I would keep you from all harm
If you would stay beside me

I have no use for rings of gold
I care not for your poetry
I only want your hand to hold
I only want you near me

To love, to kiss, to sweetly hold
For the dancing and the dreaming
Through all life’s toils and delights
I’ll keep your love beside me

I’ll swim and sail on savage seas
With ne’er a fear of drowning
And gladly ride the waves of life
If you will marry me!


Anonymous said...

You never cease to amaze me! How did you remember all that from one viewing of the movie? You certainly have a highly developed "music memory"!

Anonymous said...

Another thought....
Hey! This is a music blog, right? You *should* be analyzing the music. You gave glimpses of an analysis when you described the key and tempo change. Why are those changes made and to what effect on the listener? Please try again, because we love it when you wax eloquent on the music!
Love, Mom
(You did want comments, right? hee, hee)

Zoë said...

NOOOOOOOOO! You weren't suppose to read this one! At least not beyond the first paragraph! AARGH!
Oh well... ;]

How did I remember all this from one viewing, you ask? Probably because this was the scene that was impressed most deeply on my memory, as well as one of my favorites in the movie. (I have five favorite scenes from HtTYD2 - this one, one with Hiccup and Astrid, and three others I can't remember at the moment.) This scene was truly well done on a number of levels - it was sort of the turning point of the movie story-line wise, it added in a few much-needed elements, it set up the characters for the ending, the animation was beautiful, the setting was perfect for the feel of the scene, the characters and their expressions were excellently portrayed, and the music was magnificent. The whole theater movie-watching-experience magnified it, though; I doubt the impact would have been as great had I first seen it on a standard home screen.

Zoë said...

Hmm... very well, your second comment is reluctantly accepted. ;]

You're right, this is certainly supposed to be a music blog, which would indicate that I am supposed to do music posts - not movie posts. Reminds me of a scene in The Desolation of Smaug - but I digress. Back to the point: yes, this post is severely lacking in musical analysis (and rather lacking in thought, too), and I will return to it with a more studied air; for today it was just an automatically-published "stock post" since I didn't get around to writing either of the other posts I had in mind for this week. Something well-written and more musical will be produced for next Tuesday. :]

Anonymous said...

am I missing the "next Tuesday" post? Hello... Are you there?
Hee Hee Hee... Mom

Zoë said...

Nope, I completely disappeared. Fell off the edge of the earth or something. ;)

I should have said "for the next Tuesday on which I write". Furthermore, I should not have promised something well-written - my writing brain, unfortunately, seems to have vanished altogether. (A shame, really, seeing as I have a million and one things waiting to be written at present...)

Oh wait, Tuesday is actually four minutes from now, isn't it? Bother. Well, let's see if I can scrape anything together before this round goes by as well.